Friday, 16 April 2010

How not to do a Guardian article...

Check out my guest blog for the Guardian Leeds

There’s a lot to love about Leeds but for me it has to be to access to really good local produce. What I find difficult to understand though is that this amazing food isn’t available in our supermarkets. If you take even a casual glance at the labels on fresh veg in the average shopping basket you’ll quickly see the food you are about to eat has already chalked up more miles than even the most seasoned of travellers. When you start to think about it, this is pretty ludicrous when we have so much goodness nearby. Strangely though, it always feels like a bit of a secret and it seems to me that a lot of people just don’t know what we have on our doorstep.

When I started to do a bit of research for this I have to say I was pretty ignorant of how much is out there and just how easy it is to get to. You don’t even have to drive to find really good food these days; we are quite lucky in the number of farmers markets in Leeds itself at Kirkgate, Pudsey and Headingley. But also we have some really good farm shops just outside the city centre. I took the train out to Woodlesford from Leeds on Saturday. Just a 10 minute walk out of the station you get into sleepy little Swillington, home of the imaginatively named Swillington Organic Farm.

I’d actually only come down to get some of the amazing meat for a meal for friends but I’d got talking to Jo Cartwright the owner and had a chance to have a look around. What I was completely unaware of is that the farm is part of a community supported agriculture project, meaning it has given over some of its land for a community group; in return the farmers gets a small share of the produce grown to sell in the farm shop.

This is an amazing model of social enterprise; basically you buy a share in the harvest. People from all over Leeds are involved on the day of my visit; a young couple from Kirkstall were down busily working away along with a local from Swillington picking up some of the fresh picked veg. This is perfect for those concerned with where there food comes from and as it’s a community group you are sharing the work, the risk and the reward of growing your own vegetables.

I’ve often dreamt of getting an allotment but the time you need to dedicate to it is pretty immense where as here you can come down whenever you have time or just to pick up your produce; members are encouraged but not obliged to help out. It’s entirely your choice. Perfect if you have the ethics, but not the time.

This alone is pretty fantastic but there is more, you can actually sponsor animals at the farm. When they are ready for the butcher you have full control of what happens to the beast. The farm supplies a number of businesses in Leeds, notably Salvo’s, Harvey Nichols and the Cross Keys in Holbeck. It no wonder that the farm is one of Rick Stein’s food heroes.

North Leeds has a great farm as well, though without the organic credentials of Swillington. None go Bye farm near Horsforth has some of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten. Believe me as well when I say that as I’ve eaten a lot of sausages over the years and these are up there with the best.

Even Lishman’s of Ilkley has something to worry about there. For those of you who prefer a more one-stop-approach to your shopping we have in the city centre the ever friendly Millies Organic Food Shop. Food here is sourced from all over Yorkshire and they are more than happy to talk you through its origins.

All in all it’s getting easier all the time to get great local food and you don’t have to pay a premium for this. Going to the farm shops actually cuts out the middle man. There are less travel costs to absorb, processing is done locally and the food you get is so much fresher.

There’s something quite satisfying about tucking into a meal where every step of the way you know where the produce is from. Fresh food can be served simply so you can enjoy the natural flavours with out too much meddling. I’d picked up some beautiful Lamb Cutlets from Swillington Farm, served with some sweet Yorkshire carrots and potatoes.

Admittedly I’d used some Spanish courgettes and some Peruvian Asparagus but I’m not saying don’t shop in supermarkets - just think about where it’s come from a minute and consider… Could I get that locally?

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Primo Hotdogs - Corn Exchange, Leeds

Everyone loves a Hotdog? I hope so anyway, we've gained a new food venture in Leeds in the form of Primo's Gourmet Hotdogs. I wasn't the first down for the review as Katie over at Leeds Grub beat me to it so check out her thoughts as well on this place.

Situated inside the beautiful Corn Exchange Primo is a welcome addition in what has been a woefully under used building in recent times.

It's not a bad idea, I really enjoy hot dogs and you get a really good selection here. I went for the Chicago Classic, an all beef Frank with dill pickle, onion, tomato, mustard and celery salt except mine didn't have onion. I think they are still getting the hang of things at the moment.

There isn't really too much to go wrong here, the Frankfurter was really good quality but personally I'd have prefered some kind of tomato relish rather than wedges of tomato but that's not a real complaint by any means.

All in all I like this place, it's quite nicely done but it's not without it's problems sadly.

I think it'll struggle to do well where it is. There still isn't that much inside the corn exchange so passing trade is going to be hard to come by.

The owners of the building have been incredibly lazy in getting new businesses onboard so I think at the moment Primo isn't going to be getting the business it deserves.

With the right marketing and advertising I hope it will keep on going as this is a great little cafe serving a unique product in Leeds. If you like hotdogs you'll like this place so come down and try it.

Primo's Gourmet Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Monday, 5 April 2010

Arcadia - Arndale Centre, Otley Road, Headingley

I did promise I'd be back for a review; this place is hard to resist to be honest. Headingley over a Bank Holiday weekend is an odd place, same as Christmas and New Years, Bank Holidays bring out the crazies and those who normally shouldn't be drinking.

We walked up past the Oak and Rack both with huge queues outside and it was the same story at the Box. All full of drunken chavs and students that hadn't gone home.

When you do make it up to the Arndale Centre it seems the world has calmed down again and Arcadia sits there ready to take you in, all relaxed and welcoming.

Despite being within stumbling distance of the other more well known pubs in Headingley Arcadia is far more sedate, though busy it has a much more chilled out atmosphere and doesn't seem to attract the idiots.

We took up residency near the bar, optimum distance between the drinks and toilets and settled in for good sit, drink and chat.

Thanks to Arcadia I've found another Lager now that I'm absolutely in love with. Kaltenburg Hell is gorgeous, devilishly moreish and despite its name quite light at just over 4% ABV and definitely my drink of choice in this fine establishment.

We'd gone down with some of the Lady's friends and they were on Red so didn't really get to try to many of the ever changing list of beers on offer.

Arcadia does attract some students still, I'd say mostly 3rd years or those doing MA's and people that came to Headingley as students and never moved away.

There are one or two old chaps out for the beer but overall it's a good mix of people and a great atmosphere. Arcadia is definitely a refreshing change from the other bars in Headingley and very high on my list of recommendations for places to go for a good pint in Leeds.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Happy Scotch Egg Easter!

There’s quite a bit of science behind making a good scotch egg so I would suggest doing a bit of research before you start to make sure you are happy with everything. It’s not a task to be undertaken lightly - as deep frying can lead to messy pain quite easily. This is as much of a warning as I’ll give so on to the fun!

Eggs – The Freshest you can get
Sausage Meat – The best you can afford
Breadcrumbs – I’d used brown bread for this but I think white would be better.

Ok so we are going to start in the middle and work out; the egg is the key to this and getting it right takes a bit of work. The easiest way to do a boiled egg well is the Delia technique. Boil your water, lower your eggs in gently and cover.

Cook for one minute at a rolling boil and take off the heat and rest in the water for seven minutes and then put in an ice bath. If you are eating the boiled egg straight away six minutes is perfect for soldiers just so you know – just don’t put them in the ice bath. Peel the eggs and put to one side.

I’m using some cling film here to stop the sausage meat sticking to the work top and to help roll the meat round the egg. It seems to work well as you can get the meat the right thickness easily. Once you’ve wrapped the eggs, flour them, egg them and roll them in breadcrumbs.

Now you are ready to cook. I haven’t got a deep fryer and like a mug I forgot to pick up some more oil so as you can see shallow frying is not the most desirable way to cook these but is perfectly serviceable as long as you take care. If you are deep frying these will be cooked in 3 minutes at 180c.

Once cooked place on some kitchen roll then sit back and bask in the glory. These are at their best when warm, eat them now and you’ll be very pleased!