Monday, 25 February 2013

Kimchi Spam Fried Rice

Question: what's the best way to cure what ails you, especially if what ails you is a hangover?

Answer: kimchi spam fried rice.

With only four ingredients one can conjure up the most sordidly delicious, feculent plate of food imaginable. It's a sort of English breakfast in turbo Korean form, all earthy pig, fat, carbs, sweat and tears. Or something. With added spice.

It's also far easier to cook than the complex plating and timing nightmare of a full English, a roast or any more traditional Sunday fayre. One pan. Four ingredients (and some oil). A gentle proposition for the fractured brain.

Chop half a tin of spam (just the contents, not the tin) into strips. Heat up a wok and fry the spam strips until starting to crisp at the edges. Throw in a big handful of roughly chopped kimchi and its juices and a bigger handful of cooked rice. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, then spoon the whole lot into a warm bowl. Put the wok back on the heat with a good glug of oil, wait until it's really hot then crack the egg in. Fry the egg until it has crispy edges, cooked white and a runny yolk.

Put the egg on top of the fried rice and eat immediately, mashing the crispy yolky egg into the rice. Serve with beer, or regret, or sriracha for extra spice.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bizzie Lizzie's, Skipton, North Yorkshire

There's not a lot happening on the food front round here at the moment, so fish and chips is about as exciting as it's going to get.

Bizzie Lizzie's in Skipton served up a decent effort. A hefty slab of moist fish, deftly battered, was good even if it was cod. Are they not in the haddock triangle round these parts?

The chips were fine, and supplied in modest rather than the usual gargantuan chip shop quantities. Sensible really, as I'm sure the UK wasted chip mountain could feed small nations.

Overly clarty peas needed letting down a bit, I'm still scraping green stuff from the roof of my mouth (at least I think that's the peas). Home made tartare sauce was better and a buttered white slice apiece was included. Chip butty heaven.

A bit pricier than my usual fish and chip forays, but you do pay extra for the privilege of crockery, cutlery and table service. About £9.50 all in for fish, chips, peas, bread and tea.


36 Swadford Street
North Yorkshire
BD23 1QY

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Gray Ox Inn, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

The Gray Ox is a Gastro Pub. If you're not a fan of the term that's their description not mine. It's a fair enough one though, as the food here is typical of the genre, good without being great, competent and safe enough to keep the regulars happy.

At lunch there are sandwiches as well as a full menu. I opted for the starter with a side combo, going for mussels mariniere and chips. They were plump, grit free mussels in a broth that was more-ishly slurpable as it should be. The chips were fine, certainly hand cut as described, though verging on chunky when I always think thinner are better.

Others had the sandwiches, home made fish finger getting the thumbs up but I wouldn't have been happy with the roast beef. I tried one of these and it was actually a steak sandwich with tough, greying meat that was overcooked by some margin.

The best bit of my meal was a lovely apple and winter berry crumble. Tart fruit, a rich buttery crumb and proper custard (aka creme anglaise) on the side, albeit in miniscule quantities. Two questions sprung to mind though. Firstly, are there any winter berries or does that just mean 'frozen berries'? Secondly, why do all pubs prefixed with 'gastro' serve all sauces in inadequate quantities? See also gravy.

Prices are par for the course (starters around five to eight quid, mains through the teens, puddings around six pounds) and service was good. We weren't hurried at all despite faffing around and not ordering pudding until well into the middle of the afternoon.

I'd be chuffed to bits to have a pub like this in walking distance of my house, but I wouldn't make a special trip.


15 Hartshead Lane
WF15 8AL 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Cochinita Pibil

Last week I finally got round to cooking some proper Mexican food, something I'd planning for ages. Cochinita pibil was a great place to start, because it's ridiculously easy to make and really rather delicious.

It's a dish of pork, slow roasted in a citrus and achiote marinade until the meat falls apart under the slightest pressure of a fork. The acidity of the marinade slices through the fatty meat like a dream, and the achiote lends gentle, earthy warmth.

In case you were wondering achiote is the Mexican word for annatto which gives the marinade its red colour. You can buy achiote paste, made from annatto seeds with garlic, cumin, allspice and oregano, online from the excellent Cool Chile Co. I also bought corn tortillas, chipotle chillies and Mexican hot chocolate from them, all of which are top quality stuff.

By rights this should be made with a whole suckling pig or at the least a bone in pork shoulder. I went for the quicker and cheaper trial version using a pack of pork shoulder steaks.

You can serve the finished product with rice, beans and salad, or use it, like we did, as a taco meat. I made chipotle salsa (just tomatoes, onion and chipotles), and with bowls of coriander, sour cream, guacamole and lime wedges the self assembly line was ready to go. If I did this again I'd probably ditch the sour cream and guac (unless it was home made) and opt for a crumbly, lactic cheese like Feta or maybe Wensleydale instead. You'll also need cold beer, I drank Meantime London pale ale with this which went down a treat.

There are loads of cochinita pibil recipes online, but it's so simple you don't really need to follow one properly. Here's what I did.

What you'll need

800g pork shoulder steaks
2 large oranges
1 lime
50g achiote paste
1/2 teaspoon salt

What to do

Set the oven to 150 degrees centigrade. Put the pork in a casserole with a tight fitting lid (if you haven't got a lid then covering it with foil will do). Juice the oranges and lime then pour the juice over the pork and add the achiote paste and salt. Give everything a good stir then put the lid on or cover with foil. Bake in the oven for three hours (check it after two and a half).

The pork is done when you can easily shred the meat with a fork. To serve shred the meat and pour over the juices from the pot. When you've done you should end up with a big bowlful of loveliness like the one above.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Curry Leaf, Leeds

When I first spotted Curry Leaf a few weeks ago my interest was piqued immediately. South Indian and Sri Lankan food isn't something that's had much representation in Leeds so this opening is long overdue.

My own experience of this cuisine is largely from basic canteen style places like the Chennai Dosa chain. There are loads of them in London (but very few in the north), all of which stick to a familiar template. Think aggressively spiced, intensely flavoured dishes big on lentils, vegetables, fish, and where meat is concerned, mutton, all served up at rock bottom prices on tin trays.

I wasn't sure whether Curry Leaf would fit the canteen mould or would be aiming a little more upmarket. It's certainly the latter, place mats, proper crockery and a booze license are all the evidence you need. Correspondingly prices aren't rock bottom but are keen enough.

Before we get onto the food I ought to point out that the service was a bit haphazard, some of the waiting staff giving the impression of never having worked in a restaurant before (the guy who sort of lobbed cutlery at us from a distance, as if he didn't fancy getting too close being the best example). I spotted other tables complaining about the length of their waits, and while we weren't exactly served quickly it wasn't that bad.

Both starters were a cut above the cheaper canteen alternatives. Vadai, a sort of lentil doughnut, were freshly fried which they really need to be, as the reheated ones tend to take on the texture of golf balls.

Mutton cutlets were ace, big fat greaseless crumbed balls of tender mutton and soft potato spiced with curry leaves and cloves. I could put away a dozen of these. The only downside to both starters were the little pots of sauce, both of which were nice but not very saucy. There was a fiery sweet onion chutney and a fresher version with chickpeas and coriander, nice as I said but the deep fried goodies were crying out for something more dunkable (standard yoghurt and chilli sauces or a little bowl of sambar would do the job admirably).

Sticking with the mutton, because we don't eat enough mutton and it's lovely, we ordered a mutton kottu which arrived next. A kottu, or kottu roti, is essentially a big stir-fry of meat, bread, spice and veggies. This one arrived with a little bonus dish of mutton curry, as well as the kottu itself being packed with the stuff. The flavour profile was similar to the cutlets, earthy curry leaves and mustard seeds, a hit of chilli heat and the strong taste of the meat (extra lamby lamb!) coming to the fore. It's not subtle but it's very good.

Taking a break from the meat, I did say that vegetables feature strongly in this cuisine didn't I, we also had an aubergine and paneer curry and a bowl of coriander rice. I'm aware that paneer is cheese and therefore not a vegetable by the way, but we'd had a few pints by this point so it seemed like a wise choice. We weren't disappointed, the curry itself had a sweet-sour tomato base that was a good foil to the mild cheese and soft, almost bland aubergine.

We only learned at the end of the meal that they'd been open less than a week, the signage have been up ages in advance, so it's probably fair to put the service issues down to teething problems. They were certainly eager to please, one of the chefs coming over to ask how we found the kottu and hoping it wasn't too spicy. We assured her we'd enjoyed it and would be back. If anything the spice levels were a little too cautious, I'd like to see them ramp it up a bit as I think a good whack of chilli is a fair reflection of the type of food, but I guess others may disagree. The bill came to about £36 including a couple of pints of lager.

All in all a very welcome addition to the Leeds dining scene. I think they've got a few things to iron out but this one could turn out to be a real winner.


Curry Leaf
2 Eastgate

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Home Sweet Home, Manchester

I really should stop listening to my cantankerous brain. Home Sweet Home is another of those places I'd written off as probably being a bit rubbish due to some misguided preconception or other. In this case it was a vague notion, from past glances through the window and at the menu, that it combined two food fashions I'm not that much in love with (sort of half way between twee tea shop and American inspired filthy food joint).

I don't think that categorisation is too far wide of the mark, but who cares whether there's actually any concept or not, the important thing is that the food and drink is really good. A Cheeseburger toastie could easily be a big greasy mistake, but in practice turned out to be bloody lovely. It wasn't exactly lacking in grease, but all of the oozy cheesy beefy richness was offset perfectly by the bite and crunch of gherkin spears. Just as you'd find with an actual cheeseburger of course. 

Thin-ish fries, skin on with a good potatoey flavour were worth adding for £2, even if I didn't really need them (when asked 'do you want fries with that?' the instinctive response can only be yes), and the coleslaw was decent stuff if a bit too creamy for my tastes.

A flat white was very well made, velvety smooth with quite a mild tasting coffee. It was served in a glass which seems to be a Manchester thing as North Tea Power do the same (all of my favourite coffee shops east of the Pennines use cups).

I'd definitely return to try more of the menu. Service is friendly and quick, the food is good and the prices fair. The cheeseburger toastie will set you back £4.50 with coleslaw, fries are £2 extra. Not the cheapest of lunches but a pretty monumental one. £2.20 for the coffee. 

Home Sweet Home is the business. Don't let my brain tell you otherwise.


Edge Street
Northern Quarter
M4 1HE

Home Sweet Home on Urbanspoon
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