This weekend we were up in Leeds for the Thought Bubble comics festival (podcast here). Even when it isn’t full of enthusiastic nerds Leeds is a fun city. It’s got some storming places to drink beer, a lively (and growing) food scene, and since 2014 it’s had Bundobust.
This is one of the best places I’ve eaten all year.
It’s also – and get this – completely vegetarian. In fact, it’s often vegan. How cool is that? Packed to the gills in Leeds centre, serving eclectic veggie street food and exciting beer that puts some of my Soho favourites to hide-under-a-rock levels of shame.
So what’s it doing?
Continue reading Bundobust, Leeds – sensational Indian street food (and craft beer)
Reynard is a trickster figure, a Loki-ish fox dude from Medieval picaresque. “Renard” is the French word for fox. Foxes are of course iconically partial to a spot of chicken, and Reys is a rotisserie chicken restaurant that’s gone in hard on the impish vulpine branding. All orange and jaunty furnishings, the chairs have foxtail stripes. That’s certainly cuter than blood and feathers in the henhouse.
They sell roast chicken. It tastes like good roast chicken, and it doesn’t cost too much.
Everything else is just a little peculiar. There’s this slight Korean edge running through the menu that doesn’t quite sit with the Ikea farmhouse ambience, never really explained. The starters are cursory. But the chicken is fine. It just all doesn’t quite make sense.
Continue reading Reys, Cambridge – rotisserie chicken
Hot damn, that title’s a mouthful. But what do you do with this one? There’s no meat to be seen and it’s not on a skewer. But it is a big old heap of brassica that really packs that savoury Levantine punch. Saying “shawarma spiced” would be a world of seasonal latte bullshit, so here we are.
It’s a roasted cabbage, it’s a bit like shawarma, and it’s worth your time.
My affection for leafy greens is a matter of some record, so claiming you can make passable kebabs with cabbage (cabbabs?) is well within the understood scope of my nonsense. But I am not shitting you here. It’s got the big earthy savoury to carry the spice, and retains a bit of crunch and body.
Continue reading Shawarma-style roasted spicy cabbage
Inder’s Kitchen is – for my money – the best place to eat Indian food in Cambridge. Let’s just get that out of the way.
They’re great. They’ve been going for about five years, and I remember being delighted when they started – it felt fresh to have a more high-end, home cooking inspired take on Indian food available, something to offset the curry house archetype.
Now, I love a classic Anglo-Indian cliche curry, but they’re not exactly magical feats of foregrounding single interesting flavours. Inder’s hits that spot – the food isn’t greasy, it tastes fresh and intricate, and it goes beyond (while sometimes including) the korma/dhansak/vindaloo etc standards.
Despite only doing takeaway, Inder’s has always tried to diversify a bit – they’ve had a food van, tried chilled-to-reheat and frozen, and started making sauces and chutneys. And that’s how I found myself in their industrial unit kitchen, trying their latest venture: a set of curry kits to make at home.
Continue reading A new thing from Inder’s Kitchen
Sometimes, when I ask my partner if there’s anything he fancies for dinner, I get the simple, concise, and yet fascinatingly unhelpful response “Pie!”
Fair play to the man, pie is bloody wonderful. But it does often lead to me just taking whatever’s in the fridge and hiding it under pastry.
This one comes out of something I knocked up quickly after work one evening, and with a couple of tweaks it was a keeper.
The Lincolnshire sausages have a bit of background spice to them, and with a little extra herb and pepper they go wonderfully with the sweet potatoes.
If you don’t make the pastry, you can have this done in about an hour, too, and at least half of that is oven time.
Continue reading Sausage and sweet potato pie
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a hard time deciding which you’re more excited by: modernist architecture or duck confit. Squatting in the middle of Bloomsbury like the ziggurat of some concrete-fancying south american snake god – with more Saturday morning street food market, less blood sacrifice – the Brunswick Centre spoils us for both.
The Brunswick Centre is a ten minute walk from King’s Cross, or right outside Russell Square tube. It’s a brutal/modern delight. It’s got a decent cinema, a big Waitrose, there’s a dedicated gay bookshop down the road, and a genuinely great burger joint opposite. But it hasn’t historically been so hot for food. It’s chain town: Giraffe, Yo Sushi, Carluccio’s, you get the idea.
This doesn’t matter so much because you’re a short walk from the entirety of central fucking London. But sometimes I’m nearby and feeling lazy, and so the Saturday morning food market is a godsend. Sent, specifically, from Brutalist Quetzalcoatl, I’d imagine.
Continue reading The Brunswick Centre street food market
I don’t do a lot of PR gigs. Not, you understand, because I have any kind of ethical framework. It’s more that recent offers have tended to be either “bake this and tweet about it” (yawn), or something genuinely interesting I can’t make because my calendar is a car crash.
Then I got an email asking if I’d like to try “the UK’s first cook from frozen soufflé”, as part of Iceland’s new autumn range.
I know, right? A total disaster, obviously. I’ll get a funny story and a free lunch. Sweet.
Except it was actually good.
I think we need to talk about soufflé.
Continue reading Frozen soufflé, fresh fish, and a bit of business chat
This dish gives you fall-apart tender duck legs in a rich paprika gravy, but is almost entirely unhelpful in conquering the Danube valley on horseback.
Historical authenticity regardless, it’s damn tasty and with deep flavours and a brightness from the pepper, it’s well suited to the start of autumn.
For a long time, it was easy to eat bad goulash in Britain. Not unlike “spaghetti bolognaise” or (gods help us) “chili con carne”, we took it to our national bosom and crushed it a little with the hug. All there of these often get dished up as sad, gritty orange water, and in each case trying to go back to the dish’s roots turns up something strikingly different to the popular caricature.
The Elisabeth Luard recipe owes more to spiced broth than thick stew, omitting tomatoes and forbidding flour. Her book European Peasant Cookery has a nice exploration of the origins of goulash, and a trio of Paprikas/Porkolt/Bogracsgulyas recipes to show the working. Apparently it had to do with Magyar nomads. Felicity Cloake has been deep into goulash’s origins, and returned with a wonderful, thickened but non-tomato compromise.
Personally though I do like a little tomato in the mix. Not too much, but enough to liven the colour and obviate the need for citrus. Oh, I also bunged in some duck legs and za’atar, because I can’t leave well alone.
Continue reading Duck leg goulash
Fava is a greek dip or appetiser, somewhere between dal and hummus, and two weeks ago I had some at The Olive Grove. I’d forgotten how tasty it was: thick and soft and simple and savoury. So of course I wanted to make some. It’s dead easy, after all – just yellow split peas (not broad beans, ignore the name) boiled with some onion and herbs for flavour. A bit of oil to serve.
Then last week my friend Niall made a rather excellent lentil and squash dip for a party. It was quite rich, a bit sweet, and heavily loaded with smoked paprika.
What a good idea.
Now, I haven’t just nicked it, despite having morals only fractionally more robust than a carrion crow. But if you can cook and you’ve read the intro, you may not actually need a recipe.
Meh. Here’s a fava recipe anyway.
Continue reading Fava with butternut squash
Puchero is a soupy Spanish peasant stew. It’s also one of the earliest things I remember eating. My mother used to make it when I was growing up; a bastardised take, worked up from a half-remembered recipe with whatever she could find in 1980s & 90s Darlington.
You can find a lot of recipes for South American puchero, and the Spanish variants are multitudinous. Standard for those rustic dishes named after a stewpot a few hundred years ago. Elisabeth Luard tracks it back to Andalusia, making it as a simple broth of roasted chestnuts and whatever ham’s going spare. That sounds amazing, but it’s not what I remember.
No, what I remember is a vivid broth of tender pork belly and plump chickpeas, flavoured through with scant chunks of chorizo. They were always the best bits – an unusual ingredient in that time and place, a treat to be hunted out in any bowlful. The sausages were a finer-grained Lincoln, sometimes a Cumberland, giving a plainer offset, but with the pepper adding interest.
I’ll wager we ate it with a good deal less meat per head than I’ve allocated here, and likely more carrots and chickpeas. I’ve amped up the indulgence, but you can dial it back down and go in hard on the veg. A little fatty pork goes a long way after all.
Anyway, here’s my best guess. I think my mum’s old recipe notebook is still floating around somewhere. It’d be fascinating to compare.
Continue reading Puchero