Thai Esarn

September 30, 2016

You’ve probably got your favourite takeaway. We don’t necessarily look to them for great quality, more qualities of convenience and reliability – I’ve been going to the Jebu Tandoori on Evington Rd for well over 30 years and the recipes have barely changed.

But if you’re looking for a change,  give the Thai Esarn a try. I’d heard several recommendations for this humble takeaway on Hinckley Road, Leicester (near the Police Station) and eventually gave it a go. It was lovely.

Run by a group of engaging Thai ladies, they delight in traditional home cooking  from North East Thailand and produce great-tasting, authentic food in an open kitchen that  they’ll make as spicy as you want. We had terrific starters of toong torng, crispy parcels of minced chicken, prawn and sweetcorn  with plum sauce,  and  fishcakes with a sweet chilli .esarn1

Main courses were tamarind duck and the beef dish “weeping tiger” and both were excellent dishes that highlighted the sweet, sour, salty and spicy layering of flavours. The duck was tender breast meat with green vegetables and cashew nuts in that  distinctively sweet-sour tamarind sauce.

The beef was so good it had me off digging up recipes that I’ve been trying at home – strips of beef marinated in the likes of lime juice, soy, fish sauce and sugar and with additional  dipping sauce. Mine was pretty good, theirs was excellent.

Coconut rice was good sticky comfort food, while a tom sum salad of papaya and finely sliced cabbage was a maybe a bit too drowned in dressing for my tastes but again was a great combination of flavours.

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Never been a huge fan of Thai food but I may not just have had very good examples – this has started to convert me.

There should be a full review in the Leicester Mercury tomorrow, Saturday 1 October.

 

 

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So here’s some nice things happening in Leicester.

First off, I went to the launch of Cured at the end of last week. This is the business of chef Martin Powdrill, who previously has worked at the much-missed  Smokehouse on Braunstone Gate and is basically offering the bar food within Leicester’s Brewdog. The USp is food that uses Brewdog’s distinctive beers to cure meat and fish. Judging by the tastes we had, this will be a terrific addition to food options in the city centre.

Martin is a young,  enthusiastic chef on a mission to transform expectations of curing from the short-cut injected processes used in supermarket produce to exploring the long, slow alchemy of traditional curing. His audition piece with the Brewdog people involved a few simple pickled vegetables – demonstrating the variability of the process and the fact that the simplest items on his menu would be given the same attention as the headline dishes.

At the launch event we tried the likes of: sweet maple cure bacon cured in Punk IPA with picallili: terrifically tasty salmon ‘pastrami’ brined in smoked porter; brisket cured for some two weeks and roasted with burnt barley and treacle; an amazingly accurate vegetarian recreation of the pulled pork experience using jackfruit and a fennel slaw; an oriental take on beef jerky using soy, coriander and sesame; and, oh yes, the best pork scratchings ever.

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All these dishes have been researched, developed, tested and show real character. ‘m looking forward to going back shortly to try more and urge others to try it too. Watch for the beer matching recommendations too.

Food will be available 12-8pm with a special “hangover club” on Sundays, but Martin hopes to use the large upstairs space at Brewdog  for special restaurant nights in the future.

More good news for beer lovers with the imminent opening of the Blue Boar on Millstone Lane, a micropub using a historic name with an interior  designed for good conversation and good cask beer and real cider.

On the same road The Rutland and Derby is starting monthly pop-up nights starting tomorrow (Tuesday 6th September) with a  pop-up chippy. We’re told to  “think red and white check tablecloths, waiters in white aprons and sustainably sourced fish”.

A little further down the line a big presence will arrive in the middle of all this activity with Middleton’s Steak House having its Soft Launch starting around 10 October. This of course is set in the massive wedding cake in St Martins that is the grand old Nat West Banking Hall. I was besotted with that building when I used to bank there – I hope they’ve not ruined it.

 

 

I had a lovely morning out recently at White House Farm in Keyham, where farmer Matt Stone is producing tremendous raw milk, butter and cream.

“Raw” means unpasteurised, in other words not heated until everything in it is dead. In the past this was a important health measure but it also took away a lot of the taste. Nowadays raw milk can be produced under license and with strict hygiene controls – and so the “old-fashioned” taste is available once again.

Matt comes from a long line of dairy farmers. But after his family farm in Ratcliffe-on-the-Wreake was sold he looked around  for somewhere where he could build his own herd. The semi-derelict White House Farm suited his purposes and he and his young family moved in. Initially he was going to do conventional contract milking, but after he was let down, he decided to try something different.

Keeping a day job as a herd manager elsewhere, he and wife Katie have started their own business with just three cows – two Freisians and a Red Poll. Currently everything they make disappears almost immediately through sales at the farm gate and the occasional car booter and farmers’ market to people desperate to get that old-fashioned flavour

The milk has a full flavour and a much cleaner feel in the mouth. “You can use it just like pasteurised milk, though people get through more of it because it’s far more palatable to just glug it back,” says Matt. “People with allergies and sensitivity also seem to find it much easier to digest.”

The cream and the butter too are exceptionally good. The extra thick double cream is perfect with a bowl of local-grown strawberries, while the butter is so good on toast you really don’t want to spoil it by putting on anything else. Note these are ‘live’ products and have no preservatives – they may not last as long as supermarket but, then again, you’ll probably find they disappear more quickly too. .

Many of their regular customers are from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, who crave the produce because “it tastes like it used to back home”. Ironically perhaps, the Brexit vote has also seen a boost with more people thinking about supporting local businesses. Many regulars drive from all over Leicestershire, Rutland and beyond.

The little dairy parlour, immediately adjacent to the cows’ barn and with its simple, traditional equipment like the butter churn is the perfect antidote to impersonal agribusiness and supermarket conformity. The herd will shortly double in size, but this will remain a small business where the farmer knows each of his cows really well.

Stone’s milk is currently available in two litre bottles for £2, the butter at £3 for 200g and cream at £150 for 200ml. You can call in at the farm on Ingarsby Road, Keyham, but it’s best to order ahead by calling on 07883 471865. Watch out soon for other products including ice-cream, yoghurt and buttermilk. For more information see http://www.facebook.com/stonesdairy  and if you are a Great Food Club member (and if not why not?) watch too for an offer coming soon.

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