Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: food
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Man Behind the Curtain

It was our fourth wedding anniversary last weekend, and to celebrate we went to our first ever Michelin starred restaurant. We both fell a bit in love with Michael O'Hare and his shiny silver apron on last year's Great British Menu, and his eclectic, immersive style of cooking was something which intrigued us immensely. And so on a grey April afternoon, we found ourselves in the centre of Leeds at The Man Behind The Curtain for a dining experience like we'd never had before...


It feels a bit like stepping into another world to get there, as you walk in through Flannels clothing shop before heading up to the third floor in an eerily quiet lift. The venue itself was calm, relaxed and modern, and we instantly felt comfortable being there, unlike other "posh" restaurants we've eaten in before. The staff added to this environment, being elegant and just the right amount of formal.


We selected the 9 course tasting menu which came accompanied by 7 wines. The menu itself is simply "Carte Blanche", meaning that every dish is a total surprise. The effect of this is an absolutely mindblowing experience... neither of us have ever felt so amazed, delighted, and often baffled by food. Laura cried twice. We'll let the pictures do the talking...

Octopus with caper and lemon butter - served with champagne
15 year old Galician beef with olives - served with spiced vermouth
Sea urchin bolognese with rice noodles which melted into the sauce as you stirred!
Spider crab lasagne with a quail's egg, bilberry, and potato crisps
Fish and chips (No, really...) - black cod with potato and ink. Served with Riesling.
Iberico pork, with smoked egg yolk served inside an edible shell and anchovies
Veal sweetbread with hot and sour consomme, brought out alongside a sous vide prawn.

Onto dessert...

Violet ice cream, dark chocolate, potato custard and beetroot puffed rice, served with plum wine
Passion fruit and praline mini "cupcake"
A touch we particularly loved was that for three of the courses, the chefs brought out the dishes themselves and talked us through what we were about to eat. The passion coming from them was palpable, and it's this sort of attention to detail which gets a place such deserved renown.

Quite honestly, this was far and away the most outstanding food we've ever eaten, and an experience we never wanted to end. Simply stunning.

L&J

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Beer and Food Pairing: Spontanbasil and Lasagne

First up, let's talk about THE BEER. Spontanbasil, crafted by the legendary combination of Mikkeller and Lindemans, is a spontaneously fermented wild beer that just completely sings of basil all the way through the drink, not just at the initial tasting (which is so often the case with this ilk of almost novelty additions into beers). The tartness of the wild yeast works incredibly well with the freshness of the herb and adds layers and layers of depth. It's the sort of beer that isn't just a flavour on the palate, it's an entire sensory experience, with a heady aroma that floods through the mind and makes it the type of drink that you won't forget in a hurry.

A beer this phenomenal needed a meal worthy of it to pair with. Having sampled a small amount before, we felt that a herb-ridden pasta sauce would be a winning flavour combination. So we decided to set ourselves a bit of a challenge and make a lasagne entirely from scratch. 


The key component to a cracking lasagne is surely a top quality tomato sauce. We cooked down 8 cans of plum tomatoes with two onions, a chilli and six cloves of garlic for a total of around 12 hours at 120°C... this made far too much for a family-sized lasagne, but we've got a bit of a sauce solera system situation going on in the freezer, which the remnants topped up perfectly. Whilst this might seem a ridiculously long amount of time, caring for a sauce in this way allows all of the sugars in the tomatoes and onions to break down and start to caramelise, leaving a wonderfully indulgent, almost "meaty" rich sauce. To give the sauce a fresher nature too, we added another tin of tomatoes just before assembling the lasagne.

We decided on ox cheek for the meat, but really anything that can be slow cooked will do, such as brisket or pork shoulder, something cheap and cheerful. The meat was browned a piece at a time (we used three cheeks in total) on all sides. To this a quartered onion and a stick or two of celery were added, along with a bottle of beer (Poacher's Choice in this instance, but really you could use whatever you have lying around in the cupboard). This was cooked on the hob at the lowest setting to blip away for 4-6 hours, meaning the meat was super tender and just pulled apart once cooked. Just before assembling the lasagne, the cheeks were pulled and added to the tomatoes to warm through and let the flavours mingle. We found we also needed a little extra water to keep the sauce easily workable when layering up.


Admittedly, making pasta from scratch is a bit of a faff, but totally worth it. For a large lasagne, we made about 500g of pasta, which is 450g of '00 flour' and the equivalent of 6 free range eggs. This can come in the form of 12 yolks or 6 full eggs - the yolks give the pasta a great texture and a more "full" flavour of pasta that you simply can't get in dried. If you fancy having a go yourself, here’s a quick little tutorial:
Bring the eggs and flour together in a bowl. Once they have roughly conglomerated, tip out onto a clean worktop (you can do the whole mixing process on the work top, but it makes a tremendous mess unless you have a decent space to do it on, which we do not). Knead into a dough and really work it hard to allow the gluten to become stretchy. At this point you can set aside in the fridge for at least half an hour until its ready to roll and assemble. It also freezes perfectly well, should you want to double the quantities – just be sure to defrost thoroughly overnight in the fridge.

Back to our meal. The final thing to prepare was the white sauce. A roux of 80g of melted butter and 65g of flour formed the base, combined with a litre of hot/almost boiling milk gradually incorporated in a ladle full at a time, with the aromatic additions of parsley, basil and a grating of nutmeg. Finally a good handful of parmesan was added before removing from the heat.


Assembly time! The pasta was rolled out into thin sheets and blanched for a couple of minutes (we’d recommend doing this in more water than looks necessary, one or two sheets at a time). To layer up the dish, we started with pasta, then meaty tomatoes, then white sauce and topped with a layer of fresh basil leaves. We repeated this three times, then topped the final layer of pasta with the last of the white sauce and a good sprinkling of parmesan and mozzarella. 

45 minutes in the oven later... ta-dah!


The meal as a whole worked superbly together. The richness of the dish brought out the tartness in the beer, which in turn cut through the lasagne and freshened up the palate beautifully. Adding plenty of basil to the lasagne provided a bonus complement to the beer and allowed all the flavours to absolutely sing. A triumph!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Sprout bhajis and bacon jam

Our Christmas Day starter! Inspired by Bundobust and Fat Hippo, both of whom have provided us with excellent sustenance and a bloody good time during 2015 (see also here and here).

Bacon jam (makes 2 jars)
400g of bacon
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1tsp paprika
1 chilli
100g brown sugar
A generous splash of cider vinegar

Cut the bacon and onion into 1inch pieces and chop the garlic. Fry the bacon until golden brown. Remove from the pan and fry off the onion, garlic and chilli, until the onions are translucent. Then add the paprika and continue to fry for a couple more minutes. Add the bacon back into the pan with the brown sugar and vinegar. Bring everything up to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes to thicken, stirring every once in a while to prevent the sugar from sticking or burning. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then blend to your chosen consistency - we went for chunky. Decant into sterilised jars. This will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Sprout Bhajis (makes a starter for 2)
200g cornmeal or gram flour (plain flour will do in an emergency but won't provide the same colour)
A generous handful of sprouts
1tsp mustard seeds
1tsp fennel seeds
1.5tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
2 cardamom pods
1 dried chilli
1tsp salt
1tsp turmeric powder

Add your whole spices to a hot, dry pan and toast until the mustard seeds start to pop. Grind them up in a pestle and mortar. Once ground, add to the cornmeal or gram flour with the salt and turmeric powder and bind together with cold water - enough to transform your spicy flour mixture into a light batter. Chop the sprouts into slices and stir them into the batter. Deep fry in hot oil until golden and crunchy.


The combination for Christmas day is perfect for us - traditional ingredients that you'd expect to see on a festive table, with a definitely non-conventional twist!

Enjoy, and merry Christmas!

Jim and Laura

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Leeds Day Out: Part 2

We'd been having a great day so far and upon arrival at Bundobust it was clear our anniversary celebrations had only just begun.

If you've not been to Bundobust yet, it's an absolute must-visit. A tiny shop front opens up into a spacious and welcoming canteen-style eatery which has a bit of a street market feel about it, the bare brick and chipboard clad walls bringing the outside in. The bar is located towards the back of the room - and what a bar. We started with a Northern Monk and Bad Seed collaboration, Salted Lime Wit, which was fragrant with rosewater, plenty of fruitiness and a salty tang to finish, and the tantalisingly fresh and vibrant Wiper and True saison.


We'd heard only good things about the food here, and couldn't wait to dive in. The menu is entirely vegetarian but even us hardened carnivores were enticed by every item. We eventually selected four little pots - the "Popcorn and Pops", chilli popcorn with miniature poppadoms in four different flavours, Onion Gobi Bhaji Bhaji, Massala Dosa (which were accompanied by a wonderfully fragrant curried lentil soup with coconut), and our favourite of the four, Bhel Puri - sort of like a bombay mix salad. Both of the beers we'd already chosen were absolutely perfect matches for the delicately spiced munch, as were our next selections - Bundobust's own Coriander Pilsner, which was crisp and refreshing, and a version of the Wiper and True saison, which had been filtered in-house through rosemary and fresh apricots which added a unique and delicious new dimension to the beer. It's also worth mentioning here that the staff at Bundobust were ace - friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to share recommendations for food and beer alike. 

Moving on, it was time for yet another new place for us - the Northern Monk Refectory. A striking building against the otherwise stark Holbeck skyline, it is also home to the Northern Monk brewery itself. A modern, industrial feel is prominent in the bar, with 20 beers on offer - a wide range of both Northern Monk and guest.


Jim started with the wonderful Faith made on the floor below. The beer itself is a US pale with bold rose and resin flavours, made with citra and then more citra. The first round also brought us Bad Seed Barrel Aged Saison, a tangy, tasty treat.

We followed up with a trio of beers; two from the host brewery and an offering from Swedish brew masterminds Mikkeller. The first was Northern Monk's 6.2% New World IPA, made with a variety of hops from around the world. From the glass emanated an enchantingly tropical aroma, with a bold body from the volume of hops added in the boil. The other two were at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of colour, both being jet black - Peated Soul from Northern Monk and Monk's Brew from Mikkeller. The bold smoke that drifted from the Peated Soul certainly appealed to our Islay whisky tastes, the warmth from the malt rich and a little unforgiving, but at the same time with dark chocolate and a warm sweetness - the roundness of the drink was glorious. The Mikkeller on the other hand was clean with a little hop bitterness, complemented by a vanilla sweetness and some dark fruits including cherries, accompanied with a slight coffee. The body itself was light and in no way tasted of the 10% ABV.

Final stop before the train home was a trip to Tapped. We couldn't resist a bit more of a nibble before the journey and had heard many good things about Big Dan's Pizza. We decided to share 'The Smokey One' topped with a lightly smoked chicken breast, grilled onions, and a deliciously sticky balsamic reduction. To accompany we had a glass of the balsamic hued Stone - Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, which was exactly what a Black IPA should be, light roasted malt flavours with a bold hoppy sensation across its nose and mouth.

We returned back to Sheffield happy and ever so slightly wobbly, with plans of a return visit already in the pipeline. Leeds has massively upped its beery game in the last couple of years and we are certainly willing participants.

Cheers,

L&J

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

El Cartel, Edinburgh

Somewhat hidden down the little alley of Thistle Street, Edinburgh, walking into El Cartel was like wandering into a Day of the Dead themed treasure trove. Recently re-opened after being closed due to fire in January, it's clear that the team are back with a bang... despite it's fairly small size, the restaurant was absolutely buzzing with a vibrant, festival-esque atmosphere.

We (Laura, and little sister Amy in this instance) sat down and perused the drinks menu... a whole booklet dedicated almost entirely to tequila, with a couple of pages for mezcal. We eventually settled on the frozen kiwi margaritas, and they were a real treat - fresh, just the right level of tartness, delicious and very unique.


The menu was reassuringly short and it was clear straight away that this is a place which takes pride on serving top quality stuff. The format was a little like ordering tapas - we were encouraged to choose a couple of small dishes to share along with some tacos, with the promise that we could just keep on calling for more until we were replete.


We went for the bombers - molten cheese middles, super creamy and full of spice, with a crunchy outer - served in a really tasty sauce which I think may have been something akin to chipotle mayo. We could both have eaten a truckload of the drunken beans, made with tequila, and the mini quesadillas stuffed with chorizo, sweet potato and more of that yummy soft cheese were piquant and full of flavour. Everything got a little bit smothered in El Cartel's signature hot sauce, too.


On to the tacos! Each order comprised two tacos, so we ordered two different kinds and shared. Amy's choice of steak was tender and perfectly griddled, a good hit of spice balanced with a generous slice of avocado.

Laura selected the duck tacos (quack-os?) which were gloriously flavourful and unlike anything I've ever tried before. Shredded duck was topped with salsa and pineapple before being scattered with sunflower seeds which added a good little crunch.


This is food which doesn't shy away. A wonderful meal all round, and to top it off, our bill came in an adorable little sugar skull. Arriba!

Laura

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Mr Flavour Review

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that we love both eating out, and cooking up a bit of a storm at home. Sitting neatly in between the two, Mr Flavour is a brand new Sheffield business, which aims to deliver restaurant style meals to your door - an interesting and original concept which we were certainly curious to try.

We were invited to try out the service before the launch, and were presented with the pressed shoulder of lamb with rosemary crushed potatoes, confit garlic and aubergine puree, sauteed courgettes and grape chutney. Lamb jus and a herb crust were also included for extra special "cheffy" touches. The ingredients arrived in a simple paper bag, with everything pre-prepped ready to be heated. Each food item was labelled (with allergen information and use-by dates clearly displayed) and an easy to follow instruction sheet was also included.


Oven ready 
All that was really required was cooking the lamb (which we chose to pan fry quickly before popping it in the oven, as recommended on the instruction sheet for an extra layer of flavour - this also made the kitchen smell glorious), frying the courgettes until tender, and heating up the other ingredients, "boil in the bag" style. There was nothing that hadn't been thought of, and the whole process took just twenty minutes, so this service would be perfect as an after-work treat at the end of a busy day and is much more special than a takeaway.

Plating the meal up was fun, with tips provided on how to make the dish look as though it'd come from a restaurant kitchen... not a skill we've quite mastered (don't think we have the crockery for it!), but it still looked pretty enticing by the time everything was on the plate.

And so, on to the eating! Each ingredient was carefully thought through, meaning that everything worked perfectly together and tasted fantastic. The balance of flavours was excellent, and the instructions resulted in well-cooked lamb which fell apart as soon as the fork got anywhere near it, exactly how we like it. What was especially pleasing for us is that the components we enjoyed the most were those which we wouldn't think to make ourselves at home - the confit garlic and aubergine puree was full of flavour and the grape chutney added a deliciously tangy burst of freshness. The portion sizes were generous but manageable - just right. The only disadvantage was that we had to do our own washing up (although even this was considerably less than if we'd cooked a meal such as this from scratch!).


We did notice from the first week's menu that there doesn't seem to be a vegetarian main meal openly available at the moment, although this is certainly the sort of thing that can be developed as the business grows. However, it's definitely worth getting in touch with Mr Flavour himself, who is on hand to answer any questions (by email, at mrflavour.sheffield@gmail.com, or on twitter), and is also happy to make a whole host of bespoke orders provided they're pre-ordered, including fresh pasta and pastry dough, to make your own favourite dishes that much easier to prepare. Taking it one step further, you can even order a dinner party menu with key ingredients of your choice - a great idea for less confident cooks, or just so you can sit back and spend more time with your guests.

Overall, cooking this dish was straightforward and fun to make. The end result was definitely a meal we'd have been pleased to have eaten at a restaurant (and very good value), and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend the service to others (delivery is currently available across S7, S8, S10, S11, S17 and S18).

Cheers,

L&J

The ingredients for the meal were all provided free-of-charge for review purposes, opinions all our own

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Burns Night 2015

"There's a lot you can do with a haggis." This was to become the motif of the evening, as quoted on numerous occasions by our new friend Martin - true Scot, Robbie Burns fanatic and Master of Ceremonies for the night.


Regular visitors to the page will know that we tend to enjoy the whisky tastings held at the Broadfield, and for January they'd decided to do something a bit different. In celebration of Burns Night, a four course meal with traditional Scottish fayre (and whiskies to accompany of course) was on offer. We arrived to an absolutely packed dining room, with the sound of bagpipes blaring and a proper party atmosphere.

A poetry reading from Martin's well-thumbed, 40-year old collection of Burns' works, finished off setting the tone for the evening, before the food started to arrive. The first course was black and white pudding in blankets, rich and hearty with the bacon being a great addition.

The fish course was next, and our favourite dish of the night - the Broadfield's take on an Arbroath smokie, served atop a tattie scone with a perfectly poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

At this point, Martin returned on top form to read "Address to the Haggis" whilst our main course was brought out... haggis, neeps and tatties, of course, with crispy fried leeks. To toast, we were presented with a dram of Auchentoshan Three Wood, which was powerful enough to stand up to the hearty flavours of the meat with just enough sweetness from the Pedro Ximinez casks to cut through for balance. Martin's monologue on the versatility of haggis provoked a healthy discussion amongst our table on just exactly what could be done with this little mountain of offal-y joy... haggis ice cream, anyone?!


Before pudding was brought out, Martin read out his own Address to the Lassies, as we raised a dram of Arran's Robert Burns Single Malt - light and fruity, with a sumptuous orchardy undertone. Dessert was a beautifully flaky Ecclefechan tart, stuffed full of sweet dried fruits, nuts and cherries, with a generous dollop of whisky cream to serve.

The night overall was an ideal warm-up to Burns Night itself, with top-quality traditional food and classic whiskies to accompany. We'll definitely be raising a few more drams tonight.

Cheers,

J&L

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Craft & Dough

New to the growing restaurant scene developing in Kelham Island (arguably Sheffield's most up and coming area) is Craft & Dough, a pizzeria and bar which is part of The Milestone Group, who own a variety of artisanal eateries in the Sheffield region. We've been meaning to go down since the opening last month, and had heard tons of hype, so couldn't wait to try it out.

We popped in for lunch on a Friday, and were instantly struck by how busy it was, with a mixture of families, couples, and professionals all tucking in. The atmosphere is cafe-esque, with the smell of fresh coffee and bread filling the room, and quite open, minimalist decor. The smaller fixtures and fittings add interesting touches, including light fittings made from crystal decanters which hint at the level of finesse available on the drinks menu. The open kitchen adds sociability to the venue and it was great to be able to watch the chef creating our pizzas while we waited.


A great selection of drinks are available - most apparent are the beers, of which around 50 are available, but there also looked to be a good variety of gins and whiskies - the emphasis here on world whisky with Macallan the only single malt Scotch on offer, which is a refreshing change to the usual selection.


We've decided to take part in the Tryanuary initiative this month (look up #tryanuary on twitter) and so went for beers we've not sampled before. From the extensive range we chose Big Ben Brown Ale, a 5.8% offering from Thwaites' Crafty Dan microbrewery, and Founders All Day IPA (4.7%). The Big Ben was crisp but malty, with very apparent flavours of crystal malt, whilst the Founders was just full to bursting with aromatic fruitiness, providing a really tasty passionfruit hit. Both were good choices which worked well with the food.

And so, on to the pizza. We went for a Tandoori (tandoori chicken, raita, chilli, mango salsa and Bombay mix) and a Crafty Cuts, with braised ox cheek, pepperoni, balsamic red onion, mozzarella, oregano, and parmesan. Both were scrumptious - generously portioned, with true care shown in the preparation of all the ingredients. Particularly noteworthy were the delicious red onions on the rich and sumptuous Crafty Cuts, with the balsamic glaze providing a real pop of flavour, and the Bombay mix on the Tandoori which is completely original and added a whole new dimension to the already full-of-flavour pizza. Laura ended up with mango and mint all over her face and could not have cared less. 


It was also great to see that the ingredients include fresh veg which is grown on their own site, Furnace Hill. Another little touch which just shows the attention to detail that the Milestone Group never cease to provide.

Overall, a fun place to go just for a drink, with something interesting available whatever your tipple, but an even better one to go to for dough. Good value, nice vibes, attentive service, and you'll leave with a full happy tum - can't say more than that.

Cheers,

L&J 

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Milestone Cookery School

The Milestone, for those who don't know, is one of Sheffield's greatest restaurants, serving high end food made from locally sourced seasonal produce, with a sincere passion (verging towards reverence) shown towards the ingredients. They run a variety of regular masterclasses, from day courses in pastry or pasta, to "A Pig in a Day", and half day courses in bread, Indian street food and the course I went on, all about sausage, bacon and black pudding. The cookery school experiences can be given as gifts in the form of vouchers bought from the restaurant or online here and this is how I found myself counting down the days to the visit.

When the day finally dawned, I arrived a little nervously clutching my golden ticket, to be greeted with a coffee and some pastries in the dining room downstairs, which is cosy and inviting for all occasions. After the full group of seven arrived, we made our way upstairs to what is usually another space for eating, which had been converted for the occasion into an makeshift cooking space with a single gas stove ring and a big knife each.


The Cooking

We started the proceedings by preparing the black pudding. This began its life as a tray of powdered blood and half a bottle of cider, to which we added lightly fried onions and some nutmeg, before passing it to Richard (our host for the day) to put in the kitchen's oven.

We moved on to the delectable bacon cure: a simple blend of equal parts sea salt and brown sugar, with the aromatic mixture of nutmeg and thyme to add a varied sweetness and a herby meatiness. Richard prepared the full pork belly joint for us, demonstrating an array of butchery techniques, leaving the short rib behind to provide us each with a tender fatty portion of meat ready to be cured.

As we placed the bacon to one side, word came from the kitchen that the black puddings were done, and they were brought forth, still in the steaming bain marie. As we were presented with the warm blood pudding, the next event was prepped. An exercise in plating up food, using the Milestone's very own burnt onion sauce, horseradish crackling and divine miniature apple jellies. I can't quite believe I managed to produce such a pretty plate of food!

The final activity was sausage making, an awkward skill for the clumsy set of hands I came with, but in the end a very worthwhile technique to know. We started by mixing to ground pork, a small amount of lightly fried onion with a great selection of fresh herbs, such as thyme and parsley as well as an ingredient that I had only heard in hushed whispers around whisky tastings... Smoke powder. This definitely lived up to my dreams - a seemingly magical white powder that filled the whole room with a smell of open fire. Once all the ingredients had been mixed and squeezed to the bottom of a piping bag we were ready for rolling.

The skin of these sausage was to be crepinette (known less exotically as caul fat). Rather than using the lower intestine, this French method of wrapping meat in bladder lining quickly became obvious as an easier method, than the filling of traditional sausage. Once piped as a strip onto the crepinette, all that was needed was a tight roll once and the outer would stick to itself. Once we had our sausages portioned, we cooked a few up and were presented with a hearty dollop of the restaurant's mash and their frankly delicious gravy.

Being able to leave with a bacon on the cure, a still warm black pudding and a fistful of sausages just meant I was hankering to cook it all.


The Eating 

What better way to eat a smashing homemade sausage than with Yorkshire puddings, roasted sweet potatoes, and lashings of tarragon gravy. The perfect Sunday tea.









Chicken, bacon and black pudding empanadas, and black pudding huevos rancheros.


The traditional English breakfast, remastered with a healthy dose of homemade bacon, some free range eggs and a pinch of chilli.


I'll definitely be making the bacon again, and would feel confident with the sausages and black pudding too once I'd paid a visit to a good butcher to acquire the right ingredients. All in all, the experience was a great day which taught me an array of new skills. Highly recommended.

Cheers,

Jim

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Barley to Bake: Laphroaig and Coffee Cake

It's no secret that I love both baking and whisky. Until recently, for some utterly unknown reason I had never combined the two. However, when my fellow Islay-loving, whisky-drinking, baker extraordinaire friend Sarah of the Starbake Sisters posted an absolutely mouth-watering image of a Laphroaig coffee cake, I just HAD to pester her for the recipe! Sarah has been kind enough to share this, along with a little bit about why she loves the extraordinary Isle of Islay. Having made this cake myself I can absolutely attest to the recipe, and the result is delicious.

May I present...

A malt whisky cake inspired by the Queen of the Hebrides


"Islay: first discovered by the Starbuck family in Spring 2004, ever since that Easter holiday we all have a place in our hearts for this Hebridean island.  Its breath taking scenery and quaint, welcoming villages make it hard not to want to revisit… So we did just that, several times over the years.

Nestled between the expansive beaches and tumbling hills you will find Islay’s 8 malt whisky distilleries dotted over the island, and I can proudly claim to have visited them all. The huge quantities of peat that the island is built on make for remarkably distinctive flavours in the whiskies and yet each distillery has been boasting different tastes, smokiness and sweetness for hundreds of years.

I love food. It’s primarily this fact that sparks my interest and enjoyment of cooking and baking. I find little more satisfying than preparing nice food for family and friends, and seeing them (hopefully) enjoy it!  So it seemed a natural progression with my family’s long awaited return to Islay this summer to incorporate Islay malts into a new recipe. Not wanting to waste quality malt by being too extreme with my creativity, I decided to first come up with a cake recipe to use it in. 

Choosing a sponge flavour wasn’t too challenging. I felt a plain sponge wouldn’t quite enhance the whisky’s aromas, chocolate would have proved too sweet. I had also considered ginger, as my sister had tried out in Islay with Bruichladdich, but I didn’t want anything quite as strong to overpower the whisky, as I wanted the malt to be the main feature. Coffee cake struck me as the most appropriate.  
Now to choose a malt.  I went for Laphroaig 10 year old.  It’s a well-known whisky, with fantastic earthy peat flavours and sweet smokiness that I felt would be effective alongside a coffee cake recipe.  You could of course use your own favourite malt/blend, though I’m yet to experiment using other whiskies with other sponge flavours.

The trick with this recipe is not to add the whisky before baking. The characteristic flavours mentioned above get lost in the baking process.  So, still not willing to waste good malt, I used a trick I had seen in Primrose Bakery book when making mojito cakes with my little sister. They suggest making a syrup with rum, sugar and lime juice, and brushing it onto the still warm sponge fresh out of the oven. This method worked perfectly with just caster sugar and Laphroaig as well. Any syrup left over from the sponge I then added to the golden icing sugar buttercream.  This addition was even more effective and maintains the sweet, distinctly Laphroaig, smoky flavour throughout.


I was delighted with the results and even more delighted to hear my dear friend, Mrs Mashtun, wanted to try it too. I hope she and Mr Mashtun have enjoyed it as much as I and my family and friends have. 

Sláinte!"

Ingredients

Cake: 
150g caster sugar
150g butter
150g self raising flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
1tbsp hot (not boiling) water
1tbsp instant coffee

Syrup: 
4tbsp whisky to 2tbsp caster sugar

Buttercream: 
225g golden icing sugar
100g butter
About 1-2 tsp of the whisky syrup

Preheat the oven to 160, and line and grease 2 sandwich tins.

To make the cake, beat the sugar and butter together before gradually adding the eggs. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and fold in. Next, dissolve the coffee in hot water and add to the mixture.
Divide into tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Whilst the cake is baking, warm up the whisky and sugar slowly over a low-mid heat until all the sugar has dissolved, and allow to cool a touch.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool enough to remove it from the tins, and cool on a wire rack. While the sponge is still warm, brush the tops with the whisky syrup (leaving a splash for the buttercream).

Beat the icing sugar and butter together to make the buttercream. When combined, add the remaining whisky syrup, and apply to the sponges once they are cooled.

A little Mashtun holiday photo!
And finally, for any cake fans lucky enough to be dwelling in Edinburgh, you can find the work of cake decorating genius Starbake Sister #2, Emily, at Banco.

Enjoy!

Laura xx

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Peddler: Street Food Market

It's been one of those weekends that's just made us realise how lucky we are living in such a fantastic city. There's always something new and exciting going on, and on the food scene this week, the first Peddler street food night market took place.

The event was held in a car park in a generally fairly desolate part of the City Centre, which sounded a bit odd, but the industrial style atmosphere worked really well and plenty of people had wandered down on the Saturday afternoon when we visited. Unsurprising really as there were live bands on throughout the day and the smell of all the delicious street food was wafting around the vicinity. Very inviting and well publicised.


Sheffield favourites Percy and Lily's and Nether Edge Pizza were among the treats on offer, alongside cocktails and coffees from Tamper and beers served from a quirky converted horse trailer, now The Hop Box. It was great to see traders from other cities make the trip too, so we deliberately went for choices we wouldn't ordinarily see on our streets.

Piggie Smalls hot dogs got instant points for their puns. Double smoked, pretty darn huge gourmet hot dogs served with a side order of pig-based wisecracks. Jim plumped for the Amy Swinehouse, which was topped with pulled pork (slow cooked for twelve hours) and a tangy yet sweet BBQ sauce. Top marks for crackling, too.


Mei Mei's Street Cart, hailing from London but currently based in Manchester, took Laura's fancy, with the Beijing classic Jian Bing on the menu. Not something we'd ever even heard of before, this was sort of a cross between a crepe and a Chinese omelette. I went for the fried chicken option, which was stuffed full of spring onions and coriander, beer pickled carrots (which we're seriously tempted to try to recreate ourselves), hoisin and chilli sauce, hot crispy chicken and a wonton cracker. It was vibrant, fresh, different, and really, really tasty. After eating the Jian Bing we went back for their sweet potato chilli fries, served with sriracha mayo. Just scrummy. Overall worth a trip to Manchester!


Peddler is set to be a monthly event, and we look forward to seeing this grow and hopefully have even more traders at the next one.

Cheers,

J&L

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Favourite Pubs: The Lochside Hotel

We're spoilt at home having The Sheaf View as a local - a mere seven minute stumble away from the door. Being on Islay is like being in a miniature, more concentrated version of the world, however, and The Lochside Hotel was about 45 seconds stroll away from our little holiday cottage! It became a much-frequented haunt during our stay in Bowmore, with an enormous whisky selection, great food, and an incredible view across Loch Indaal to boot.

Loch Indaal at sunset: view from our table at the Lochside Hotel
The Lochside Hotel, run by a passionate bunch of Ileachs and fronted by the charismatic David Brodie, has a frankly bewildering array of whisky behind the bar. Comprising drams almost solely from the island, the selection includes at least 6 varieties of Port Ellen and a bottle of Bowmore Black aged to 42 years, down to more reasonably priced whiskies, including the core range of all the Islay distileries as well as some of the great blended whiskies that have featured the peaty joys produced here.

Enjoying an Islay Mist 17 and a Bunnahabhain 12
The bar is also stocked with a range of beer from Islay Ales, the only brewery on the island, with 2 cask ales and a larger selection in bottles. This variation is great to see, as sometimes you're just not quite ready for a whisky, especially with food.

Talking of the food, the menu is ever-changing and filled with local and seasonal dishes. The starter we chose was one of the best things we ate on the island - goats cheese topped black pudding. The portions were generous throughout, so it was a good job we shared! Laura went for the steak and ale (Islay Ales Black Rock) pie for main course, with Jim selecting the lamb shank. Absolutely massive, the meat was rich, melt-in-the-mouth, and well complemented by the blackcurrant-doused red cabbage side. A dessert of Islay malt whisky cranachan completed the meal. Neither of us had tried this traditional Scottish pud before, and we were pleasantly surprised by the light creaminess of the dish, and peaty hit from the whisky-soaked oatmeal.
We enjoyed many a cosy evening in this wonderful pub, filled with locals sharing stories about their home town with the whisky pilgrims of Bowmore! Just a shame that it's ordinarily 396 miles away...

Slainte,

J&L

Monday, 4 August 2014

Homage 2 Fromage

Totally unable to resist anything that's name includes an excellent cheese-based pun, we were delighted to be invited along to Homage 2 Fromage last week. A monthly club dedicated to all things cheese, Homage 2 Fromage started three years ago in Leeds and has since expanded to our humble home town.

Hosted in guest venues, this month's setting was the lovely Tamper Coffee. Vickie and Nick, the founders of Homage 2 Fromage and self-proclaimed cheese enthusiasts, welcomed us to the venue and explained the rules - cheese is called at 7pm, before which time you may approach the cheese, appreciate the aesthetic quality and aroma of the cheese, but under no circumstances must the cheese be in any way fondled or sampled! Once the tasting kicks off, it's all in, help yourself - there's an array of breads, crackers, chutneys and pickles to accompany the cheeses and discussion is much encouraged.

There's no lofty pomposity here - just a group of individuals having a bloody good time eating cheese. Nick described the feel of the event perfectly - "If cheese and wine is the opera, we're more rock and roll".

Each event has a theme, and this month we were treated to award-winning cheeses from the Great Yorkshire Show. A total of seven cheeses were available, which were tasted blind before being revealed to the group. On offer were:
Cheeses 1-3
1. Mary Quicke's Traditional Vintage Cheddar - a lovely soft and creamy, full-flavoured cheddar.
2. Olde York - a gentle, crumbly, soft white cheese. Laura's favourite of the evening.
3. Capricorn Goats Cheese - a deliciously delicate cheese, that wasn't too overpoweringly farmyard-y in flavour. Aptly described by Nick as a "gateway to goat".
4. Monks Folly - clean and almost lactic in flavour, this was a classic mould-ripened cheese.
5. Dewlay Crumbly Lancashire - fresh and a little tangy, very moreish! Went down well with a Yorkshire crowd - high praise indeed.
6. Bluemin White - a blue and white hybrid! Not too strong and really creamy, this cheese is kept close to blue-veined cheeses, meaning the mould transfers to just the outside. This worked perfectly with ginger and rhubarb chutney.
7. Colston Bassett - a great example of a blue-veined cheese - the flavour you'd expect but not too harsh or stinky. A real crowd-pleaser and Jim's top cheese of the night.
Cheeses 4-7
We were particularly impressed by the fact that all the accoutrements involved were sourced from local producers - the bread was all from Seven Hills Bakery, with chutneys from Hedgerow and Just Preserves.
All-in-all, this was a great evening - full of humour, and possibly the most sociable event we've been to all year! It was also sold out, with Tamper packed to the beams - who knew that Sheffield was home to so many people who are passionate about cheese?! It curd-n't have been feta better*.
The aftermath!
Events are held on a monthly basis, and membership is also available for £10 per year, which includes discounted tickets to events and offers on cheese at an array of local retailers. Head on over to Homage 2 Fromage's website for more details!

L&J

*Apologies for the atrocious pun - impossible to resist sneaking one in!