Saturday, 30 June 2012

Tuna Nicoise Salad

Today was the first day of this year's Leeds Waterfront Festival, a couple of days of activities along the Aire as it passes through the city centre.  With Z's mum visiting and a toddler to entertain it seemed rude not to pop along for a nosey.  We had planned on getting to Granary Wharf in time for lunch but, somehow, we managed to get out of the house in good time so we arrived just after eleven when things were just getting set up.

R enjoyed toddling around the place and was fascinated by the boats and stilt walker but we can only keep him in one area for so long as he tends to get bored*.  We wandered along the waterfront taking in a classic French car display, craft market and boule demonstration before getting to Clarence Dock where the main event of the day was taking place, the Dragon Boat Races.  I don't know if it's the fancy dress, the overall excitement of the races or the fact that the theme from Hawaii Five-o is played during each race, but I love the whole spectacle.

After a couple of races, including the inevitable Pirates verses Vikings race, we needed lunch and so made our way back along the waterfront to Brewery Wharf, where we stopped off at Azucar for tapas.  Never having eaten there before I asked the waitress about portion size and she suggested two to three items from the menu each would be plenty.  She wasn't wrong.  For the three of us, plus R, we ordered seven items and we couldn't finish all of them.  There is clearly a huge difference between Spanish tapas and Yorkshire tapas.

For the record we ordered; calamares, croquetas de bacalao, chorizo al vino, jalapos, tortilla espanola, huevos rotos and patatas bravas.  The food was good, not that expensive and it came out fast, which is always a bonus if you are ever out eating with R.  With hindsight we needn't have ordered the huevos rotos.  They were nice but unnecessary.  We were then faced with a dilemma.  We had decided, before leaving the house, that we would choose what to cook for the evening meal after eating lunch.  With such a varied meal behind us we were scratching our heads a little.

A quick tour around Kirkgate market, forced partly by the need to get out of the rain, gave us the inspiration we needed.  With such a large lunch, all three of us wanted a salad and with green beans, free range eggs and fantastic tuna all available, a nicoise salad made perfect sense.  I won't try to teach you how to boil an egg.  I won't describe the process of searing raw tuna.  I'm not going to tell you what dressing to pour over the salad, which should include green beans, tomatoes and olives.  I will suggest in the strongest terms that you give this a go.  Fresh tuna is as far away from tinned tuna as you can get.  It is not cheap but it is fantastic.

*I can't imagine where he gets that from.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Friday Night Take-away - Chicken Thai Green Curry

Whenever possible, which isn't often at the moment, we try to cook a take-away style meal on a Friday.  South Leeds is awash with take-aways that offer curry, pizza, pasta and any combination of kebabs.  Some of them even allow you to have your kebab on the pizza, which just sounds wrong to me.  A couple of the Chinese take-aways have started branching out and now feature a couple of Thai dishes at their bottom of the tri-fold glossy menus.  I haven't tried any of them, but it is nice to know they are there.

With Z's mum staying for the weekend we decided to push the boat out and have a couple of courses for our evening meals.  Tonight we went for a starter and mains.  The starter came courtesy of a vegetarian week sample from Z's workplace.  It was received in the same bag that contained the disappointing risotto from earlier in the week.

This was a Simon Rimmer branded Thai Potato-cake mix.  After the disaster that was the risotto I was dubious about serving these to a guest* but they weren't half bad.  The flavour and heat that they provided were spot on, fragrant and fiery.  My only complaint would be the texture, they were too soft and pulpy, but they are a great idea and I'll happily make something similar from scratch in the future.

Our main course was a standard Thai Green Curry.  The last time we cooked a green curry we used prawns as the protien, tonight we had chicken.  We made the same paste as that meal; ginger, garlic, lemon grass, lime zest, spring onions and coriander ground up in a food processor.  The chicken was fried in batches and set aside.  Onions, green peppers and broccoli were stir-fried with some of the paste, before a tin of coconut cream was added along with the cooked chicken.  The dish was finished by stirring through the rest of the paste so that the flavours were fresh and served with jasmine rice.

*even if it was the mother-in-law.

Thursday, 28 June 2012


When planning our meals for this week Z announced that she would like to make a moussaka for our evening meal tonight.  I can only assume that having an aubergine in the fridge over the weekend got to her.  The aubergine is one of my least favourite vegetables but by the time it is fried, smothered in spicy mince and topped with cheese, it's not too bad.

As I'm still working on the late shift at work, Z and her mum had all the fun in the kitchen.  Following this recipe, Z made the mince yesterday and finished off the layering and baking today.  Making the sauce in advance meant that it had time to mellow and for the flavours to develop.  Z then tweaked the seasoning, more or less doubling the spice quantities in the recipe, before slamming it into the oven.  All that was left to do was make a side salad and enjoy.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Gravad Lax

There are some dishes in the world that make me want to cook them.  The idea of making my own bacon at home sounds great.  I'd love to have a go at making black pudding or haggis from scratch.  The only reason I haven't been allowed to make my own brawn is Z wouldn't let me buy a pan big enough to fit a pig's head in*.  However, at no point in time have I had a burning desire to make gravad lax.  I do like salmon, in fact there aren't many denizens of the deep that I don't like, I've just never felt the need to cure my own. 

So why, ahead of all of the other potential food challenges, have I ended up making gravad lax?  The answer lies, as is so often the case, on my weekend forray to Kirkgate Market.  I was shopping for the ingredients for our mezze meal on Saturday and in the back of my mind was the potential of making my own dolmades.  I already had most of the items I needed in the house but I was lacking vine leaves and dill.  I finally tracked down the leaves but not until it was too late to do anything with them and I had already bought a large bunch of dill.

On Sunday I had a different mission, I was off to Blackburn to pick up a Victorian cast iron fireplace for the living room.  My first stop was the local Co-op to get the money to pay for the fireplace and to purchase something to break a tenner, so that I had the right change.  One of the items I bought was a packet of salmon.  I now had dill and salmon and my mind started racing.  On returning to Leeds with a rather large item of antiquity my first priority was to look up a recipe.

Dill, sugar, salt, white pepper and gin were all mixed together and used to cover the salmon.  The recipe said that you should leave the mixture for at least 48 hours and by the time it came to eat the fish, we were well over that.  I was dubious as to whether the cure would have worked but I needn't have worried.  The cured salmon was as good as any smoked salmon that I have bought and the accompaniments of pickled cucumber, mustard sauce, a side salad and brown bread were perfect.  To say that I hadn't planed to make gravad lax, I am glad that I did. The flavour was fantastic and after the hot sultry day we have had, it was the perfect evening meal.

*I am still working on this one.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Pumpkin Risotto

For all of my supermarket bashing, I really should cut at least one of them some slack.  Z has the pleasure of working for one of the big four in Space Planning, which means that the supermarket in question gives us the money to spend on food.  In an attempt to keep money flowing around the country I try not to give it back to her employers.  I know we also get staff discounts but we need to drive past three other supermarkets to get to our nearest store.  It's not worth the petrol.

The other advantage of Z working for a Leeds based supermarket, other than keeping a roof over our heads, are the occasional samples from a producer who is about to get their stock on the shelves, or launch a new range.  Tonight's meal comes courtesy of one of these product test events.

If you have learned one thing about me since I started writing this blog, I hope it is the fact that I love risotto.  I love risotto so much that I have stopped ordering it it restaurants.  The quality can vary from awful to alright and seldom gets close to perfect so to avoid dissapointment I just stopped.  With this in mind I was dubious about trying the packet of dried risotto that Z brought home.  In the spirit of hating food waste and trying to save some time at night we decided to give the risotto a go this evening.

My doubts about the packet were strengthened when I read the cooking instructions "simmer for five minutes from boiling and serve."  No risotto should take so little time to cook.  It was clear why when we both took our first fork full.  Rather than arborio rice it seamed to be made of small grains of pudding rice, which even after only five minutes were overcooked and pulpy.  There was no real flavour to the dish either, if I had ordered this in a restaurant I would have sent it back.

We had had a feeling that the meal was going to be disappointing so we roasted some butternut squash and made some garlic bread to eat alongside the risotto and it was a good job we did.  I have now resolved to make a proper pumpkin risotto in the not too distant future.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Pasta with Tomato Sauce

Yesterday I decided not to watch the football.  Using man logic, I realised that I had missed all of England's goals during Euro 2012 for one reason or an other.  Not watching would guarantee England victory against Italy right?  Wrong.  Perhaps it was the fact that I listened to the game and therefore would have heard the goal that scuppered England.  Perhaps it was England's woeful record at scoring penalties.  Perhaps it was Rooney's new haircut ruining his aerodynamics.  Perhaps it was none of these things.  It did mean that I got some time on my own in the kitchen.

One of the ingredients on my shopping list for the mezze on Saturday was tomatoes.  I clearly hadn't been paying attention at the meal planning stage because I bought a catering pack of salad toms for a quid, only to find out that Z only required four of them for the salad.  I busied myself with knocking up a simple slow cooked tomato sauce.  I decided not to peel them but aesthetically the finished product would have been nicer.

The tomatoes were added to a fried red onion and some garlic and then left alone to collapse into themselves, over a low heat, for a couple of hours.  This really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes.  In the past we have used the sauce at this stage to cover fish before baking it.  Tonight it has been used as a pasta sauce.  Oregano, basil and a little chilli were added along with a handful of chopped olives and the dish was finished with parmesan.  This was so good that for once Z finished her plate before I did.

Saturday, 23 June 2012


It's the weekend! I have been looking forward to these couple of days.  I have had the longest of long weeks at work and, quite frankly, I was amazed that I managed to get out of bed at all this morning.  But, get out of bed I did, driven by the promise of waffles and coffee.  I was on toddler wrangling duty this morning, while Z want for a haircut, so I did what all self respecting food obsessed parents would do.  I kept R playing until he was ready for a nap, quickly strapped him into his buggy and went shopping.

Our destination was Kirkgate Market and I had a long shopping list as we were having guests for dinner.  Z and I had ummed and erred about what to cook for them.  Kato is vegetarian while Si, her other half, is a dyed in the wool meat eater.  We decided to cook mainly vegetarian but with a separate meat dish so that nobody would feel left out.  A mezze was our solution and a lot of cooking ensued.

On the menu was; houmous, baba ganoush, carrot and carraway dip served with feta and a big pile of pitta bread as a starter.  We then cooked falafel, lamb kofta, fried haloumi, dolmades* and made a huge Jordanian rocket salad.  We ate well into the wee hours but the week finally caught up with me and our guests and so we called it a night. 

Edit: As per usual, we had prepared so much food that we we couldn't eat it all.  The leftovers became Sunday night's meal so there will not be a post for 24th June 2012.

*I had planned to make the dolmades from scratch but, having turned Leeds upside down looking for vine leaves and finally finding them, I didn't have enough time.  We had shop bought dolmades but I will come back to them at a later date.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Toulouse Sausages with Sauteed Potatoes

I know I keep going on about Leeds Market and how we should all shop locally.  I know that I keep having a go at supermarkets for one reason or another.  I also know, that despite my best intentions, there are some things that I cannot buy locally, that my closest supermarkets sell.  I actually shop at two different supermarkets, depending on what is on the shopping list, as there are some items that are only sold by one of them and some by the other*. 

A few weeks ago I happened to be in a particular supermarket; one that used to have a J and still has an apostrophie, and I spotted a special offer on their Taste the Difference sausages.  I'm rather partial to a banger as one in eighteen blog posts will testify to.  These were Toulouse inspired pork sausages with bacon, garlic, parsley and red wine all starring in the ingredient list.  We'd had them before and enjoyed them so into the basket they went.

During the colder months there is seldom any decision to be made for what to have with sausages.  It's either mash or they are cooked in a stew.  Given the raging heat of summer** I decided some sautéed potatoes and a side salad would be a more fitting meal, and it was.

*my life is a giddy rollercoster ride at times!
**I know, it's been rubbish this year hasn't it.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Penne with Courgettes

This dish, for a few years now, has heralded the start of courgette season on the allotment.  Since growing our own courgettes (and struggling with gluts) we have stopped buying them.  This means that if we ever grow too many in one season, by the time the next season is underway we are ready for more.

This is such a simple recipe that we have used the theory for other vegetables but there is something about the courgette version that makes us come back time after time.  With a little know how and some skill with a knife it is possible to cut the courgettes so that they resemble the quills of penne*.

The courgettes are simply fried in olive oil with some garlic, dried chilli and a scattering of dried tomatoes.  Cooked penne is then added with a little of the cooking water and more olive oil.  That's it, it really couldn't be simpler.  To me there aren't many dishes that taste more of summer than this one, all we need now is some sunshine.

*Top tip from Mr Jamie Oliver

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Chorizo and Bean Stew

For the second day running we have called upon the freezer to provide our evening meal.  We originally bought a second freezer so that we could cook and freeze gluts of vegetables from the allotment.  These days it is mainly used for cake and leftovers.  I just don't seem to be able to cook the right amount of food for two people, especially if it's a stew.

Back in February, after a great day out at Cornucopia, I cooked a chorizo and bean stew served with gurnard.  It was really nice, the fish was steamed over the stew, which added a richness to the dish and in turn the fish was perfectly cooked.

There was no fish left over from that meal, only the stew and it was still delicious.  Z had visited Dock Street Market during the day, to get a loaf of sour dough bread to have with the meal, and we still have a lawn of rocket in the garden so a side salad was easy to knock up.  I know it's reheated leftovers, but for a mid week meal that was fantastic.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Mackerel Fish cakes

After last night's pasta with its slow cooked sauce, Z decided to raid the freezer for tonight's meal.  What she found was a box of mackerel fish cakes.  Now these were no ordinary fish cakes.  To start with they were home-made, not shop bought.  They were made using the remains of the massive mackerel that I bought a couple of weeks ago and so they were already infused with the flavour of the chimichurri sauce, which is a great start.

The real advantage of home-made fish cakes is that you can monitor the quantities of the ingredients.  All too often shop bought fish cakes are far to heavy on the potato and scant on the fish.  They should be fish cakes, not potato cakes with a hint of fish.  The balance is important.

The final crowning glory to these fish cakes is that they were coated in garlic-bread crumbs.  A while ago and in a complete break from tradition, we managed to have left over garlic bread.  This got crumbed and frozen for a rainy day and that day came.  The extra hint of garlic really set off the fish cakes.  Z served the fish cakes with oven chips* and a side salad.  The salad dressing was based on tartar sauce, to go with the fish. She really thinks of everything.

*well, the oven was on.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Pasta con pollo

Last night's kedjenou was a roaring success.  The chicken was perfectly cooked and there was so much flavour in the vegetables that, for once, there was no need to add herbs and spices to the couscous.  The one slight problem was the portion size.  Put simply, I had cooked far too much! 

I had cooked two chicken legs, one each for Z and I, but I hadn't taken into account their size until I dished up.  The legs were huge.  I wouldn't have liked to bump into the chicken that they'd belonged to.  It would have been like something from Family Guy, only I'm not quite as portly as Peter Griffin and the chicken wouldn't have been the same height as me.  Between us Z and I only managed to eat one leg, which left us with another meal worth of chicken.

For tonight's meal Z raided the fridge and found some tinned tomatoes, mushrooms and a pepper that wanted eating.  Everything was simmered together for a couple of hours until it turned into a rich ragu and finished with lots of fresh thyme.  The sauce was served with pasta and plenty of parmesan cheese and was delicious.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


Two years ago, instead of Euro 2012, the telly was full of Africa 2010.  The World Cup.  Another disappointing football tournament for England and another football tournament that Scotland and Wales had failed to qualify for.  One thing makes the World Cup in Africa stand out for me.  It isn't Shakira's official song and it certainly isn't the vuvuzela.

I didn't have a blog at the time.  In fact at the time, I was ridiculing a good friend for having a food blog.  Paul at How Not to do a Food Blog is far from an inspiration*, but he is a top bloke, loves food, writes well, and chucks together a great roast pork belly.  Anyway, for reasons that I cannot explain, I decided to eat meals based upon the teams playing in the evening football matches.  One evening USA were playing, so we had hotdogs.  Another night Chilli were playing so I found a traditional bean stew recipe.  Then came the Ivory Coast.

I don't know who they were playing that night.  I couldn't tell you if it was a European team and I fancied a challenge.  It could well have been that I couldn't find a recipe for the opposition at all.  What I can tell you is that what I did find was this recipe for Kedjenou.

Its simplicity belies the full flavour that the dish delivers.  The lack of liquid in the ingredients list also makes you wonder what you are going to end up with.  The fact that two years on, I'm still cooking this one pot, no effort wonder should tell you all you need to know.  After a couple of hours the chicken is perfectly cooked and the vegetables have collapsed and created a fantastic sauce.

Tonight, we have cooked some couscous to have with the chicken and vegetables, but you could easily have some pita bread on the side.  This one dish, as well as being delicious, is the reason behind the Olympic Food Challenge.  If I had made it through the world cup without finding a stand-out meal I probably wouldn't have thought twice about eating the Olympics.  I can't wait to discover my next kedjenou.

*I'm more than capable than making my own stupid bed and lying in it.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Asparagus Risotto

It has been a long day and meal times have largely been ignored.  My alarm was set for 5am, which for a Saturday is stupidly early.  I had volunteered to help set up Planet Leeds on Briggate and Kirkgate Market and the meeting time was 6am outside Debenhams.  A quick coffee and a brisk walk into town saw me on site, with minutes to spare.  We relocated to Millennium square and gained access to the council's secret storage depot to pick up the staging equipment that we needed.

Back at the outdoor market, the organisers of Planet Leeds were engaged in low level turf warfare with the regular stall holders about where they were meant to set up.  If ever a UN peace envoy was needed it was yesterday morning.  People were quibbling over inches of ground but we eventually got the stage erected.  I had to leave the rest of the volunteers at this point as I had a prior engagement of baby-sitting so that Z could go to a toddler anger management course*.

While she was out I made R his lunch of cheese, tomato and spring onion quesadilla, which he devoured in seconds flat.  I held out for Z's return before eating, but with nothing in the house we finally decided to go out for lunch.  We ended up in The Adelphi where Z had fish and chips and I had a full English breakfast, at 3pm.  It was like travelling back in time to my Uni days when I would often go to the Swan and Rushes in Leicester for a slap-up breakfast and a couple of pints of Guinness after lectures.  There is no chance of doing anything after a few beers and a full English, all you can do is sit back and try not to nod off.

After such a late and large intake of protein, I wasn't sure that I would want an evening meal.  We checked the stores and decided to cook a light asparagus risotto.  I made a plain risotto base of softened onions, rice, white wine and stock, then cooked it until it was almost ready to serve, before adding the asparagus.  I didn't want to overcook the star ingredient and I was happy that the flavour would be strong enough to get through the rice, even when it was being added so late on.  I then stirred in some of the remaining cheese from our cheese tasting night and let the whole thing rest for five minutes.

The risotto was perfect**.  Creamy and soft with the flavour of the asparagus and the sharpness of the Caerphilly cheese.  If we had been hungrier, all I would have added would have been some bread and possibly a side salad but I wouldn't have changed anything to the dish itself.  After such a long day today, I am very glad for a leisurely day tomorrow.  I think I might enjoy not doing much at all.

*Neither Z or the boy suffer form uncontrollable rage but Z thought it was a good idea to see what the experts have to say on the matter before we have to deal with any future situations.
**Even if I do say so myself, which I do.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Friday Night Take-away - Crispy Aromatic Duck

Z pointed out, quite rightly, that we had fallen off the Friday Night Take-away wagon.  It's not that we had grown tired of the tradition, simply that we had failed to think about it when planning our meals for the past few weeks.  To get things back on track I decided to roll my sleeves up and try something new, crispy aromatic duck.

There was no way that I was going to sacrifice a whole duck to this cause, there are only two of us after all, so I bought a couple of legs and started looking for a recipe.  What I found was incredible and, to be honest, labour intensive and time consuming.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and do what I normally do, make it up as I go along.

Using Ken Hom's spice rub; five spice, szechuan pepper, black pepper salt and cumin, the legs were marinated all day and that is where we went our separate ways.  I'm sure Ken is nothing but authentic, but steaming the duck legs for three hours then letting them cool completely before deep-frying them was just a little much for me.  I also found a recipe which instructed poaching the duck for hours in vegetable stock but that too seemed a bit faffy.  For simplicity's sake I decided to roast the seasoned duck legs until the meat was falling from the bones and take it from there.

The shredded duck meat was served with hoi sin sauce, spring onion, cucumber and of course Chinese pancakes.  We also had some pork and Chinese cabbage dim sum and some fried rice to soak up the Tsing Tao. 

Beer, a home made take away and an England win in the Euro's.  Do Fridays get any better than this?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Best of British Cheese

Of all of the things that I have found out about since joining the twitter revolution in Leeds, cheese club is the one event that I look forward to the most.  A gathering of like minded cheese enthusiasts, blind tasting themed cheeses in one of the best pubs Leeds has to offer.  What's not to like?  Tonight's Homage2Fromage theme is Best of British, inspired by the Jubilee celebrations that have just passed.

Vickie and Nick, the grand fromages, asked cheese club members to nominate their favourite British cheeses.  On this basis the cheese list for tonight was formed.  At this point I am going to fess-up.  Due to work I couldn't attend cheese club this month.  Instead I was privileged to have been given an advance viewing of the cheese list so that I could join in the fun at home with Z.

Yesterday, armed with my cheese list I went on a cheese hunt.  I wasn't planning to get all of the cheeses, so I wasn't upset when I could only find three of them.  Millies provided all of my spoils, Yarg, Caerphilly and Montgomery Cheddar.  I already had some Garstang Blue in the house so that rounded off my cheese board, even though it wasn't on the original list.  I also bought a loaf of sourdough bread from Dock Street Market.  If you're sampling great cheese, you need great bread.

The Montgomery Cheddar was a nice cheese and a good representation of everything cheddar should be.  Too many cheddars fight to be the strongest or are so mild that you could be eating butter.  We discovered that neither of us had ever eaten Caerphilly.  In contrast to the smooth cheddar it was crumbly, sharp and salty.  There was also a vegetably undertone, but that was more in the aroma than the taste and balanced the strength of the cheese well.  Garstang Blue is an old Homage2Fromage favourite from the good people at Dewlay.  My personal favourite British cheese is Stilton. Garstang is a softer blue but still has the strength in its veins and went down well with Z.

The final cheese, Yarg, is a household favourite and was the cheese of the night.  We buy it nearly every time we're having a cheese board but I think familiarity had got the better of us.  We both thought we knew what we were about to eat, but this was something else.  I can only assume that it was a young Yarg because it was much creamier than we're used to and tasted much fresher.  It was by far the best Yarg we have had for years.

I missed going to cheese club tonight.  It's not just the fourteen varieties of cheese I could have tasted, or the fact that it's held in a great pub.  It's the people too.  Being in a room of 80 people all extolling the virtues of cheese is as mad as it is brilliant.  Luckily for me Z is just as into cheese as I am and is always fantastic company.  What I lost on not going out, I more than made up for with having a night in with Z.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hoi Sin Pork with Chard

Since I have been covering the evening shift at work, we have tried to plan our weeks meals well in advance.  The theory is that Z won't have to get in from work, deal with R and then try to come up with a delicious meal for the two of us, cook it and then have to deal with a grumpy, tired me, when I finally get home.  The theory is sound but there are always gaps.

The main gap today was the lack of noodles in the house.  We needed noodles because we had had rice last night and we don't like to repeat carbs.  So, this morning I headed into Leeds and purchased a bag of my favourite noodles from a little shop on Kirkgate Market.  There is no branding on the bag so I can't tell you what to look out for, other than unmarked bags of yolk yellow noodles.  They keep their texture so much better than any noodles I have bought from any other shop.

For the evening meal, Z sliced and marinated a pork loin steak in hoi sin sauce.  She then sliced an onion, some chard and a few mushrooms.  The whole lot took no time to cook.  The chard cooks the same as pak choi but is sweeter and less mustardy so is added right at the end of cooking.  While I was shopping, I also bought cheese for tomorrow night.  I can't attend Homage2Fromage tomorrow night so I'll be eating along at home.  I'd tell you what I'd bought, but I've been sworn to secrecy.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Chilli Con Carne

Last night, whilst roasting the vegetables for our meal, Z kept herself busy by making a chilli con carne for tonight's meal.  There are two main reasons why she did this.  The first was the fact that she was in the kitchen anyway and once the vegetables were in the oven she had some time on her hands.  The second is that chilli always tastes better the following day.

Beef mince, onions, celery, peppers, mushrooms, kidney beans and a tin of tomatoes made up the bulk of the chilli.  The spice came from dried chilli, smoked hot paprika and Tobasco*.  Dried oregano was also added for its depth of flavour.  By the time Z came to reheat it for tonight's meal it had come together to form a delicious meal which had a chilli heat that grew with every mouthful.  The day's rest really helped the flavours come together and Z cooked so much, we now have left-overs for the freezer!

*other hot sauces are available

Monday, 11 June 2012

Roast Vegetable Tajine with Herby Couscous

Continuing on our current stint of vegetarianism, tonight Z cooked a really nice Moroccan style meal.  For some unknown reason we had the end of a packet of ras-el-hanout in the spice cupboard and dried ground spices do not have a good shelf life.

Z roughly chopped peppers, courgettes, tomatoes and an onion, rolled them all in the spice mix and plenty of olive oil and slowly roasted them.  Once cooked, and after I got in from work, all that was left to do was rehydrate some couscous with some vegetable stock and mix through parsley, mint and lemon zest.  I know it hasn't been the hottest of summers so far but this was a taste of sunshine and perfect for a late evening meal.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pasta with Broccoli

After all of the beef we managed to consume over the course of the last week, its no surprise that we're having a couple of vegetarian days.  We often make pasta dishes with broccoli but tonight is a new one.  I happened to catch one of Jamie Oliver's Meals in 30 Minutes a few weeks ago and was intrigued with his take on the dish, so I decided to give it a try.

At it's heart, it is very similar to how I would have cooked the dish; anchovies, garlic and dried chilli fried in olive oil and then mixed through cooked pasta and broccoli.  The main difference is the use of the broccoli stalk.  This gets blended with the other sauce ingredients in a food processor to make a paste.  The paste is then fried off, adding a little of the pasta water every couple of minutes to stop it from catching.  The broccoli florets are cooked with the pasta and stirred through the cooked sauce.  The inclusion of the broccoli stalk adds a nice depth of flavour and saves on food waste.  I'll be cooking this again, thank you Mr Oliver.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Vegetable and Chick Pea Curry with Dahl

The second Saturday of June.  It's a red letter.  It should be marked in all of your diaries.  If you make the effort to go to Leeds Carnival every year or wouldn't dream of missing Unity Day then let me introduce you to Beeston Festival.  Now in its 18th year, Beeston Festival takes over Cross Flatts Park for a day and puts on one of the best free shows in Leeds.

A dedicated committee of volunteers works throughout the year to put on the festival.  Four entertainment areas, children's and young people's activities, a bazaar with 80 stalls, a fun fair and a greenhouse made of recycled pop bottles don't just organise themselves you know.  As the Safety Officer for the festival, I was on site from 6:30 this morning and didn't leave until 7pm.  I can't take credit for the longest shift, that honour belongs to Jeremy Morton.

There is also great food on offer from your barbecue and jerk chicken to Indian and Caribbean curries.  I managed to inhale a burger whilst keeping an eye on all things Health and Safety, but by the end of the event I was knackered and ready for food.

I was met at home with the amazing smell of two curries bubbling away on the stove.  Z had found some leftover vegetable and chick pea curry in the freezer from earlier in the year.  She accompanied it with fresh dahl and ice cold beer.  The beer was generic lager, so nothing to write home about, but the daal was fantastic.  I think lentils are fast becoming my favourite part of any Indian meal.

With a full stomach and rested limbs I can now look back on the day.  We didn't have the glorious weather that normally accompanies Beeston Festival, but it wasn't a wash out either.  Every face I saw as I was moving around the park was clearly having a good time, and that's what matters.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Chimichurri Mackerel

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice a slight gap on Tonight's Menu.  "What happened to Thursday 7th June?" I hear you all cry.  In a nutshell work happened.  Yesterday was always going to be a long day, not only was I covering the late shift, but due to the caretaker being on holiday I also had to open up in the morning.  The long shift wasn't a problem, in fact it worked in my favour as I could take today off as time owed.  The problem was a call to reception at 8:30pm from a tenant who had an emergency and needed to work later than usual.

I finally got home at 10pm, having informed Z to go ahead and eat without me.  It looks like I missed out on a cracking plate of tagliatelle with a bacon, cabbage and cream sauce.  These things happen, it's not the end of the world and at least I got a day off out of it.

To me a day off in Leeds tends to mean one thing, a trip in to town for lunch and a mooch around Leeds Kirkgate Market.  We stopped for lunch at The White Swan where I had a great Roast beef* sandwich, which was smothered in the best home-made horseradish sauce I've ever had the pleasure to eat.  It was like Russian Roulette with the occasional bite sending pleasurable nose numbing heat through my senses.  We had such a good time that I almost forgot to pay, but I remembered before we got to the door!

With the embarrassment of almost running off without settling the bill avoided we headed down to fish row on the market with one item on our shopping list, mackerel.  We still had some chimichurri sauce left over from our steak night.  With deep slits cut in the flesh of the fish, I rubbed the sauce all over them and baked them in the oven set at its highest temperature.  The punchy sauce mellowed with cooking but went really well with the oily fish, boiled Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus.  As food filled days go, they don't get much more tasty.

*No, I have not eaten enough roast beef this week.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Beef and Chorizo Stew

Well, the long weekend is over and Wednesday has turned into Monday, complete with the back to work blues.   As I'm still working late shifts, I decided to crack on with some cooking this morning, so that Z wouldn't have too much on her hands at the end of the day.  I had grand plans but only so many hours.

Using the remains of the roast beef from the weekend and rummaging around in the fridge, I came up with the wherewithal to make a beef and chorizo stew.  This was going to be the filling for a Spanish inspired cottage pie, with a saffron mashed potato top but I ran out of time before going to work.

In the end Z boiled some potatoes and reheated the stew in time for me to get home from work.  It wasn't quite the meal that I imagined but it was tasty never the less.  With a little more time and working with fresh ingredients, I will come back to the Spanish Cottage Pie one day.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Beef and Vegetables in Black Bean Sauce

Having cooked two joints of beef over the weekend, we are now faced with a bit of a cold meat mountain to deal with.  This won't cause us too much of a problem as it's safe to say that we can deal with leftovers better than fresh ingredients.  Tonight's meal is one that has featured on this blog before.  That is because it's tasty and fast to prepare.

The ingredients, beef, green beans and white cabbage were all sliced while some rice was happily cooking away.  Five minutes before the rice was ready to eat, the meat and vegetables were stir-fried together with a good table spoon of my favourite chilli and black bean sauce.  I know cooking sauces are a cheat but this one is so good it would be on my desert island list.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Bank Holiday BBQ Boerewors

Finally, after yesterday's wash out, the sun has come out.  That, coupled with the fact that today is Bank Holiday Monday, can only mean one thing, a barbecue.  In a slight break with tradition we've barbecued for lunch rather than our evening meal so that our departing guests could partake in some of the finest sausages in Leeds.

One of the gems of Leeds Kirkgate Market is Capcan, the South African Butcher on Butcher's Row.  I had cooked some of their boerewors for Mr S last summer and they were of course on the menu this afternoon.  I also cooked some lambwors which, in my opinion, are the best bangers around.

To go with the sausages, I made coleslaw and Z knocked up a potato and avocado salad and a green salad.  Z isn't a fan of lamb but there is so much flavour in the lambwors that even she devoured them although she preferred the boerewors.  There are more varieties of South African sausage for me to try, from Capcan, but they will have to be pretty special to eclipse these two.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Roast Beef

With guests, Mr S and family, visiting for the weekend, I needed to make sure that I had all the bases covered.  I stocked up the larder with enough food to withstand any siege and waited to see what the weekend brought us.  I failed to check the weather forecast so missed the inevitable all day down-pour that blessed us today.

With a little forethought, I had assumed that a full roast would go down well at some point during the weekend.  I had already defrosted a topside joint that we'd received in our Swillington Farm meat box, but I thought that it might have been a tad small for four adults and two children*.  I popped to Sainsbury's with Mr S to buy a matching joint leaving our other halves and children at home to make lunch.

In the short time it took us to buy beef, beer and broccoli, Z had turned the kitchen into a pizzeria with the kids covered in flour and the pizza dough for our lunches resting under a tea towel.  If you have little ones of your own, please can I recommend making pizza from scratch as a rainy day activity.  Mr S's daughter (aged 4 1/2) declared that her pizza was the best she had ever tasted because she had made it herself.

Pizza devoured I cracked on with the heroics of the roast beef.  Having two identical lumps of cow, I decided that it would be fun to have a blind taste off.  Only I knew which of the joints was the organic, rare breed, outdoor reared beef from Swillington and which was the Taste the Difference beef from Sainsbury's.  I cooked both with equal respect and served them side by side.  We all took a slice from each pile and ruminated on our mastications.

The result was unanimous, the first roast had a really good texture but the flavour of the second joint was superb and was the preferred meat.  It was at that point that I announced that the Taste the Difference meat from Sainsbury's was the first joint and we all preferred the meat from Swillington Farm.  I can't tell you the price difference as the price per £ wasn't printed on the Swillington label but as part of a meat box I have always found their meat to be good value and tasty.

In all of the excitement, I forgot to take any pictures of the meal.  Alongside the two beef joints I served carrots, broad beans with chorizo, broccoli, jersey royal potatoes and home made Yorkshire puddings.  I even managed to make proper gravy.  There was, of course, plenty of meat left over but there would not have been enough for us all without the second joint.  There was nothing wrong with the meat from Sainsbury's but if you get the chance do try the meat from Swillington** the flavour is second to none.

*R may be little but he can eat like a horse.
**or whoever your local rare breed farm is, they need your support and produce a fine product.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Take-Away - Shabab, Swinegate

In January I took the family to Bristol to repay a gambling debt to Mr S.  The debt was a curry, and the reason behind the debt was football.  I'm a Leeds United fan, I don't get down to Elland Road all that often.  When I do we usually lose, so it's probably a good job that I don't go.  Mr S is a Reading fan and we have a standing arrangement that the fan of the losing side has to buy a curry for the winner.  Now that we both have families this has grown from a £5 wager to something closer to a £50 bet (depending on the curry house).

The curry in January was all due to a defeat at Elland Road.  The second match of the season between these two footballing giants* was in Reading in April.  United were down to ten men when Thompson was sent off after thirteen minutes and the writing was on the cards.  Surprisingly Leeds held on until the dying minutes of the game before Reading scored and Mr S sent me a text message asking when he could have his second curry of the season!

To his credit and with the extended Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend looming, Mr S brought his family to Leeds to claim his prise.  I had taken Mr S to Shabab on a previous visit and he had since declared the dish he'd eaten "the best curry ever" so I didn't have to think about where to buy my take-away.

We decided to skip starters, even though there is a really good selection at Shabab, and head straight for the main event.  Mr S went for his favourite, Lamb Nehari, while the rest of us chose chicken Afghani Karahi, lamb Achaar, and chicken Mirch with side dishes of Palak Paneer and Dall Makhni.  I knew the food would be good as I have never been disappointed with Shabab, either eating in or taking out.  I'm not sure it was worth losing for, but the defeat didn't spoil the meal.

Next season, as we are now in different leagues, the bet is on who finishes highest in their respective league.  I'm hoping that Warnock will be able to win Leeds the league and me a curry in the process!

*making both teams look normal sized.

Friday, 1 June 2012


It turns out that I'm not the only person in this house who is up for a food challenge.  Z has rediscovered her cookery mojo, after being the head chef at home for the last month or so and she decided that she wanted to stretch her culinary muscles.  We'd eaten packet falafels a while back and really enjoyed them, but we'd never made them from scratch.  The challenge was on.

Z found a recipe in the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook and set about her task.  I was surprised by the inclusion of dried apricots and I had to double check that they were in the finished patties but Z assures me that she followed the recipe to the letter.  The only variation was the addition of ground coriander as Z felt that the mixture would be a bit spice light.  Having cooked the Falafel, Z then knocked up a tomato and feta Mediterranean salad.  I chipped in with some shop bought stuffed vine leaves and pita bread.

I'm told that making the falafel was no chore at all, in fact Z turned the whole event into a messy play activity with the boy manning the pulse button on the blender.  I doubt we'll be buying any packets of mixture or ready made falafels any time soon.