Monday, 15 July 2013

The Rutland Arms, Sheffield

This is going to be a very brief post, for the simple reason that it's boiling hot and I can't really be bothered. The sooner I finish the sooner I can return to lolling around drinking ice cold stubbies of cheap French lager with my tongue hanging out like an overheated labrador. Just the latter bit like a labrador by the way, you shouldn't give your dog lager, not even in this weather.

Anyhow I'm just about bothering because I've been meaning to rave about the Rutland Arms for a while now. It's a rare gem of a pub, a pleasing mish-mash of traditional and modern melded together to form something a bit special. Old school pub decor and layout, beer choices to keep both the trad cask crowd and craft nerds happy, a mixed clientele and a lively atmosphere.

The food is an interesting proposition too, managing to do classic pub grub alongside something a bit different but with absolutely no nods to current fads or fashions. There are pies, sausages and carb-fest booze soaking chip butties in various guises, but also keenly priced and creative sounding vegetarian and fish dishes that pop up on the specials boards. Salads that sound worth the effort too, now that the heat is upon us.

I was last there a couple of weeks ago when it was still a bit fresh out, so I had the pie; chicken, mushroom and stilton. I'll excuse the china bowl with a pastry lid format, 'cos it was very nice. Lovely crumbly pastry and a soupy, cheesy filling rammed full of actual proper chicken pieces, you know like thigh meat and stuff. Great work. Nice chips too, but the veg was a bit pointless.

About seven quid for the pie, and good beer at normal pub prices. A damn fine pub this, you really should go. I've only been in chilly weather, but I'm pretty sure there's a beer garden.

9/10 for the pub, and what the hell let's call it an 8/10 for the food.

Rutland Arms
86 Brown Street
S1 2BS

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bread salad and fools

I haven't gone mad, honest. There is reason to the title of this post; it's simply the name of the two best things I've made to eat so far this summer.

Pair a bread salad with some barbecued meat, then make a fool for pudding. You'll end up with a perfect summer's evening meal that's delicious, good for you, frugal, and ridiculously easy to make.

These are the things to eat outdoors on one of those rare, balmy summer nights that only seem to crop up a few times a year, those you can't waste for fear of never getting another, those that make you accidentally neck a bottle of wine on a Tuesday for no reason other than that it's sunny and warm and that must be celebrated. You know the sort.

I'm sure I've eaten a bread salad before and enjoyed it, but I can't remember ever making one. What an oversight. This is one of those dishes where a seemingly run-of-the mill set of ingredients combine to make something unexpectedly marvellous.

A few fridge and store cupboard staples, half a loaf of stale bread, mix it all up, leave it for a bit and.... ooh that's good. Remarkably good. Sweet tomatoes, the fresh crunch of cucumber, oil soaked chewy bread, peppery basil. It's more-ish, very more-ish.

I've made two this week, the first a proper panzanella (give or take a couple of ingredients), the classic Tuscan version with basil. The second was a more makeshift affair with olives and parsley in place of the basil. Both were great.

Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad), enough for 2 as a side or 1 as a main dish

Half a loaf of crusty bread, a day or two old
about 6 small ripe tomatoes
about a third of a large cucumber
3 spring onions or half a red onion
a handful of basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Makeshift bread salad

Exactly the same as above, but substitute the basil for parsley, the red wine vinegar for white wine vinegar, and add 7 or 8 fat green olives.

Both versions are made in exactly the same way: Cut the bread into 2cm chunks and chop up the vegetables into slightly smaller pieces. Throw the lot in a large bowl and pour in a good splash of oil and vinegar. I'd say about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and one of vinegar. Season with a good grind of pepper and a quick grind of salt. Mix the whole lot up and leave it for a few minutes. Tear the basil leaves up a bit then add them to the bowl. Mix again then taste to check the seasoning. Add more oil/vinegar/salt/pepper as necessary. Leave for another 10 minutes or so then serve.

On to pudding. I'm in love with our native British fruits, which I think are the finest in the world. I'm absolutely sure about this and have waffled on about why on here before. All you lovers of sweaty tasting tropical specimens are wrong.

At this time of year the obvious choice is a ripe, in season berry served unadorned with cream, but that's not really an option when you have a glut of sour, tougher fruit that needs heat to make it palatable. What you need for gooseberries or rhubarb is a fool. In cooler weather a crumble would be the thing, but in the heat it has to be a fool. A bloody lovely great fool of nothing but fruit, cream and sugar.

Gooseberry or rhubarb fool, enough for four

About 250g gooseberries or rhubarb
2 tablespoons or so of sugar
250ml double cream, or creme fraiche also works well

Stew down the fruit in a pan with some sugar. You don't want any bite left to the fruit but you don't want a puree either. Stop when it's half mush and half still discernable berries or pieces. Taste it and add more sugar if you think it needs it. Leave to cool down until it's no warmer than room temperature. Whip the cream until it stands in soft peaks, then stir in the fruit. Spoon into ramekins, glasses or whatever you want to serve it in then put them in the fridge for twenty minutes or so. Serve cold straight from the fridge.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Kerb and Caravan, King's Cross, London

I'm still here. Just. A trip to Somerset, a hell of a lot of tennis (watching not playing) and the sudden onset of a proper summer have all conspired to make my blogging even more sporadic than it was already. Lolling around in the sun and watching Murray win Wimbledon has taken precedence over waffling on about what I've been eating. With good reason I hope you'll agree.

So, now that the ghost of Fred has finally been laid to rest, back to business as usual.

A flying visit to Kent for work the week before last meant a change of trains at St Pancras. A few years ago you'd need a good couple of hours spare to make venturing from the northbound stations worthwhile, but the King's Cross area has come on in leaps and bounds in recent times, and boasts a whole host of options from sherry bars to street food, all within a few minutes walk of the station platforms.

It was the latter option that tempted, the street food collective formerly known as has expanded and relaunched as Kerb. They now have a whole host of stalls on daily rotation on the new pedestrian street round the back of King's Cross.

Kimchi Cult, purveyors of Korean style burgers, was the one I'd been looking forward to most. I bloody love Kimchi and was intrigued to see how its cabbagey funk worked outside its usual environment. I'm pleased to say it works very well. The spice and savour of the stuff works a treat with a high quality beef patty and plasticky cheese, in the same way that anything else pickled works with a burger or sausage.

It was all beautifully put together; bun the right texture, the right sort of melty cheese, very good meat in the patty, but the whole just didn't do that much for me. The presence of kimchi just made me crave a great bowlful of it in a porky noodle soup.

I can't blame Kimchi Cult for this, I think the realisation is finally dawning that I don't really care about burgers. The relentless obsession with the things in the food world in recent years has brainwashed me into seeking the burgery holy grail, but I don't think it exists. They're just not that exciting. Give me a fine steak or a Thai salad or a bowl of raspberries or a pork pie instead please.

£6 for the kimchi cheeseburger. Personal preferences aside this was a top notch burger, but six quid still seems to be pushing it a bit. I had plenty of room for lunch number two ten minutes later...

..which came courtesy of Yum Bun. I was hoping for a pork bun, but I'd left it too late so had to settle for the Japanese fried chicken bun. Garnished with iceberg lettuce, tartare sauce and chilli dressing this was a bit bloody lovely. The soft bun was a delight, just a little bit chewy but light and airy with it. The chicken: think KFC popcorn chicken with better meat, better batter and better frying skills. Very good.

£3.50 for one of these, or £6 for two. As with the burger, a bit overpriced I'd argue. I do think that the food served at all of these stalls is very good, and deserves comparison with similar restaurant offerings (I'm sure it's better in many cases) but lunch can be had at many restaurants for not much more money, and with the considerably larger overheads of a building, waiting staff and so forth. Minor gripe over, and ultimately the prices are pitched at what the London market will bear.

Between my burger and bun I grabbed a takeaway coffee from Caravan. I really want to eat at this place, the menu reads like a dream, but there wasn't time on this occasion so a coffee had to suffice. A £2.40 flat white (very fairly priced for the location) was good, but not as good as I'd been led to believe the coffee here would be. The coffee itself was excellent, the execution just slightly off though, the texture of the milk a little thin and not as smooth as it could have been.

Kimchi Cult 7/10
Yum Bun 8/10
Caravan coffee 7/10
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