Clarendon Pop Up

May 28, 2012

Before Sunday’s food festival I also took in another enjoyable event that saw Queen’s Road in Clarendon Park, shut off to traffic and taken over by craft stalls and entgertainment. It’s a resolutely local event in an area that is full of  creative types – including a good number of bakers. It also looks like the networking that such events promote is paying dividends, with a Clarendon Park pop-up restaurant set to launch on 14 June at Sansome’s Bar.

It’s another event being run by Lucy Cufflin of Lucy’s Foods, who’s linking up with bread evangelist Rosie Clarke and will feature local grown, made or sourced products including cheese from Christopher James deli and sausages and old spot pork from Archers in a Clarendon Park cassoulet. Got to be good to see local businesses co-operating in this way.

Further details available here 

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Summer Food Festival

May 28, 2012

A lovely afternoon at Leicester’s summer food festival. Good to catch up with with people such as cider maker Rob Norton (right) of the Bottle Kicking Cider Company.  The company is going so well he’s gone full-time and has  just launched a second brew  – Rambler is a lighter, 4.9 per cent version of his Scrambler, which will shortly be appearing in local Tesco’s as well as Waitrose.

Also enjoyed watching Tom Cockerill of Entropy  doing some live cooking (below). In a profession not short of its egoitistical prima donnas, Tom is an extremely laid back character (I should say I’ve never worked a service with him, so his staff may have a different view, but I doubt it).  His unusally casual manner disguises a  very skilled and precise approach to his food. His dish was a loin of Leicestershire lamb (a gorgeous looking cut from Archers on Queen”s Roaad) that was given a wild garlic crust and a stuffing of locally foraged wild mushrooms. I held back from the unseemly scrum to taste it  but I’m sure it was fantastic.

The wild garlic had been picked that morning from Castle Gardens – where as luck would have it i was haded for a picinic after the festival. There’s plenty still there, so I picked a discreet handful which is going to enliven a risotto tonight.

 

Food Awards

May 17, 2012

I could probably fill these pages with stuff about awards – who’s won one, who’s been shortlisted etc – but it would get pretty dull.

However I’ll make an exception today and suggest you take some time to vote in the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2012.   These are pretty high profile and while the majority of awards will doubtless go to London and the South East, I like the idea that the judges should see plenty of votes for Leicestershire and East Midlands businesses.

Johnny Pusztai

Last year one of the big prizes was won by JT Beedhams, the butcher’s shop run by Johnny Pusztai in Sherwood, Nottingham – a fantastic local butcher where I go regularly to supply them with copies of Great Food magazine and stock up on unrivalled sausages. So it can be done. 

Categories include best restaurant over £20, best restaurant under £15, best Sunday lunch and best independent food shop.  Go here to vote –  Observer Food Monthly  Awards. If  you still need persuading there’s some wondeful prizes. You’ve got until 29 June.

Events

May 10, 2012

News has reached me of another of Lucy Cufflin’s local food pop-ups. After a successful couple of nights at the White Room in Stoneygate, she’s taking over Kibworth Cricket Club on 24 May.  This is a larger venue and there’s (no BYO this time – a local shop is supplying a selection of wines at £12).  The menu sounds very appealing – chicken liver parfait from the wonderful Fosse Meadows chickens, fresh pasta with pesto and British asparagus, pork belly with bourbon glaze, saute potatoes and apples, and crispy fennel with lemon and chilli, plus a trio of local berry deserts – raspberry posset, summer pudding and chambord liquer tart.  Tickets are £30 from Lucy’s Foods in Stoenygatre  or the Deli at Kibworth.

In case you were wondering about the calcotada I was getting excited about last month, it was cancelled at the last minute. Very disappointing.

Not a pop-up but of interest to those with a love of gutsy French regional food is a special cassoulet night at La Table d’Yves in Thorpe Satchville. Yves Ogrodski and his wife Elizabeth came from Provence to the UK and for six years have run this fun, authentic French restaurant in an otherwise unremarkable pub in the heart of East Leicestershire. I’ve not been for a couple of years,  but given it’s looking like we’re not having a summer I’m tempted by the hearty delights of the bean, duck, sausage combo offer on 18 May.

Finally a reminder about some local food events – the Artisan Cheese Fair  takes place at Melton’s Cattle Market this weekend, Leicester’s Summer Food festival will be at Leicester Market on 27 May,  and Stoneygate local food and drink fair is on 4 June (stalls for local producers still available, contact Zoe Brady of Brady’s Fish and Seafood Market)

Queen’s Tandoori

May 7, 2012

Probably the nearest restaurant to my house is Barceloneta, the tapas bar on Queens Rd run by Leicester legends the Hussein brothers. It’s been there over 20 years and has all their trademark flair, yet the food tends to divide people and that’s partly why I’ve not had the chance to go for several years. Having seen a colleague give it a good review in the new issue of  Great Food and liking the look of the specials pasted on the window whenever I walk by,  I thought it was a good time to pop round and celebrate my birthday.

Sadly the “Sunday before Bank Holiday” phenomenon caught us out and and it was fully booked. So sorry then, but no review.

However, we did get into the neighbouring Queen’s Tandoori – a venerable place, recently taken over by new owners with a long track record in Leicester.   Now I was a regional newspaper restaurant critic  for five years and my heart used to sink slightly when asked to review an Indian restaurant. Not because I don’t love the food, its just that most conventional British/Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants manage to achieve a consistent level of reasonable food and it’s hard to find much of great interest to say unless something goes very wrong.  And besides, I think people tend to just find a place they feel comfortable with and that becomes their reference point for Indian food  – if you like the lamb bhuna at the Star of India, nothing I say about a similar place round the corner is likely to make much difference.

So if I don’t say too much about Queens, it’s in the belief it’s just not worth saying too much beyond answering the question was it ok? And the answer was, yes it was.  Prawn puree was very nice thanks, in fact the bread, like the chapatis we had later, was pretty impressive. A lamb tikka starter was also good.  Service was friendly, maybe a bit slow – they too were busier than I think they were expecting and some spillage on the table never got cleared up which was mildly annoying. A main course of black pepper chicken was well-spiced – fragrant, distinctive but not overpowering – though I think the menu, or staff,  might have made clear it came without sauce. Fortunately we had enough gravy  to wet it a bit from a paneer curry and an aubergine massala side dish. Both these dishes were fine  – aubergine was well  cooked and the paneer was good quality.

So not much more to say. A neighbourhood curry house producing good, enjoyable food in the style Brits have come to love. Doesn’t break the mould, may not convert you from your favourite place, but can be visited in confidence.

 

 

Real Bread

May 4, 2012

If there’s one way in which my diet has changed in the last two years, it’s that I eat a lot more bread. There’s several reasons for this. One is that is that since I went freelance (aka “was made redundant”), I’ve been working from home and thus am looking to eat breakfast (never used to bother) and to make a decent sarnie at lunchtime.

The other, more significant, reason is that the supply of decent bread has grown significantly enough to bring home both how unpleasant (or at best bland) most bread I’ve ever eaten has been, and also just how tasty it can be. The bread I had last month at The King’s Arms in Wing was absolutely a highlight of the meal, while the butter-drenched manchet I had for breakfast today from Hambleton bakery in Oakham was a fantastic start to the day – half breakfast roll, half lovely cakey brioche. I’ve also really enjoyed the Leicestershire beer and honey loaf from Lucy’s Foods in Stoneygate produced by Knighton Kitchens.

Foccacia by Leicester Born and Bread

A key part of this virtuous circle of building demand and supply for real bread (let’s make that Real Bread for now), has been the rise of domestic bakers, spreading the word and baking loaves for friends and neighbours on small-scale commercial basis. One such who I have written about here before is my pal Jessica who runs Leicester Born and Bread. She informs me that next week (May 7 to 13) is Real Bread Maker Week – an initiative of the Real Bread Campaign to get even more people  into baking lovely traditional-process, additive-free breads. Jessica is offering 10 per cent discount on her bread making classes booked during the week – if you want to know more go to the website or call Jessica on 07957 726308. Even if you remain sceptical about wanting to get floury yourself, the week is surely a good opportunity to try something new new or different from a real baker.

Update

I forgot put a link to a song from the wonderful Natalie Squance, Leicester’s finest folk-tinged singer and guitarist. Her song The Baker is a dryly funny tale about a sexy French boulangere with commitment issues (he’s not just a baker, no he’s a heart-breaker) and this post seemed a good opportunity to give her a plug – so have a listen or better still download or buy the cd  – http://natalie-squance.bandcamp.com/track/the-baker

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