Street food – Amazing Graze Review

I imagine when some people hear the term ‘street food’, they groan, roll their eyes and return to reading an article in The Telegraph about how Katie Hopkins thinks she’s too good to eat cupcakes and they should be called fairy cakes. But what has led to ‘street food’ popping up across the country like an untreated rash or well…Nandos. Is it the recession? Is it an excuse to exploit free spending foodies with fake horn rimmed specs, willing to part with £10 on a glorified burger van with no overheads? Or is it the only way new food business can get started these days? In Leeds some worry about the commercialisation of street food, with Trinity Kitchen potentially capitalising on the recent trend. I for one signed the petition to keep Leeds hallowed pizza van from being moved by the city council. The council hoping to to move in trendier vans which also sold pizza. However, I’m a big fan of Trinity, anything that moves us away from the Mcdonald’s, KFC, Nandos screen saver of traditional food courts is okay in my book. Especially if some traders can make in a month what they might make in a year.Image

I don’t have the answer by the way to the popularity of street food, but I know why I think it works. Think about the number of menus featuring every conceivable cuisine, trying to be something for everyone but ending up being a distant fart of a memory. Street food vendors don’t have this ‘luxury’, every dish needs to count. They do a few things incredibly well as if their livelihoods depended on it, and quite often it does. Whilst we get to try cuisines from around the world, last weekend’s now annual Amazing Graze proved to be just this. Here’s a quick low down of what was on offer and who to keep an eye out for…

Original Fry Up Material 

Following their stint in Trinity, the boys were back to Leeds. I’ve claimed previously that this is the best burger I’ve ever had and the first bite had to be a let-down right? It was not. This is the kind of food to make grown men cry. A burger you want to take a little private moment with. Take it out for a drink, to the movies, let it meet your parents, take a trip away with it, get down and one knee and propose to, get a kitten with, having a few kids with…then eat the crap out of it and your burger offspring.

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This time I went for ‘cheesy’, a free range burger, cheese, lettuce and yellow, green and red sauces on a brioche bun. The burger, deep in flavour, perfectly pink and oozing tasty juices joined by layers of flavours from the sauces. Seeing these chaps cook, you can see the care attention and fun they have. The burger stayed intact just to the end as the juices steadily soaked into the tasty brioche bun. It was a bit messy to hold but it meant I didn’t wash my hands for a good week afterwards to hold on to the memory. Their ‘brekkie’ is a home-made sausage patty with bacon, cheese and egg…it’s just like the McDonald’s classic only it tastes of something other than bitter disappointment, the cheese doesn’t resemble a warped condom and it’s just bloody delicious. Usually based on London, all I can say is come back chaps, you’re always welcome on Leeds.

The Greedy Pig

I’ve reviewed the Greedy Pig before and I had a few nice things to say about their down to earth, high quality, affordable food. Friendly Jo and Stu tried something different at Amazing Graze and chef Stu has put his passion for offal on a plate with their nose to tail tapas. They mentioned the struggle to get some of the cuts for these dishes which included heart kebabs, meat balls, terrine, and quail scotch eggs. The revelation of all the dishes, and possibly the day, were the tongue tacos. Stu explained that tongue is like brisket in that it needs cooking with the same time and patience. He wasn’t wrong – the rich, tender, flavourful meat topped with sour cream and crunchy seeds really impressed. The wantons were simple, the iron rich tasty black pudding cut through with bold, sweet and sour onions. The biscuit for the terrine was a little too thick, the sweetness competing against the flavoursome pork, liver, kidney and cognac. The meatballs with barley were like the best school dinner you can imagine and the scotch eggs surprisingly light and moreish with their own brown sauce. This was the bravest of menu’s on the day and it’s also the one I’ll still remember by next year’s Amazing Graze for all the right reasons – can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

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Gingers Comfort Emporium

When I was 15 I spent many an hour wondering the hallowed halls of Afflex Palace in Manchester, a sort of alternative indoor market. These were the days of having my hair gelled like Peter Andre, wearing Bob Marley T-shirts without a hint of irony and believing Natalie Imbruglia was edgy music Thankfully those days are gone and it’s now permanent residence to Ginger’s comfort.

The ice cream flavours are bold, unique and they rightly describe themselves as ‘an ice cream van for grownups’. First up the Plum and gin didn’t hold back flavour with mouth-watering plum and strong smack of gin. A dazzling and refreshing taste after such a heavy day of eating. Their Chorlton crack- salted caramel & peanut butter, bordered on too salty for me but the rest of the group couldn’t get enough. The spiced pear crumble immediately conjured up Christmas with plucky, warming spices mixed with crunchy buttery, crumble. My only issue is their toasted brioche sandwiches weren’t on offer which were a real highlight from last year. Looks like I’ll be heading back over the Pennines for those!

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Special mentions are needed for…

  • First for El Kantina, I loved their pulled pork last year and was simply too full this time round to give them a go. I heard some good things from those who tucked in.
  • Noisette Bakehouse (and the Madeleine Express) I won’t mention yet as I’m crafting a blog on the best cakes in Leeds as we speak (spoiler alert).
  • Fish& as always made their twist on fish and chips without compromising on quality ingredients, perfectly crisp batter and melt in your mouth fish.
  • Last but certainly not least was Grub and Grog shop, quite new to the scene but if their garlic sausage sandwich is to go boy, these chaps are one’s to keep an eye on. You can try their stuff at Outlaw’s Yacht Club every Friday.

Twisted Burger Company @Aire Bar Leeds

“Not another bloody burger?” I hear you cry, “Haven’t we had enough brioche buns and honest burgers topped with pulled pork?”. To all you naysayers, go and eat some fennel pollen and quinoa, there’s always room for another. With my better half @CULTUREleeds we decided to visit the first night of Twisted Burger Companies (TBC) residency of Aire Bar. TBC, originally from The Harley in Sheffield were winners of Best Casual Dining 2013 at the Eat Sheffield Awards. I was expecting slow service, missing ingredients, confusion, and panic – the usual hallmarks of an opening night. Instead, what immediately stood out was a bunch of passionate folk who were knowledgeable about the food on offer, excited about what they were serving, offering genuine recommendations and enjoying it to boot. The location in Aire Bar is great, is a huge venue by the Calls with some decent beers on tap and more besides in bottles. I don’t think I saw a schooner in sight. With some much welcome sunshine, we sat outdoors by the river and played guess what’s that floating through Leeds.

The menu, a bold slap across the chops, features 9 burgers but plenty of room to customise. The burgers range from the veggie ‘Baby got guac’ featuring a porcini and button mushroom patty with Asian slaw and guacamole through to the terrifying ‘This is hardcore’ – 2 burgers, induja sausage, deep fried jalapenos, cheese and hot sauce. The burgers are described as ‘The Main Attraction’ on the menu and they’re not wrong! I plumped for the ‘Pig Daddy Kane’ – 2 beef burgers with pulled pork and cheese. The burger was packed to the rafters with flavour – the deep, smokey Kraken BBQ sauce worked perfectly with the sweet apple and chorizo jam and oozing cheese. It stood up to one of the ultimate burger tests too, you could eat the whole thing with an intact brioche bun at the end. Hat’s off to you TBC, hats off. The burgers here aren’t pink and dripping but the flavour of the beef patties still stand up impressively to the bold flavours that make up their ‘Main attractions’. The pulled pork too was not dripping with BBQ sauce but added some welcome texture to the burger. I also sampled the ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazer’ burger, chicken patties with crispy, smokey streaky bacon, Monterey jack cheese topped with ranch and house relish. Whilst as a whole this was delicious, the chicken patties are something I’ll need to get used to, a whole chicken breast would have made this a stand out dish.Finally on the burger front, no sign of a tomato – let’s all raise a schooner of craft beer to that.Image

There’s more besides The sides we ordered didn’t dazzle and nor should they as the burgers are the star turn here. The fries with skins on (a bargain I must say) were thin & crunchy, the home made slaw perfect contrast to the rich BBQ flavours of ‘Pig Daddy Kane’. There’s plenty more though, with ‘Pig Pimpin fries’ – a double portion topped with pulled pork, smoked cheese sauce and BBQ sauce! Alongside Cajun and chilli flavoured fries. Next time (there WILL be a next time) I’ll be trying the Mac & Cheese (or ‘Crack and cheese’) with bacon bits and jalapenos. All the sauces are homemade and I think are part of the secret to their success. Whatever you order, ask for extra ranch dressing – the sharp tang perfect to dip your fries into, standing up to all the other bold flavours on offer.

I’m a really big fan – they serve incredibly tasty food in a basket for a very decent price, you can’t say fairer than that. It’s great to see a place do one thing really well and with a passion too. If you head there now, there’s a good chance of 50% off. See you soon!

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The Pit (Chapel Allerton) – Review

Just before writing this, I read this review by Jay Rayner on Avenue in London. It was about a high end restaurant, which seems to be jumping head first into the Americana trend. Head first, whilst shooting a revolver into the air shouting yeeHa, dressed as Gordon Gekko that is. Not a place I’ll be spending any time in. The Pit in Chapel Allerton also features some ‘traditional’ American dishes on its menu. However a supposed quick lunch, turned into 6 hours, 4 bottles or Prosecco and 3 courses. Admittedly in leaving we were a little less stable on our feet than when we arrived.

The Pit is recently relaunched, having previously been The Hub, and is part of the Arc group which also has Kobe, The Box and Trio on its books. Inside, it’s almost too polished – money has been spent trying to create an atmosphere that money can’t really buy. That said, I’m still a fan with plenty of cosy booths, friendly staff, great lighting and more wooden panelling than you can shake a stick at. We felt right at home. You’re also likely to be familiar with it’s big sister in the city centre which features Ping Pong tables (or wiff waff if you’re a massive tool) and a private area you can book, alarmingly called  ‘The Bunker’. There’s a decent selection of beers with craft lagers including Jaipur, Brooklyn and Vedett. These are served as schooners, a trend I hope never takes off. Our table also made the most of ‘Fizz Fridays’ a decent bottle of Prosecco for £15, ideal after a long week at work.

The menu features the perfect range of American mains including ribs, steaks, burgers and lobster along with tempting sides such as Mac & Cheese, corn bread and BBQ beans. For those of you wondering whether this menu needs a public health warning attached don’t worry. The pit has a range of smaller lunch dishes (£6.96 meal deal with a drink), salads and even superfood dished featuring quinoa and bulgar wheat. The menu doesn’t try to cover every base and is all the better for it. The dishes are generally well thought out, with care taken to each element on the plate. Attention is also given to the ingredients which are locally sourced including fruit and veg from RK Harris and meat from Alan Morton Butchers in Horsforth.

In a frenzy of hunger, we ordered starters and mains to come together. The ‘Hot or not’ chicken wings were tender, sticky and above all tasty but made so much better with the butter milk dip. I’ve heard the ‘hot’ version will knock your socks off, be warned. The generous portion of nachos didn’t last long either, the home made guacamole the star or the show.

I plumped for the Boston Butt (a phrase I never thought I’d utter), featuring pretty much everything I’d want on a plate of food – Pulled pork, streaky bacon, apple sauce, corn bread, fries and coleslaw. The intensely rich, smokey pulled pork was a joy to get stuck firmly between your teeth and complimented well by the generous helping of apple sauce. The pork hid the tasty cornbread which was a little sodden underneath and the bacon could have been crispier. That aside, this dish really hit the spot. Pulled pork is everywhere these days but here all the bits of the plate made it more than a box ticking exercise. I will be back for this dish alone but will bring tooth picks. The rest of the table went for burgers. The Pit Master burger stood tall with a well-seasoned, juicy, burger topped with pulled pork & charbroiled chicken and dripping, tangy Monterey Jack cheese. All the dished featured chips, traditional French fries which had a great crunch with not a single one left on any plate.

Having moved onto the next notch on the belt (apologies for that image) we risked dessert. The star was the almost sickly sweet pecan pie. The warm pie with crumbly, buttery pastry topped with crunchy pecans and swimming in maple syrup was the highlight of the meal. The ice cream managed to just about cut through the tooth achingly sweet dessert. If you go, please order this! The fudge cake, although not served warm, was also a treat. Topped with swiss chocolate, it managed not to be too rich even after such a heavy meal.

Perhaps The Pit is trying to be a bit cool and may be it doesn’t quite manage it but I’m 28 now and I think I know how that feels. Neither is it the cheapest of nights out but the impressive refit, local produce and crowd pleasing dished I for one look forward to spending many a happy an hour in The Pit, avoiding schooners at my peril.

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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