Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Dead Hippies and Humble Pie at Trinity Kitchen

Back in October 2013 I wrote a post for The Culture Vulture about the opening of Trinity Kitchen and what the food hall could have turned into.  I think it was fair and balanced.  My first impression was made at a preview event, which had been organised by Trinity to give the kitchens a taste of customers and service, before opening the doors to the salivating public.  It is fair to say that I had my reservations.

Whilst I was sure that, in keeping with the rest of Trinity, Trinity Kitchen was going to be a well designed space, I wasn't sure about how the mix of permanent vendors and rotating street food vans would work.  On the afternoon of the preview, the street food vans weren't trading so we could only eat from the permanents and very nice my food from Pho was too.  But, if I'm honest, it was the vans that I was interested in and it is the vans that I have been going back for, at least once every rotation.

Tonight I was invited back to Trinity Kitchen, with a clutch of other food bloggers for a free meal, to help welcome a new batch of street food vans.  The usual format of sit where you want and serve yourself was thrown out of the window and in an interesting twist, table service was introduced for the evening.  We were welcomed with a glass of fizz from 360˚, shown to our seats and presented with menus.  There were two choices from each eatery but I couldn't drag my eyes away from the Dead Hippie burger from newbies, The Meat Wagon.

Burgers are de rigueur in Leeds at the moment, usually piled so high with extras that you can't pick them up without losing half of them onto your lap.  These burgers, which require a knife and fork to eat them, are a pet hate of mine*, but the Dead Hippie was perfectly handleable.  The two patties were still pink and well seasoned, the "Hippie Sauce" was as good as any special sauce I've had on any other burger and the pickle was large enough to put up resistance without being overpowering.

Even the bun was up to the job, refusing to fall apart even though the burger was so juicy you could have wrung it out and had beef soup as a side dish.  It was a tasty burger and I'm glad I chose it, as at £8 I don't think that I would have bought one for myself.  Not when the other street food vans had cheaper and more interesting food on offer.

Highlights for me since Trinity Kitchen opened have been; Manjit's Kitchen, Fish &, Original Fry Up Material, and Donostia Social Club, all of which I'd welcome back to Trinity in a heartbeat.  I'll be popping back at some point this month to spend some of my hard earned cash and try some of the other new food on offer.  I do still have issues with the notion of Street Food in the UK, but while it is being presented so well in Trinity Kitchen, I think we'd all be foolish not to take advantage of the ever changing array of quality food being served in such an excellent environment.

*along with food served on chopping boards and chips served in a jenga stack.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Chinese Style Ox Cheek Stew

Cheek is a wonderful cut of meat from any animal.  Just think about the amount of exercise your cheeks get on a daily basis.  All of that chewing and talking means that our cheeks hardly have a break all day.  It's the same with animals*.  Cod cheeks are wonderful, pork cheeks are succulent but the daddy of them all are ox cheeks.

Even when cows aren't eating they're still chewing the cud.  The amount of work that those cheeks go through is mind boggling and all of that work means the meat is full of flavour, but also full of tough fibres and sinew that require slow cooking to break them down. The last time we had ox cheek we went for a traditional beef and ale stew but tonight I fancied something a bit different, so I raided the fridge for inspiration.

The usual suspects were there but tucked at the bottom of the salad crisper was a piece of ginger.  That was when I decided to try a Chinese inspired stew.  Onions, garlic, red chilli and the ginger softened in vegetable oil, formed the base of the stew.  The browned ox cheek was added along with light and dark soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sweetened vinegar sauce, five spice, szechuan peppercorns and some stock.  The stew was then left to simmer on a low heat for three hours.

The finished stew was superb.  The liquid had reduced down into a sticky sauce, thickened by the natural collagen from the cheeks.  The sweetness from the vinegar sauce balanced the saltiness of the soy, and the heat from the chili, szechuan peppercorns and ginger grew with every bite, without ever becoming overpowering.

The thing with cheeks is you only get two of them on any animal.  To my mind this should make them an expensive rarity, but as with most of the slow cook cuts they're relatively cheap.  We found our ox cheeks at Oakwood Farmers Market and we'll be looking for them again.

*Apart from the talking of course.