York – Hungry Buck on tour

These past few weeks have honestly been very eye opening for me. I have always thought of the south of England as the place to be for the discerning foodie to get their ‘rocks off’ as it were and I am not ashamed to say that I wasn’t entirely right.

I still think that the south stylises food trends in a way that is hard to match, for instance; The traditional sleepy Devonshire seaside town with its cream tea’s and fish bars, the fashionable edible universe that is Brighton, Food markets and street food gems of London and everything else that incredible big city has to offer. However the UK has thrown me a curve ball in the shape of the walled medieval city of York, and what a place it is indeed.

First of all I will say that I know Yorkshire has a lot to offer but I have always just been more drawn to the in vogue south as all of us textbook, cliche foodies are, so apologies to Yorkshire for ever even remotely underestimating your produce. From the moment I got their I was completely and utterly spoiled for choice when it came to choosing our plan of action in terms of where to visit, the vast and rich history seeps out from under every cobble and brick. The Minster has a fantastic presence in the city as its Gothic architecture pierces the skyline from every direction, the walls mark the outskirts and whisper the tales of hundreds of years of marauding invaders with its visible battle scars, weathered but ever present. So many battles that have since been forgotten by the modern world happened in the city, a person would be forgiven for stopping in their tracks while walking the walls, running their hands across the ancient wall and wonder just how many people have done the same over the thousands of years it has existed.

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All this makes for an incredibly dramatic backdrop for a gastronomically motivated tour of the city. Speaking of which, I guess I should show you some of what we found. First of all, we arrived needing to find something to eat quite badly so it was very much a case of diving in and seeing what we could find. Now there is a LOT to get through so I will give a few mini reviews and tips regarding what to do and where to eat in this post, then finish off with two more thorough, extensive write ups about the top marking places that we discovered during our stay.

Bagel Nash

We arrived early afternoon in York and checked into our bed and breakfast with food already on our minds. We walked around the city scoping out everything available and came to a place called ‘Bagel nash’, a brand that I wasn’t familiar with until I did a little digging. They are predominantly a northern based chain who operate from their Leeds HQ and prepare bagels while you wait, in a sort of ‘Subway’esque way and also have a range of smoothies to go with their extensive bagel and filling options.

We went for the mozzarella and pesto bagel and the smoked salmon, cream cheese and olive (New york) both on wholemeal, with a fruit smoothie each. It wasn’t a cheap meal for the amount of food that we had but it was very enjoyable filler and it certainly serves its purpose. The decor was modern and quite interesting without being over the top or soulless. Luckily, It also didn’t have any underlying guilt factor like most fast food and it felt like we were only putting good, positive things into our system after a fairly lengthy drive. Overall it was a very pleasant experience and I would encourage you make a visit to them if you get chance.

Visit rating: Give it a try

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The Shambles

Following this we went for a bit of an exploration around the Shambles, which is a series of lanes, market stalls and eateries that have a more independent feel to them. What a hidden gem the shambles is, although a diamond in the rough in comparison to say The lanes’ In my beloved Brighton, the shambles has a lot to offer. There is so much going on down there its hard to keep track of but its certainly worth a look, every turn of the head presents a new cafe, pub, sweet shop or another foodie oasis in a beehive of cobbles and hungry punters. We didn’t end up eating anywhere around the shambles in the end as we were spoiled for choice and seemed to be a little overwhelmed with choice, while also being short on time trying to pack so much in to a few days. The Shambles is a place well worth a visit and there is a lot available to see, eat and drink.

Visit rating: Essential.

Wild boar pies, found at a pasty and pie shop in The Shambles.

Wild boar pies, found at a pasty and pie shop in The Shambles.

Cafe Concerto

Walking around for a while and taking in some of the culture on offer (such as the best busker I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across playing a full on piano int he middle of the street) I developed a need for coffee and cake. As some of you may know the need for coffee and cake is an insatiable one and in my experience can lead you into two types of places. Really good ones that leave you feeling as happy and satisfied as a ‘pig in muck’ as they say, or alternatively leave you fuller but no more satisfied than if you’d eaten a bowl of dry porridge. It might fill you up but its not good for the soul.

Luckily on this occasion it led us to a little place by the Minster called ‘Cafe concerto’ that comes with tag line of ‘Truly independent -The ultimate neighbourhood restaurant’. This appealed greatly as we saw there was a few attractive options on the dessert menu and tea/ coffee was available too, so we sat down and I ordered the Vanilla and chocolate cheesecake and a cup of coffee while my fiance ordered a tea and a banoffee pie. After a few minutes the desserts were dropped off at our table by a pleasant member of staff and we got stuck in.

The cheesecake was a baked new york style vanilla cheesecake with little flecks of chocolate running through it, I find cheesecakes can be a little too much towards the end but this one was enjoyable all the way through. I found it wasn’t overly dense which is usually a bit of a bug bear when it comes to cheesecakes and the biscuit base was pretty good too to be fair, even better when paired with a coffee. My partners banoffee pie however was just too sickly for me as it was just a bit too sweet, if you like a lot of cream and to take sweetness to the next level then that is the best choice for you. Just a bit too rich for my blood I think.

Decor was a bit ‘woody’ but it was really a nice place to be. Its a little bit out of the sun so it can feel a little dark in there but its certainly not dingy, the wooden chairs aren’t the most comforting but the service and food on offer is warming enough, paired with the cool ‘chalky’ drawing of the Minster and the sheet music used as wallpaper it provides a very intriguing, jazzy feel to the restaurant which I love, being a musician myself. Very much enjoyed our visit here and would recommend you give it a try, its got a real individual personality and should be appreciated for it. Support the real independents!

Visit rating: Essential

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The Fudge Kitchen

One for the sweet toothed confectionery hunters out there, The Fudge Kitchen uses their own take on fudge to provide something a little bit different. They provide plenty of choice in terms of interesting flavours and even have a viewing area in the back of the shop so you can watch them make it.

In terms of the quality of their fudge I must say its very good and is well worth poking your head around the door for a sample. We went for the dark chocolate and sea salt. Very creamy and quite moreish but you will have to go in and see them if your a fudge fan, well worth a look. You can also buy online (go to the bottom of the page).

Visit rating: Worth a look

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These are a few of the notable stops that we took while in York and would genuinely recommend you have a look at if your in the area. The historical atmosphere and bustling city streets is a real treat for anybody who decides to visit, it is a fantastic place that really should be seen to be appreciated. I have two more reviews to go but I will be putting that into a ‘part two’ post this week, as this post is getting quite long and I want to go into a lot of detail on the final two restaurants. Nobody wants readers fatigue after all!

The final two big hitters that I have left to write about that really impressed me were La Vecchia Scuola and GBK: Gourmet burger kitchen. Keep your eyes peeled for comprehensive reviews on them both at a later date, In the meantime here are a few useful links if you are interested in traveling to York.

http://www.visityork.org/

http://www.fudgekitchen.co.uk/

http://www.cafeconcerto.biz/

http://www.insideyork.co.uk/what-to-see/shambles.html

http://www.lavecchiascuola.co.uk/

http://www.gbk.co.uk/

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BBC good food show winter 2013

December 1st 2013 marked my first visit to the BBC good food show winter at the NEC in Birmingham, offering a day full of food and drink and a chance to meet some great people with similar passions for the edible delights our world has to offer.  There were plenty of celebrity chefs rolling around the halls to grab a quick chat with some real giants of the food entertainment industry, and it was quite surreal to meet some of my own media influences.

Me and Cyrus Todiwala CBE

We purchased the tickets fairly early at a charge of around £25 each with a ticket to the super theatre show with the Hairy bikers, two of my favourite TV chefs (also quite easily a two of the nation’s nicest people, as I found out). We got their early enough to park relatively easily and made our way down to the main NEC halls, accompanied by a growing hoard of other tired looking hungry people. We entered the hall at around 9:30 on the button, this being fairly early for a Sunday morning everybody’s heavy looking eyes and drooped shoulders in the queue were absolutely justified. The perfect tonic however was the smell of the supreme sausage stall cooking their wild boar and apple sausages www.supremesausages.co.uk, The smell crept around the peripheries of the show, right by the exit, for the entirety of the day making it possibly my favourite place to stand throughout the day.

Before we had chance to start trying any food we had to dash to the super theatre to catch our early morning appointment with Si and Dave, the Hair bikers. I initially thought it would be a lot more intimate and was a little concerned with how back our seats were, but I have to say it was set up perfectly. Having the monitors behind them so you didn’t miss a trick was great and the sound work was great meaning you could hear it all happening, it really was worth the ticket price just to see them work their magic with the crowd and the food. They really are more than just talented cooks, they are natural entertainers and made everybody laugh while really getting people involved in their show, it really was an enjoyable experience.

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After around 40 minutes, the show finished and we were released upon the rest of the show to view the stalls and start getting some decent food in for our late breakfast, so naturally we made a break for the supreme sausage stall again. Upon browsing the range they have to offer it was apparent we had come across something special, but I will go into this in more detail later. I had a million and one ideas that I could use the sausages for (check out the recipe in the prior post for a good one), and we really weren’t disappointed with what we tried. We ended up buying two packs the wild boar and apple with a pack of the venison, pork and mushroom sausages and at £10 for the 3 I can’t complain at all.

The W.H.Smith stand provided an opportunity to buy and get your books signed by some of the celebrity chefs in attendance, but their strict ‘one book to one person’ rule was a bit harsh but I do understand why it was in place as the queues got a little bit hectic.

 

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The show was huge and to go through everything we saw would be a rather mammoth read so I will give you my top 5 stall highlights from the show and then fill in any details afterwards if I miss something, so to get us started we have:

5: I am not known to be a drinker but towards the end of the show we uncovered a stall doing a variety of flavoured alcohol, there was a few flavoured vodka’s and a really refreshing limoncello which I enjoyed quite a lot. The star of their range was raspberry vodka, which I must say tasted amazing, but dangerously not like alcohol! A definite winner though and I would recommend them to anybody, unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the company and I cannot find them on the exhibitor list so I will update this if I find out who they are.

4:  Coopers gourmet sausage rolls. I can pretty much sum these up in 2 words really, yes and please. These babies are probably among my favourite sausage rolls that I have ever had, the mixes they came up with looked great but between me and my girlfriend we had pork and leek and I had black pudding and pork. They were really tasty and to back up the size they packed some really big flavour, we bought a couple to take home and heat up for our dinner. It was a really hearty end to our day back home. Good stuff coopers! www.coopers-sausage-rolls.co.uk

3: Napton water buffalo. When you find yourself feeling hungry at a food festival or food show, there’s either something wrong or you’re not trying hard enough! We spent so long walking around taking everything in and going to book signings that we neglected to really fill up that much, luckily for us Napton’s caught our eye. Fresh water buffalo burgers, made with their own animals reared on their farm. The meat was cooked to perfection, Just the right side of rare with a nice bit of bite to it. Was a great little treat that we would be able to eat it over and over! They produce a whole host of buffalo products not just meat, including milk, cheese and ice creams. Mainly available local to them or at the shows they attend. Find out more at www.waterbuffalo.co.uk

2: Pie mania. These guys are a Banbury based gourmet pie producer and have a small but strong showing of handmade pastries that are good value for money and are very pleasant, while not being too heavy which I find some pies can be. We opted for the Goats cheese, sweet potato and spinach variety. Upon arriving home we reheated it in the oven for about 25 minutes and when warmed through it became a completely different animal and we loved every mouthful, only downside was we thought it would have been nice to have been able to buy them warm at the stall. Apart from that they were incredibly moreish and look forward to seeing them again so I can nab another one.  www.pie-mania.co.uk

1: Already mentioned and deservedly so, Supreme sausages. Amazing. This company provides some of the best flavour combinations found in sausages that I have encountered, being somebody who loves game and other alternative meats they really do cater for my tastes. We both agree that they deserve the number one spot purely down to the fact that eating that first sausage kept them on our minds all day. Not only did the initial sausage make us marginally fall in love with their produce but the ones we took home created some great meals that pushed us further over the line. Their range includes (As mentioned above) the venison, pork and mushroom, the wild boar and apple along with the Toulouse, Cumberland, the fire sausage, pork with tomato and black pepper, pork with honey and mustard and also lamb and mint to name just a choice section of their range. They also offer an online delivery service guaranteed delivery within 24 hours of despatch, packed with icepacks in polystyrene boxes to guarantee they maintain their freshness en route. Visit www.supremesausages.co.uk to order yours or to find out more.

 

 

Other honourable mentions are, the Cheshire cheese company, the Snowdonia cheese company, the arm and hammer soda mixology stand, Lakeland, the world cheese awards (never seen so much cheese!), The potted game company.

Overall the show worth every penny of the entrance fee and I would recommend it to anybody who loves food. The next one is in July just in time for all your summery gluttonous needs, Fingers crossed ill see some of you there, in the meantime visit the links and help support these great companies!

Winter warmer – Wild boar sausage casserole

I tend to eat relatively healthy for the most part of the year, but when the winter slowly slides its cold, harsh, grasp around us I do crave something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I love a good soup or stew, especially when it’s on a lazy snowy weekend and its left in the slow cooker or the hob bobbing away like a tasty molten treasure chest waiting for me to discover it in all its bubbling loveliness. This time I’m using a different kind of meat, in the form of wild boar sausage, to give it a little bit of something different.

There are nearly an endless amount of possibilities when it comes down to stews and soups, you can put anything in them! Any vegetable you can think of can be paired with all sorts of meats and pulses that can create some really hearty, cockle warming fare to keep your lunches interesting throughout the week or feed the whole family on a chilly December night.

This week as always I’m bringing you a recipe that can be cooked and enjoyed by anybody. The essence of real home cooking is keeping it simple, enjoying what you’re doing and being happy with the end result when you create something fantastic! The recipe is adaptable enough, so if you fancy giving it an extra dimension drop some chopped chillies in there or add some diced chorizo for a little Spanish flare, but here’s the recipe for my ideal winter sausage casserole.

Ingredients:

  • 6 wild boar and apple sausages or good quality sausage of your choice                                                           (Try www.supremesausages.co.uk they are amazing!)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml good chicken stock
  • 150g butter beans
  • 2 medium sticks of celery (finely chopped)
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon (cut into small chunks)
  • 200g diced butternut squash
  • 1 whole diced white onion
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp. red wine
  • 3 tbsp. Worcester sauce
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp. rape seed oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp. brown sugar
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Method:

In a large saucepan add the rapeseed oil on a medium heat and add the sausages.

Lightly fry the sausages until browned on all sides, remove the sausage and add the garlic, bacon and onions, fry until it softens, around 2-3 minutes.

  1. When the garlic becomes aromatic and the bacon starts to brown (don’t let the garlic brown, keep it moving), add the red wine, Worcester sauce, tomatoes, tomato puree, paprika, brown sugar, beans, celery, squash, seasoning and the stock and stir well.
  2. Slice the sausage into even chunks and stir back into the mixture, keep the pan on the heat and partially cover. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes stirring regularly.
  3. Serve in a bowl with some toasted crusty bread, and a good helping of rice or pasta, topped with a few sliced black olives to make this crowd pleasing dish even more pleasing. Its good for the soul in these winter months to feed yourself some simple, fantastic food that makes you smile, with minimal effort to keep you in front of the TV watching your greys anatomy box set, sitting near the fire with the dog at your feet and the rain lashing the windows outside of your house. Whether your life runs at 500 miles per hour or you just want a quick fix, the recipe is perfect for you. Hope you enjoy it!

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