Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Northern Food

I don't know about you - but I often feel a bit "cut off" from the exciting world of food blogging I read about from all the food bloggers I follow in "that London" where all the exciting stuff seems to happen and the bloggers seem to know each other and connect all the time.  Being in Sheffield often feels like being in the wilderness when you see all the exciting stuff they get up to.

So, I was really thrilled when I came across Foodie Sarah's blog http://www.foodiesarah.com/ and her very handy thank you Northern Food Bloggers Mapped page where she highlights all the food bloggers she knows about in our area

It came in very handy when I wanted recommendations for eateries in Manchester as I looked at some of the bloggers she has on the map and picked out a couple of places to try.

Sarah is looking to add to the map - so I sent my details and am now proudly one of the little flags for Sheffield ;-)   So if you blog about food and/or want to make connections "up north" then pop her an email and add yourself to the map too.

Thanks Sarah ;-)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Lunch at Fischers, Baslow

It was my husband's birthday today, so we had a special treat and went for lunch at the Michelin starred Fischer's restaurant in Baslow in the heart of the Peak District.  It was our first visit, but definitely won't be our last.  I felt a bit too self-conscious to get my phone out to photograph the food, so you'll just have to make do with this photo of me on the lawn after lunch as we had a look around the garden - including the walled kitchen garden from where some of the produce are sourced.

The food was just as you would expect from a Michelin starred restaurant - not that we have a huge amount of experience of them - but it was superb - well thought out (a limited lunchtime menu so broad appeal) with excellent service to match.

We started with an appetiser whilst making our menu choices - a dish of elegant long radish's with a lemon and herb dip.  It was delicious - very mild flavour from the radish but perfect for the context in which it was served.

When we made our booking, I was asked if we had any food intolerances - my husband doesn't like cheese or nuts - he has no allergies but just doesn't like the taste of either (although we're working on the cheese thing and he'll do mozzarella and haloumi now!)  When I bread basket arrived I noticed it was different to those on the other tables which had 2 slices and 2 rolls - ours had 3 slices and 1 roll - when our bread was explained to us I was pleased to note that they'd given him sourdough instead of the hazelnut and raisin roll that I had but this was different to the two slices of black treacle and spelt we both shared so they had gone to the trouble of giving him an alternative to the nut loaf which I thought was a very thoughtful touch.  As with all the service throughout the meal this was done without fuss.

We then received a surprise pre-starter - a BLT in a glass - layers or tomato jelly (really intense flavour) topped with bacon cream and a lettuce foam - I really have no idea how they made lettuce taste so vibrant and well, lettucy!  It was perfect for a hot sunny day.

Then our starters - I chose goats cheese panacotta with heirloom tomato salad - which went perfectly with the treacle and spelt bread.  The panacotta was more like a cream cheese than anything but very delicious and the tomato salad with basil oil and balsamic drizzle the perfect partner.   My husband opted for belly pork with a miso glaze and peanut dressing - they were happy to provide it without the peanut and gave him extra crackle in return which put a big smile on his face as it was super light and very crispy.

For mains my husband opted for salmon with peas a la francaise and a herb veloute whereas I took the vegetarian option of crispy aubergine cannelloni with carrot and cumin sauce.   The salmon dish was light and fragrant nestled on top of a bed of sliced potatoes - the only down side was my husband felt there was little too much sauce.  My dish was really intriguing - I think the cannelloni was potato sliced on a vegetable sheeter and then confit or poached before rolling around the aubergine filling and then being coated in a crispy crumb - it was divine however it was cooked - although a tad greasy in the very centre.  It was served with the sauce on a bed of lentils with a selection of vegetables - one of which I couldn't place the flavour of - sort of firm like a potato and white but with a more fragrant almost pear-like flavour but not quite.  I asked the waiter and was told it was salsify which explained why I didn't recognise it as I've never eaten it before - it was a great new taste though so I will buy some next time I see it.

My husband found the desserts a little more challenging - he's not big on soft fruits and we're in the middle of soft fruit season so they featured heavily.  He opted for apricot and verbena gazpacho with curd ice cream and asked for the hazelnuts on it to be omitted - again they said that wouldn't be a problem.  It was a delicious dessert - they even checked if he was OK with the curd ice cream in case it was too cheesy for him - it wasn't.  The verbena soup was intense and really interesting.   I opted for cherry and almond torte with vanilla ice-cream which was delicious but not nearly as interesting as the other courses.  We may have to opt for the dessert special next time as I was very envious of the table next to us who had it - the whole table has to take the special but you get a taster of several of their desserts that way.

We took coffee and chocolates in the lounge - their homemade chocolates were really exciting too - blackcurrant and lovage jelly which were a taste explosion and a cumin salted caramel in a dark chocolate shell which were just perfect with the strong coffee.

All in all the best lunch we've ever eaten and at £66 including drinks, not nearly as expensive as I'd thought before booking.  We will be back - and soon!

Here's the birthday boy on the lawn after lunch - full and happy in the sunshine.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Making meat go further

Vegetarianism is unlikely to ever feature in our house - my husband is definitely a carnivore and to be honest I'm almost as big a meat fan as he is.  But with the ever increasing prices in the supermarket I am trying to make the most of the meat we buy these days.  We had a really nice brisket of beef for Sunday lunch yesterday which at just over £8 for a small piece was expensive enough that it needed to do two meals but by the time I'd carved it there were only a couple of slices left.  Determined not to be defeated I set about to come up with something to stretch it and hit upon beef rissoles - basically meatballs but made with cooked meat not mince. 

Blitz the meat in a processor add a shallot, some capers, black olives, parsley and some fresh breadcrumbs (half the amount of meat) and bind without enough beaten egg to just bring it all together.  Make into walnut sized balls and carefully shallow fry.  In this case 2 slices of leftover meat that would have only just made a sandwich for one made 14 decent meatballs.  

Serve with spaghetti and your favourite sauce - in this case caramelized onion and sherry vinegar with tomatoes. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Posh Tea Party

My friend turns 50 this week, and in honour of this event, I decided to throw her a surprise afternoon tea party - Claridges comes to Sheffield if you will....

The menu for the party was:

Mini crab tarts
Porchini and Shiro Shimeji mushroom quiches
Parmesan and Comte scones with Iberico ham and cream cheese filling
Butternut squash and feta filo triangles
Egg and cress, rare beef and Tewkesbury mustard, 
and smoked salmon and cream cheese finger sandwiches
Lemon and raspberry tartlets
White chocolate and salted caramel cupcakes
Clotted cream cherry scones
Chocolate and pistachio macrons

served with Assam or peppermint tea in the prettiest of pretty Royal Stuart Spencer Stevenson vintage china from the 1950s which has been a bit of nightmare to collect (and I'm still searching for a milk jug to complete my set)

The food was mostly very easy, but very fiddly - particularly making all the very tiny pastry cases - I had to double the tins up in the oven to stop them from rising and give me perfect thin crisp shells.

Most of the food was tried and tested but the cupcakes were a new Donna Hey recipe from the Waitrose magazine and were disappointingly heavy.   The crab tartlets were a hit - simple white crab meat mixed with creme fraiche, chives, capers and lemon (sorry no close ups - got carried away with the fizz and the party) and the quiches were light and the flavour boosted with porchini powder in the custard mix.

It was the second time I'd made macrons - had a practice last week - and they aren't nearly as complex as I thought they would be.  The pistachio paste used to flavour the butter cream filling is a real revelation - quite expensive but a little really does go a very long way.  The winning dessert however was the most simple one of all - the lemon and raspberry tart.  An oblong pastry case filled with a lemon cream (whipping cream and good quality lemon curd whipped together) topped with 3 raspberries - light, refreshing and delicious!

There are a few more party photos over on my crafting blog if you're interested as I made all the decorations as well as the food so they're featured on that blog - this is where my two worlds collide http://craftilicious-yorkshire.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/tea-and-balloons.html

Monday, 21 January 2013

Borscht Gets Better...

...with age that is.  I made my first ever version of the iconic Slavic soup yesterday and at first was very disappointed. For all the faff of grating beetroot, carrots, onion and celery the end result was a thin and pretty flavorless brew. My hubby was still game for having it for lunch as there is little heating in the shop where he works - I in my warm office skipped it.  He proclaimed it to be much tastier than yesterday though so I warmed it for dinner.

I have to agree it has definitely gained lots from the overnight infusion of the veg in its beefy broth and even the gentle spicing from allspice, pepper and garlic has been brought to the fore and the vinegar now gives a pleasant zingy sharpness right where it's needed.  I suspect it will be even better tomorrow.
If you want to give it a go it's actually quite simple.

Grate 4 small beetroot, 1 large carrot, 1 large onion and 1stick of celery and soften in a little butter.
Add 1 clove of chopped garlic, 3 bay leaves, and a pinch of allspice.
Add one can of chopped tomatoes and 2 pints of stock (beef or veg) and simmer for 20 mins or until veg is fully tender.  
Add 2 tablespoons of red wine or sherry vinegar.
Season to taste but traditionally it has lots of pepper.
Serve the next day ideally to allow flavours to fully develop with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill or parsley.

Healthy and restorative and perfect for the snowy weather - and probably even better with the traditional shot of vodka although that would blow the health benefits!!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Stuffed Salmon for New Years Eve

We always stay in on New Years Eve as there aren't really any places close enough to home we want to walk to and taxi's are both hard to come by and expensive.  So we prefer a nice bottle or two of fizz and a nice dinner.

This year I was still fighting off an infection so dinner needed to be relatively easy to prepare but I still wanted something special.  We were going to have scallops to start but being in Sheffield and therefore many, many miles from either coastline fish is often not of the greatest quality here.  So I had to improvise on what was available and opted for stuffed salmon.

I simply bought two fillets and sandwiched them with a mixture of parsley, capers, black olives and lemon zest and baked in the oven for 12 minutes (turned out it should have been a bit longer as it was a bit "over-rare" in the middle!)   I made a hot dressing with some courgette cubes, concasse tomatoes olive oil, the juice from the lemon, sherry vinegar and a little honey to balance the sharpness, brought together with a little cold butter at the end.  Served with thin slices of fresh brown bread (not homemade as I have yet to conquer bread and hope to blog more about that in 2013 as it's my cooking goal for the year) and it was very delicious and a perfect light starter to kick off the evening.

Main course was fillet of beef with potato and celeriac dauphinoise with carrots and sugar snap peas in a red wine and shallot sauce (practically the same as last year but we love it and it's an expensive cut so still has to be saved for treats).

Friday, 28 December 2012

Definately the best lasagne in the world!

Unfortunately I can't claim this as my recipe - it belongs to Francesco Mazzei and I've been making it regularly ever since I saw him make it on "Perfect" which I think is one of the best original shows the Good Food Channel has produced.    It's called Lasagne Pastachina.

I will admit upfront, that there are a lot of processes - it's definately not an after work supper - unless you make extra for the freezer ;-)  but it is sooooo delicious that it really is worth it.  Apparently it's a "Sunday" or special occassion lasagne in Italy.  It consists of a 3 meat ragu, the same three meats as teeny-tiny meatballs, aubergines and hardboiled eggs, cheese and bechamel.   I know the hb egg sounds a bit left field but believe me, it just adds so much, and the aubergine makes the whole dish so much lighter and fresher than a standard lasagne and the meatballs add texture to what can sometimes be a bit of a toothless dish.

See the link to the original recipe - the only alteration I've made is that I made the meatballs really tiny to ease cutting and when pushed for time I've cheated with a ready made cheese sauce.  The one thing you mustn't miss is the flouring of the aubergine - not something I'd ever considered before but it mades a huge difference to their texture.  Once you've made your ragu and your meatballs, fried the aubergine and boiled and slice the eggs its simply a case of assembly.  Remembering not to go too mad with any of the ingredients - you want to get at least 4 or 5 layers of pasta in.

The layers will be a bit on the bumpy side, with the chunks of aubergine and the meatballs but dont' worry that just adds to the charm.  Finish with bechamel and cheese - bake and then sit back and devour with a nice green salad - trust me you WON'T be dissappointed!!!!   Let's just call it a belated Christmas gift shall we ;-)