The Hungry Bear review

With some friends every month we try a new restaurant. This month was my birthday choice and Without hesitation I suggested the hungry Bear in Meanwood. We’re 7 months into this now and the list of places to visit next seems to increase rather than decrease. We have savoured the tender steaks of Blackhouse, recovered from too much sangria at El Bareto, been offended in la grillade and broke a chair in Kendal’s bistro (I assume through the sheer weight gained that evening). The Hungry Bear still managed to stand out from the rest.

After a pint of Ilkley brewery’s Mary Jane at East of Arcadia we headed to The Hungry Bear on a rare sunny Sunday afternoon. The restaurant is unique, making it’s own ales on site with plenty in the pipeline. Serving modern British Cuisine, you’ll have a task to decide what to go for. The starter menu proved the biggest challenge featuring home smoked salmon, scallops with chorizo, smoked duck salad and mushroom and tarragon pate. I plumped for the confit chicken and black pudding terrine. The starter set the tone for the rest of the meal, hearty British flavours with care on ingredients and an attention to detail.  A fennel laden, sweet onion chutney cut through the rich, fatty terrine. My only criticism here and of the food full stop was slightly too much orange which at times over powered a brilliant dish. I was lucky enough to also try the smoked duck which balanced brilliantly with the crisp salad, well worth having.

I must admit my eye is always drawn to pork belly on any menu, today I certainly had no regrets. Again a dish of earthy, intense flavours, with confit and fired belly pork as it’s star, did not overface. The haricot cassoulet was the flavour equivalent of your mum tucking you in bed with an electric blanket and hot water bottle on a snowy day. The celeriac puree added sweetness and the dish was finished off with perfectly cooked kale for some needed seasonal, freshness. Perfectly balanced. Elsewhere the 24 hour cooked blade of beef needed no knife. The deep, intense flavour perfectly seasoned next to a Yorkshire pud as big as your fist showed how to make the most out of this under used cut of beef.

Managing to navigate past the passion fruit creme brulee, chocolate and Cointreau torte and pistachio sponge, I finished with parkin with lime creme fraiche. Such a rich dessert after a meal like this might seem a surprise but the light, tangy creme fraiche elevated Yorkshire’s stodgy classic into a fine restaurant dessert that refreshed more than filled.

From the start we were given a friendly, unpretentious, genuine welcome and with some well chosen indie tunes in the background – we felt right at home. This independent, down to earth restaurant near some great local bars is something special. I’d go now before they realise just how good they are and raise the prices.

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Carter’s creamy chicken

Chicken wine final

So for Valentine’s day I was asked to make a low fat dish…I failed quite spectacularly on the low fat part but it went down a treat nevertheless. I usually use a base of carrots, onions and celery when making slow cooked tomato sauces for pasta but thought it would be a great base for a creamy white wine sauce too. Try and use decent chicken breast with skin on! Impress your better half with this…

WHAT YOU NEED

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METHOD

ONE Pre heat your oven TWO Dice your carrots, onion, leek and celery and soften on a low heat in olive oil – about 10-12 minutes, season with pepper and just a pinch of sea salt THREE Preheat a grill pan on a medium flame FOUR Add your pancetta and thyme to the veg mix and cook for a further 5 minutes FIVE Skin side down, add your chicken to the grill pan, it should sizzle immediately. After 4-5 minutes turn it over (you should have a golden skin) and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove your chicken from the heat SIX Add the white wine to the pan and let it reduce by half SEVEN Add the chicken stock and reduce for a few mins EIGHT Stir in the crème fraiche and add the chicken to the pan EIGHT Put the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes and you’re done

TO SERVE I grilled some asparagus and new potatoes but green beans, grilled courgettes or anything you fancy really

IDEAS Instead of white wine you could add a squeeze of honey and spoon of whole grain mustard

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Apple scones

Apple scones final

SCONES shouldn’t be too fancy, to me they’re a vehicle for something even more delicious on top. Good for a mid week treat and take the leftovers to work but be careful not to over mix or twist the cutter when shaping.

Apple scones facts

WHAT YOU NEED

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METHOD

ONE Peel, core and dice your apples TWO Add the butter and flour to a blender and blitz to a crumb (Or rub with your fingers) THREE Empty to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients, except the milk and combine FOUR Ready with a fork, combine the ingredients quickly, be carefuful not to over mix FIVE On a floured surface, flatten the mix to 3cm depth but again avoid the temptation to knead SIX Using a 6cm floured round cutter, cut downwards and don’t rotate, remove the off cuts from around the discs and lightly knead until you cut out 9 scones SEVEN Line up on a floured baking tray and brush with an egg or milk

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WHY NOT TRY flaked almonds on top of the egg wash, using toffee pieces (but lose the cinnamon) or different shapes such a triangles or squares

ENJOY…hold on jam first then cream or the other way round

Courgette and Fennel salad

Quite a simple dish you can even knock up during the week (maybe not best in winter but who cares!). Inspired by a couple of recipes from @realnigelslater’s Kitchen diaries (my kitchen hero).
YOU’LL NEED (FOR 2) Fennel x 2 (or 1 large), Courgettes x 4, Basil x handful, Extra Virgin Olive oil x 4 Tbsp, Unwaxed Lemon x 1, Buffalo Mozzarella (Optional)
ONE Get the dressing ready by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper/sea salt and basil (roughly tear) TWO Slice the fennel and courgettes lengthways (ideally using a madolin slicer) to a pound coin thickness THREE Heat up a grill pan nice and high and start with the fennel as they’ll take around 5 minutes on each side FOUR Whilst they are marinating in the dressing, do the same with the courgettes but lower the heat slightly and they should also take about 4-5 minutes on each side.FIVE For both we want black marking and some of the crunch taken out the veg SIX Toss these in with the fennel and leave for 10 minutes.

This can be served as a side for fish but I just had it with some creamy Buffalo Mozzarella (as Nigel Slater recommends, buy something decent here, it’s well worth it). You can save yourself a few quid by just doing this with just courgettes and have it as an impressive and quick side dish.

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Easy Aubergines with tomato and Basil

A real easy and tasty dish for mid week

ONE Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan) TWO Per person, simply slice an aubergine in two length ways and drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil THREE Put into the oven, skin side down, for 25-30 minutes FOUR In the meantime get your self a brew and slice a tomato.FIVE Once you take out the aubergines, layer the sliced tomatoes on top along with some roughly torn up buffalo mozzarella SIX Bake for a further 5 minutes SEVEN When it comes out the oven scatter with torn basil leaves. 

You can make this go further by serving half an aubergine each but with either a rocket salad on the side or perhaps couscous. Is also nice with a simple dressing made from extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

TIP! Quick word on aubergines, often you’re told to salt and leave them first, don’t worry! Most aubergines available in the shops aren’t bitter varieties so this is just not needed generally. There are times when its useful but this isn’t one of them.

Sunday roasts – #1 Chicken – the trick is bacon

Bacon isn’t just something to wrap your sausages up with and throw over your bird. When roasting turkey or chicken – bacon is king. Here are some ideas…

1. GRAVY!

So this is a good excuse to explain how I generally do my chicken and gravy, family and friends lover it and bacon helps make a delicious gravy.

YOU’LL NEED 2 large carrots halved 2 sticks of celery, 1 onion quartered, 1 whole chicken, 1/3 lemon 4 springs each of thyme and rosemary, 1 bay leaf, 4 rashers of smoked and  6 rashers of non-smoked streaky bacon, 125 ml white wine, corn flour

ONE Get your chicken out 30 minutes before cooking and pre heat the oven to  TWO In the meantime roughly chop the carrots, celery and onion and place on the base of a roasting tin – make sure they’re in  big chunks as you want them to survive cooking and act as a base to place the chicken THREE Toss the veg with the smoked streaky bacon, olive oil, a few springs of thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Finally season well! FOUR rub the bird with butter and season well before layering with streaky bacon

Roast chicken

FIVE Before adding the bird to its throne of veg, pour in water to a 1cm depth to stop it burning and place half a lemon in the chicken’s cavity SIX Get your chicken in the oven and let those aromas fill the kitchen!* SEVEN Continue to pour the juices back over the chicken throughout cooking and half way through cooking remove the bacon (see idea 3 below) EIGHT Once the chicken is resting, turn on he hob and get your masher out NINE With the roasting tin on the hob, add the white wine, bring the boil and get mashing TEN If needed add 100ml extra water and keep mashing and removing all those tasty, sticky, almost burnt bits off the bottom of the pan

ELEVEN When you have a dark, thick delicious sludge, pass through a sieve and leave for 5 mins so the fat separates on top TWELVE Keep warm on the hob, add  water depending on how thick and intense you want your gravy and (if necessary) corn flour  and serve piping hot.

CHICKEN

* Here’s a roast timer, just remember to leave it to rest for 20-30 minutes covered in foil and a towel or two ttp://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/tools/roast-timer

2. Roast veg and crispy bacon

When it’s cold out side and a roast is in the oven, it’s carrots and parsnips that do it for me. At Christmas I made the most of the still soft and juicy bacon that covered Trevor the turkey in his foil tent. After par boiling the veg (10 mins for the parsnips and 5 for the carrots) they were tossed lightly in olive oil, seasoned and thrust into the steaming hot oven. After 20 minutes I drizzled over maple syrup and strung the streaky bacon over the veg and left to finish off in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Looks great and tastes great, one I’ll be doing again before next Christmas!

3. Bacon Crumb

Again I’m making the most of the bacon that is strewn across the tasty bird. This time I leave the chicken in the oven uncovered and remove the bacon around half way through cooking. This allows the chicken skin to go crispy and allows you to do something unique with the bacon. At this point the bacon will be crisp, dry and golden. Break this into pieces and thrown into a food processor or spice blender giving you a bacon crumb. This can be used to dress a plate in a fancy way or you can put on the table and simply use as the most delicious alternative to salt you’ll find. Other uses could be to mix with herbs such as thyme or rosemary, they could even be used to mix in with your stuffing.

Bacon crumb

More roast ideas to come (I think pork next) but remember to make the most of leftovers. I made a chicken sandwich with leftover pigs in blankets and the bacon crumb – delicious!

Blackhouse review

January is the month for Blackhouse with its 50% off deal. Despite being part of a small chain it’s something of a Leeds institution and one of the first places friends will recommend when asking where’s good to eat in town? Praise needs to given to the setting. With a backdrop of fairy lights, regular pianist and dim lit booths, you feel like you’re on for a proper night out.

You come here for the steaks which are cooked to perfection, some might consider their version of rare – pretty rare but it’s perfect for me and friends who came along. After a few visits now, what comes across is the real passion and care taken over there steak dishes. Accompaniments are spot one, the chips are crunchy and seasoned to perfection, the mash smooth and creamy, the green beans have the right crunch and a welcome kick of garlic and the Bearnaise sauce was thick (almost too thick to leave the pot) and wonderfully sharp. However my personal favourite was the Diane sauce, only difficulty is getting ever last drop out of the gravy boat with a chip. On a recent visit I shared the chateaubriand with my other half, definitely worth it as a one off but the individual steaks are my preference for taste. The sirloin lives up to the menu’s description of ‘big beefy flavour’.

The magic they produce with their steaks, doesn’t quite translate to their starters but they’re still worth having. They have a very tempting selection and most won’t be disappointed. The duck spring rolls are a real treat, the sweet sticky sauce bringing the dish to life. The chicken skewers are tasty but the scattering of sesame seeds doesn’t quite add enough crunch to what is otherwise a delicious dish, it also lacked some promised spice.

The prices are fairly high but as their moto states they sell ‘solid, honest, simple, proper food’ – you’re paying for quality products, brilliant service and a great atmosphere. I haven’t yet got as far as the desserts as generally have been much too full. A consistently impressive venue in the city centre that take real care over what they serve, great stuff!

I’ll see you there!

Planning your weeks food – Honey mustard sausages

Right on the way back to Leeds from a short but food heavy trip to Exeter! A fee thoughts on the week…

The problem you have when buying veg, fruit and meat boxes is eating it all up, especially when there’s just two of you. I like the first day when you have any number of meals to make but quickly it becomes a race to save your rapidly wilting spinach. Unfortunately it mainly involves planning (“boring!” I hear you cry). But this could be an opportunity! It makes you cook (when you can’t be bothered), try new ideas and go off-recipe. That’s why tonight I have to do something with a whole chicken knowing full well we’re eating out tomorrow. Here’s my approach, let’s see how I get on!

ONE. What’s going out of date first?
TWO. What meals can you make with the least fresh items?
THREE. What can you make and then freeze for later?

The best meal this week has been a really simple one –

HONEY MUSTARD SAUSAGES, MIXED MASH AND CABBAGE

ONE The great quality butchers sausages from the market were covered with a mix of whole grain mustard and honey and seasoned well. TWO These need to be cooked at 180 for about 30 mins, basting with the glaze every 5 minutes or so. THREE Depends on the veg you have to hand, I boiled swede, potato and carrots for 25 mins. When done I mashed and beat with butter and seasoned well FOUR Chopped a savoy cabbage roughly and in a frying pan with a lid, I left half cm water in the pan and 2 tablespoons of butter and stirred occasionally on a medium heat for 10-12 mins.

Really simple, old fashioned dish but a way to use up plenty of veg and the sweet, sticky glaze really hit the spot. I also made up a simple red onion relish by chopping an onion thinly, sweating down slowly with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and water until soft and sticky.

Baked mushrooms with ham and goats cheese

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Here we go, blogging on the bus!

Nice and simple baked mushrooms, plenty more variations on this I should imagine

YOU NEED: Large flat mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, ham, goats cheese (herbs would make a good addition)

METHOD: ONE Pre heat oven to 180 fan TWO In a dish place your mushrooms ‘gills’ up and toss on your finely chopped garlic and drizzle with olive oil THREE roughly add the ham then spot with goats cheese and season FOUR Bake for 12-15 mins

I served with a salad of rocket, spinach and watercress with a lemon and olive oil dressing and a thick piece of toast. Adding herbs a spot of butter or a drizzle of honey would also be a good addition.

Oops missed my stop!

Blog Manifesto – Steak sandwiches

 

Right, I’ve had ideas left right and centre about a food blog but we don’t have time to spend hours upon hours reading rambling blog posts do we? Here’s what I’m going to do

ONE. I’m going to keep this simple and easy to follow.

TWO. After that I can finally get round to writing down the recipes I try somewhere, I’ve lost count of the number of things I try once and never again because I never made a note.

THREE. Lastly I hope it’ll be a way to interact with other home cooks and learn a lot more out the way

..Oh yeah and eat great food!

SO before I forget about my tea last night

NAME: Steak sandwich and sweet potato chips

INGREDIENTS: Sirloin steak, Caramelised onion chutney (or fry some onions), Wholegrain mustard, Mixed leaves (Rocket, watercress, spinach), Mayonaise, Ciabatta, Sweet potatoes, Olive oil, Balsamic vinegar

GOOD FOR: Friday night at home, making a steak go a bit further

METHOD: ONE Preheat oven to 180 (fan) TWO Peel your sweet potatoes and cut into batons about 1.5 cm thick THREE Toss the sweet potatoes in a table spoon of olive oil, salt, pepper and splash of balsamic vinegar (if to hand) and bang them in the oven FOUR Come back 25 minutes later and pre heat a pan on a high heat (grill pan if you have it) FIVE drizzle some olive oil on to your steak and season generously with salt and pepper SIX Slap your steak in the pan, turn down the heat slightly and cook on each side for 2 1/2 mins SEVEN Leave your steak to rest for 5 mins and assemble your sandwich fillings how you like EIGHT Slice up your steak, fill your sandwiches with the steak, pouring over the left over juices

Perfect served in front of the telly. Not the ultimate steak sandwich but something I managed to throw together and make a steak go further. Any questions, give me a shout.