Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Roast Rib of Beef and Proper Gravy

I don't think I know anyone who doesn't appreciate a good Sunday dinner. 

They're not hard to cook (once you've got the timings sussed), but there's something rather lovely about sitting down to a selection of veg, potatoes and a great big chunk of meat - especially when someone else has slaved over the hot oven for it. 

I quite like to serve up a variety of stuff too - so people can have as much or as little of what they fancy. Generally broccoli, cabbage (cooked in butter) and roast potatoes (cooked with garlic and rosemary) will make appearances. But if I'm cooking for a crowd I'll probably add a gratin or a cauliflower cheese, some home-made stuffing and some mash.

Meat wise, I tend to stick to chicken or lamb... although I am cooking more and more pork at the moment. But I rarely cook beef - I don't know why - maybe I just feel that I don't know enough about the different cuts and cooking methods... which is actually a rather fine excuse to start cooking more of it...

Anyhoo, I recently got my hands on a rib of beef from Mr Pickles. It's a cut I'd wanted to cook for a while (the ribeye is my favourite steak) but I just kept on putting it off on the basis that I might somehow mess it up. Which was a bit silly really...

It was a fantastic looking piece of meat - even raw I think I'd have been quite happy burying my face into it... And, although I only had one rib, it was still a sizeable portion at around 1.8 kg.

Rib of Beef
Wanting to cook it somewhere between rare and medium rare, I turned to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's MEAT book for reference and stuck the meat (stood upright and uncovered) in a hot oven (210C) for 20 minutes. I then turned the oven down to 160C for a further 40 minuets (on the basis that each 500g needed 10 minutes to be served rare). I then wrapped it up in foil and rested it for a good half hour whilst I did the gravy.

Proper Gravy
I poured off some of the fat from the roasting dish, then sat it on the hob, on a low heat. I added chopped onion and carrot (I was out of celery) and a couple of bay leaves and let it all cook in the juices (stirring and scrapping up the meaty bits along the way) until soft. Then I added a dessert-spoon of flour and stirred it to form a thick paste. Next in was a decent glug of red wine, then around a pint of stock (which I added slowly, whisking all the while to prevent lumps). I then let everything simmer until it was the right consistency for my liking (around 20 minutes) and strained the liquid into a gravy jug.

Because I was feeling lazy, I just served the beef with mash and a bit of veg, and it was absolutely gorgeous. The meat was stunning - I can't believe I hadn't cooked it before - especially as it was incredibly easy to do AND it only took an hour and a half (including resting). I swear... I've seen more complicated and time consuming recipes for salads...

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Bragazzi's, Sheffield

There's no doubting that going out for breakfast is one of life's little luxuries (even if it is a full English in the local cafe). Now, I also quite like the indulgence of easting out alone... so when I found myself alone on Abbeydale Road one Saturday morning I was quite pleased that I'd not had chance to grab breakfast before leaving the house.

It was early for a Saturday (before 9), so a couple of places hadn't opened yet. But, with bistro tables and chairs already set out on the pavement, Bragazzi's was in full swing.

With a warm welcome and a bit of a tour around the day's sandwiches - I was assured that a lunchtime sandwich made quite a breakfast when toasted - I was already feeling pretty special. 

And on finding an unoccupied green leather wingback chair in the corner of the cafe, I really began to enjoy the moment - the peace, the quiet and the fact that someone was preparing a sandwich and a coffee just for me. 

This is why eating alone is so indulgent...

A minute or two later my flat white appeared (yes, this is an Italian cafe, but I can't resist the Kiwi classic). Smooth, yet flavoursome, it was a gentle hit to the start of the day.

I forget what was on my sandwich (the list was too long) but it was mostly mozzarella with a spicy tomato sauce - delicious.

Bliss... I was so happy that I even swore on twitter... and forgot the apostrophe...

For me, Bragazzi's have totally hit the nail on the head. Friendly staff, early opening on a Saturday, warm and comfortable surroundings, efficient service and simple, but well executed, food. 

I was only there for twenty to thirty minutes or so (I had places to go, people to see etc), but I savoured every one of them. And with a bill of around £8 (to include some imported Italian pasta that I'd spotted in their deli section) I think my trip to Bragazzi's was good value for money too.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Urban Quarter, Sheffield

Since moving to Sheffield in '98, the city has changed a hell of a lot - beyond recognition in some areas. And one of these areas is Kelham Island. Sure a lot is still the same - quite a few of the old industrial buildings are still there - but there has been a huge influx of residential developments - both flats and houses. And this has changed everything.

Kelham Island has a strong reputation for its real ale pubs - one that pre-dates my arrival in Sheffield. And, although it has been home to the Milestone and Brooklyn Steak House for a fair few years, it's the recent additions of Craft & Dough and Urban Quarter that really excite me.

Both are really informal and they're open for lunch and dinner - great for a stop off on a pub crawl in the day, or an evening meal.

This time we were in Kelham Island for lunch and a few drinks before heading home in time to walk the dog. And, as we'd already tried the pizzas at Craft & Dough, we decided to give the burgers at Urban Quarter a whirl.

The first thing to hit you on entering Urban Quarter is the sheer size of the place. What's more, the tables are nicely dispersed around the restaurant which means there's no chance of feeling cramped. The décor is industrial - concrete, steel, blacks, greys and reds.

We immediately recognised Adam Clark - who had previously worked at the Red Deer - and he was keen to talk us through the whole Urban Quarter ethos. Essentially it's about focussing on a just a few products (they have three burgers on their menu - beef, free-range chicken and veggie) and ensuring that the very best ingredients are used in order to achieve the best possible result. This means that the menu is fairly simple - especially when compared to the places who are pushing out a lot of crazy flavour combinations.

I decided to take advantage of finding a free range chicken burger. Thanks to steaming the meat before frying, the fillet was succulent and juicy. It came in a brioche bun (can you believe that one of the trendy Manchester places is moving on from brioche? Like we need anything else?) with fries sprinkled with fresh rosemary. Gav went for the beef - it topped the chicken for me, but then I should have known I'd have been jealous of a meaty patty. 

We weren't going to order sides, but Adam was particularly keen for us to try the onion rings which are extra special thanks to the inclusion of dehydrated onion in the batter. They were well cooked too - so light and crisp that they rattled when shaken! 

Servings were ample - but not silly - so we had room to share a dessert - a freshly cooked rhubarb and custard doughnut. Ahhh there's nowt better than a freshly cooked doughnut...

Drinks wise we had a pint of Stancill pilsner each and the bill was around the £30 mark which felt about right.

One to go back to.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Fish Fragrant Aubergine

Since discovering proper 'home-style' Chinese food a few years ago I've been ever so slightly obsessed with fish fragrant aubergine. I can't remember why the dish first appealed to me - it was probably because aubergine is one of my most favourite things in the world and also because it was listed with a big fat chilli symbol on the menu. 

Whatever it was, I hope I wasn't looking forward to a seafood dish! Coz, despite the name, there ain't no fish in this dish. But there is pork. Quite a lot of pork actually. Which is quite funny coz I've seen this dish listed in the vegetarian section of at least one Chinese menu.

Anyhoo, apparently the name is the literal translation of yuxiang qiezi which refers to the preparation of the dish - one that is usually associated with fish in Sichuan Chinese cuisine.

But, putting the rather misleading name to one side, I have to say that this is probably one of my most favourite dishes... ever! It's hot. It's salty. It's sour. It's unami on a plate and I bloody love it.

Which is why I'm especially pleased that Gav likes to cook it. He uses this Ching-He Huang recipe which is relatively easy to follow and free of any stupidly difficult to find ingredients (even Tesco has chilli bean sauce now). You should give it a go too.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Cavendish Gourmet Evening at The Devonshire Cat

In all my time in Sheffield, I'd never eaten in The Devonshire Cat. I knew it as a real ale pub, not really as a dinner option. But when a friend suggested we try the pub's gourmet evening in support of Cavendish Cancer Care, I was happy to give it a go. It was a chance to try somewhere new and, well, if I did end up disappointed, I would be able to take comfort in the fact that it was all for a good cause!

We were scheduled for the last sitting (8.30) so the evening was in full swing when we got there - it's always good to walk into a bustling pub, even better when you know everyone's there to support a local charity.

The three course menu was short and sweet with veggie, fish and meat options for starter and main and a nice selection of desserts. And here's what I had...

Starter - Chicken Livers
Main - Pork Belly

Dessert - Lemon Posset
Well, I know that the pictures aren't great but I hope they give you an idea of how good the food was. It was all beautifully presented and tasted great. We were all impressed - especially given how busy the event was and that we were on the last sitting.

Overall the event was a success, and not just in terms of the food. Over £3,400 was raised for Cavendish Cancer Care too. Tasty!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Huang Lou Xing - Takeaway from Hungry House

Although Hillsborough doesn't have many restaurants, it does have an abundance of takeaways. And we've been trying to suss them out, but we're already finding ourselves stuck in a bit of a fish n chips rut. So, when hungryhouse got in touch to see if I wanted to try one of the takeaways on their site, I saw it as an opportunity to remind myself that there was more to life than a chippy tea...

With Chinese New Year around the corner, hungryhouse wanted me to try one of the Chinese takeaways. So, one Friday night I invited the girls round, stocked up on some vino and plumped for a takeaway from Huang Lou Xing which is located on Middlewood Road.

The menu is, as with a lot of Chinese places, extensive, so deciding what to order wasn't too much of a problem. A bit of this, a bit of that and plenty of veggie stuff for the meat free member of the group. As hungryhouse have produced a guide on how to celebrate Chinese New Year, I also went with a few suggestions from there.

Apologies for the rather bad picture - I find it really difficult to make takeaway food look pretty - especially after a couple of vinos...
In typical hungryhouse style, the ordering process was pretty simple and the food arrived within the specified time-scale. Hell, the delivery driver even knocked on the back door as requested. (Honestly, you'd think some Sheffield delivery drivers didn't actually live in Sheffield...)

Onto the food... For starters we went for vegetarian spring rolls and sesame prawn toast (doesn't everyone?), BBQ spare ribs in light honey (the honey added a nice sweetness), and Mongolian crispy lamb (think crispy duck and pancakes but with lamb). Pretty standard (although tasty) stuff to be honest, but we were able to try something different with char siu roast pork buns and sui mai pork prawn dumplings. 

Although I've had dim sum on a few occasions, I don't think I'd ever tried char sui pork buns before. They were good - the big, but light, buns were stuffed with a sticky and rich BBQ pork filling. Sui mai dumplings were more familiar and quite a contrast to the buns as they were really quite delicate in flavour.

For mains we had a good selection of vegetarian and meaty dishes to choose from. Beef with green pepper in black bean sauce was dark and rich, but the roast pork in spicy Szechuan sauce lacked heat and was a bit disappointing for the chilli lovers amongst us. However the Singapore style vermicelli with mixed vegetables packed quite a bit of a punch and our other vegetarian options were equally pleasing. Bean curd with mixed vegetables and stir fried bamboo shoots and Chinese mushrooms were packed with freshly cooked veg - there was a decent variety too.

Overall we were happy with the food from Huang Lou Xing. Ok, it's not as traditional as some of the places in town, but, with a good variety of dishes it was a great choice for our girlie night, and one I'd use again on a similar occasion.

And... with Chinese New Year on coming up on 19th February, you might be planning your own Chinese feast! If so, you might be interested in hungryhouse's guide and lantern competition - check out the blurb below for details...

"To celebrate Chinese New Year hungryhouse has dived into the food and the traditions of the festival, to create an interactive guide to help you stage your own Chinese New Year takeaway feast in the comfort of your own living room. The guide includes information on New Year traditions, foods, a special Chinese do-it-yourself cocktail recipe, and it also features step-by-step instructions for people to make their own funky Chinese decorative lanterns to really get into the spirit of Chinese
New Year!
To celebrate the launch of the guide, hungryhouse are asking people to make a lantern and then share a photo of it on twitter or instagram with the hashtag #hungrylantern. hungryhouse will then pick their 10 favourite pictures and award each winner a £25 hungryhouse voucher each. The competition is now open with winners being selected on the 19th!

So get your chopsticks out, dive into the guide, and get snapping for your chance to win some free Chinese food!"

Oh and you might like to try hungryhouse's recipe for a Chinese inspired cocktail too...

Lychee and Peppercorn Mojito 
8 fresh mint leaves
1tsp Demerara Sugar
1/2 lime
20ml Homemade PeppercornSyrup
Ice - preferably crushed
25ml Kwai Feh Lychee Liqueur
25ml Dark Rum (Brugal Anejo is ideal)
In a tall glass add half a lime cut into quarters with the sugar and give it a really good muddle.
Tear up the mint leaves, add them to the glass and pour the peppercorn syrup over the top.  
Half fill the glass with ice and add the rum and lychee liqueur.
Give everything a good stir to churn all the ingredients around the glass to create a balanced drink.
Add a little more ice, and a dash of soda or tonic water to taste.
For a non-alcoholic version you can substitute the alcohol with 2 whole fresh Lychees and 50ml Apple Juice.

Happy New Year!