Zesty House

December 22, 2009

Twice over the last  of couple of days I’ve had some lovely food courtesy of this simple Turkish cafe on Queen’s Road in Clarendon Park,  Leicester. With four formica tables it would be easy to mistake for a bog standard greasy spoon and, while burgers and pizza are on the menu, so is some seriously tasty meze. Last night a group of us shared some lahmacun –  flat bread with minced beef and a sprightly little salad, lively hummus, wonderfully tender and  flavoursome fried aubergines with tomato sauce, mousakka, iskander kebab – cubes of lamb and home-made bread ,with a youghurty sauce and a fresh greek salad with feisty feta.  Only the slightly stodgy kadayif pastry desert was less than excellent. Cafe food then, not fine dining but none the worse for that.  I’d had a chance to try more of their when they catered for a christmas party for around 30 of us at the weekend (see below) – it was simple food but fresh and with bold flavours.

This is a friendly, family run place that appears to be doing well by the solid virtues of good value and good food. I ‘ll definitely be going back regularly. I don’t  think they run to a website but you can see their menu here, courtesy of the Everymenu website run by my friend Alex (there you go Alex, said I’d find a way to give you a plug): Zesty House

Pear chutney

December 16, 2009

There’s a lovely sweet smell in the kitchen tonight, a big pan of christmas present chutney bubbling away on the stove top. I have a real weakness when it comes to chutney and buy far more than I actually use, so I’ve got numerous bottles secreted away at the back of kitchen cupboards – and while most of this one will be given away, it’ll no doubt add to my backlog.  This one is a spcied pear chutney – one kilo of rocha pears, peeled cored and diced, around 200g of sultanas, 100g of prunes roughly chopped, 300g of muscavado sugar and 400ml of vinegar – I possibly should have  used cider but I settled for white wine. Basically it’s just left to cook down and thicken for a couple of hours, with some ginger, cinnamon and crushed allspice berries added  to taste.  Will be lovely with  bit of gammon.

Danish pastries

December 13, 2009

I’m a hopeless baker  but have a real sweet tooth so keep having a go at cakes and buns. I’m rather pleased with my recent attempt at Danish pastries. They take a while what with all the resting of the dough and that, but I reckon it was worth it – with a cup of costa rican (see November 19th post) they make an uplifting start to the day. 

This made around half a dozen – mix 250 g of strong flour with 25g of caster sugar and add 20g of yeast (I used Dove’s Farm quick yeast). Then add a large egg and about 100 ml of milk to create a dough. It will seem fairly dry at this stage but a good 10-15 minutes of kneading  and it will be smooth and springy. I don’t have a mixer but I think kneading is the best bit of baking anyway.  Then leave it to rest for half an hour.

So far so easy. Then roll out it into a 10 inch square, cut about 80g of  butter into smallish knobs and place around the centre of the square. Fold one edge towards the middle and then the other edge over (so the pastry is now  one third the size). Roll it out again to the same size sqaure – you’ll see the butter starting to spread within. Fold it again and leave it for 20 mins. Repeat this cycle two or three times. Finally roll it out  reasonably thinly and cut to the size of pastry you want.  Experiment with shapes and fillings  – the two pictured are one with a little raspberry jam, and the other is a little pear puree and sliced pear, sitting on some some almond paste (very simple – make as much as you want from equal quantities of ground almonds, caster sugar and butter creamed together). There’s a little bit of icing on them too. I’m also going to make others from  mincemeat and apple.  

 To bake they take around 10 minutes at 180 degrees celcius.  If you are baking a few together, keep an eye on them because unless your oven is very well behaved, you’ll probably need to move them around to make sure they bake evenly.

Xmas wines

December 12, 2009

Picked up some Christmas booze following a tasting at Evington’s, a wonderful shop on Evington Road, close to the Spar supermarket. I recommend it to anyone not sure what they want  – have a look at the website  but do visit the shop too if you can. Owner Simon March is the third generation of his family to run the shop and is a genial, knowledgable and helpful chap. He doesn’t sell bad wines.

 winesMy selection then (all round about a tenner): Errrazuriz Max Reserva 2007 – a premium wine from this major Chilean maker which is a characteristically fruity cabernet sauvignon but with some real complexity too; Seifried Gewurztraminer 2007 from Nelson, New Zealand,  full of  tropical fruit that I plan to match to spicy-glazed gammon; an unusual, modern-style Rioja from Becquer, 2005,  considerably lighter than might be expected; and a quite sublime Hunter Valley Botrytis Semillon, 2007 from Margan – a sweet, fragrant, non-cloying desert wine I simply can’t wait to crack open.

Toro Latino

December 10, 2009

Market Harborough is a spruce, well-heeled little town where you might expect to find nice restaurants.   Some of the better ones are actually off  in the comfortable surrounding villages of South and East Leicestershire. But I’m pleased to report on a pleasant meal last night in this unpretentious Spanish resturant  situated in a side road off the main drag (Abbey Street).

Despite the name, there’s not too much  ibero-tat, but a clean. modern feel. That made it a little on the cold side atmosphere-wise as we arrived but it soon filled with good-humoured small Christmas party groups which helped warm things up. The menu is fairly standard for its type with the odd Mexican dish thrown in. We, being well up for a bit of a feast. selected three tapas to share as starters followed by main course dishes. Sardines were excellent – plenty of garlic and olive oil with some finely diced capers to give a bit of bite, and a little stew of lamb and potatoes was full-flavoured comfort food,   while  enchiladas too were tasty, generously cheesy.

Deborah’s chicken and seafood paella was stuffed with mussels, butterflied prawns, squid and poultry. Subtle it wasn’t, but again generous is the word that comes to mind, in quantity and flavours.  I picked fish piri piri –  some firm, flavoursome fillets in a really kicking chill dressing with plenty of chunky veg.  All our food shared this earthy, full on approach to flavour. Had just the briefest look at the wine list which was short and sensibly seemed to major on fruity upfront South American wines – the sort of undemanding stuff  that gives wine critics palpitations but is proabably right for the food here.  

Service was a bit hit and miss in truth, pleasant young people who didn’t really manage to convey the sense they had quite mastered customer service and  we struggled at times to get across what we wanted.  None the less, a  nice little neighbourhood joint offering decent value, and I’d be happy to go back.

Our daily bread?

December 4, 2009

I’m not generally over bothered about bread. But I was impressed with the sourdough on offer at last weekend’s feast at Hambleton Hall. So much so that when visiting my friend Jenny’s pub in Langham (The Noel Arms – drop in if you’re passing, I’ve seen the kitchen, it ‘s all tickety-boo), I called in at Hambleton Bakery in Oakham to get  a loaf. At £2.30 for an 800g loaf it’s not cheap but it’s a thing of beauty both inside and out. Baked in a wood fired oven, it’s crusty but yielding and gratifyingly floury,  the texture is springy like a crumpet, and the smell is wonderful. It has that distinctive tangy, sourdough taste  but it is mild. It’s flavourful enough to enjoy on its own with butter, but it’s not overpowering and I’m looking forward to trying it with some  powerful, complex  Quicke’s vintage cheddar.

We’re assured that the artisan production techniques mean the loaf will keep for around a week, toasting up nicely even after that. Can’t see it lasting that long.

Farmers’ Market

December 2, 2009

Quick reminder for Leicester-based folk – the relaunched Farmers’  Market is in town tomorrow, Thursday, and should offer lots of opportunity to stock up for Xmas. There’s  a funfair parked on Humberstone Gate so for this month only the stalls will be found round the corner on Gallowtree Gate.

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