Unless you’re the type of anarchist who works their way around Trinity Kitchen in an anti-clockwise fashion, Rolawala (@rolawala) is the first point of contact with this month’s vendors – and it’s a very strong start.
They’ve brought with them a small selection from their usual menu of Indian Streetfood – Coriander Chicken Tikka and Beetroot and Paneer Daal – served wrapped in a naan, and they’re not coy about letting you see it. A towering inferno at the side of the stall grills the chicken after it’s been prepared and marinated over the course of an impressive 48 hours, and the rest of the fillings are piled high on their front counter where the wrap is lovingly constructed to your specifications – like Subway, except the finished product doesn’t taste like honey and rubber.
I tried a wrap with a bit of everything in (£7.5) which included a liberal sprinkling of Moruga Scorpion chilli powder, a substance which was housed in an unassuming salt shaker that commanded the kind of fearful reverence usually reserved for militant despots, unhinged South American cartel bosses or King Joffrey.
Luckily the tyrant-powder complimented the rest of the flavours rather than performing a coup d’etat, and allowed room for the sweet beetroot, warmly spiced chicken and tangy pickles to make themselves known. The naan bread itself was good too – while it could easily have taken the back seat and performed a purely functional role, it has the flavour and texture of the best kind of pizza base, with charred patches, chewy bits and air bubbles really adding to the dish as a whole.
The guys insisted that I try their chilli ice cream as well (Not that I put up much of a fight) – homemade mango and coconut ice cream with a kick of the Moruga Scorpion chilli powder. I’d become accustomed to the heat by this point so I thought it could have done with a bit more of the chilli powder, but the mango and coconut flavours were great, and made for a really well thought out palate cleanser.
Housed in the most elaborately decorated cart I’ve ever seen food served from, Fresh Rootz (@FreshRootzLeam) definitely make an immediate impression. Before you get close enough to read the menu, you can almost guess the kind of thing Martin and Andrew serve up – a menu of authentic world food inspired by their exotic travels, rather than the cuisine of their indigenous Leamington.
While Fresh Rootz started to fulfill a need for decent vegetarian/vegan street food, it seems misleading to define it solely as a vegetarian restaurant. All of the meals are well-considered, hearty and tasty, they don’t feel like dishes that have had anything removed or substituted to fit any criteria; they are what they are, and it’s a happy bonus that they’re meat-free and healthy as well.
I tried the Gambian Style Groundnut Stew (£6) which was served with cous cous and slaw, and a few of their pakora on top, for research purposes. The food was piled really high, but the variety of flavours and textures – the four main components of the dish along with sweet chilli, yoghurt dip, black sesame and crushed nuts – made it interesting and exciting all the way through.
There was 6 or 7 types of vegetables in the stew itself, and each one was distinguishable and cooked just the right amount – the cous cous was light and airy, the slaw crunchy and tart, and the pakora surprisingly crispy and fresh, some of the best I remember tasting.
Rounding out the line-up and filling the token “something sweet” slot this month is Cake Doctor (@CakeDoctorUK) – a heartwarming Son-and-Mother team from the Midlands, baking and distributing cakes with a distinctly home-made feel from an old ambulance. Usually my standpoint when it comes to cakes is a firm “Not arsed mate” – I’m a sucker for a loaf or cheesecake, but I find things filled with and covered in buttercream prohibitively sweet, and don’t even get me started on cupcakes.
While I was worried that several of my teeth might fall out just from looking at James’ saccharine creations, I had to try a slice of Coffee & Walnut Cake (£2.5) when I noticed it was made with one of my favourite coffee blends – Dark Arches from Leeds Microroasters North Star. The pedigree of the coffee used was evident, giving the sponge a light yet complex flavour, as if you were eating a spongey espresso. I’d have preferred it as a loaf without so much buttercream but that’s down to personal preference – I guess I’m just sweet enough as it is.
Have you tried Trinity Kitchen this month yet? Let me know what you thought of the new selection either in the comments or on Twitter.
A few weeks ago I was approached to take part in a themed cooking competition for Villa Plus, where I’d square up against some other cooks to come up with a recipe which I felt represented a particular European holiday destination.
When presented with the list of locations to choose from, I realised my knowledge of European islands is severely lacking; in the end what swung me towards choosing Lanzarote was the fact that my Nan and Granddad went on holiday there when I was 7, and brought me back a pretty sweet selection of bootleg Nike t-shirts. This personal experience of the place offered a limited point of reference, so I got my research on.
The thing that immediately struck me about Lanzarote was the terrain – being a volcanic island it has vast expanses of dark grey terrain; basalt rock formed by cooled rock lava. Combined with flashes of deep red sand and rock and aquamarine pools it had an other-worldly appearance like nothing I’ve seen before – far from the sea of characterless Brits-abroad hotel-complexes I’d conjured in my head.
Looking into Lanzarote’s typical cuisine revealed that Lentejas is popular over there – a lentil dish best described as a regional take on classic Spanish paella. Its laid-back format of lentils with seafood, meat and vegetables gave me plenty of freedome to put a personal spin on the dish, by incorporating elements which represented the island’s volcanic character.
The imaginatively-named Lentejas Volcán (Volcano Lentils) uses almost-black, earthy-tasting Puy lentils as a nod to the island’s terrain; Chorizo and sweet potato add magma-like flashes of dark red and orange, as well as contributing an amazing smokey-sweet flavour to the dish.
With Lanzarote being surrounded by ocean, I couldn’t leave seafood out of the recipe – Octopus gives the dish an exotic touch (which like the rest of the ingredients, I bought from the perpetually exotic market in Leeds city center), but if you’re squeamish and don’t like the idea of gnawing on tentacles then prawns or langoustines are a good alternative.
Because it’s so cheap (The two big portions I made came to just over £2 each, if you’re not into seafood then it’d come to about £1.30) and easy to make, this is a great social one to make when you’ve got friends over for tea. Take the pan you made it in over to the table and let everybody dig in, be warned though that they’ll want to lick their plates clean afterwards – save them that indignity by providing a loaf of crusty bread to mop up the juices with.
- 1 Small Octopus (About 200g)
- 1 Medium Chorizo Sausage
- 250g (Prepared Weight) Puy Lentils
- 1 Onion, Diced
- Half a Sweet Potato, Diced
- A Handful of Garden Peas
for the dressing
- 2 Tbsp Rapeseed Oil
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- Small handful of Coriander leaves, finely chopped
- Prepare the octopus by cutting the tentacles into inch-sized chunks. For the rest of the flesh, cut into inch-squares and score in a criss cross pattern. Your fishmonger will do this for you if you ask them nicely. Blanch in a pan of boiling water for 90 seconds – no more, no less! – rinse under cold water, and leave to one side until later.
- Soften the onion and potato in a pan on a medium-low heat. While you’re doing this, chop your coriander really finely and mix it with the rapeseed oil and lemon juice to form your dressing.
- When the onion is translucent and starting to brown ever so slightly on the edges, add slices of chorizo and continue to cook until the fat in the chorizo starts to melt and you can see it slightly caramelise. I added a handful of Garden Peas at this point, to give a variety of texture and a bit of freshness to the finished dish.
- Stir in the lentils and give them a good stir until they’re warm through, and then add the cooked octopus for just long enough to give it a coating of the juices.
- Drizzle with the dressing, and serve with an extra wedge of lemon for squeezing.
Meanwood has enjoyed something of a renaissance recently, the allure of being able to call Waitrose their local supermarket has seen young professionals flocking to the catchment area, and established bars have responded by opening Meanwood spin-offs such as Alfred and East of Arcadia. Joining them is new indepedent restaurant The Hungry Bear – which coincidentally would also be my username on Grindr.
On arrival my initial reaction was that it didn’t feel like a restaurant – the layout; resourceful with its limited space, and the well-considered mismatch of decor gave the feeling of a supper club, and for some reason the prominence of slate made me think of a family run bistro in the Lake District. I should point out that this is pretty unfounded though, I’ve only been to the Lake District once, and I was 6, so I was hardly taking notes on the use of the masonry in bistros at that age.
Rather than a Lambic – which can taste like a moderately alcoholic equivalent of getting Tango’d – there was just a hint of Blueberry and Morello Cherry, making it a much more suitable accompaniment to a meal.
For all of the contemporary touches offered by The Bear’s other aspects, the menu relies on old classics, verging on the gastro-pub territory. If you had to summarise the menu quickly – as I had to when I suggested going there to my girlfriend – you’d probably say it was British grub, done proper. You’d also sound like a bit of a berk for straying so far into somebody else’s vernacular, as I did.
For my starter I had the Peruvian Fishcakes (£6.5) which was served with Cajun Lotus Root and an Avocado Salsa. These were small and light and fried in what I imagine was polenta. They were not overcooked, and each ingredient was distinguishable, I couldn’t tell what type of fish it was as I’m a fish novice, but it was flavourful enough to be distinguishable, but not in the sense that it was suspiciously fishy and a few days past best. The cajun lotus root gave a nice contrast of texture, in the form of deep red shards scattered across the dish, like big bits of those posh Kettle chips made of beetroot.
My fellow diners didn’t really get the hang of the “order as much different stuff as possible and let me try it” policy I encourage when eating out with guests, and both ended up going for the Fig and Sun-dried Tomato Filo Tart (£6). It arrived resembling more of a quiche than a tart – the fig and sun-dried tomatoes lay on a thick layer of airy-but-rich savoury custard flavoured with blue brie, and the eponymous filo pastry underneath – it wasn’t what any of us were expecting, but something as ambiguously named as a tart is open to interpretation, so we learned our lesson to ask questions about the menu in future.
The tart was perfectly pleasant, however one portion is two substantial slices, and would have been more than enough for two people. Having been given a deliciously creamy pea & mint amuse bouche before the starter, it was clear that The Hungry Bear’s aim is to make sure they leave no man or woman so much as peckish after their meal.
I realised there was no danger of that as soon as my Confit and Fired Pork Belly (£11.9) arrived in front of me, served with kale, citrus and carrot puree and a red win jus – stacked onto the plate so that it towered over the table like one of the twig-sculptures from True Detective (topical!).
As you can imagine from a fatty cut of meat which has been boiled in more fat, it was very, very tender; falling apart under the most delicate of my knife’s incisions. The meat to fat ratio was impressive, and it tasted as rich as you’d expect. Then I tackled the crackling.
Until this point I’d only eaten the meat, leaving the spring vegetable fricasse to perform its job of springing the meat back up towards me, and so I chose kale as accompaniment to the first mouthful of crackling, to provide a fresh counterpoint to the crispy, chewy fat. I was so naive.
After a couple of chews and the flavours started to harmonise, my girlfriend looked over and asked how it was. All I could muster was a nod, and she told me that it looked like I was moving in slow motion. I can only imagine I was trying to savour that perfect moment for as long as possible. Apparently Darren Aronofsky is going to make a film about me chasing that unattainable high again, he’ll be able to use recycle the pupil-dilation close-up from Requiem for a Dream probably.
The crackling is very good. Imagine a warm but brittle Wham bar made of pork fat, all sweet and caramel, able to withstand a little torsion before giving way and breaking, and then sticking to your teeth like slowly-dissolving barnacles. The kale was steamed and buttered and enormously indulgent, a world away from what sensible people put in their juice detoxes. Subsequent mouthfuls were good, but not up to the standard of that first one.
My girlfriend went for the 7oz Burger (£8.9) which was a really nice antidote to the slew of dirty burgers I’ve been eating for the past few months. Served on a warm ciabatta and draped in maple glazed bacon, it tasted somewhat more savoury than anything I’ve eaten recently – there was an unfamiliar mix of herbs in the patty, along with diced white onion for texture. Not what I’d personally go for when designing my ideal burger, but perfectly in fitting with its surroundings.
The stack of chips it came with resembled short and stocky Jenga set. They were very evenly cooked considering their girth but I’d have liked them crispier – they did a great job of absorbing my leftover jus though.
After the mains we were too full to consider desert of the cheese board, so I never did get to try a caramel-roasted bourbon fig. Luckily though I’ll be visiting The Hungry Bear again – not only on the merits of the food, but also the atmosphere and service; we were the last people in the restaurant and not once did we feel rushed. The waitresses didn’t even do the trick of walking past every 30 seconds to make sure we knew they were there if we needed the bill.
Speaking of which, the bill came to £75 for three people, including starters, mains, a side, drinks and service. Amazing value for money for this much food of this high quality.
Mrs. Cous Cous Bang Bang helped herself to one of the hair-ties that are thoughtfully provided to prevent hair falling in your soup/flick at your dining partner.
And so – as sure as the changing of the seasons – Sunday saw the imposing arm of the Trinity’s crane reach in and pluck out the current crop of food vans from Trinity Kitchen; the burger one, the Japanese one, the ethnic one, and the sweet ones.
The Okonomiyaki (£3/£5) was billed on the extended menu as “Japanese savoury pancake pizza”, which is a very broad way of saying it’s a pancake with stuff on top of it.
The pancake itself was almost an inch thick, with an eggy batter similar to an omelette binding together shredded cabbage, spring onion and other vegetables. I described it more as a Japanese take on Bubble & Squeak, which I stand by, but they seemed apprehensive to accept the comparison, which I did intend as a compliment.