This blog has moved

11 Nov

After much deliberation I’ve decided to merge this blog with my professional website and other blog content.

You can now find all of my content and futher updates at


Wonderful tasty mushroom wraps

25 Mar

Portobello MushroomI’ve not written here for a while, although I have a few posts coming up that I’m very excited about, but I’ve just cooked up a fantastic, super fast meal.

My fridge was pretty bare (apart from the Bresola I’ve got marinating… watch this space) so tonight’s dinner was always going to be a challenge – I didn’t hold out much hope.

So, the ingredients:

  • 2 x portobello mushrooms (any mushrooms would do), sliced
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • good splash of soy sauce
  • lemon juice
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 x wraps
  • butter

Melt the butter in a pan. Add the garlic and mushrooms. Fry until the mushroom is well cooked without burning the garlic.
Splash in the soy sauce and lemon juice. Reduce the liquid until it’s a bit sticky, then add the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are warmed through and the liquid has reduced again and has gone a bit sticky.
Throw in the parsley. Mix thoroughly. Dollop onto the wraps. Wrap. Serve.

It was lovely. Fresh, tasty and filling. Who’d have thought the remnants of a neglected fridge could be so satisfying.

22 Places to Eat in Leeds

16 Nov

View of Leeds

I’ve been meaning to write proper review of all of the restaurants I love round Leeds for ages now, but I never quite get round to it, so as a substitute I thought I’d put together a quick guide to the places I love (and a few that I don’t) around the city. Are there any I’ve missed off? Is there a great restaurant somewhere that I’ve never been too? Do you disagree with my assessment? Let me know your thoughts.

I’ve avoided listing the big chains, because I’m not a huge fan and you can find plenty of info about them elsewhere. In the main you won’t find the restaurants below in too many other cities:

7 Arts Centre

Chapel Allerton | ££ | Good beer, simple food, good entertainment


Leeds City Centre, Pudsey and many more | ££ | Great curry, good atmosphere

Antony’s Piazza

Leeds City Centre, Corn Exchange | £££ | Great building, great food, poor service… but better than the national critics reckon

Arts Cafe

Leeds City Centre | ££ | A gem surrounded by drunks. European food, good music, but service that’s a little too laid back

Chino Latino

Leeds City Centre, City Square | ££££ | Not as good recently as when I’d visited before, but still worthwhile. Asian food, Latin cocktails, a bit noisy.

Clock Cafe (aka LS6)

Hyde Park | £ | Once a great place for meeting friends, even though the food wasn’t great. Now in decline, but one of the better places in that part of town.

Fuji Hiro

Leeds City Centre | £ | Cheap, tasty noodles. Not as refined as Tampopo or Wagamama, but independent and worth supporting.

Jino’s Thai Cafe

Headingley | £ | Like eating Thai food in a greasy spoon café. BYO. Basic menu, but the food’s great. You’ll feel like you’re robbing them when they bring the bill.


Leeds City Centre, near Corn Exchange | £ | A great alternative to a kebab late at night. Nominally Middle Eastern food, not authentic, but tasty. Open late.

La Grillade

Leeds City Centre, Wellington Street | ££££ | Steak. French steak. Good meat, lacking accompaniments. Only go if someone else is paying.

Little Tokyo

Leeds City Centre | ££ | The only proper sushi restaurant I know in Leeds. Good, but not great… better than nothing.

Loch Fyne

Leeds City Centre, City Square | ££ | OK, it’s a chain – bite me! Specialising in fish they should get it right every time, but they don’t. Then again, if you want fish, it’s one of only two places specialising in it, and the mussels can be very good.

Mio Modo

Leeds City Centre, Wellington Street | £££ | Fairly bog standard Italian. Overpriced for the quality.

Pickles and Potter

Leeds City Centre, Queen’s Arcade | ££ | Sandwiches and light meals. Looks better than it is, but a welcome addition to the city centre lunch scene.

Restaurant Bar and Grill

Leeds City Centre, City Square | ££££ | OK, so this probably counts as a chain too. Food is pretty good, but the menu doesn’t change often enough and it’s quite overpriced.

Salvos Salumerie

Headingley | £££ | Italian deli. Great for lunch and afternoon snacks, but the opening hours aren’t reliable enough to make it a regular haunt.

Sam’s Chop House

Leeds City Centre, East Parade | ££ | Good hearty British food. Corned beef hash is excellent.


Leeds City Centre, Eastgate | £ | Indian. Stick to the specials, they’re great. The run of the mill curries (rogan josh, madras, etc) aren’t great, but the specials make up for it. Did I mention the specials? Make sure you try the specials.


Headingley | £££ | Thai food, done well. Attentive service.


Leeds City Centre, South Parade | ££ | South East Asian food. Much better than Wagamama. Great for a quick meal. Not somewhere to go to relax.
The Reliance

Leeds City Centre, North Street | ££ | Still my favourite. Modern European food, done very well in a nice relaxed atmosphere. Not fine dining, but good dining.

Viva Cuba

Kirkstall Road | ££ | Cuban tapas. One of the best value restaurants in the city. Tasty, but they could vary the menu occasionally. You can’t book, so get there early, otherwise you’ll spend a fortune in the bar.

Home Made Lime Pickle & The Art of the Pickle Tray

16 Nov

It has always been a mystery to me that lime pickle is not more popular with poppadoms in Indian restaurants. The typical pickle trays in Indian restaurants (in and around Leeds at least) include riata, sweet mango chutney, a dry raw onion mix and some weird ‘onion in tomato ketchup’ deal, which is a pet hate of mine. Too often it seems that the pickles are scooped straight out of a catering sized jar, fresh from the cash and carry, rather than something the chefs have cooked up, no matter how good the restaurants.

I think part of the reason for this is that pickles are assumed to be quite difficult and time consuming to prepare, so I thought I’d give one a go to see how things panned out. I started with lime pickle and picked the recipe on the website (seemed like the most obvious choice!).

The first step was very simple… mix limes, salt, turmeric and vinegar and leave for five weeks, mixing daily. first stage of lime pickleSo far so good, but there was a long way  to go and to be honest, I did get a bit sick of seeing the pot sat in my kitchen every day, but that’s a minor complaint.

So, whilst my limes were marinating I had to find the other ingredients. Most were easy to find, but asafoeteida powder proved impossible to find*, although it can be bought online, so I substituted it with garlic, which seems to have worked fine. Mustard oil also proved difficult to come by in anything smaller than a 5 litre container (apart from very small bottles for hair use, which were labelled as ‘for external use only’) so I settled for rapeseed oil (because the colour’s about the same).

So, with a few substitutes, I got there. And the result is great… more lime pickle than I know what to do with, but delicious and very easy to make.

second stage lime pickle

So, you’ve made the lime pickle, what’s next for the pickle tray? Well, it has to be the raw onion affair. I take a medium sized onion and dice it finely. Then de-seed a tomato and chop that finely too. Now take an handful of mint and one of coriander and chop them both as finely as you can. Mix all these ingredients together and leave uncovered (and out of the fridge) for a little while before serving.

Finally, the riata. This is my own recipe, so I have no idea how authentic it is, but it tastes a damn sight better than most of the restaurant offerings. It’s a simple mix of yoghurt, a little lemon juice, toasted and ground cumin seeds (toast whole seeds at home – they taste much better than the stuff you buy ready ground) and equal quantities of fresh mint and coriander, finely chopped. Mix it all together and serve. As a variant to this, mix in some de-seeded and finely diced cucumber which will make it even more cooling. Great served with your poppadoms, but equally at home next to that tongue tingling curry.

Finally, the mango chutney, but I haven’t tried that yet, so you’ll have to wait for a recipe. I’ll post it here as soon as it’s ready.

*It is known by several different names, including Hing, Ferula assa-foetida, Ferula foetida and Devil’s Dung, but I couldn’t find it under these names either in any of my local Asian food shops.

Autumn Crostini

4 Oct

White MushroomsCan anything say autumn like a fresh crop of mushrooms? I’d love to say I’d been out to collect some myself, but despite seeing hundreds of the damn things recently, I’ve been put off dipping my toe into foraging by the a crop of horror stories, even though some of these come in the context of encouraging would be foragers. So, it’s supermarket fare for me, but I’ve made the most of them.

I have a friend to thank for the foundation of this recipe – had it for lunch on Saturday (and breakfast on Sunday, minus the garlic) and it was absolutely delicious.


  • 4 Portobello Mushrooms
  • Handful of assorted wild mushrooms (from a shop unless you really know what you’re doing, or fancy doing a course), roughly chopped
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 50g Butter
  • 2 tsp pesto (shop bought or home made)
  • Small onion, diced
  • 4 slices white bread (ciabatta, sour dough or similar), toasted
  • A few slices of blue cheese
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
  • Oil for frying

Make up some garlic butter by mixing 1 clove of garlic to about 50g of butter. Spread the garlic butter over the gills of the portobello mushrooms and place under a hot grill, stalk side up.

Fry off the onion in a little oil, add the chopped wild mushrooms once translucent and give them some colour. Once done, remove from the heat and set aside.

Toast the walnuts in the frying pan you used for the mushrooms.

Remove the portobellos once the underside is cooked. Place in the frying pan to cook the tops. Remove and slice. Layer the slices of mushroom over the pieces of toast. Melt any remaining garlic butter into the pan juices and drizzle over the toast. Dab a few spots of pesto on top.

Heap over the mushroom and onion mix, lay a slice of cheese over each piece (this isn’t cheese on toast, so you don’t need to go wild) and top with walnuts. Return to the grill until the cheese has melted.

Serve with rocket and more pesto.

Food for Designers

4 Oct

Designer Food

A Craving for Bagels

4 Oct

I travel, on a fairly regular basis (perhaps one a week on average) between Leeds and London by train. On most occasions I wake up too late to have breakfast at home and end up grabbing a coffee and bite to eat at the station, generally a cheese and Marmite panini and Americano with an extra shot, from Starbucks. Now, I am no fan of Starbucks – their coffee is generally poor and their food is vastly over-priced – but, when I’m in the station and expenses are available, it seems like the best option. Well it’s that or McDonalds, so the choice seems clear.

This morning, however, I had a craving for serving a bit different and I remembered that there’s a Bagel Nash at the station – not near the entrance I use, but for once I had the time to make the detour.

Smoked Salmon BagelAs I walked through town I mentally assembled my dream breakfast bagel: savoury bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, black olives, avocado, rocket, dill, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Doesn’t that sound good? I certainly thought so. I didn’t expect to find it, but I knew smoked salmon and cream cheese would be a safe bet, bound to be accompanied by one or more of my ingredients list.

I rocked up with time to spare, found a salmon and cream cheese option on the menu, neglected to read the other ingredients, and ordered, including a coffee.

I’ll start with the coffee. Crap. Weak, tasteless crap. Worse than Starbucks. Enough said.

The bagel turned out to be a combo of smoked salmon, cream cheese, black olives, raw red onion and black pepper. Now, that ticked most of my ingredient boxes, but one thing stuck out – raw onion. What on earth was that doing in there? Who is writing these combos? A perfectly reasonable, mellow bagel, overpowered by harsh, raw onion. I’m not against raw onion, with roast beef it’s a delight. It works well with other salad ingredients. It’s a good partner for cheese. But not for smoked salmon. Not when that smoked salmon is paired with other, delicate flavours (even the black olives were the mild kind).

All in all a very disappointing breakfast. It just didn’t work. Now where shall I go for lunch?

UPDATE: I believe what I had was a New Yorker. Looks like I wanted a Smoked Salmon Deluxe. My advice, steer clear of the American.


4 Oct

A list (with recipes) of preserves I’ve been cooking up recently:

I didn’t follow the recipes I’m linking to religiously, but they were my starting point. Enjoy.

The Art of the Cheese Board

4 Oct

If I am honest, puddings in restaurants have never been my thing. At the end of a meal the only conceivable reason I can think of for ordering a pudding would be that the main course was crap, in which case, I’ve rarely thought that the remedy to disappointment could come in the form of more food from the same establishment.

I have, therefore, in the absence of seconds, been very partial to a cheese board.

Cheese BoardThe cheese board is a natural successor to the main meal. You can carry on drinking the wine or beer that accompanied your main, you can carry on a conversation which had begun over the main course and you can continue to enjoy the savoury flavours which have carried the meal to this point. In short, cheese follows uninterrupted where pudding inserts a break.

There is, however, a problem with the cheese board in most restaurants: quality.

There seems to be an assumption that cheese is an easy option for the kitchen, which requires no effort, but commands a premium price. It seems that most kitchens view the gnarled ends of a round of Stilton and dry bits of cheddar as adequate fare for the cheese course, provided they are accompanied by water biscuits and oat cakes. This is not the case. A cheese board needs four key components as a minimum, each of which should be selected and prepared with care.

  1. Cheese. It seems obvious, but the selection of cheeses is important. A variety of textures, styles and strengths is essential. A mix of blue, soft, hard, goat’s, sheep’s and cow’s is important. Local is good. Different is good. Supermarket cheddar is bad. Give me something that will impress, something that I’ll want to remember. Serve something that will get me to ask the name of the supplier.
  2. Something to put it on. I’m talking bread or crackers. Personally I’m a fan of good bread, but crackers of some form are good too. I want something bland – it’s job is to transport the cheese to my mouth rather than steal the show. Don’t give me digestives (unless they work particularly well with a particular cheese). I don’t want to remember the stodge, I’m here for the cheese.
  3. Crunch. Texture is important. Often overlooked, always missed. Give me some celery, raw apple, salad leaves, pear, pickled onion, gerkins, nuts. Give me something to get my teeth into. Give me something to offset the creamy dairy softness. If it’s paired to the cheese all the better, but anything is better than nothing.
  4. Moisture. Pickle or chutney. Jam at a push. Just give me something to go with my cheese. Give me something to lift the plate. Something interesting. Beetreeot pickle, orange and chilli chutney, pear and cashew chutney, Branston. Moisture. Those crackers can get awfully dry.

That’s it. That’s all you need to create a decent cheese board: four simple components and your home dry. Cheddar with raspberry jam, water biscuits and slices of apple sounds awful, but it’s better than cheddar and water biscuits. Honestly.

I just ask that restaurants give it some thought. Just a little. After all, if you’re going to charge close to £8 when the pudding menu averages £4 you need to put a little effort in. Otherwise I’m going to start setting my own prices and I can be pretty tight.

Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Curry

4 Oct

I cook a lot of curries, taking in my own pork curry, various vegetable creations and things I’ve had at my local curry house, like Afghani Karahi and TakaTak Kaleegi (although I’m sure that’s just what they call it at Shabab). I tend to avoid chicken curries when I’m out, but I’ve recently given one a go at home, with great results. I’ve not included quantities because I’m not sure it really matters, I’d just go with whatever you fancy.


  • Diced chicken (I used breasts because that’s what I had, but I think a good mix of white and brown meat would be nicer)
  • Mushrooms, quartered
  • Spinach
  • Onions, diced
  • Tomatoes, quartered
  • Garlic, minced
  • Ginger, grated
  • Turmeric
  • Paprika
  • Coriander seeds
  • Whole green chillies
  • Cumin seeds (roasted and ground)
  • Coriander seeds (roasted and ground)
  • Fresh coriander
  • Oil for frying
  • Water


Fry off the onions in a large pan. Add in the chicken and mushrooms and fry until the chicken starts to brown. Add the dry spices, garlic, ginger* and whole green chillies (split a few if you want it really hot) and fry for a few minutes before pouring a little water into the pan. You’ll need enough water to half cover the other ingredients. Turn down the pan to a simmer and cook for around half an hour. Don’t let the pan boil dry, add more water if necessary.

Add the spinach and tomatoes to the pan. At this stage it’s up to you what sort of curry you want to end up with. You can either let the spinach and tomatoes soften a little without loosing their shape, which gives a bright coloured, fresh looking curry (lots of yellow from the turmeric) or you can let the spinach and tomatoes cook down into the sauce, giving a rich, but less vibrant coloured curry.

Serve with rice, naan or chapatis. Warming, simple and easily adaptable. Perfect for an autumn evening.

*Keep your root ginger in the freezer and then grate on the finest grade on your grater. It’ll grate easily, the skin won’t go through the grater and the ginger will be perfect to use straight away.