Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Bundobrunch at Bundobust

I first wrote about Bundobust just over a year ago (see here if you're interested). Since then, we've been back several times and still absolutely love it. The menu continues to change and develop and several dishes have appeared there now that have become house favourites: the vada pav (a spiced potato "burger") and the Punjabi kadhi (a kind of yoghurt soup) are both must orders as far as D is concerned. Me, I stick by my original choice of the spiced scrambled eggs but have also developed a serious addiction to the okra fries.

Also last year, this time in Glasgow, we discovered how much we enjoy eating spicy food for breakfast. So when, as part of the Leeds Indie Food Festival Bundobust decided to do a joint event with the superlative Layne's Espresso called Bundobrunch we were there with proverbial bells on.

Writing about it feels a little bit mean, because at the moment this is not intended to be a fixture. However, chatting to the guy behind the bar I learned that the reaction was so generally positive that it could well become a regular thing which would be very exciting indeed.

As you can see from the menu, set box options (two savoury, one sweet) were on offer rather than a list of dishes from which to pick and choose. We both went for the same option which featured a breakfast biryani, chilli spiced rarebit and a sweetcorn and methi (fenugreek) pancake. As you might expect from this particular kitchen, the spicing was bang on, leaving a pleasant residual warmth on the palate rather than bash you over the head chilli (never desirable, but especially not at 10am). The star of the show was that sweetcorn pancake. Now, I would describe myself as, if not exactly a hater, certainly a non-fan of sweetcorn, but suspend those little kernels in spiced batter and somehow they are transformed! This is definitely something to be recreated at home.

The £12 price point felt a tad steep when compared to the regular lunch menu, and while I completely understand the thinking behind doing the set boxes, I was sad to miss out on some of the other dishes on offer (hello, asparagus fries). Although clearly opting for the same thing was a failing on the part of your intrepid reviewers. In our defence, it was quite early.

Anyway, I've got everything crossed that Bundobust do decide to take up a more permanent residence on the brunch scene. If you are in Leeds and fancy a light bite with a decent pint on the side it is definitely worth checking out their standard menu. Those okra fries are dangerously moreish.

Monday, 30 May 2016

MPM: 30th May 2016

D and I both weirdly enjoy meal planning. So much so that it is often something to which our conversation turns when we are out and about enjoying a convivial pint. Perhaps it is because our favourite table in our favourite bar gives us a view of D's beloved Waitrose. Or perhaps it is because nothing sharpens the appetite like that first drink of the evening. Regardless, our weekly meal plan is often jotted down when we are out of the house, away from recipe books and other resources. This week, we decided to make sure that we did it at home and thus used some of our overstuffed bookshelves, not to mention our home Wi-Fi connection.

May seems to have been a ridiculously long month. And who on Earth decided to make pay day fall after the Bank Holiday weekend? Tonight, we'll be feasting on whatever we can find lurking at the back of the store cupboard (Peppa Pig spaghetti shapes in tomato sauce, anyone?) The rest of the week is looking pretty good though.

Tuesday: a chicken Caesar salad, using an old blog recipe. Since I wrote this post, D has been busy perfecting his Caesar dressing so it will be interesting to see how this low fat version stands up.

Wednesday: risotto ai cavolfiore - that is to say, cauliflower risotto. D's pick from "Jamie's Italy" by Jamie Oliver.

Thursday: butternut squash and tarragon soup. If I'm home from work in time, I'll make some bread to go with it.

Friday: pork chops with Saint-Marcellin cheese. Another D choice, this time from "Pork and Sons" by Stephane Reynaud.

Saturday:Punjabi kadhi (a spiced, sour yoghurt soup) with cauliflower pakoras, chilli paneer and homemade flatbreads

Sunday: some sort of roast

A week of excellent eating. Hope everyone out there in the UK is enjoying this rather miserable Bank Holiday Monday and that everyone, everywhere has a fantastic week.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Recipe corner: Cashew chicken with egg fried rice and crispy garlic kale

Photo courtesy of the BBC Good Food website

Usually, you have to put up with my less than stellar food photography - however, on this occasion, I have shamelessly borrowed someone else's so you can see what this dish could look like.

I did snap it myself and ended up with this:

Photo courtesy of me and several glasses of wine
The less said the better, eh?

I served this for our Friday night supper last week and we both hoovered it up, making yummy noises all the while.  Cashew chicken is one of my favourite dishes from the Chinese takeaway, so I expected to be all over it, but D was looking forward to it rather less - he was happy to revise his original opinion on eating.  It doesn't have many ingredients, and I considered adding garlic or more spicing to the stir fry, but stuck to the original recipe and actually, I think the deeply savoury simplicity of it is the charm.

This recipe is absurdly simple for all that it requires a wee bit of prep, and if you want properly good egg fried rice you really do need to initially cook the rice the day before.

Ingredients - chicken

2 skinless chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
1 egg white
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour
50g cashew nuts
1 tbsp rice wine (or dry Sherry at a pinch)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp vegetable oil

Ingredients - rice

100g basmati rice
1 egg
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp vegetable oil

Ingredients - crispy kale

Several large handfuls of kale
Tbsp garlic oil

3-4 spring onions, shredded

The day before (or, at least far enough in advance to allow it to cool properly) cook the basmati rice.  Cool and refrigerate until needed.

Combine the chicken with the egg white, the sesame oil, the cornflour and a touch of judicious seasoning and set aside for at least 20-30 mins prior to cooking.  Preheat the oven to 180.

Beat the egg together with the chilli flakes, the five spice and a decent pinch of salt and set aside.

Bring a pan of water up to the boil, and simmer the chicken for 4-5 mins until the meat has turned completely white.  This is known as velveting - you can also do it in hot oil but this method has the virtue of being somewhat lower in fat.

Now, you want two large frying pans or woks on the go at the same time, so get them on the hob to heat up while you toss the kale in the garlic oil and some salt and pepper and place in the hot oven to roast for around 10 mins until crispy (but not too singed).

Put the oil into the hot pans.  In one, add the cooled basmati rice, in the other, the cashew nuts.

Cook the nuts for around a minute, and then pour in the rice wine and the soy sauce and allow them to bubble down slightly, before adding the chicken.

Now add the beaten egg to the rice and stir well to combine.  Both the chicken and the eggy rice should cook for a further couple of minutes.  Ensure the chicken is entirely cooked through before serving (the easiest way to do this is by eating a chunk and that is the cook's prerogative).

Serve with the kale - I used my crispy greens as a base for the whole, but dumping it on the side is equally valid.  Either way is absolutely delicious.  Sprinkle the shredded spring onions over the top as an artistic garnish.

Monday, 16 May 2016

MPM: 16th May 2016

Happy Monday campers!  Did you have a lovely weekend?  We were pretty quiet here, but last night saw the inaugural barbecue of the year which was quite exciting - D cooked whole red snapper and clams in foil parcels and we served it up with potato salad, tomato bruschetta and a generous handful of peppery green leaves.  Fabulous stuff.

This week we seem to have developed a bit of social life, with the result that we are potentially out for three of the seven evenings.  What madness is this!  Next Sunday also remains unplanned; another barbecue might be nice but, equally, we might not be up for anything other than lying around and dunking biscuits in tea.  So, only three meals to disseminate:

Dover sole with shrimp butter, cucumber and a lemon and caper crumb
Spaghetti bolognese (50/50 spaghetti and courgetti - yes, I still love my spiraliser!)
Fresh soup (type TBC)

Not desperately exciting stuff, is it?  Still, it makes a change for us to actually be out and about.

Have a great week everyone, happy cooking (and eating!)

Saturday, 14 May 2016

TWTWTW: Back in the kitchen and the return of the Fakeaway

As mentioned many times on this blog for some unknown reason, when life gets stressful, one of the first things that flies out of the window is the cooking and eating of sensible meals.  I often lose my appetite, which feels ridiculous to say out loud since I do not look like the kind of wan and waif-ey creature who can't bring themselves to eat.  I certainly lose any desire to be in the kitchen.  In these dark days, the toaster becomes the most regularly used tool in the arsenal.

How lovely, then, to finally have got back into some sort of good routine this week.  We have cooked and eaten a number of gorgeous meals and both of us feel a lot better for it.

Yesterday evening, I decided to do a Friday Night Fakeaway for the first time in ages, and cooked a delicious but incredibly simple chicken with cashew nuts, which recipe can be found here.  Chunks of chicken breast are combined with egg white, cornflour and a little sesame oil for twenty minutes or so before cooking, which makes them incredibly tender in the stir fry. Seriously, give this one a go.  I also highly recommend drizzling some curly kale with garlic oil, sprinkling with salt and roasting in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes - you end up with something very akin to the seaweed they serve up at Chinese restaurants; it makes a great side dish and doesn't taste virtuous at all (which is clearly one of the points of fakeaway).

My mojo has returned to such an extent that I currently have some bread dough proving in the sun and, later, I will be giving my new baguette baking trays a whirl.  I have tried baguettes before, and although the taste was successful the shaping...not so much.  Paul "Silver Fox" Hollywood makes it look easy and it really isn't.

I must admit, no points are being counted at the moment - that's the next thing to add in and I'm going to have to spend some proper time pondering how to make the new Smart Points work better for me - my initial impressions were not favourable but the thought of going back to Pro Points, when I rely quite heavily on the online tools, is not really tenable.  I even found myself wondering about sticking my toe in the proverbial Slimming World pool this week - my Mum has had a lot of success on SW and is looking amazing at the moment - but I think that a) I would find it quite limiting and b) I'm just making excuses to avoid putting my head down and getting on with it.

Obligatory cute cat pic of the week:

Minx is, as ever, a furry, purry angel - even despite the fact that she has a charming new habit of coming and waking me up in the early hours for a little bit of a stroke and a cuddle.  Who needs beauty sleep anyway?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Norse, Harrogate (second visit)

A few days ago, I wrote about a return visit to Leeds' prestigious "The Man Behind The Curtain" which confirmed my opinion that while it is clever, modern food worthy of admiration, it is not food to love.  How wonderful, then, to go back to another venue where every beautifully crafted dish made me want to fall into it face first and lick the plate clean.  That venue is Norse in Harrogate.

I loved it the first time round and there is very little to add in a second piece, such that I probably wouldn't have bothered were it not for the fact that it is such a little gem of a place and really cheered me up after our trip to TMBTC left me wondering if I  just didn't "get" modern food anymore.  I've been lacking an appetite lately anyway and my palate was feeling distinctly jaded by the time we rolled up.

Consider me...un-jaded (if there is such a term).  From start to finish it is almost impossible to pick a highlight.  The moment that the fresh bread arrived at the table with toasted seeds and smoked artichoke puree, we knew that we were in safe hands.

We opted for the seven course tasting menu (with an additional amuse and post dinner chocolates it was, strictly speaking, nine in all) and it was a study in how tasting menus should be.  Every dish was small but perfectly formed.  And see how pretty?

The table was divided as to the best savoury course of the night - was it the buttery turbot with the punchy, herby pickled clams and the rich smoked mussel sauce?  (Apologies for the deterioration in picture quality - the lighting switched to "romantic" at this point)

Or the hogget that just melted in the mouth with the punchiest garlic peas that you ever did see?

My father was adamant that the dessert was the star of the show - a pistachio and rapeseed oil cake licked with skyr and elderflower frosting and served with strawberries and honeycomb.  And, to be fair, you'd go a long way to find something more perfectly delicious, or a prettier symphony of spring pastels.

Four of us ate a superlative meal, we started with a bottle of champagne and then two of the party had a matching wine flight and the bill worked out at £75 a head - amazingly good value for food of such quality.  This is fusion food at its very, very best: the flavour profile is distinctly Scandi, but the ingredients are a parade of the Best of British produce and the two marry together perfectly.

A wonderful night out in a truly wonderful little restaurant.  Thank you, Norse, for rejuvenating my palate and getting me excited about cooking again!

Monday, 9 May 2016

MPM: 9th May 2016

It's been a while since we had a meal planning Monday, isn't it?  A combination of work and study and a nasty bug have meant a lack of cooking (and, indeed, eating) round here of late.

Fingers crossed the worst of it seems to have passed and it is time to get back into the kitchen and get producing some slightly more complex meals than toast.  This week, then:

Pepper and lime crusted tuna steaks with mustard cucumber "spaghetti" and wild rice
Warm salad of lamb with sweet potato and pomegranate
Corned beef hash
Fresh soup
Friday night fakeaway: Cashew chicken stir fry with egg fried rice and crispy kale "seaweed"

If the weather holds then we might break out the barbecue next weekend - perhaps some delicious whole fish with salads and bread to accompany, but that plan remains to be fixed.

Hopefully, they'll be some more meal plans over at Mrs M's to enjoy.  Have a good week lovelies!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Man Behind The Curtain, Leeds (second visit)

We first went to The Man Behind The Curtain (henceforth to be known as TMBTC) back in September 2014.  It was not that long open but it was already very ambitious, very modern and positioning itself at the high end of the Leeds dining scene.  Fast forward a year and the head chef, Michael O'Hare, has become something of a sleb thanks to an appearance on Great British Menu, and the restaurant has scored a prestigious Michelin star.  Interested to see what these changes had wrought in terms of the food, we duly got in line (it's now booked up months in advance) and, last week, finally returned to the top floor of Flannels department store.

Reading back, my original impression was not overwhelmingly positive.  It had all seemed a wee bit style over substance.  I expected this second visit to prove me wrong - after all, as well as impressing the Michelin inspectors, a number of highly regarded reviewers have swooned over O'Hare's food. But nope, my first opinion continues to hold true.

It is very, very clever cooking.  It utilises modern techniques and on-trend ingredients (Iberico pork, anyone?) and the plating is creative and quirky.  The problem is, the end result is not the sort of food that I want to eat.  The seasoning, to my taste, was on the cusp of too much, such that one particular dish reminded me of nothing so much as a Pot Noodle, exploding with dusty umami.  And texturally, a lot of the dishes lacked pleasing contrasts because of the overuse of sous-vide.  I don't care what anyone else says, I think sous-vide fish (in particular) is slimy and damp and not very pleasant to eat.  The flavours were, almost without exception, big and brash and bold and just a bit too much.  There was very little that was subtle, or delicate, and star ingredients just got lost.

I also strenuously object to cleverness for the sake of it when it comes to cooking.  So dessert was a chocolate and lavender mousse with a light, foamy vanilla custard spooned over at the table.  Fine.  Except that the custard was made with mashed potato.  It tasted like custard.  It looked like custard.  Why on Earth bother to make it with mashed potato?  I found it off putting. I approached the whole dish tentatively because I don't want to eat chocolate mousse and mashed potato.  I suspect that such reticence makes me exactly the kind of reactionary customer that TMBTC does not want to darken its trendy doors.  And that's fair enough.  You can't appeal to everyone all of the time.

Let's talk about some positives.  An early amuse of XO veal sweetbread in a steamed bun with pickled Shitake was a very lovely thing.  I think that the sweetbread must have been pan fried - a rarity here - as it had a lovely crust that yielded into a perfectly cooked, creamy interior.  It worked well with the spicing and was very prettily presented.

Presentation in general, although never going to appeal to stalwart traditionalists, was definitely artistic.  While there were problems with this Iberico Pork main course (mainly that the accompaniments overwhelmed the little piggy) I do love the way it has been plated.  That egg shell, incidentally, was edible, which was a nice touch.

And for all that I took umbrage with the chocolate and potato dessert, I adored the little passion fruit and praline cupcake that was presented as a petit four, complete with edible cupcake paper.

This was one of the few dishes where the flavours were balanced absolutely perfectly, with the sweetness of the white chocolate and hazelnut acting as a beautiful foil for the wincingly sharp passion fruit puree.  I would have liked another one of these.

What else?  D had the wine flight to match the tasting menu (there is no a la carte option here) and it was astoundingly good in terms of quality and value, with his particular favourite being a plum sake that did, indeed, taste heavenly.  The service was absolutely flawless.  The room itself is lovely - big, well spaced tables and the comfiest chairs that I think I have ever sat on in a restaurant.  Overall, much to admire.  And, indeed, I suspect a lot of people will enjoy the food.  The fact that it was not to my taste was, probably, more about me than about the cooking.

There is certainly nowhere else in Leeds doing this sort of thing at the moment and, certainly, I would urge people to go along and try it for themselves.  I wouldn't go back again myself - £70 a head is just too much for food that I know I am unlikely to enjoy, but I certainly wish Mr O'Hare and his very cool staff all the best - their presence in our city can only do good things for the already vibrant food scene.  Let's just hope that mashed potato custard doesn't catch on elsewhere.

The Man Behind The Curtain
68-78 Vicar Lane
Top floor Flannels

0113 2432376