Sunday, 25 September 2011

La Bottega Milanese - The Light

I've lost my cooking mojo lately, and certainly lost my baking mojo - if anyone finds them please return them to me.  So rather than lovingly create wondrous food stuffs myself I've been eating basic food in the house, and been more inspired when eating out.

I've been into Bottega 2 in the Light for coffee a couple of times, but hadn't had chance to eat in there.  Now I'm not hugely knowledgeable on coffee, I like the taste, but find the options of what to have rather scary.  Worse still, I never make proper coffee myself, I live off instant at home.  I can hear the coffee snobs judging....I love going into Bottega because I can simply ask Alex, the owner, what I should have and trust his judgement and recommendations for me completely - and the rest of his staff are equally as good.  I walked in with a raging hangover on Tuesday morning and declared I needed something strong that would get rid of my hangover.  I had a double shot latte (I think) and felt much better after it!

I tend to always pick Flat White when I'm out for coffee, I went for years having things like Vanilla Latte, or gingerbread latte etc, but I just can't get on with them now, so a flat white seems like a simple but effective coffee.

A couple of weekends ago I was having an impromptu shopping session with my cousin, and dragged her upto Bottega 2 for a spot of lunch.  We had a couple of sandwiches, I had one of those coffee's with the icecream in - which I love - but I can't remember what they're called - someone educate me with the name please!  My cousin had a lemonade, being preggy and not allowed any delicious coffee.





I love the atmosphere in both Bottegas, and the service.  I haven't connected with Laynes Espresso, the other indie coffee place in Leeds, as well, I've tried a few times with them and just don't get the same ease that I do at Bottega.

What's your favourite coffee place in Leeds?

Like everyone else I'm really wishing we'd hurry up and get a really good tea place too!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Wine of the week - Roko Cabernet Sauvingnon

I've had a red and a white wine this week, the white was a fairtrade Cape Nelson Sauvingnon Blanc which I think was from Sainsburys, and the Roko Cabernet Sauvingnon from Tesco.

(I only went to Tesco out of sheer desperation, I normally avoid all Tesco shops like the plague).


The white was a bit harsh, which it being half price down from £12 I wasn't expecting and was very disappointed.

I'm only just getting back into red wine mode, with the season change, and picked this Roko one on a whim when the urge to drink wine - any wine - was high.  I wasn't expecting it to be upto much but I really enjoyed it.

I didn't eat with it, well a couple of pieces of toast and a wedge of cheese can't count as a meal can it, so I can't recommend that it's good with food.  But it was cheap and drinkable.

It didn't set my tastebuds jumping, but I didn't expect it to either.

What have you been drinking this week?

I had cocktails last night and I'm off boozy bowling this afternoon - it's my birthday on Monday so celebrations have started early.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Lettuce Soup

My parents garden is currently home to a glut of lettuce and potatoes, whenever I'm there I have more thrust upon me!  I had a full lettuce to use, and after eating salad for lunch every day for the last week I didn't fancy salad for my tea.  I'd heard lettuce soup discussed on twitter before, so decided to have a look at recipes.

I was particular taken with this Creamy Lettuce and Arugula soup recipe on www.livinglettuce.co.uk.

I have no idea what a yukon potato is, and have never seen arugula, so made my own version using that recipe as my inspiration.


Ingredients
1 enormous lettuce
1 large onion
6 potatoes
half a bag of spinach
1 Litre of vegetable stock
splash of double cream
goats cheese

Method
Roughly chop the onion and cook until soft in a large pan.  While that's cooking peel and cube the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the pan and then add in the stock.  I used 1L, but I think this could work with 750ml better, if you prefer a thicker soup. Simmer the potato and onions in the stock for 20 mins with a lid on the pan.

When the potatoes are soft add the lettuce and the spinach, pop the lid back on and let it swelter down for 3 mins.  


Doesn't look all that appetising at this stage does it!

When the greens have wilted down it's time to get your blend on.  This is my new hand blender, I'm quite taken with it!  


 When blended your mixture will be a fabulous shade of earthy green.


Adding the cream mutes the colour and adds some luxury to the soup. I just drizzled about a quarter of my tub in.


Stir the cream through and allow it to gently heat within the soup, then it's time to serve.


I added a whopping great chunk of goats cheese and enjoyed a warmed ciabatta for dipping into the soup.

I didn't expect the soup to be quite as tasty as it was - I didn't add any extra stock because I sometimes find that using the vegetable oxo gives it enough salt - I'm probably wrong, but I like my soup like this.  I dipped my bread into the soup, which tasted good enough, but when you add the goats cheese into the mix it's a delightful taste sensation.

The soup tastes good for you, but not to the extent of Aduki Bean Stew.... Anyone that's had that will know what I mean... Adding in the cream gives the soup a touch of luxury, and then adding the goats cheese is a work of sheer indulgence.

Lovely!  Please try some for yourselves.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Meal Planning Monday

It's been a while since I've been organised enough to get one of these done... I need to improve....

Monday - Bangers and Mash
Tuesday - Leftover Borscht then out to Bettakultcha
Wednesday - visit to the gym then Salmon and Salad
Thursday - Tapas, with my cousin in Huddersfield
Friday - gym then salmon fishcakes and salad, using the left over mash from tonight and other salmon fillet
Saturday - a curry of some sort
Sunday - Either chicken or pork, undecided as yet

What are you having this week?

Any tips on what to do with my salmon for Wednesday night?  I was thinking a teryaki style thing?

My Saturday night curry I'm thinking a Cauliflower curry but it's subject to change!

You can find all the other blog entries for this week over on Mrs M's blog.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Wine of the week - Glenridge Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

This is a section I've been meaning to bring out for ages, but I'm not overly confident with sharing my own opinion of wine, because I've never actually been wine tasting.  I just drink a lot of the stuff, and have formulated my own opinion of what I like and don't like....I'll fully admit I can't always pick out the flavours the bottle suggests I should.  Or the smells.  I have books about wine, but I've never dared to go wine tasting, because I'm worried I won't be able to pick out the flavours everyone else can and will look uncultured and stupid.


(I worry constantly that I look uncultured and stupid).


But I know what I like from wine, and I am going to share that with you....  I'd love it if people would let me know if they agree/disagree or share if they think I should try a particular wine.


I love wine.  I drink red in winter and white in summer.  I drink rose if needs must and there's absolutely nothing else to drink.  I'd probably have a soft drink than have to drink rosé.  In my opinion (feel free to disagree) people who only drink rosé don't actually like wine.


So my wine of this week is:






This wine is currently half price at Sainsburys at £5.99.


I've had a cold this week, so my wine flavour picking out is worse than normal... I'm not going to even try, but it tasted flavourful and sweet - but not too sweet - this is possibly the sweetest I can go, I'm a dry white fanatic.  It went pretty well with my lettuce soup, although I drank the majority of it afterwards.  Does any wine go with soup? Can wine complement another liquid?  


I picked this wine because it was half price.  The wine snobs will have given up with this blog post already, so if you're still reading I know you won't mind me admitting that...


I generally pick wine mostly on the whim of my mood and the basis of the season - sometimes in winter I'll really fancy a white, likewise in summer with red - of what I'm eating and the price of the wine.  I try my hardest not to buy the big mass producers (blossom hill etc) and if I'm buying white then I never buy chardonnay.  


I detest chardonnay.


Price is a big factor for me, because I don't have an unlimited budget.  I try to always spend a minimum £6, although it's not unusual to see me with some £4 wine if times are hard....


I have some wine sin confessions, but I think I'll wait until a later post to confess those...



Thursday, 8 September 2011

Cattle Grid Leeds Bloggers Event

I was very lucky to be able to attend a bloggers event on Tuesday night at Cattle Grid in Leeds.

I'll be honest with you - I don't go to Steak Restaurants all that often.  The last one I went to was The Rythre Arms and that was at least 3 years ago now - a lovely steak restaurant that I hope to get back to again soon.

The best steak I've had, so far, (that I haven't cooked myself) was in the Baltic Restaurant in Newcastle, the food coupled with the views was amazing... But I'm more than willing to keep trying steaks to try and find a better one!

Promo shot of the outside

But I'm here to tell you about Cattle Grid.  Here goes....





The event on Tuesday night saw 15 of us invited to dine for free at the Cattle Grid restaurant.  Cattle Grid is located behind the Corn Exchange in Leeds, in the old Cafe Rouge building.

We arrived and were given a drink, the vast majority of us plumped for red wine, readying our palettes for the meat...  We took our seats, an excited buzz about the room, and then were given a talk by one of the co-owners Steve Novak.  He was very frank with us about their restaurant vision, ensuring we were under no illusions of what the place will be.  Steve and Shaun want Cattle Grid to become the steak version of Pizza Express.  Or Nandos.  But we don't talk about Nando's on this blog.   I like their ambition!  Steve told us more about where the meat is sourced etc, and answered any questions we had and dealt with the pack of hungry bloggers very well.

One of the excellent questions to Steve was what would he recommend for us to eat - his response was the Ribeye - so I went for that one.  It's not a cut of steak I've ever had, I always have fillet.  I've been missing out, and will be changing my steak ways.   Penny and I ordered onion strings, spinach and coleslaw to share as sides, and I was talked into sharing a half rack of baby back ribs and piri piri ribs with Neil and Dave.



The baby back ribs were gorgeous, but the piri piri ribs were incredibly spicy - far too much for me, but if you like them spicy then they're for you... Not for the faint hearted.

After a short wait, and plenty of chatting and more red wine quaffing, out came most of our sides and the steaks.




I asked for my steak medium rare, also recommended by Steve, and that's exactly how it came.   The ribeye was tremendous, with a fantastic flavour.  The blue cheese sauce I opted to have with it was also delicious, I was glad I picked that one.  The chips were doubled fried, as is fashionable at the moment - they were very enjoyable.  The spinach was fine, and the coleslaw was creamy.

A few of the other steaks weren't cooked as they were ordered to be unfortunately, I'm wondering if that was a timing issue - their steaks were HUGE.  Dave and Neil had enormous T bone steaks, and Penny had a very large Chicken Burger with the harrissa topping.




Due to a fryer malfunction we didn't receive Penny's chips or the onion strings until nearly the end of the meal.  The onion strings, not to be confused with onion rings, were salty, sweet and moorish - deep fried in a light tempura style batter.  Had I not have eaten a full meal by then I would have happily polished off the full portion, with a lovely cold pint of lager to accompany them! (Oh how I ooze class...)


I really enjoyed my main, and felt for those whose steaks weren't as up to scratch as mine.  Amazingly, for all the food and wine we'd consumed by then, the majority of us opted for a pudding too.  I opted for chocolate icecream, with others having waffles or crème brulee.



I loved the presentation of the brulee, but I wasn't keen on the taste.  I only managed one ball of my ice cream, but it was chocolatey and nice - nothing exciting, but I wasn't expecting to be wowed by it.  I often wonder that for a place like Cattle Grid it's probably not worth investing too much into the puddings, because it's not really what people are there for - they're there for meat and lots of it.  Feel free to let me know if you disagree though.

Towards the end of the evening we were shown upstairs, to what is currently being refurbed to become a venue to be used for a comedy night.  Comedy isn't my thing but I'd be interested to see how the room works as a venue.  I thought it would make a marvellous, intimate venue for Bettakultcha, and proceeded to bore poor Steve about Bettakultcha for the next five minutes.

(The red wine had fully taken control by then...).

So what did I think about Cattle Grid then?

Well, if I'm honest, I've found it hard to give anything but a glowing review - I don't think you can be fully objective about a free meal.  It's an issue I always discuss when with bloggers, and we all have a different opinion on it.

Promo shot of the bar area

I absolutely enjoyed the evening.  The venue was trendy without being intimidating.  My food was excellent although I know it can't be said for everyone - but my meal was very good.   The fryer breaking was unfortunate but certainly not a big deal.  The service was warm, friendly and efficient.  The generosity of allowing us bloggers free reign over the menu was fantastic.

Will I go again?

Yes.  I wouldn't be a regular, as I wouldn't be in any steak place, but I'll be taking my parents to Cattle Grid soon, and hopefully my brother too, they all love a good steak.  I would prefer them to be using only local suppliers for the meat as they do with the bread - from Anthony's - but I understand that pricing has to be taken into consideration - the fact that they don't use local meat suppliers wouldn't stop me from going.

I also think it's important as a food blogger to go back again and pay, to support the restaurant, but also to see what my experience as an average customer is like.

Thank you to Steve for allowing us to visit Cattle Grid, and to Emma and Clancy for organising such a brilliant event.