Vila Brasil

May 25, 2011

For  those of you heading over to the Leicester’s Summer Food Festival this coming Sunday, let me give you a little steer to visit my friend Eliene’s stall Vila Brasil.

She’ll be serving up quality Brazilian street food, including the national dish feijoida – a feisty black bean stew,  a fish stew with rice and delicacies like coxinhas – plump little pastries with chicken or fish fillings. Those of you on the recent Critical Mass bike ride may have enjoyed Eli’s food at the after party at the Crumbling Cookie and you’ll know how tasty it is. For the rest of you, it’s a treat in store.

Sadly I won’t be there as I’m off to Alsace for choucroute and a glass of gewurztraminer – but if you see her, have a chat, buy some food and say hi from Tim.

 

Update

Here’s Elie’s stall at Leicester’s Riverside Festival on 3rd June. Watch out for her at other events over the summer.

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If there’s one food Leicestershire is famous for, it’s probably cheese.  And part of that is down to the quality of businesses such as Long Clawson Dairy which this year celebrates 100 years. It was founded as a co-op by a dozen Vale of Belvoir farmers and  is, famously, one of only six dairies licensed to produce Blue Stilton, though it produces some 30 types of cheese.   To mark the occasion the dairy has got chef Tom Aikens to produce a cheese cookbook “Cooking Creatively with Cheese” that tells the history of the dairy and offers recipes representing each of the last ten decades – taking in the likes of broccoli and Stilton soup and white Stilton and red onion tart.

You can get the book on Amazon but as a special treat I’ve got a copy of the book available for one lucky reader. Just leave a comment to this post by Friday 3 June (if you’ve nothing to say, just put your favourite cheese!). I’ll select at random and will get back to the winner to arrange delivery. And for the rest of you, here’s one of Tom’s recipes, apparently from the 1930s, for savoury biscuits:

White  Stilton with mango and ginger savoury biscuits

100g plain flour
100g White Stilton with Mango and Ginger
100g butter
12 turns of milled pepper
Pinch smoked paprika
1⁄2 tsp caraway seed
1⁄2 tsp cumin seeds
2 egg yolks

Place the butter, cheese and flour into a food mixer, adding the paprika and milled pepper, and mix on a medium speed until it forms a smooth dough.

Take the dough from the mixer and roll it into a long log shape to a diameter of 4cm and wrap tightly in cling film, chill for approximately 60 minutes. Place some baking parchment onto a baking tray and slice the mix with a knife to around 1cm thick and place onto the baking trays.

Mix the egg yolk with a little water and brush the top of the biscuits to glaze them. Sprinkle on the cumin and caraway seeds and you can crumble some extra cheese over the top, too.

Brian Baker

May 19, 2011

I’ve enthused here before about The Marquess of Exeter in Lyddington, near Rutland. Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of a long chat with chef patron Brian Baker.  He’s had a fascinating career, a whiststlestop tour of which might start with being butcher’s delivery boy and go on to being the youngest ever chef to receive a Michelin star and several years spent buzzing around the world on private jets and 200ft yachts cooking for plutocrats and their A list guests. A later move involved running parties for 12,000 Vodafone staff with a budget of £6 million.

Running a gorgeous old inn in a smart but out of the way Rutland village might seem an odd move, but it’s fortunate for the region.  Baker does straightforward classics here that bear the imprint of all that he has learned – incredibly smooth parfait, perfect steak frites, and top notch creme brulee, with good service in a lovely enviornment. What more do you want?

If you want to read more, check out the forthcoming July issue of Great Food Leicestershire and Rutland.

More on Market Corner

May 17, 2011

Well the Market Corner launch all seemed to go off with bags of good will.  The presence of the new mayor at his first public function helped and there seemed to be a feel good factor all round.

Look, I know you probably want pictures of creamy cakes or spicy curries but what you've got is Cllr Westley, Mayor Soulsby and Cllr Alfonso and you'll just have to live with it for now.

There was particular satisfaction from Cllr Paul Westley, who’s family has been on the market for over 100 years, and who had had to really battle against some who wanted to resist the change. Chatting with Westley and newly-elected Councillor Dawn Alfonso, a leading figure with the Market Trader’s Federation, there was a clear sense both of their passion for the 2,000 year old market and their relief at reaching this key stage in the regeneration of the area and of a refocussing of the market towards quality. They know, as is obvious, the process doesn’t stop here but must involve other areas of the market along too. There will be different solutions for different aspects  but the market will have to shed any lingering reputation for knocking out cheap poor quality, end of life goods and the meat, game and fish market  must somewhow be revived and reintegrated.

As for Market Corner itself,  there was a buzz on opening day and if the area can be kept clean and tidy I think trade will continue to find its way there. It’s great that businesses like Bobby’s, Pick’s Farm, Woodhouse Farm and Deliflavour now have a regular city centre presence – their coffee is defintely worth a try. There were also  few new people to me  – the cakes at Dessert Island were lovely, and I was even won over by the cupcakes at Viva la Cupcake .  Food stalls will be there Fridays and Saturdays.

The launch comes handily before the latest Summer Food festival  – always an enjoyable event – which takes place on Sunday 29 May and will feature live presentations from people such as Bobby’s, Entropy and the Rutland and Derby deli-pub.

Sadly I’ll be off enjoying choucroute in Alsace, but I do hope to be around for the small  but equally enjoyable  Belgrave Hall Food Fair  which takes place 17 and 18 September  – put in your diaries.

Market Corner

May 12, 2011

Big day for Leicester Market tomorrow – the opening of the new Market Corner area which will feature speciality food traders and some exciting hot food options in an upgraded, restyled area of the market.  I’ve just been speaking with market development officer Joe Harkin who is pleased he’s managed to get Leicester’s new (directly elected)  mayor Sir Peter Soulsby along to open it in what will be his first major public appearance.  That will help ensure the TV cameras turn up, but  Joe, bless him, insisted the real star of the show will be the lovely high quality food on offer.

Here’s a link to the official press release , or if you want to know more you could always check out my feature in the current issue of Great Food Leicestershire and Rutland, on sale now at newsagents, Watitrose and good food outlets throughout the area.

Just what we needed?

May 10, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about a big gap being filled with the arrival of a specialist tea and coffee merchant.  Now comes news of the other yawning chasm in Leicester’s culinary scene. Until now we’ve never had a decent Indian/Arabic/Italian fusion restaurant, but Endimaj is about to put that right.

I can’t tell you much more  – the website is still under construction and it’s not actually open just yet – but it is based in the premises of the late, lamented Watson’s in Upper Brown Street, opposite the late, even-more lamented by some, Phoenix Arts.  There’s a little internal square within the old building and that I understand will become a shisha area.  It’s great someone’s using that space again  – unfortunate that it sounds like a gimmick.  But let’s approach it with an open mind  eh?

Sorry it’s gone quiet, but a couple of so-so meals about which I couldn’t think of much of interest to say and general lack of writing mojo led to me taking a bit of break. But I’ll try and climb back on that pony now. Just hope some of you are still there.

I did get quite excited this weekend when I discovered that, finally, Leicester has acquired something approaching a specialist coffee and tea merchant. I’d been indulging in a favourite dream of mine to open a coffee shop featuring 50 varieties of  unusual coffees that people would try whilst discussing politics and listening to my eclectic playlists of Sufjan Stevens, Charles Trenet and John Coltrane. The next day I stumbled across St Martin’s Coffee and Tea when passing through, err, St Martin’s Square. I think it only opened last week and seems closer to my ideal than anywhere else in the city.

Big jars of clearly labelled coffee and teas line the walls, along with coffee making paraphenalia. There’s nice looking cakes too and Leicester-made Helsham chocolates,  and the design is all modern clean lines.  There appears to be just a couple of seats so  I think the plan is to develop a market for high quality beans and leaves to take away. A quick chat with the owner Andy suggested he knows whats he’s on about and he was keen to point out the beans are all roasted locally – well Nottingham anyway – and in the last few days.  Whether turnover means they can continue to meet that aspiration I don’t know but at least they want to do the right thing.  Beans aren’t cheap but there is a broad range of stuff that I don’t think can be bought elsewhere in the city  – blends start from £4.95 for 250g, while current stock also includes Monsooned Malabar, Ethiopian Sidamo and Djimma, Sumatra Mandheling, and Pasajquim from Guatamala. If you’ve got curiousity or just money to burn you can also get Kopi Luwak, the beans that have famously passed though the discriminating digestive systems of civet cats in Indonesia (£25 for 100g).

Some coffee beans recently

I’ll be going back soon for a longer look and to try some of the produce.  Those interested in knowing more about coffee might want to sign up for a handly little email course run by coffee evanagelist and roaster Stephen Leighton who trades out of Stafford as Hasbean. As well as selling wonderful coffee online and producing videos, blogs and podcasts about his life in the business, he offers Coffee 101, a course providing a daily email for 10 days covering the history of coffee and an introduction to techiques of harvesting, washing, roasting beans and making the drink. Each one is an interesting five minute break with a cup of your own favoured bean. Find out more here:   http://www.coffee101.co.uk/ or go to www.hasbean.co.uk .

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