Recipe: Smoked Haddock & Corn Chowder

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I’ve articulated my love for soup previously on these pages; lauding its lunchtime prowess, but it often gets overlooked as a contender for an evening meal in favour of something with a bit more substance.  This recipe for a spicy, smokey haddock and corn chowder – in no small part inspired by my missing out of a similar offering by Fish& at the weekend’s Belgrave Street Feast – is the epitome of substance, with big morsels of smoked fish and a satisfying melee of hearty vegetables lurking in a thick, nuanced liquor.

Another good thing about the chowder is that it’s as healthy as you want to make it – swap some of the milk for single cream and serve with a big crusty cob if you’d prefer a comforting treat, or if you want to boost your vitamin intake then there’s nothing stopping you adding a couple of diced carrots or leeks, and forgoing the potato.


Ingredients

  • 2 Smoked Haddock Fillets
  • 1 tin of Sweetcorn
  • 2 Onions, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of Celery, halved and finely sliced
  • 1 Potato, 1cm-2cm dice
  • 1 litre of Stock (I used half/half vegetable & fish)
  • 1 pint of Milk
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • Juice of half a lime

Method

  1. Sautee the onions and celery in oil and a little butter until translucent and brown – this should take about 10-15 minutes over a low heat.  Deseed the chilli, dice half of it and add it to the onion and celery mixture.  Cook it gently for a minute or so, but only until it’s absorbed some of the oils from the pan, it shouldn’t change colour.
  2. Add the stock and lime juice to the onions and celery, and bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, poach the haddock fillets in a pan containing the milk, bay leaves and a few whole peppercorns.  
  3. While the haddock poaches, toast the sweetcorn in a dry pan until the kernels begin to brown and char on the edges.  Don’t be tempted to add any oil to the pan, as they release a lovely rich oil when heated up.  Add them to the stock soup stock.
  4. After simmering for about ten minutes you’ll notice the flesh become tender to the touch, and the edges of the skin starting to peel away slightly.  Remove the fillets from the milky broth and place the pan ro one side.  Flake the haddock flesh off the skin – it should fall off without too much coercing – and into the stock pot.

  5. Strain the peppercorns, bay leaves and milk skin from the poaching broth, and add the liquid into the stock.  Add the diced potato and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, until the potato’s surface areas starts to release some floury starch and thicken the chowder, but before it breaks down completely.
  6. Serve garnished with shards of toasted tortillas, a wedge of lime, a dollop of quark (or sour cream or creme fraisch, depending on your preference), and a sprinkle of thinly-sliced green chilli or cayenne pepper.

Takeaway Review: Mr. Nice Guy’s

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In my experience of reading food blogs – and I feel that I can speak with authority on the subject, having read as many as three – I’ve noticed an absence of reviews for takeaway places.  It makes sense really, reviewing something in your own home takes what little glamour there is in food blogging, strips it down to loungewear of ambiguous cleanliness, and plonks it on a sofa in front of Netflix.  There’s the ratings section of JustEat of course, but comments sections on websites tend to be the domain of angry loners and Illuminati-theorists; not the type of people you can take a reliable restaurant recommendation from.  Never one to shy away form suffering for my art, I’m going to step up to the plate* and offer my services.  First place up for review: Mr. Nice Guy’s

*polystyrene carton
Opening last year as a spin-off from the wildly successful Get Baked, Mr Nice Guy’s was one of the first places in Leeds to offer American-style burgers; dripping fresh patties, shiny buns etc etc.  Anybody who knows about Get Baked (Which is absolutely everybody, by the way.  Their social media game is on point) knows that they’re passionate about their product, it shows in their enthusiasm for the business as well as the reception from customers; these are the type of people you want to be making your food.
The combination of wild popularity and an admirable dedication to making everything fresh means that waiting times can be higher than you’d expect from a burger place – their website advises it can take up to an hour and a half for delivery.  Being starving and impatient, I sat poised at my laptop from 17:58, refreshing the order page until it came online at 6pm, placed our order of a Nice Burger (£6), Ohio Burger (£6.5) and Jalapeno-salted Fries (£2), and played the waiting game.
The waiting game sucked, but luckily we received a call a couple of minutes later telling us that our order was on the grill and would be sent out soon – which was a nice touch – and within half an hour a cheerful delivery man was at our door with bags of burgers.
I went for the modestly-named Nice Burger first, Nice Guy’s take on a bacon cheeseburger, with the addition of their signature Nice Sauce.  Unsheathed from its double-wrapping I noticed that in transit the juices from the patty and the melted cheese had made everything inside the bun kind of congeal in the best kind of way, meaning that each element of the burger was present and correct in every mouthful.  I’ve been spoilt rotten this week with burgers, this one being the third I’ve eaten, and it was probably the best.  While the patty was a little overcooked for my liking (When it comes to patties I’m with ODB: Baby I like it raaaaAAAaaaw), allowing it to sit and harmonise with the rest of the ingredients for ten minutes inside a wrapper gives it the edge.  I would never be able to sit and watch a burger for ten minutes if it was in front of me, regardless of how cohesive the ingredients would be by the end of it.  The Jalapeno-salted fries were alright, but could have done with more Jalapeno salt.  Decent sized portion though for the price, we had one between us and it was plenty.
Next up was the Ohio, which contained bacon, cheddar, and a smear of peanut butter to glue everything together.  I swapped the bacon for candied bacon, but also added lettuce because my body is a temple, son.  As much as I talk about the virtues of a simple, gimmick-free burger, I can be a sucker for feature-pieces like this and Red’s Donut-Burger.  Much like crystal meth and dance music, I feel they’re something I need to indulge in while I’m still relatively young and hip, before they can cause any irreparable damage or cause me to look like a fat wheezing slob in public, embarrassing myself by trying my hand at a young man’s game.  The Ohio was good, but not something I’d order again.  Without the sweet and sharp Nice sauce cutting through the flavour landscape (can I get away with saying that?  Ok, just this once) it became a bit difficult to eat, but this might have been accountable to the fact I’d already eaten one burger by this point.  I’d recommend you try it once, but the Nice Burger is your best bet for a classic burger.  
In the end I had to have a little walk around the room and stoke the fireplace (not a euphemism) before finally, heroically finishing the thing.  Perhaps I’m more suited to blogging from outside of the public eye after all…

Street Feast at Belgrave Music Hall Round-Up

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Since opening last October, Belgrave Music Hall has earned a reputation for its food; a couple of hole-in-the-wall kitchens bookend the bar, dispensing relaxed, social media-friendly street food with the added benefit of having a roof over your head.  Bearing in mind these credentials it was only a matter of time until they hosted a food event, and of course chubs over here was in there like a whippet.

We arrived there just after midday and the place was already busy – trendy Dads with three-wheeled pushchairs lingering after brunch, eager food bloggers, and regular daytime drunks; myself being a combination of the last two.  I recovered from the devastating realisation that Ilkley Mary Jane wasn’t on draught any more, settled for a pint of Saltaire Blonde (Not a bad substitute), squeezed onto a bench and started strategizing how to eat as much as possible.
I’m not nosey or anything, but when you’re sharing a bench with strangers you can’t help but eavesdrop, which in this case helped me decide to start at Fu Schnickens (A brief tangent about the name: I’m as down with obscure-ish early-90s rap as the next guy, but I can’t work out the connection to Taiwanese street food.  I bet I’ll kick myself when I realise).  Fu Schnickens is in the business of serving up Guo Bao (£3.5 or 2 for £5)- steamed buns containing a choice of pork belly, panko chicken or glazed portabello mushroom.  I went for the pork belly and chicken options, I’m sure as far as mushrooms go the portabello was wonderful, but I ain’t about that life.  After the buns were steamed and the meat was fried to order, they were meticulously assembled along with pickled cabbage, sesame, cashew nuts and sriracha sauce.  Ben (I think his name was Ben) told me that they’ve had to cease manufacture at one of the main sriracha factories because local residents were complaining about the chilli smell, talk about ungrateful.  Having given up my seat to go and collect my order, I relocated to the roof terrace and spread my buns out on a picnic bench, just like your Mum does.

The chicken Guo Bao was great – the chicken was juicy, the chilli panko packed a real crispiness which contrasted well with the stickiness of the steamed dough, and Ben’s delicate touch with the sriracha and Japanese mayo (which I should have asked for more information about) proved to be just the right amount.

As good as the chicken bun was, nothing could have prepared me for what was to follow: probably the best pork belly I’ve ever eaten, and plenty of it.  The buns weren’t small, and the slab of pork belly was sticking out either end of it.  A lot of the fat had been rendered down and formed a chewy, caramelised crust on the edge, complimented beautifully by the hoisin sauce, and pickled cabbage and coriander was on hand to stop things becoming too rich, and I could happily have eaten a dozen of these.  Luckily Fu Schnickens is a new resident at Belgrave, and will be serving Guo Bao from Patty Smiths burger kitchen on the regs.

After I finished gushing we went to the bar again, I got a Five Points Pale Ale and my friend went to Bundobust to order the Pav Bhaji (£6) I didn’t have chance to get a photo of his meal because he shoved his mitts straight into the box as soon as it was handed to him, and he’d finished half of it by the time we got a seat again.  I managed to nick a bit though and I don’t blame him, the depth of flavour was something else, very warm and rich and spicy, with a really well-considered combination of spices.  I also tried a bit of his Bundo Chaat (£4) which was a nice, almost sweet accompaniment to the rich and spicy main, with fragrant cumin and tamarind, cool yoghurt and crisp layers of samosa pastry interspersing the chick peas.  Having treaded the boards of food pop-ups, Bundobust will soon have a home to call their own on Mill Hill, just behind Friends of Ham.

Shortly after this point I grabbed a slice of Silvio (£2, or £1 before 7pm) from Dough Boys and took a quick jaunt to town – having realised Valentines Day is approaching and I hadn’t made any of the necessary preparations.  I returned from Poundland to find Belgrave even busier than before, pitched up next to some more strangers, and ordered a Dirty Burger (£4.5 or £6 with chips) from Patty Smith’s.

Apologies for the crap photo – it was getting dark in there by this point – but you can see the type of burger you’re getting here: Shiny, dripping and compact with no gimmicks.  The patty is a generous size and the tangy chipotle mayo cuts through really nicely, if I had to offer any criticism, it would be that the lettuce (Little gem I think, which added an unneeded bitterness to the flavour of the burger) wasn’t shredded, so the juices from the burger and the tomato (also not needed, but that’s a matter of preference, not a dealbreaker) slid right off and got absorbed into the brioche bun, making it soggy and structurally unsound.  For £4.50 though it’s miles ahead of anything else in its price range, and for another £1.50 you get a big portion of hand-cut, skin-on, twice (thrice?)-cooked chips, which were extremely good.  Patty Smith’s has taken up residence in the far kitchen at Belgrave now, so go check them out.

While I was shoving all that into my gob, my friend had the Chilli Corn Chowder (£5) from Fish&, which was a huge portion, amusingly served in a hollowed out bread bowl.  This was also the case for the Brooklyn Lager Steamed Mussels (£4), which looked and smelt amazing, but I didn’t get chance to try.  In fact, I planned to come back on the Sunday and try offerings from the rest of the vendors, but being a genius I neglected to realise that the Street Feast was a one-day event, meaning I missed out on the amazing-looking Noisette Bakery too.  Hopefully they’ll be back at the next one on March 8th though, I will be.

What did you think to the Street Feast? Favourite pop-ups?  Who would you like to see there next time?  What’s the explanation behind Fu Schnickens name?! 

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen on Urbanspoon

Trinity Kitchen Febuary Round-Up: Manjit’s, Yu Kyu & Original Fry Up Material

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It would seem disingenuous to write an entire article explaining the concept of Trinity Kitchen, considering how firmly it’s established itself in the 4 months since it opened its roof and doors to food vans and customers, respectively.  It’s a big, industrial-looking, open-plan food court with a few permanent restaurants, and a rotating cavalcade of food vans which get replaced every month or so, allowing you to pick a different vendor for each course if you so choose; an infinitely customisable take on fusion cuisine.

The fleeting nature of these food vans makes Trinity Kitchen such an attractive prospect for return custom; the constraints of the human body means you can only eat so many meals per sitting (trust me, I’ve done extensive research), so you have two choices: Come back next week and try what you couldn’t make room for this time, or miss out FOREVER*.  
*or until they return by popular demand in a couple of months.

It’s also a food-bloggers wet dream to have five trendy new street-food vans on your doorstep every month, and this is where I come in.  I mentioned return custom earlier on, and this article is a combined account of two visits, both in the past week.


It’s admirable when a chef is so passionate about a dish that they dedicate their entire establishment to serving it.  And it’s especially admirable when they take that dish and put it inside a brioche bun, so Yu Kyu was a no-brainer first destination.  Katsu is a pretty simple dish; a fillet of chicken or pork, deep fried in panko breadcrumbs and usually served with sticky rice and a mild curry sauce.  It’s the kind of introductory Japanese food that your Dad feels safe ordering when you drag him to Wagamamas on your birthday, the sweet curry sauce comforting him while he sits incredulously on a bench next to a complete stranger who’s eating soup with a ladle.  You wouldn’t get this in a Harvester.

Being such a simple dish it’s hard to imagine anybody getting it wrong, but some charlatans manage.  I’ve eaten katsu curry before which, when broken down to the sum of its parts, has amounted to a big chicken nugget with chip shop curry sauce on top.  This obviously isn’t the case at Yu Kyu though.  The Pork Katsu Sandwich (£6) was great; the meat was tender without being greasy, the panko was obviously freshly cooked and really crispy, and the katsu sauce and shredded cabbage provided the twin dichotomy of sweet, sharp, soft and crunchy.  My main concern was that the sandwich might be a little stodgy when piled into a brioche, but I needn’t have worried; some of the sauce and juices were absorbed into the bun, but each element of the sandwich was easily distinguishable in flavour and texture.  Confident in the brioche as a suitable method of transferring katsu from my table to my gob, we tried the Chicken Katsu Curry Sandwich (£6.5), which handled the job similarly well, despite having a good dollop of katsu curry sauce to contend with as well.  

The only non-katsu item on the menu was the Glazed Sweet Potato Chips Mix (£3.5) which was a portion of sweet potato fries and regular fries, with what I think i identified as a soy sauce/brown sugar glaze, and topped with sesame seeds and spring onions.  The sweet potato chips were as ever, a pretty flimsy affair, but the regular fries were firm and crispy, and the glaze had a deeply satisfying, molasses-esque flavour to it.

Next up was Manjit’s Kitchen, by now a veteran of Trinity Kitchen having been invited back several times to serve up authentic, vegetarian Indian food.  Manjit’s is also the most frequently-photographed van on my Instagram feed, which is quite the accolade when you consider most of the people I follow are trendy food-snobs.  If I wasn’t cart-hopping then I could happily have ordered everything from the menu and had a small banquet, but I settled on the dish that I’d seen the most praise lavished upon; the Chilli Paneer Wrap (£6).  The wrap itself was compact but absolutely overflowing with fillings and flavours; the coriander and turmeric made it taste fragrant and robust, while the heat from the chilli gave it a kick, but wasn’t overpowering in the grand scheme of things.  Inside the roti – aside from the generous chunks of Paneer which I believe were cooked in a tandoor oven – was an indeterminable mix of pulses and lentils which made this a really substantial, satisfying eat.  Before we’d even finished the wrap, we were arranging how soon we could return Manjit’s and try the rest of the menu.

I’ve saved greasy-spoon-turned-burger-joint Original Fry Up Material until last to give me more chance to think of other puns on The Streets songs to pepper the paragraph with, but at the time of writing I’ve come up with absolutely nothing.  The OFM guys have come up the M1 to give Leeds a much needed taste of the dirty-burger war going on down in London.  Cooked right in front of you, the burgers start life as a sphere of meat and fat, pressed onto the griddle until just under an inch thick and medium rare, then served on a shiny glazed brioche.  We ate the Bacon Blue Burger (£7.5) which as you can probably imagine contained bacon and blue cheese, as well as the usual bed of shredded lettuce, cheese, and burger sauce.  The bacon was thick cut and well-cooked without being brittle, and the blue cheese was subtle; comparable to a sauce you’d get as an accompaniment to hot wings rather than the usual slab of unmelted roquefort that usually lies dormant in a blue-cheese burger.  

A lot of restaurants ignore the fundamentals of burgers – a good quality patty and an understanding of the mechanics of burger construction – and place misguided emphasis on gimmicks and unnecessary extras which make the actual burger element a distant memory until you uncover it in the inevitable knife and fork post-mortem because you can’t fit it in your mouth.  The fact that extras take a backseat in the mix of flavours here shows that OFM has a lot of confidence in their product, and so they should.  This is as good a burger as you’re likely to get in Leeds, don’t miss it!  Oh yeah, and Try the Fries, Mate.

Yu Kyu, Manjit’s Kitchen and Original Fry Up Material will be at Trinity Kitchen until February 23rd.  Which food vans would you like to see take up residence there in the future?

Recipe: Red Pepper & Lentil Soup

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Soup’s great, isn’t it?  It’s basically a warm smoothie; it’s tasty, you can idly ladle into your mouth for a couple of minutes, and by the end of it you’ve ticked off the majority of your 5-a-day in one go.  
Since the beginning of this year I’ve been trying to get creative with recipes for soup that I can pop into my Thermos and bring to work as an alternative to school dinners – so far I’ve experimented with Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato Thai Curry, Stilton, Apple & Parsnip, and Split Pea & Mint (Recipes for all of these will be available soon, but there are some clues in their names).  While they’ve been universally delicious, anything made with a lot of root vegetables tends to turn into a Genie made of farts after spending 6 hours trapped in a Thermos – or, to complete the metaphor, a magic lamp – waiting to be rubbed out at lunchtime.

Seeing as my office is a studio without any ventilation this obviously won’t do, and so I’m facing the challenge of making a soup which is a satisfying viscosity, healthy (so no cream of tomato), and doesn’t contain too many root vegetables which cause awkwardness when a colleague comes into my office half an hour after the last evidence of the soup has been slurped away.  I’ve been playing around with lentils since getting Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem book for Christmas, and so red lentils seemed like they’d be the perfect thickening agent for any soup with a fairly delicate flavour that would otherwise be overpowered.  I wouldn’t normally use Red Peppers as a main ingredient in something like this as they’re ridiculously expensive to buy individually, and being the most coveted of Supermarket Peppers you only ever get one of them compared to three green ones in bags of assorted peppers.  As chance would have it though I found 6 of them in a bag for 80p, just because they weren’t cosmetically consistent, obviously I’m against the thought of food being wasted because of Supermarkets’ vanity, but as long as there are people like you and me to buy them at a mark down then everybody wins.


Ingredients
  • 6 Red Peppers
  • 2 Onions, quartered (Note: I used leeks in my recipe just because I had a couple that needed using up, so feel free to use artistic license with this part of the recipe)
  • 3 Carrots, sliced lengthways
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 litre Vegetable Stock (2 Stock cubes and a litre of boiling water)
  • 100g Red Lentils
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Tsp Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Natural Yoghurt (Optional)



Method
  1. Remove the stalks and seeds from the red peppers and cut in half down the middle.  Put them on a baking tray skin side up with the cloves of garlic, give them a generous drizzle of Olive Oil, sprinkle with Salt & Pepper and roast at 200°c for about 30-40 minutes or until they start to char around the edges.
  2. While the Peppers are roasting, start to soften your onions in a big saucepan or stockpot, it should realistically take about 10-15 minutes over a Low-Medium heat
  3. Take your peppers out of the oven when they begin to char and the skin starts to bubble, leave them to cool, and peel off the skins.  If you’re anything like me, use this time to lament the fact you didn’t place them skin-side up on the baking tray because that would have made them a lot easier to peel.  It’s a fiddly and messy job, but it’s well worth it so do persevere.
  4. Add the pepper flesh and the garlic cloves to the onions and stir together, then add your vegetable stock, lentils, carrots, bay leaf and paprika.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the carrots are fully cooked.
  5. When the carrots are tender (but not mushy) remove it from the heat and allow to cool a little bit, then remove the bay leaf and then blend until smooth.

This should make about 4 portions, which is the magic number of consecutive servings before I start to get bored and crave something slightly different.  It’ll keep for about a week in tupperware in your fridge, just dish it out, heat it up, and stir a spoon of natural yoghurt or creme fraiche through before serving.

Any more ideas for soup recipes that won’t make my office smell like butt?  I’m all ears.

Recipe: Sesame Peanut Noodles

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At the end of last Summer I got to visit New York with my Girlfriend Lucy, on a mission to see places from the telly and eat like food bloggers for 10 wonderful, but increasingly sluggish days.  We spent the first five days in Williamsburg; acting like a slightly more bearable version of the characters from Girls, and when we got that out of our system we decided to head more central so we’d have better access to tourist places.  We didn’t count on it being one of the hottest days of the year, and against all better judgement, we hauled all of our luggage from Brooklyn to Harlem on the Subway.  That was a lot to take for the kind of pale, hairy guy who gets flustered on a scorching 15°c day in England, so when we reached the new apartment I was ready to pass out.  LUCKILY this was a Sunday, and we wanted to watch the episode of Breaking Bad that was airing that night, so we decided to spend the night indoors, asked our host for some take-away recommendations, and took the opportunity cross “New York Chinese-food in those little cartons” off my food-bucket list.

The experience was everything I’d ever hoped for while watching Friends as a fat teenager, and the one dish that stood out was a cold salad with green noodles (I do not know why they were green, spinach maybe?) and a sesame peanut dressing.  Neither of us had tried anything like it before, and it was just a nice break after 5 days of eating Chicken & Waffles and Chicken & Waffle flavoured crisps.  We tried to find something like it when we got home, but after checking the menus of the more credible Chinese takeaways back home we soon lost all optimism.  After a bit of experimenting though, I managed to come up with a recipe which is pretty similar.

This recipe is enough to serve two, with another two decent portions left over for lunch-boxes.
Ingredients
  • Dried Egg Noodles
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • A slack handful of Mange Tout
  • A similarly slack handful of Beansprouts
  • 1 Bunch of Spring Onions
For the Dressing
  • 2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Sweet Chilli Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
  • Sesame Seeds
Method
  1. Julienne all of the vegetables in advance, because the rest of this really won’t take long at all.
  2. With the vegetables sufficiently julienned, boil your noodles in plenty of lightly salted water.  While they’re boiling, combine all of the dressing ingredients and mix until they’re emulsified.
  3. When you think your noodles are ready, YOU’RE ALREADY TOO LATE.  Take them out about a minute before you usually would.  Drain them in a colander immediately, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil so they don’t stick together,  and add all of your vegetables and beansprouts so they soften a little in the noodles’ residual heat.
  4. With your noodles still in the colander, add your dressing and mix well.  Don’t worry if a little bit of the dressing escapes through the colander’s holes, if there’s any more than we need to coast the noodles then it could just sit at the bottom of the bottom of your bowl when you serve it, and that’s not what this is.
  5. Plate up, and garnish with sesame seeds and spring onions.  Pro tip: Cut your spring onions lengthways rather than into little disks.  It looks fancier, and it spreads the flavour of them out rather than biting into a tiny capsule of concentrated spring onion flavour.
It’s as easy as that.  I usually serve this with steamed broccoli or something similar, which is easy because you can just steam the vegetables in a colander over the noodles while you cook them.
I’m no closer to finding those elusive green noodles though, any ideas?