Saturday, 4 February 2012

Saturday - Michelsberg Suit Fitting & Reliance Lunch

Below is an article from the Leeds and Yorkshire Lawyer magazine, where Jo is referred to as debating royalty!! For her efforts of winning the debating competition last year, her prize was a bespoke suit made by the fantastic Michelsberg Tailors owned by James Michelsberg and based in the Victoria Quarter in Leeds. Amazingly for me, I am also a winner in this as James is making my suit for our wedding later in the year which is obviously brilliant!!

So today Jo and I went to the first of a number of sessions with James to get the process moving. We decided colours, fabrics and fit, and he took all my measurements in advance of the next meeting which will be first stage fitting. I must add that although Jo attended today, it will just be me in the future as I want the end result to be a surprise - a bit like her wedding dress I suppose!

It was a brilliant experience, and I felt thoroughly spoiled, from the warming Scotch on arrival that was a welcome addition to my coffee on a freezing Saturday, through to an hour and a half later when we said au revoir and headed to The Reliance for a long and leisurely lunch.
The magazine article
Michelsberg Tailoring
Collar choices for bespoke shirts
Choosing the suit fabric and colour
James measuring trousers
A work in progress
A great experience
Jo at the entrance to Michelsberg Tailoring
After a great time with James, we then had a lovely long lunch at The Reliance which is one of our favourite places to hang out in in is a little off the beaten track but it was just the ticket on a snowy day in Leeds. We drank, ate and read the paper to our hearts content before heading home for the Calcutta Cup at 5pm......

Just a quick word on the food and drink that we had at Reliance. Jo went for kedgeree which was a really high standard with the right delicate and creamy texture, and well cooked fishy bits. My charcuterie and cheese platter was a real triumph and I will definitely have it again - it had 3 meats, some chunky pate, 3 cheeses, pickled onions, beetroot chutney, breads and crackers. I polished it all off - obviously! To complement the snow outside, we decided on a warm pudding of spotted dick and custard which again was great - in fact it was much tastier that a similar pudding that I had recently in a more high profile food establishment in Leeds. And the price? £38 excluding tip and including two pints of Estrella which was a real bargain. 9/10
Cheese and charcuterie
A carafe of red
Spotted dick and custard

Friday - Best Laid Plans...........

I had another day off on Friday (still days to use up before year end!) and put it to spectacularly good use. This weekend our lovely friends, Shereef and Steph were due to visit.  It's amazing how efficient I can be when I want to be, and made grand plans to do home made pizzas, lots of cleaning, running in sub zero temperatures... 

The day got off to a good start - like a good wife (to be) I took Joe to work, went to the post office and the shops, and was home before 9.30 ready to start all my jobs.  Pizza sauce, done. Curry base, done (for a dinner for next weekend - good prep hey?!). Peach and raspberry puree for bellinis, done.  Marinated vegetables, done, and pizza dough done, all before 12pm.  How very virtuous.  I even dragged myself outdoors in the sub-zero temperatures for a run (am I mad?!)

As sometimes happens, unfortunately illness got in the way and Shereef and Steph weren't able to make it.  Poor Shereef - get well soon and we'll reorganise for another weekend shortly.

Ho hum.  Well it meant that Joe and I were very well treated - home made pizza with marinated chargrilled peppers, courgettes, roasted aubergine and chorizo, and raspberry and peach bellinis - fancy for a Friday night!  FYI - my pizza dough recipe is awesome, and totally fool-proof.  It makes 3-4 pizzas, is freezable, and makes thin and crispy based pizzas.  Let me know if you want the recipe.
Sad faces (cheered up by a Bellini)
Home made pizza with chargrilled marinated peppers and courgettes, roasted aubergine, chorizo, basil and some cheeky jalapenos
Oh, and to round off, some nostalgic match makers!  Only 22 calories per stick?  No wonder I ate about 25.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Thursday - Kebabs with a special treat

Yesterday I was all up for stopping daily blogging but luckily (hmmm) Jo convinced me to keep it up until at least April when we will have documented 365 days of food!! So here we go.....tonight we had Turkey Kebabs with a greek salad and chips. Now we are going to play jenga while watching Heston teaching cheese a lesson from last your face cheese!

As a new addition, I have decided to blog a picture of the dinner some of my close friends and family have.....this is Dave Bro's from last night....a good effort!


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Wednesday - Hummus on Toast

I came home tonight in the mood as I lost at squash and then Jo wouldn't let me eat the left overs from yesterday as 'there is enough for two' - how dare she!!!! My other option was a fish finger sandwich which I refused and had hummus on toast in protest - it was average. I also had the same for breakfast - weird I know.

hummus on toast

Turkey Tuesdays!

So Joe had a rather busy evening on Tuesday with a meeting with Leeds City Council (more on this to come) followed by a run home.  I'll be honest, I have no idea how he can be so dedicated to the marathon training at the moment.  It's utterly Siberian outside, dark, and all I want to do is cosy up with a glass of red wine and a hot water bottle.  I'm 27 going on 67.............

So while he was out being all dedicated, I went home and made a kind of Spanish/Eastern fusion turkey dish with tomatoes, broccoli, onion seeds, cumin, paprika  and cinnamon.  This was done accompanied with couscous spiced with cardamon, cinnamon and cloves.  All good and very tasty, until the point when Joe crunched down on a clove - bless - what a way to ruin a meal!  I did warn him though so I'm taking none of the blame............!

Turkey stew with couscous

Monday Stir Fry

So Joe and I have been a little distracted this week...can't blame anyone else and it's not even for an interesting reason, it just means we're a little behind on out blog posts.

No fear though, just because the post isn't up doesn't mean we didn't do food!  Monday was a race against time - home late and wanting to have a relaxing evening after the hectic weekend - I promised Joe dinner within 10 minutes!  And I almost made it - hot prawns with pak choi and stir fried noodles - in 12 minutes!  Grrr!  Next time I'll chop faster and prove its able to do a from-scratch meal in sub 10 minutes.  Challenge on.

Hot prawns with pak choi
Stir fried noodles
Noodles, prawns and prawn crackers.  The race is on.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sunday - Simple Beef Stew

We had a lovely weekend with Mum Rees, with lots of lovely eating and drinking! So, for dinner on Sunday we had a simple beef stew with a bottle of beer which was just what we needed - there were even left overs for my lunch - get in!

Beef stew - I have decided my iphone takes rubbish pictures!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Saturday - A good Scottish feast

I'm extremely proud of my heritage.  I was born and brought up in Edinburgh, and much of my family still live there.  I think it's one of the most beautiful cities in the world and there is nowhere quite like Scotland.  I'm also trying to fight against this impression that lots of people have (boosted by frequent media hysteria) that food in Scotland is terrible.  I get the jibes about deep fried mars bars, deep fried pizza and deep fried creme eggs (only at Easter, thanks) but believe it or not, that's not all Scotland has to offer.  Edinburgh has some of the best restaurants restaurants in the country - the highest concentration of Michelin starred eateries outside of London - and the produce is fantastic.  We have a bountiful supply of game, meats, fish, fruit and vegetables and to malign that is to be totally ignorant.  Rant over.

As part of my mission to open peoples' eyes to Scottish food, Joe persuaded me to cook a Burns supper whilst his mum was staying.  Neither she nor Dave Bro had ever tried haggis before, EVER!  So this was not an instance of preaching to the converted and I did feel a little under pressure to make sure they liked it. 

So issue number 1 - what haggis to get?  I thought automatically of Macsweens.  It's famous for being the best haggis, which may or may not be because it's also the most commonly supplied in England.  But that probably is for a reason: the Macsween family used to own a butcher's in Bruntsfield in Edinburgh and manufactured their own haggis.  The haggis became so popular that they closed the butcher's to concentrate on haggis production alone.  And lucky for us as far as I'm concerned. 

I did have a look at whether we should get a different haggis but given our time constraints (last minute planning as usual) it was Waitrose Macsweens to the rescue!

Traditional accompaniments are neeps and tatties (turnips, or swede to the English and potatoes), so both of these were automatically in.  I did my potatoes a little differently - baked in the oven and scooped out, mashed with cream and butter.  I also did some roasted chantenay carrots and a redcurrent gravy (which may be a little blasphemous with a Burns supper but ho hum!)

So food cooked, I persuaded Joe to address the haggis (first and last verse of the "Ode to the Haggis" only - it's about 25 verses long!) and we toasted with a little Dalmore whisky each.  And drum roll....they all loved the haggis!  It's rich, meaty and peppery, and roasted in the oven it falls apart like a dream.  The neeps are also peppery and a little bitter, and with creamy mash they come together perfectly.

Macsween haggis
Roasted chantenay carrots
Mashed swede
Haggis, neeps and tatties
Creamy mash
To follow, after quite a break, we had some traditional cranachan as well.  This is a traditional Scottish dessert made with whipped cream, honey, more whisky, toasted oats and raspberries.  I also threw in some toasted almonds for a slightly different texture.  The best trick with cranachan is to leave stirring in the oats to the last minute so they retain their crunch.  A tiny sprinkling of salt also brings out the flavour of the oats. 

After even more of a break, we also had some crowdie, a creamy Scottish cheese, to round off the meal.  Ok, it might have been a fairly rich meal, but it was full of amazing flavours, and I'd defy anyone not to enjoy it.
Crowdie and crackers - thanks to Haley in Clifford

Friday - Create

This weekend Joe's mum (@mrs_ordinary) came to stay with us so we thought it would be a good opportunity to pop in to Leeds for some dinner delights.

Since Create opened towards the end of 2011, we have been promising we would go there for dinner.  I will say it now - we are not jumping on the Jay Rayner band wagon - yes he did do a lovely review a few weeks ago but that's not why we were going!  We went back in November 2011 for an early doors vodka tasting and food demonstration (vodka on a post night out empty stomach...hmmm.....) which was great so we're already fans of the place. I love the ethos of Create - it's a social enterprise restaurant that trains and employs the homeless, marginalised and vulnerable.  It's a great idea and something that deserves a lot of support.

As well as doing all this good work, Create also aims to provide great food and drink.  After all, this is how it makes its money. In a money spinning effort, Create is currently offering two starters and main courses for £18.50 from a limited menu, for at least a few more weeks.

Having been given both menus, all four of us opted for food off the main menu. I would have been more than happy to go from the £18.50 but the others were all too tempted by the main menu dishes.  Also, when Joe asked whether he could have a dish from that menu, he was told that if one person ordered from it, they would be charged £18.50, as the second person is effectively free.  There doesn't seem to be any flexibility on this point which is disappointing.

Anyway, having been tempted by the food from the tasting, we opted for a variety of dishes for starters:  potted duck with pickled plums for @mrs_ordinary, crispy pork belly, black pudding and celeriac for Dave Bro, chicken terrine for Joe and char grilled mackerel with Yorkshire rhubarb and beetroot for me. 

I'd tried the potted duck at the tasting, so already knew that was good - rich but the pickled plums cut right through it.  The crispy pork belly was small squares of belly, deep fried in breadcrumbs and looked fantastic.  I loved the char grilled mackerel - crispy skin, perfectly cooked mackerel and well balanced with the rhubarb and beetroot, although the horseradish cream was a bit bland, and probably unnecessary.  Joe was unfortunately a little underwhelmed by his terrine, and found a couple of bits of gristle which is always off putting.  I'd also mention that the bread given before the starter was not great - pallid and fairly tasteless I'm afraid.
Crispy pork belly with black pudding and celeriac (which is done like a remoulade, so always going to be a win for me)
Chicken terrine, also with remoulade! And sans toasted bread, which was missed.
Potted duck with pickled plums
Char grilled mackerel with rhubarb, beetroot and horseradish cream.  Loved the deep fried parsley.
Moving on to main courses, the thing that convinced both of the boys to go for the a la carte menu was the char grilled skirt steak with celeriac puree, shallot and red wine butter (obviously having a bit of a run on celeriac here!).  Sue chose the fish pie, while I asked for a recommendation and was advised to go for the pan fried bream.  This was a bit of an error as I went for the recommendation without realising it too came with beetroot and rhubarb!  Woops!  Good thing I like rhubarb and beetroot

Both Joe and Dave Bro were very pleased with their steak - thick, man sized and cooked to order perfectly.  Joe also had a side of chips which were very nice.  The fish pie also got very good reviews, and the sea bream was delightful with crispy skin and a lovely vanilla butter sauce.  It's just a shame that the two main fish dishes on the menu are virtually the same.

Rare skirt steak

Sea bream with beetroot and rhubarb
Fish pie
To round off the meal we had some desserts and cocktails - sticky toffee pudding for Joe and Dave and apple and golden raisin crumble for Sue.  The sticky toffee pudding was a bit average but the crumble was delicious with a nutty crust.  They were more than happy to go off piste for cocktails too - the amaretto sour, mojito, espresso martini and other fruity cocktail (forgotten the name I'm afraid) were all excellent.  I'd go back for the cocktails alone!

All in it was a pretty good meal - a few hiccups along the way and the service was pretty slow (inattentive almost) but the prices are very reasonable for Leeds (sub £5 for most starters and mains £10-£15) and it's doing some good work. 
Amaretto sour
Apple and golden raisin crumble
sticky toffee pudding
Espresso martini - my personal fave
The unknown cocktail