Monday, 24 December 2012

May's Recipes, Leeds Kirkgate Market

I'd love to bring you a festive post about all the wonderful things I'll be preparing to feast on this Christmas, but unlike last year I won't be preparing a thing. Not even another pork pie.

Instead, I'm going to write about a Thai and Chinese food stall that's recently opened on Leeds market. Not exactly Christmassy, but it's good and they deserve a mention before time flies by and I forget.

You'll find May's Recipes right at the bottom corner of the (almost certainly) doomed part of the market, just inside the door opposite the multi-storey car park entrance.

I ordered a pad ka-prao; chicken stir-fried with holy basil and chillies. What arrived was a far better rendition than many restaurants serve, firstly as it actually contained plenty of basil for that all important hit of warm aniseed flavour, and secondly as it was absolutely enormous.

I'm not sure including about fifteen different vegetables in the mix is traditional, but it made for a very nutritious lunch, my 5-a-day must have been sorted in one hit. And finally what of the jar in the background of the photo? Prik nam pla, the classic Thai condiment of chillies in fish sauce, there is no better seasoning for rice, so mine received a liberal dose.

£5 for the stir-fry with rice. Another market opening serving good food at a great price, run by friendly people. Give it a try.

Merry Christmas everyone.


1976 Hall
Leeds Kirkgate Market

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Great Barn Restaurant, Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Before we get on to the food, how about some architecture? Hardwick Hall is a magnificent building, just look at it. The windows are what really wowed me, the extensive use of glass is hugely impressive for something that was built in the 1590's, so much so that it reminds me of things built 300 years or more later, like early modern buildings with its clean lines and restraint in ornamentation. I actually think it looks a bit like Glasgow School of Art.

If this sort of thing interests you I'd definitely recommend a visit, and while you're there you might want to lunch at the Great Barn restaurant, and if you're lucky it might be a good lunch.

Our lunch was good in parts. The long-stewed pigeon, pheasant and rabbit in a game pie was held in an intensely meaty stock, heady with bay, and a lamb stew also tasted great.

Less good were accompanying 'winter vegetables' which included, amongst other things, sugar snap peas. Mmmm wintry. Surely some root veg in addition to the carrots would have made more sense?

I said if you're lucky you might have a very good lunch here, but on the other hand you might not. It feels a bit harsh writing negative things about a restaurant run by a charity (which the National Trust is of course), but if they're going to big themselves up then they deserve to be held to it. 'Creative vegetarian options' is what it says online. Sorry but a potato and aubergine bake comprising slices of aubergine, undercooked potato, undercooked peppers, whole cloves of virtually raw garlic and loads of tinned tomatoes all under a slick of melted cheese does not add up to a 'creative vegetarian option', 'rubbish vegetarian option' would be more apt.

Rhubarb crumble and custard was also poor. First time around it arrived cold, as in actually not even a little bit warm, second time around it was hot but under-sweetened and not very crumbly.

The meat dishes were good, the other things weren't. Service was a bit slow but they were exceedingly busy.   For purposes of comparison, the veggie dish aside, you'd be happy enough with a pub serving food of this standard for under a tenner, as it is here. Visit Hardwick Hall, eat at the Great Barn restaurant, you might be lucky.


Hardwick Hall
Doe Lea
S44 5QJ

Monday, 17 December 2012

Noodle Inn, Sheffield

I'm on the hunt for really good Chinese food in Sheffield, I'm sure it's out there somewhere as there are plenty of options and what looks to be a sizeable Chinese community in the city.

So far what I've eaten has been uninspired, so given a good few recommendations I'd received for the place I had higher hopes for Noodle Inn. It's hard to tell after just one meal, especially when dining alone with little opportunity to give the menu a good going over, but I'd say it just about delivered.

The Sichuan section of the menu warrants the most attention, as apparently they have a chef who hails from there, but there's also a great long list of Cantonese stuff and even a separate dim sum menu.

Beef flank with noodles in Sichuan hot and sour soup was a monumental bowlful, so much so that I barely got through more than half of it. The meat was the star here, whacking great hunks of gelatinous long braised stuff, intensely beefy and worth the effort taken in prising every morsel from it's protective layer of wobbly fat.

The broth, in comparison, was disappointing. It was a bit one dimensional, sour with plenty of chilli heat but not much else to offer, and only the merest hint of Sichuan pepper numbness (though perhaps that's all this dish is supposed to have?) The noodles, which I think were a potato starch variety, were good and sturdy, but not really my favourite type being overly glutinous.

A side order of steamed prawn dumplings from the dim sum menu were slightly overcooked, the skins just starting to stick a little, but the sweet, bouncy prawn filling was spot on.

The bill was just £11.90 including a soft drink, and there's free ice cream for afters if you want it (I didn't, it was pissing icy rain outside and I was in a hurry). Service wasn't exactly enthusiastic but everything arrived promptly enough. On the whole this was good, and the menu definitely deserves further investigation. I'll be back.


156 London Road
S2 4LT

Noodle Inn on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Good things to eat [Volume 14]: in praise of weekend breakfast

Is there a finer meal than a weekend breakfast?

Eating on a working morning is a perfunctory matter, little more than essential fuel intake for the day ahead. For me, in winter, that means microwaved porridge or occasionally toast, and in summer muesli or granola with a blob of yoghurt. These are not unpleasant things, but taken in haste, at a desk or on the hoof, eating them will never be a pleasurable experience.

I wish it wasn't so, but that's part of what makes breakfast on rest days so wonderful. They are special, the exception not the norm. I'm not talking about dining out for breakfast here, that's an entirely (although almost as fantastic) different thing, I mean breakfast at home, prepared in your own kitchen, ideally with the radio on and a pot of tea brewing. The opportunity to take time, to give it some thought, to make something lovely at leisure and then eat it on the sofa, in the garden, or best of all, in bed.

What are your favourite weekend breakfasts? I was aiming to write a top ten of mine, but I was struggling to keep the numbers down so here are twenty.

1. Stewed butterbeans with tomatoes and chives. Served with fried eggs and pitta for scooping.

2. You won't get one of these in Maccy D's. Black pudding and egg muffin. Cook your egg in a biscuit cutter for that authentic 'processed fast food joint' look!

3. Fried chorizo with tomatoes on sourdough toast with fried eggs. Make sure you get lots of crispy edges on your chorizo, then fry the eggs in the red fat that's leached from the sausage.

4. I'm not averse to a sugary breakfast for a change to all the porkiness. How about pancakes stuffed with greek yoghurt, banana, honey and toasted walnuts?

5. Anything shakshuka style always goes down a treat. A big pan fry of tomatoes, eggs and whatever tickles your fancy. In this case beans, chilli and coriander.

6. Staffordshire oatcakes are excellent breakfast fodder. Nuttier, earthier pancakes filled with bacon (or spam), mushrooms and cheese. Just the job to set you up for a twelve hour shift firing pots... or a long walk... or a day in the pub.

7. Reckon you need to squeeze all the liquid and starch out of potatoes before making rosti? Not necessary, just grate the potato directly into a good glug of very hot oil in a frying pan, then press it into a cake with a metal spatula. It will splutter and hiss, but the heat will quickly drive off the excess moisture and you can fry away happily. Good with any savoury breakfast things, in this case egg and pudding.

8. Holiday breakfast, or hot British summer breakfast (ha ha). Croissants, fresh fruit, sunshine.

9. This one is here to represent anything with Nutella in it. I don't care if it's basically chocolate flavoured vegetable oil, it's utterly delicious. Eat on pancakes or croissants or crusty bread or soft bread or crumpets or muffins or toast or porridge or yoghurt or anything at all.

10. Bacon sandwich. Have I mentioned bacon sandwiches before? They are quite nice.

11. A middle eastern themed plate of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, yoghurt, pickled chillies and parsley. Needs flat bread for scooping. Fresh, lively and surprisingly good for a hangover.

12. The communal Daddy-fry. Lots of people and a massive pan and all the pork products = a very good idea.

13. Holidays or warm weather again. This time with added jam, yoghurt, juice and coffee. Bliss.

14. Early autumn fruits lend a different taste to the pancake and yoghurt combo. Fried apples and plums.

15. Bubble and squeak with the works. Leftover mash with pretty much any green vegetable (except lettuce, don't try it with lettuce) makes a good bubble. Always finish with a knob of butter for that burnished crust.

16. An acquired taste, but once you've acquired it you'll never lose it. Soft boiled eggs with anchovy toast. Mash a couple of anchovies into a large knob of butter then spread it on hot granary toast. Dip into your eggs. Heaven.

17. A dirty great sausage muffin with ketchup. I like to split the sausages just as they're served so the juices run into the muffin.

18. Plums often undergo a magical transformation when you cook them. Boring, mealy-fleshed eaters can be turned into tart, crimson-juiced wonders with a little heat and sugar. Serve simply with thick yoghurt.

19. The carbo-licious hangover cure. Sometimes bread alone is not enough. Which is when a cheesy scrambled egg, potato waffle, bacon, mushroom and tomato sandwich comes into play.

20. Plain old eggy bread with ketchup. Sometimes the simplest breakfasts are the best.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Castle Chippy, Castle Market, Sheffield

You'll find the Castle Chippy, appropriately enough, within Sheffield's Castle Market, another traditional market that's been the subject of controversial redevelopment plans in much the same vein as Kirkgate in Leeds, and a whole host of others in recent years.

In the case of Castle Market, it seems the battle for preservation has already been lost, with plans to knock it down and build a replacement at the other end of the city centre being well advanced. For the most part the existing market is a post-war concrete behemoth, an interesting and functional period piece as far as I'm concerned, but sadly lacking in the listed Victorian splendour that would have assured its future.

Tempting as it is I'm not going to rattle on at length about this market, I am supposed to be writing a post about fish and chips after all, but if you are interested in what it has to offer I'd suggest reading this, this or this, all informative stuff written by Clare from Feast and Glory.

Right, so there's a chip shop in Castle Market, and it's really very good. A rare cod and chips (unlike most of Yorkshire haddock isn't standard round these parts) was a great success. Thin batter, chunky pearlescent flaking flesh, fresh tasting. 

Chips were pleasingly beefy with some nice crunchy bits, but some could have done with a minute or two longer in the fryer. A steal at £3.40. Pay a visit while you still can.


25 Castle Market
S1 2AG

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mint and Mustard, Cardiff

I really ought to have given the website for Mint and Mustard, an upmarket Indian restaurant in the Cardiff suburbs, more than a cursory glance before dining there. Had I done so, I'd have realised that they specialise in Keralan food, and wouldn't have ordered a whole load of North Indian stuff.

Being a bit hungover I was in the mood for a lamb-based feast, when seafood, vegetables and even pork or beef could have been a better plan. Or would have been a better plan, as most of what the others in our group of six ate was better than what I did.

After some poppadums and pickles, complimentary after we had to wait a few minutes for our table, seekh kebabs and onion vadai (in this case the same thing as what most curry houses would call a bhaji) to start. These were just ok, being a good demonstration of the pitfalls of 'posh Indian' restaurant food, in that they looked pretty but tasted dull.

The kebabs were nicely spiced but needed salt and seemed to have been cooked without resort to anything very hot. Surely the whole point to Indian grilled meat is the generous application of fire, spice and salt? Other starters of lamb,venison and prawns in various guises were all declared a great success.

Saag gosht and chicken makhani were both competent, flavour packed dishes. The lamb had a slow-burning, building warmth, and the makhani was smooth, rich and sweet with fenugreek. They weren't half as exciting as what was going on elsewhere on the table though, I got to sample the lot and first mouthfuls suggested there might be some genuinely great food on offer here.

The sauce (pollichathu?) on what I think was a fat hunk of swordfish had an intense flavour that belied it's thin texture, dense with the savoury funk of curry leaves. I'd have drunk it in pints given the opportunity. Another fish dish, sea bass with a tart, bright moilee sauce was almost as good. I wasn't quite so enamoured of a dum pukht biryani, although it tasted great I thought the rice was a bit wet.

There are a whole host of European styled dishes on the menu too, European in the plating sense: large slab of protein, mound of carbs and some veggies on the side. I was suspicious of these, with their various Indian-spiced riffs on the mash theme, but a mouthful of the most succulent, precisely cooked piece of pork, the best bit of meat I've eaten in a while, convinced me they could be worth a shot. Sadly I didn't try the accompanying cassava mash, so whether that was an inspired or daft idea I'm not sure.

Sides of pilau rice and a very light, crisp naan were exemplary, as was service throughout the meal. Including a bottle of wine and six or so beers the bill came to around twenty seven quid each before tip, which seemed reasonable for the quality of the food. Well worth a visit, just remember to head South when making your menu choices. My rating could well have been a couple of points higher had I done so.


134 Whitchurch Road
CF14 3LZ

Mint and Mustard on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Leeds Kirkgate Market: another update

Exactly ten months have flown by since I last wrote about Leeds market. A lot can happen in ten months right?

In the case of the ongoing saga of market redevelopment, plenty has happened on the noise and conjecture and waffle and repeat consultations front, but little to nothing has happened on the ground.

Back in February this year there was an informal consultation opportunity off the back of the first consultant's report commissioned in late 2011. This then led to the engagement of some new consultant's to carry out a more detailed feasibility study and a more formal public consultation. This proper consultation exercise ran from April through to July. I didn't partake in it, having thought that the informal invitation to comment, just two months previously, might have been the relevant forum for my thoughts.

It's not clear what happened to the comments from the pseudo-consultation in February, but the feedback from the April to July consultation has been used to create the question set for another consultation that's currently underway. I can't work out when this consultation started, as the link to it is on a post confusingly dated 8th May 2012, despite the fact it then goes on to discuss the consultation that took place from April to July this year. What is clear is that this consultation closes on 14th December, so if you haven't responded yet you've got six days left to do so.

Are you still with me? Straightforward this isn't it?

So what of the consultation that you've got six days left to respond to? You can find it here.

It's quick and easy to complete. First there is a list of twelve different things that you have to rate as high, medium or low priority. Some of them are no-brainers, like 'fixing the basics'. Low priority for me, let's do the cool stuff and watch the rest fall down! Others are trickier to assess, like 'creating a heart'. In theory I think this is a high priority, but the devil will be in the detail.

The elephant in the room, as ever, is 'reducing the size'. In the booklet that accompanies the consultation, each of the twelve things to be done is presented with some text that starts 'You said...' followed by some fairly unequivocal commentary suggesting that the majority of responses to the last consultation were on the same wavelength.

Except for 'reducing the size', which states 'You said…. Some people wanted the market to be smaller, and some did not'. Err, so who was in the majority then? Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market have obtained the consultation responses, and have discovered that only 70 people, out of the 3000 or so who responded, said that the market should be made smaller.

So the fact that this aspect has made it onto the list of twelve options, apparently all informed by the previous consultation, is dishonest to say the least. If anything about the size was going to be on there, it should have said 'changing the size', and not reducing it.

The next, and possibly most important part of the survey is on the management of the market. Interestingly no options are presented here. You are just asked whether you have a preference on how the market is managed, then if you say yes there's a free text field where you have 2000 characters to explain how you'd like it to be managed.

Again, I believe this is disingenuous, as the responses are far more likely to be disparate and incoherent as no clearly defined options are presented, and it takes a hell of a lot more effort to think up your own sensible ideas and type them up than it does to consider some options and tick a box.

For what it's worth I re-iterated my view that some form of mutual or social enterprise could be an innovative and novel management model, and that with the backing and support of the Council it could be a great success, and that this notion that the only possible way to secure investment is for the private sector to take control is essentially bollocks, as the private sector just borrows the money against future returns, which is something the Council or a Council backed organisation could do as well, and probably at cheaper rates, and that there are even established mechanisms for public sector organisations to do just that (like the Public Works Loan Board for example).

I'd be absolutely astounded if anything like I've just described ever happens, but you never know. At this stage it's essentially as you were. After this consultation closes the Council Executive Board should be making some decisions in early 2013. What those decisions will cover, how well they'll be informed by the results of the latest consultation and whether we'll get to see any real action remains to be seen.

In the meantime, there are still some good things to be found in the market, and even the occasional new opening, so keep shopping there. I don't do so very often these days, having moved to Sheffield whose splendid but architecturally unfashionable Castle Market is already doomed, but I still try to pop into Kirkgate whenever I'm in town.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Bacon Sandwich Quest: November

At last! An almost interesting month on BSQ. Things are belatedly hotting up in the breakfast sandwich world, if not exactly in terms of quality then at least in variety. It's been a three sandwich sort of a month, each of them unique in their own funny little ways.

First up: the Costa bacon muffin. Three quid's worth of wrong, fresh from its superheated blast in the sandwich press. The waves of warmth radiating from the thing were actually the best bit, defrosting my hands on a chilly morning. The texture of the muffin wasn't unpleasant and HP sauce was available. Apart from that it was crap. The bacon was too smokey, bordering on artificially so, and  one and a half rashers is taking the piss.

It's chain central this month, the second offering being from Gregg's. Quite a pretty looking sandwich don't you think, with its bronzed, cornmeal dusted bap. A very reasonable two quid with a cup of tea. Let's open her up and take a look inside.....

....what the very hell is this? SAUSAGES? I didn't ask for them, honest, but they were better than I'd have imagined. Not half as dirty as they could have been, so I had to give this five out of five for accompaniments, as free sausages are not to be sniffed at even when they are smeared in cheap sunflower spread.

Surprisingly good bread and bacon that tasted alright despite the wizened like an aged flip flop look of it completed the picture. Go Gregg's.

I almost had a third chain butty last month. Almost. There I was, in hurried need of sustenance prior to a meeting in Birmingham. Caffe Nero was there. They're not too bad I thought. Better than those other chain coffee bastards I thought. Can't be worse than the Costa bacon effort I thought.

And then I saw this. The bacon roll, not the disgusting sounding festive panini thing. Same sort of refrigerated cellophane wrapped effort you find at the other places, but pre-loaded with the wrong sauce. The WRONG SAUCE. Who are you to tell me I must have tomato sauce on my bacon sandwich Caffe Nero? Hmmm? You guys are in charge of condiment decisions are you? Not on my watch.

So I went down the road and got this for 99p instead. There's a baguette price war going on in the vicinity of Birmingham New Street station, I counted three different places selling pretty much anything you'd care for in long sandwich form for a quid.

The bread and bacon weren't half bad for the price, and the whole thing was enormous. Too salty though and let down by copious quantities of astringent budget brown sauce. All in all 99p baguettes are about the only redeeming feature of the dystopian bunker that is Birmingham New Street. Not sure you'd want to make a special trip though.

There we have it. I've brought you chain catastrophes, free sausages and scarily cheap French themed breakfast comestibles. What more could you want?

In December I'd like to eat a truly great bacon sarnie that I didn't make myself. Please Santa I've been a very good boy.

Here's the leaderboard:

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Southern Eleven, Manchester

It's a funny part of town, Spinningfields. The place definitely has more character and interest than most newly built developments, in both its architecture and drinking and dining options, but there's still something lacking that I can't quite put my finger on.

I ate at one of those dining options last week, Southern Eleven, an on-with-recent-trends American BBQ restaurant. We shared chicken wings and deep fried pickles to start, the first time I've tried these fabled spears of joy. They were as fantastic as I'd hoped, the crunchy batter and sudden hit of vinegar is more than a little addictive.

The wings were just ok, the hickory sauce wasn't overly sweet but the skin was a bit wan and flabby.

All four of us ended up ordering the same main, a southern tasting platter of pork belly ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket with fries. Good things first: the slabs of pork belly were ace, with loads of sweet juicy flesh under a quivering, charred at the edges fat layer. The pulled pork was similarly flavoured and also enjoyable.

I'm not sure what was wrong with the brisket though, it just didn't taste like brisket to me. Eighteen hours in the smoker had somehow rendered it tender but virtually tasteless.

Fries weren't as much fun as the advertised parmesan truffle coating suggested they might be, being slightly underfried run of the mill catering pack jobs with not much in the way of anything truffley in evidence. They weren't short of parmesan though, so still got scarfed in short order.

A side order of BBQ beans were pleasant, but not so pleasant they didn't get forgotten about and left to go cold. Cold beer was the sensible booze option, Brooklyn lager is the best one on the list.

Service was good throughout the meal, and prices are reasonable. We paid about 23 quid each including two beers apiece. The food was great in parts, but like the surrounding area, slightly lacking in others. Worth a visit to satisfy that meat craving.


Unit 26
3 Hardman Street
M3 3EB

Southern 11 on Urbanspoon
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...