Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Jack Monroe's Best Ever Bolognese (or a rather good pasta sauce)

Ok, so I'm moving house, which means that I'm trying to save some pennies. And, whenever I'm trying to save pennies, the first thing to suffer is the food budget. Crazy, some might think, given how much I love food, but I personally like the challenge of making tasty and (relatively) healthy meals on a budget. The fact that I can also save us some money is a tremendous benefit.

I don't think I'm too bad at it either - I like a good bean casserole, curry or simple pasta dish. But it doesn't hurt to look around to see what other people are doing... which is where A Girl Called Jack comes in. Her blog is full of helpful recipes, hints and tips for anyone on a budget and I strongly recommend it.

Today I fancied giving her Best Ever Bolognese a go. The recipe is relatively easy to follow, but I did make a few changes...

  • I added some fresh thyme (Jack's method call for the addition of herbs, but they're not listed in the ingredients)
  • I cooked the dish for 20 mins after putting the lentils in, then turned the heat down and put the pasta on to cook
  • I used kale instead of spinach (as that's what I had in the fridge)
  • I used cider vinegar instead or red/white as I wanted to use the last of the bottle
  • I added a ladle of the pasta water to the sauce (coz the Italians really do know best)
  • I seasoned the dish before serving
  • I managed to get 4 decent servings out of it
  • Call me pedantic, but I would call this a pasta sauce, rather than a Bolognese

Now, I must admit that this sauce looked far from appealing after I'd blitzed it, and it looked even worse once I'd added the water... but as it cooked down, the lentils thickened up and the dish looked a lot better.

It tasted good too. And with my 200g or so of chicken livers coming in at 37p, this is one that will be repeated. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Wick at Both Ends, Sheffield

The Wick has been known to be punching above its weight for quite some time, which is way it's a long-standing favourite of mine and why I've written about it here, here and here.

For those of you who haven't yet tried The Wick, it's a West Street bar, but one that's like no other on this busy strip. With a cool and eclectic decor, relaxed and friendly service as well as a good range of drinks including cocktails, real ales and wine, this is a far cry from the studenty chains that you'll find in the area.

And it's not one to rest on its laurels which means that the food menu change regularly, which, in turn, means that I'm rarely short of a reason to visit and I sometimes receive invites to try the food... as I had on this occasion.

We were booked in on a Friday evening so the bar was pretty busy, but, sat in a quiet corner, this didn't really bother us and it just added to the atmosphere of the bar.

We each kicked off with a cocktail; a classic Negroni for me and a Hondarriba for him. Typically made with the Italian Campari, the Negroni is incredibly bitter and I must admit to not enjoying them in the past. In fact I've been making them with Aperol instead, but this was lovely and it's probably made a Campari fan of me. On the other hand, the Hondarriba was a twist on a smoky martini, with both Lagavulin and Campari making appearances in the glass.

Moving onto the food and Gav had the special of salmon terrine (£4.50).  Served with a little salad and a couple of slices of bread, this was more pate than terrine, but it was deliciously creamy and rich. Gav certainly had no complaints.

I went for the sweetbreads (£5.50). Coated in panko breadcrumbs, I was running another risk by ordering something I didn't usually like (I wasn't on a mission to find fault with the Wick or anything, honest!). But unlike the chicken nugget, heavily breaded and deep fried sweetbreads I'd had in the past, these were actually very good. The panko coating simply provided a crisp edge that didn't over power the delicate meat. An apple compote had a savoury tang to it and completed the sweetbreads nicely.

Moving onto mains and Gav had the roast belly pork (£8.50). It was served with a colcannon (not quite the bubble and squeak as promised on the menu) and a gravy that was so good that Gav still smiles when he thinks about it. I had the braised beef brisket (£8.95) which was beautifully tender and fell apart at the touch of the fork. Mash was smooth and creamy and the large bunch of watercress was the perfect accompaniment, especially as the strength of its peppery flavour lead me to believe that it was British grown. Essentially, this is a simple dish made of simple flavours that never fail to work together.

I was stuffed by this point, but Gav quite fancied the rhubarb panna cotta (£4.75). Although served in a glass coupe, I can assure you that the consistency was spot on and its glass casing wasn't necessary for keeping the dish together.

Service was easy going; friendly and efficient and table service certainly comes in very handy on a busy evening. So, once again, the Wick had pulled it off. This is good food at very reasonable prices and anyone looking to indulge without breaking the bank should head here.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

God Bless the Italians - Pasta with Anchovies and Butter

My all time favourite quick and easy meal is freshly cooked pasta with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped garlic, chopped chilli and rocket leaves stirred into it over a gentle heat. As soon as I can smell the garlic cooking and the rocket has wilted, I take it off the heat and stir in a load of grated cheddar (or Parmesan if I'm feeling flush) and tuck in. 

It's gorgeous - garlic, chilli and cheese are an amazing combination anyway - so this just can't fail. However, I'm guessing it's not very authentic... I don't think the Italians eat cheddar.

Having said all this, I reckon they might like the simplicity of my dish. Minimal ingredients, minimal fuss but big flavours - these same themes run through a lot of traditional Italian pasta dishes - cacio e pepe immediately springs to mind.

Anyhoo, it seems that I now have another quick and easy pasta dish to add to my list; thanks to Elizabeth Minchilli who tweeted a link to the latest recipe on her blog this morning. Said recipe was for pasta with anchovies and butter. Yep, that's right. Pasta with anchovies and butter. Nowt else. Nada. (well a bit of pepper - I personally would skip the salt - there's enough in the anchovies and the butter).

What's more this is an authentic Roman recipe... albeit an on trend recipe. Aye, you heard right. This is on trend in Roma. So... whilst we're stuffing our faces with our trendy hot dogs, burgers, ribs and other stuff served in baskets, the Romans are enjoying simple ingredients, prepared with thought and combined to make the most stunning of dishes... Sigh...

The recipe is stupidly easy to follow. Just follow Elizabeth's easy steps and PLEASE make sure you do follow the Italians and add some of the pasta water to the dish - you'll be amazed at how quickly it thickens up the sauce.

Having said that, I didn't quite follow Elizabeth's tips in terms of the quality of the ingredients used. I grabbed the first (and cheapest) tin of anchovies that I could find and I used Tesco Value dried penne pasta (I've got a house to buy dammit)... but I did manage to use some English, Red Tractor, butter.

And the end result? Bloody gorgeous. Seriously. Go cook it. Now.

Catch Up!

Ok, ok... I haven't been amazing at keeping up with the blog lately. But I have been somewhat distracted by the whole prospect of moving house. 

Yep, your city loving, cocktail guzzling Sheffield food blogger is growing up and moving on. So long one bed city centre flat, hello 3 bed terraced in the suburbs!

Don't get me wrong, it's been great. You can't beat the walk home after a night out, the clutter free and minimalist living or the cheap utility costs. But, all good things must come to an end and, after eight and a half years of living here, it's time to move on.

Now, I am hoping that the move will go smoothly, but I'm guessing it probably won't (do they ever?). So please bear with me... there may be more blog droughts coming up and there may be the odd rant on Twitter... I just hope it will all be worth it.

Anyhoo, enough about me... I thought I better have a bit of a catch up post... a selection of some of the food I've enjoyed over the past couple of months.

First up, here's some pics of the Living Social Taster menu Gav and I had at the Milestone. It was smaller than their standard taster menu - a taster of a taster if you like - but it was amazing and it's reminded me that I really must get myself booked into one of their Flavours of the Seasons evenings.

I've recently discovered the delights of Eten Cafe - rather I've recently discovered that Eten Cafe are happy to box up their dishes for takeaway. Of course, it isn't fast food, so there is a bit of a wait (say 10-15 minutes), but it is real food and everything I've had has been delicious. Here's bubble and squeak with bacon and a couple of fried eggs and a pulled pork sandwich with fries, coleslaw and salad.

A trip to Roma saw Gav and I indulge in a risotto with Italian sausage & mushrooms and a pizze bianca (a tomato free pizza). Both were spot on and this second visit has confirmed my view that Roma is a true gem. If you haven't been yet you really, really must head down soon.

We took a trip to Leeds, which involved visits to Shears Yard, The Greedy Pig and Laynes Espresso amongst a few others.

Back in Sheffield and a desire for some heat saw us dining in Three Corners of China where we shared an amazing selection of dishes including spicy marinated pig ears, braised Dongpo pork leg with brown sauce and Szechuan style fried frog legs. It was all fabulous and I love how the new surge of Chinese restaurants means that I always have something new to try. It's so much better than the Chinese food we grew up with as kids!

Edo Sushi is a firm favourite for lunch as they have a selection of packs ready to go for about a fiver, including miso soup. There's not a lot to say about Edo to be honest - the fish is fresh, the sushi is well prepared and it's makes for a convenient lunch for those working in town (evening takeaway is also recommended).

A girls night out was enjoyed in Urban Choola. This was my first trip and, despite a little confusion re our booking, I was thoroughly impressed. The food is very reasonably priced and they have a BYOB policy which meant that the evening was pleasantly affordable! The top dish is my starter of gol guppa (£3.50), the next is my main of a veggie thali (£9.95). As you can see, my eyes were WAY bigger than my belly, and I didn't manage to eat it all, but it was good. Next time I'll just have the thali, I think!

A few house hunting trips to Walkley meant that I just HAD to try one of the local cafes - after all if I was going to live there I had to know what I was letting myself in for (not that we are actually going to move there now)! Anyhoo, we tried the Perfect Pie Cafe and I thoroughly enjoyed a meat and potato pie with a side of braised cabbage. It's just a shame that it won't become part of my life any time soon...

In celebration of selling the flat we decided to take a trip to the South Indian restaurant Maveli. We had the andhra chilli chicken and the South Indian calamari to start, then the ever delicious quail egg masala (Oh! Just thinking about this gorgeously rich curry is making me hungry) and the flavoursome nilgiri mutton. 

Having had my eye on the Tamper Late events for a while I was pleased to finally bag myself a seat last Friday, especially as the chef was cooking his own Polynesian food. We kicked off with Oka (Citrus marinated yellow fin tuna carpaccio in coconut milk, pink grapefruit segments and cucumber foam), before moving on to Puaa (Suckling pig smoked in taro leaves with roasted cassava, buttered silver beet, plantain crisps & a monkey apple purée) and rounded things off with Masi Samoa (Samoan biscuits topped with homemade coconut ice cream finished with a mango and pawpaw salsa). Apologies for the quality of the pictures, the lighting wasn't amazing, but the food was beautiful and the menu was perfectly balanced.

Phew! That's a lot of food! What have you been scoffing over the past couple of months?

Cossack Cuisine, Moor Market, Sheffield

Have you any idea how many tweets I've retweeted on the basis that I MIGHT win something? No, me neither. But I'm guessing lots... and I bet I'm not the only one! And how many prizes have you all won? Yep, me too. Zilcho.

Well, recently my luck changed... very much so for the better and I won a three course meal at Cossack Cuisine for retweeting something about their signature Russian Honey Cake. How very exciting?!

Now, I have to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about eating a three course meal at the market. I absolutely love the place, but I couldn't imagine how this was going to work. 

Once we arrived, however, I knew I needn't have worried. We received a warm welcome from Steve and, although the market was very busy on this Saturday lunch time, he was able to suggest where we should look for a free table. And, seated at the long bench along the window, we soon settled into our surroundings.

Sadly chef Leeza was busy with a cake for a party so she wasn't around in person on our visit, but Steve knows the menu inside out and was able to recommend a few dishes which would show off a variety of Leeza's cooking.

We started off with a pumpkin soup garnished with pumpkin oil and seeds. Thick and smooth, it was delicious and although it was a good starter, it would also make a fantastic mid week lunch, especially as it was priced at a very reasonable £2.40!

Onto mains, and I had a very interesting beef, coriander and cream stew. Interesting because I never imagined coriander would make an appearance in a Russian meal. The large portion was priced at £3 and, packed with tender chunks of beef and a few potatoes, it was a meal in itself. The sauce was very rich thanks to the cream but the coriander added a touch of freshness. I also loved the level of garlic in there - it packed a bit of a punch!

Steve also recommended that we tried the wedges (£2 for a large portion) - he says they are legendary amongst Cossack Cuisine's customers. And they were good - less crispy than I expected but very well seasoned and tasty.

Gav wanted to try a couple of things and went for the chicken and chorizo pie (£2) and a beef and potato cake (1.50). Now I have to apologise because I really didn't pay that much attention to his plate - all I know is that he was happy with his choices.

By this point we were both stuffed, but Steve was keen for us to try some of Leeza's baking. And so we were packed off with portions of her signature Russian Honey Cake and her Napoleon Cake (£2 each).

On trying the honey cake, I was expecting something very sweet, maybe a bit too sweet, but despite the layers of honey and butter cream, it was just the right level for me. In fact, it was rich and delicious - something that I would try again.

Napoleon Cake was another cake made up of layers. Similar to the mille-feuille it had layers of custard which meant it was a little sweeter than the honey cake but the flaky pastry kept it light. Another delicious cake!

All in all, we were impressed with the food at Cossack Cuisine. For me, the highlight was the beef, coriander and cream stew and I think I'll be trying that again. I'll also be returning for takeaway lunches of soups and pies (and I want to try the salads), especially when I'm taking a longer lunch and have time to wander down to the market.

Have you tried Cossack Cuisine? What about the food stalls in the market?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Twisted Burger Company at The Harley - an Exposed Blog Post

“Gooey, unctuous and quite naughty”, is how the Twisted Burger Company describes its burgers. And, despite a bizarre disdain for the use of the word ‘unctuous’ when it comes to describing food, I have found myself trying TBC’s burgers on a number of occasions. This time I had sadly missed out on the press launch of their new menu, but the team kindly asked me to return to try it along with the husband one evening.

With a reputation as a bit of a party bar, you might be glad to know that The Harley is quite easy going and calm when you visit during the day or, as we did, on a mid-week evening. And seated on the stage area to the far front of the building, we had a view across the busy junction and down back into town… which is great for a bit of people watching.

Perusing the menu, we noted that we were a few hours late for breakfast, but we agreed that an early morning trip (they open from 7.30 am in the week) to try out their McBuffting burger could be on the cards. With a bacon patty, a mushroom patty, cheese and a fried egg TBC claim that the McBuffting burger set off good ol’Ronald into an eggsistential crisis….