Community orchards

September 22, 2010

how do you like dem apples?

How do you like dem apples?


Inspired by a feature in Great Food Leicestershire and Rutland I went down to Brock’s Hill Country Park in Oadby to take a look at its community orchard. I was grateful to find this lovely, quiet piece of greenbelt woodland with an interesting visitor centre, but found the orchard to be curiously undersold. There was little reference to it the various information and leaflets on display, and I could find only apples, none  of the cherries and pear trees that are apparantly there too. I did find one reference to the fact that the orchard was maintaining old varieties but this didn’t appear to be mentioned on any signage so it wasn’t really possible to know what was growing there – although there clearly were a range of varieties, some pippinesque, others russett.  Vistors can take a couple of ripe fruits if they wish and while most of the low hanging fruit had gone by my visit, I did manage to find one beauty which I enjoyed with a bit of cheddar for lunch.

Community orchards seem like a wonderful idea to me – mainly for the creation of attractive, characterful green space but if they help supply fruits too, then great. For those of us living in densely packed city streets with small paved yards out the back, they could be a very welcome space.  Plums, cherries and other soft fruits are not suited to supermarket supply chains and hence can be ridiculously expensive.  It’s good to see another orchard is in development in Franklin Park, Braunstone  and which will open next year. There are others in Bagworth, Ratby, Hose and Wymeswold.  If we could find space on the South Side of the city, this is certainly a cause for which I’d volunteer.

Fro more information about community orchards, click here: Community orchards

My minor China crisis.

September 15, 2010

I have to say I’m not very knowledgeable, or especially enthusiastic, about the subject of Chinese food. Of course I’ve mainly encountered only the fairly grim version doled from takeaways to those with a beer-prompted hunger and no desire to cook. On the few occasions I’ve ventured into Chinatown to look for something more authentic and of better quality I’ve ended up with gruel and a sneer from shouty waiters. The likes of Hakkasan weren’t around when I lived in London.

In Leicester I do patronise the Marchee Wok, an upmarket takeaway in upmarket Stoneygate, where the food is of fair quality, but even then my usual approach is simply to get a huge tray of their capital spare ribs to gnaw on as comfort  food after the latest dispiriting home defeat for City.

Anyhow there is a bevy of Chinese restaurants now on High Street in the city centre and I can feel myself tempted to give one a try out. Real China  in Highcross looks like standard issue anglo-chinese buffet, while Shanghai Moon looks seems to cater for a predominantly Chinese clientele and has extensive dim sum  menu. It’s somehow slightly intimidating.  And this week come a newcomer, Taste of China. I’ve only been in to pick up a menu but it looks intriguing. The decor and atmosphere is of a fast food cafe, but the menu  has several of the distinguishing characteristics of “interesting” Chinese restuarants – a refusal to explain unfamiliar items for the benefit of insular Brits, imaginative translation and a number of dishes to make you scratch your  head.  Among the items on offer here are “Beef Internal Delicacies” “Beef tendon lo main”, “preserved egg  and salted egg congee”  “luncheon meat and two eggs noodles in soup” and “coffee and tea mixed”. They also serve Borscht.  

I hope there’s not too much of a whiff of “oh those funny orientals” about this. As I said, the ignorance is all mine and I’d like to know more about the food and what I might like.  So has anyone out there got any recommendations either in terms of restaurants or dishes that they’d like to recommend?

Cafe Rouge

September 3, 2010

I took some criticism for a less than enthusiastic welcome to Cafe Rouge in Leicester’s Highcross.  I did stress at the time my views were based on prejudice born from the scorn of the big beast food critics and my own distaste for it’s over the top, theme park Frenchification. I’ve been urged to give it a try and I finally got along for a quick lunch this week.  And the verdict – well maybe not as bad I feared but nothing to get excited about.  

Working in its favour, and I’m not really giving credit to owners Tragus for this, was a beautiful late summer day and a chance to catch up with an old friend.  Sitting outside in the traffic free enviornment of Highcross was really very pleasant.    Foodwise my “terrine maison” was nice and smooth but a bit grey around the gills and was light on flavour,  though the caramelised roscoff onion chutney was very palatable to a sweet tooth like mine.  My main of salade de Toulouse  was nearly there.  The Toulouse sausages were great – coarse, garlicky and smoky, they were chopped up in a bowl of potatoes, more nicely caramelised onions and some good  perppery leaves. The main problem was the leaves were massively overdressed and were wilting in a puddle of oil at the bottom of the plate.  Judy had the confit leg of duck with a plum sauce, french beans and a gratin dauphinoise – which wasn’t too bad at all. The duck had been preserved and crisped up well, the plum sauce  had flavour  – and real plums – and the gratin was a decent effort, being rich with a nutmeggy crust but underneath the potatoes were somewhat underdone.   Our waiter was competent but the whole experience would have been enhanced with a smile and some warmth.

So it was ok but I’m not exactly won over by the place – I still find that corporate vibe offputting.  I’d be prepared to go again for a more extensive tasting, but it won’t be  top of my list.

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