Ibérica’s Authentic Paella

To Ibérica the stunning, former Bonhams/Hepper building on East Parade to learn about paella. We’d been invited by Marcos the CEO of the Ibérica Group who explained how we’d all been having too many touristy paellas and they were here to show us the proper thing.

The secret said Marcos is in the stock. It must be a proper fish or meat stock. The rice absorbs the liquid and provides all the flavour. There should only be a thin layer of rice, cooked over a high flame, preferably wood-fired and never stirred, this would release too much starch and make it sticky. When the rice can absorb no more stock the remaining liquid is allowed to caramelise so that it toasts a little at the bottom of the pan. This, is called the socorrat and considered the best bit of the paella.

To prove it they brought out a fish and a meat paella. It was thinner than I’d expected and not at all creamy like risotto. One was topped with prawns the other chicken (no mixed fish and meat they said) They were right of course the flavour is all in the rice, and with a special scraper, the chef released the wonderful crusty layer. It was indeed very good.

They also brought out anchovies and a selection of charcuterie, a plate of creamy and delicate croquetas, a strawberry and beetroot salad with an ajo blanco dressing, roasted bone marrow and steak tartar topped with fried quail eggs and for dessert, rice pudding with a brûlée top, churros and chocolate and an apple and salted caramel ice cream topped with whipped crema catalana.

What began as a talk about paella, morphed into a full blown lunch washed down with some rather luscious wines. We’re often sniffy about chains (Iberica will hate me for calling them a chain rather than a ‘collection’) but this we are willing to concede is one of the best, not least for its fabulous setting (make sure you use the loos) and of course the authentic paella.

Ibérica Leeds, Hepper House, 17a East Parade, Leeds LS1 2BH

T: 0113 403 7007

W: www.ibericarestaurants.com/restaurants/iberica-leeds/

Food Awards 2017

Man_Behind_CurtainIt’s the awards time of year, so here’s a quick round up:

The 2017 Waitrose Good Food Guide came out in September with new entries for Ox Club and Tharavadu in Leeds, White Rabbit in Todmorden and the Crathorne Arms south of Middlesbrough. One of our favourites,  the Swine that Dines is credited in a list of ‘Best New Openings’ with our congratulations to Ian Myers who is named as ‘a chef to watch’.

 

Last week the UK Michelin Guide was published with no surprises for Yorkshire, just a sigh of relief I suspect for the six Yorkshire restaurants that retained their stars. They are: the Star at Harome, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill; the Black Swan at Oldstead; the Box Tree, Ilkley; the Pipe & Glass at South Dalton and the Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds.

 

Among our near neighbours: Raby Hunt at Darlington has been awarded a second star, a stunning accolade and one of only 20 in the UK. Single stars are retained by House of Tides, Newcastle; Fischer’s of Baslow and Northcote at Langho.

 

Michelin’s ‘affordable dining’ award, the Bib Gourmand goes to Prashad in Drighlington, Chadwicks of Maltby and Le Langhe in York.

 

Yorkshire got a look-in at the Great British Pub Awards with

Best Beer Pub: the Sheffield Tap. Best Student Pub: the Doctor’s Orders, Sheffield. Best Cider Pub: Foley’s Tap House, Leeds and across the border Best Food Pub for the Freemason’s at Wiswell near Clitheroe.

Yorkshire Rhubarb

Yorkshire rhubarb

There’s nothing else like it in agriculture – the low wooden forcing sheds of Yorkshire’s rhubarb producers are quiet, warm and dark. As far as the eye can see, there are slender pink stalks topped with curly yellow leaves. Workers pick by candlelight – harsh light would cause the stalks to lose their colour. Caterpillars brought in on the roots are fooled into thinking it’s spring and hatch into butterflies to flutter around in the ethereal glow. Listen carefully and you can even hear the rhubarb growing. The tissue-like membrane that wraps around the leaves, a bit like a daffodil, pops when it unfurls.

These rhubarb sheds and the dozen or so farms that make up the rhubarb triangle between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield are all that remain of a once thriving industry that began around a hundred and fifty years ago when miners from the West Riding pit villages growing a few spuds in their allotment would also sport a few sticks of ‘tusky’ –  rhubarb grown under an old bucket to keep it pink and tender.

From these small beginnings developed Europe’s biggest forced rhubarb industry. The miners began by splitting a few roots, acquiring some land and building forcing sheds. Surprisingly, the unpromising setting of industrial West Yorkshire proved to be ideal rhubarb country. The night soil from thousands of privies and waste from local shoddy mills was used to fertilise the soil and provided just the right conditions the roots needed. In December they would be dug from the cold wet soil and transferred to the forcing sheds where devoid of food and light they would be watered and kept at  a constant 60°F by the coal that was available and cheap.

By the 1920s there were over 200 rhubarb growers in the ‘pink patch’, an eight-mile stretch between Leeds and Wakefield. A farm might grow up to 90 tons a year and a rhubarb train ran regularly from Leeds to Kings Cross. But devastated by cheap imports from Holland and usurped by fashionable fruits from across the world, the rhubarb trade declined after the war. The number of growers dwindled and the last rhubarb train left Leeds in 1966.

But some growers, like Janet Oldroyd at Hopefield Farm and David Westwood at Thorpe Farm near Wakefield kept the faith and despite the decline in demand and rising fuel prices, they battled on. Then a few years ago chefs began to rediscover the unloved stalk, Delia cooked with it and we all started buying, cooking and loving rhubarb again.

There are still only a dozen Yorkshire growers today, but sales have recovered and the Oldroyds say they can sell all they produce which has climbed from 300 tons a decade ago to 1000 tons of indoor and outdoor rhubarb today.

Rhubarb and pannacotta at the Bruce Arms

Janet Oldroyd has done much to champion rhubarb. She is a leading light in the annual Yorkshire Rhubarb Festival and runs tours of the forcing sheds and in 2010 was instrumental in gaining Protected Designation of Origin  (PDO) for Yorkshire rhubarb which means that only rhubarb grown in the rhubarb triangle can be called Yorkshire rhubarb.

There are lots of  Yorkshire restaurants serving Yorkshire forced rhubarb during the November to March season, but these restaurants have long championed the stuff. The General Tarleton, The Star Inn at Harome, Melton’s, The Fox & Hounds, The Bruce Arms.

The Good Food Guide in Yorkshire

GFG coverThe Good Food Guide’s out today, now under the auspices of Waitrose, so you should be able to pick up a copy in your local store.

Yorkshire restaurants as ever gets a good show with more than 65 entries and top marks going to the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill, the Box Tree at Ilkley and Van Zeller’s in Harrogate with an impressive 6/10. The Burlington at Devonshire Arms comes in a touch lower at 5/10 presumably because new chef Adam Smith is still finding his feet.

Other 5’s include the Fox and Hounds at Goldsborough, the Star Inn at Harome, Samuel’s at Swinton Park, Vennell’s in Masham, the Pipe & Glass at South Dalton, and Le Langhe and Melton’s both in York.

Congratulations to all the new entries: The Buck Inn at Maunby, the Broadfield Ale House in Sheffield, the Grapes at Slingsby, the Park at Sutton on Forest where Adam Jackson popped up after serving time at the Black Swan at Oldstead and York’s big new opening, the Star Inn the City. Special congratulations to the Spiced Pear at Holmfirth where Tim Bilton and his team also picked up the Readers’ Restaurant of the Year award for the north east.

If you think these scores sound on the low side, think again. Only three restaurants in this year’s guide scored a perfect 10/10 L’Enclume, The Fat Duck and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Four restaurants score 9/10  and a handful 8/10 and 7/10.

A score of 6/10 according to the Guide means: ‘exemplary cooking skills, innovative ideas, impeccable ingredients and an element of excitement’.

While 5/10 means: ‘exact cooking techniques and a degree of ambition; showing balance and depth of flavour in dishes’.

So if you agree or disagree with these entries and their scores, have found somewhere good or better, let them know. The GFG hold great store by readers’ responses. To do so, log on to www.thegoodfoodguide.co.uk, and tell them what you think. But make sure you tell us first.

Vote for your favourite Yorkshire restaurant

Box Tree RestaurantEach year the Good Food Guide invites readers to nominate their favourite restaurant for the Reader’s Restaurant Award. They first make an award to each region and then an  award  to the overall winner.

There is still time to vote, but we can reveal that at the halfway point, the leading restaurants in the whole of the north east are all from Yorkshire. They are: the Box Tree, Ilkley, Eric’s of Lindley, Melton’s, York and the Spiced Pear, Holmfirth.

We think any of these – indeed, any from our Top Ten – would make a worthy winner. Take a look at our reviews and see if you agree.

Last year the GFG was bought by Waitrose so we wait to see what changes that may herald but for now the GFG is our guide of choice, the best and most independent of all the food guides, (except for Squidbeak of course).

To vote got to www.thegoodfoodguide.co.uk

 

 

Eating Well in the 60s

Get Stuffed01

 

What do you remember of eating out in Leeds? Last month in the Yorkshire Post I asked what were the first game-changing restaurants in Leeds and cited Get Stuffed, La Grillade, Brasserie 44 and latterly Anthony’s.

Get Stuffed posterSo I was surprised and delighted to receive an email from the Get Stuffed man himself Len Cohen, who told me how it all began, arriving in Leeds in 1959 as a fashion and textile student from his native Dublin, opening Get Stuffed Dining Chambers in 1969 in Park Cross Street opposite the Town Hall and later Get Stuffed Italian on Albion Place, the one I remember best. As well as fresh British food, locally sourced and three fresh vegetables with every main course, Get Stuffed Dining Chambers also offered pizza. ‘We were the first people to sell pizza, this was before the Flying Pizza’ says Len, ‘We innocently served it cold as a starter until someone told us it should be hot. Customers called it Pitsa Pie and wanted it with chips, but Get Stuffed Dining Chambers never served chips in its whole life and nor did  Get Stuffed Italian’

We may chuckle now, but these were the dark days of British food where a grilled half a grapefruit was considered an acceptable starter.  Get Stuffed though wasn’t just about food it was about style and atmosphere. When he opened Len’s Bar on York Place and later Digby’s nightclub, Len crammed it with stuff: ‘I was so impressed by the bars in the U.S. I filled the place with bric-a-brac bought for pennies, served wine by the glass and offered waitress service’, all things that were revolutionary in the early 70s and those of us around at the time, especially our Yorkshire TV crowd, staff and stars alike,  made the most of it, packing the place out night after night.

Len dug out a couple of photos from back then and by coincidence they featured our BBC and YTV colleagues, naturally looking a good deal younger. I can’t see from the photograph above what was on the menu, but they all look happy enough with bottles of McEwans and a loaded ashtray. Happy days. Thanks Len.

Get Stuffed Sid Waddell

Our YTV colleagues: L-R Tom Adams, Meryl Wilford, John Wilford, Lindsey, former wife of the much missed Sid Waddell

What do you remember of early restaurants in Leeds? In the top picture Cindy Ritson in the white blouse sits beside David Seymour and opposite Barry Chambers and Pat Seymour. Do you remember Get Stuffed or where you ate in the 60s in Yorkshire. Please  leave us a comment.

 

 

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