Chin chin, it’s time to get on with the elderberry gin

Fruity gin by the fire – there’s a seasonal tradition that can enjoyed at this time of the year. While you might be thinking ‘sloes’ , this recipe from guest blogger, Katy Pollard, takes advantage of a fruit that’s a bit more commonplace – the elderberry.

Gin-tastic: Elderberries
Every year I plan to make Elderflower wine. Every year I watch the Elder flowers grow…and die. We have an Elder tree in our front garden and this year I was determined to do it. And I watched as I watched the flowers wither again this year, I realised that the berries could also be fruitful.

So this weekend when they’d become plum and juicy I took my trusty wicker basket out and snipped them down, leaving a few for the local birdies.
The Elder tree is one of our staple growers in the UK. You must be careful when plucking its goodness as most of the tree is poisonous to humans. (Make sure you remove all stems and warm the berries through before using.)

Despite this, the tree has long been believed to have medicinal qualities and is, for example, understood to help in treating ‘flu – useful for those of us looking for natural home remedies for ailments (and needing an excuse to drink this recipe).

Along with the increasing trend for complementary medicines, has been a resurgence in foraging for freely-available foods. Many now spend weekends grazing for fruit, nuts and berries. Tapping into our wild sources of food has perhaps become an even more attractive option in the current economic climate.

Similarly, gin rose to popularity in the early eighteenth century in this country when times were pretty tough and it tended to be the favoured drink of the lower classes. Believed to have a calming effect (doesn’t all alcohol in moderation?!) the spirit takes its flavor from juniper berries.
With the recent interest again in gin (Hendricks anyone?) with the complementary tastes of two berries and a shared history and this seems a perfect recipe.

For a jar of Elderberry Gin:
500g of Elderberry
100g of sugar
70cl of gin

Warm berries gently (microwaving for a couple of mins works a treat) and then stir in the sugar so it starts to dissolve. Tip the mixture into a sterilised jar. Pour over the gin. Seal the jar and put in a cupboard for about a month. Take your ruby goodness out of the cupboard on Christmas Eve, open and sniff. Strain the fruit out (and use in a dessert). Pour. Enjoy.

* Katy Pollard grows herbs, fruit and veg and keeps chickens, ducks and even a pig. She loves cooking with items from the garden in Leeds and is sharing some simple seasonal recipes here.

Two newcomers at the northern food bloggers map

Time to welcome two new additions to the northern food bloggers map.
The first is also a newcomer to food blogging – Caroline says she’s a lover of good food, good wine and good conversation and after eight years of living in Leeds she’s decided to start

She says: “I love this city, and I love what it has to offer in terms of new and exciting food experiences. I love exploring new bars, restaurants and menus, and after reading lots of other food blogs for a while now, I finally decided it was time to start my own! Here you’ll find my thoughts on Leeds’ restaurants, bars, cafes, street food vendors and any place else I find myself.”

The second is the intrepid Mike who claims he does actually eat everything – except ‘cold tomatoes’ (what did they do offend we wonder?)

His website is also our first entry for Warrington and, despite the fact he has only been going a few months, he’s already clocked up a good few posts and reviews.

He says: “Being a massive foody I started it because I was taking pictures of everywhere I was eating out at and being a web geek I decided to start the blog!”

Welcome to both.

* If you belong on the map – drop me a line in the comments or by email to and tell me a little about your blog. A link back to the map would be appreciated as well.

Apple overload? How about a chutney

Guest blogger Katy Pollard knows her apples. At home in Leeds, she grows herbs, fruit and veg and keeps chickens, ducks and even a pig. She loves cooking with items from the garden and here shares a simple recipe which could help out with that seasonal crop.

Harvest time is a happy time if you grow your own fruit and veg and even more so if you’re a foodie like me. Autumn throws a glut of deliciousness at us and this year any complaints we had about the dreadful weather and crop of 2012 have been firmly put back in their place. The combination of a late wet spring followed by hot summer and cool autumn has been perfect – and particularly for fruit. Apples are big, bouncy and buoyant right now and the varieties I’ve been growing are making the branches they sit on bow under their weight. So this weekend I dusted off my wicker basket and picked and picked and picked.
The apple has taken on much different connotations in recent times. Most of us are more familiar with the technology company or the offspring of a certain celebrity than we with are the fruit. We were taught the biblical story of Eve and her inability to resist plucking so we are aware it was a fruit that held significant symbolism at some point in history. However, it seems that the apple has fallen out of favour in more recent times being pushed aside by more exotic and colourful fruit and veg (purple-sprouting broccoli, anyone?) But at a time when many of us are pursuing produce with fewer food miles, let’s look at it again.
The humble apple can also be exotic. Let me tell you about the variety I’ve grown called Red Love Sirena. The trees produce shiny red apples that are also red all the way through. They have a sweet taste described by a friend as ‘a bit like red Opal Fruits’. Their unique colouring means they’re great to cook with and I felt they demand recipes that show off their distinct red colour. For me, Chutney is perfect for this. What could be better than a shock of red in a jar in the centre of a table ready to be popped open and served with a veiny blue cheese and a pack of crackers?
So, with my wicker basket of goods in front of me, I did what I usually do when conjuring up recipes. I spent some time reading up other people’s recipes (the wonder of Google). I took the best ingredients from each recipe; removed the ingredients I didn’t like; added in things I do like and substituted what I didn’t have in my cupboards for something similar. I’m also a bit of a ‘chuck it in and see’ type of cook so there aren’t too many measurements in my recipes. Of course, this recipe works just as well with any type of apple, so go forth and forage and enjoy.
A shock of red chutney
About 8 Apples
One onion
A couple of good handfuls of raisins
A teaspoon of paprika
A teaspoon of ginger
A teaspoon of all spice
A good sprinkle of sugar to taste
About 350mls of Cider vinegar

Chuck it all in a big heavy-bottomed pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 1.5-2 hours until it is really thick. Keep stirring while it’s cooking. Try not to eat too much of it whilst it’s on the hob (and try not to burn your mouth as you do). Then turn off the heat and let it cool and put it in a sterlised jars and in the fridge. Eat.

if you’ve got a recipe, food review or news that you’d like to share here, please give me a shout

Couple check out every restaurant in Leeds for new guide

profile-shotChris Worfolk, and his partner Elina, have spent the past few years eating their way round every restaurant in Leeds city centre. The conclusion of their research has now been published and in this guest post, he tells us what they learned from the experience.

Appearances can be deceiving

the-bookA year ago, I and my partner set ourselves a challenge. We were going to eat at every restaurant in Leeds city centre. I didn’t realise what a challenge that would be at the time.

I started by listing the thirty or so restaurants I hadn’t been to yet. Six months later, we had eaten at twice that many restaurants and my list had become even longer! Clearly my original estimates had been a little short.

Luckily, eating at nice restaurants is hardly an arduous task. We ate, and we ate and we ate, until finally we had been round every restaurant. As a result, we published the Leeds Restaurant Guide.
The biggest lesson we learned from writing it? Appearances usually aren’t deceiving. Normally, if a restaurant doesn’t look too good, it probably isn’t. However, there are a few that, while looking shabby on the outside, offer a wondrous evening within.

At the top of my list would be Curry Leaf. A humble doorway on Eastgate, the sorry looking staircase opens up to an enchanting interior of Sri Lankan décor. The large window into the kitchen allows you to see the flames roar up in the pan and for under £10 you can get a thali with more food on than two people could eat.

My next favourite is Café Italia. Restaurants located so close to the train station sometimes rely on unwarily travellers to fuel their business, rather than great food. Not Café Italia. It is the closest thing to authentic-tasting Italian food I have had in Leeds. Do not miss their homemade tiramisu.

Finally, I would also recommend Hansas. Located on North Briggate, they offer Gujarati vegetarian cuisine. Even if you’re a meat-lover this one is worth a visit and again, the thali comes in at amazing value.

* You can order your copy of the Leeds Restaurant Guide from Amazon here.

The Beast & The Swine: A pop up restaurant with presence

At a place to be revealed with a menu from a never seen before restaurant…….that was the unlikely offer which scores of adventurous diners signed up for with this weekend’s pop up restaurant in Leeds. Destination unknown.

But when The Beast & The Swine opened its doors to the public, they were unlikely to be disappointed.


What a dramatic place setting. Inside Holy Trinity Church, just yards away from the hubbabaloo of Boar Lane (one of Leeds’ busiest streets for a Saturday night) to find yourself sitting in the tranquility of the parish church was faintly surreal.

Under a cat’s cradle of a sculpture spanning the cavernous roof space and surrounded by leaves from books hung on strings all around – the theatre of the event had an immediate wow factor.

Seven courses and a menu of local produce which included Bolito Misto of Yorkshire Wolds chicken and picked carrots.

Keepsake menu

The were moments of brilliance – in particular, the fish course of Bridlington crab, shoots and a grapefruit dressing was a triumph.

Regular offerings of excellent rosemary focaccia arrived. Starters arrived on sharing platters with a selection of ham, a dense and satisfying rabbit rillettes and heritage vegetables.

The meat course, with it’s pink veal tongue rudely sticking out, was a challenge but the crowd pleasing Wensleydale cheese course introduced a stunning onion and golden sultana chutney with whole spices . If that’s for sale anywhere, can someone drop me a line with details.
The final show of a giant croque-en-bouche completed the spectacle of the evening and for those who had any room to spare. I didn’t.

It all got a bit Alice in Wonderland here. Being presented with a baby’s bottle full of Gin Iced Tea on arrival and seeing people wandering around suckling on them set the tone for an unorthodox approach. There’s no wine list, no choice of bar drinks or over priced water selection. The choice for the evening – red or white.
The wine came served in teapots. We drank it from assorted cups and mugs. Who knows what it was?  At a guess, probably a fairly ‘plonky’ cabernet.

If you’re into your wine, this wouldn’t be the best approach to the liquid part of a dining experience  so the novelty factor had to distract diners from their usual choices and I think they got away with it.

20130413_221817Overall experience
I went along on this second night and it was clear the team of four -two chefs, two front of house who call themselves We Are the Animals – had got into its stride. The welcome was warm and, although the low staffing numbers meant service could be a little slow, I don’t think anyone cared because the atmosphere was one of an magical adventure.

Having everyone  seated alongside the other guests led to a  great sense of conviviality than a standard restaurant setting and that openness, together with the stunning venue, made it a night to remember.
They’re looking for new venues, so if the Swine and The Beast – or whatever the We Are the Animals team magics up next – does pops up somewhere near you don’t hesitate –  take a pew, pour from the teapot and tuck in.

* A big thank you to the New Ellington Hotel for making us so welcome at the refurbished hotel. With its stylish interior and be-seen-in gin bar, it was the perfect place to escape the madding crowd and settle down for the night.

For announcements about any other pop-ups from the We The Animals tea, follow them on Twitter @_we_the_animals or on Facebook at

Video: From Pixel to Print: Making the transition from blogger to published author

Moroccan lunchBlogNorth 4 - the biscuit edition!Edible event name badges - geniusConcentrating on the food photo walkBompas and Parr interview about the Whisky TornadoEnjoying the Whisky Tornado

BlogNorth4, a set on Flickr.

Whether it’s accidental good fortune or a planned route, for some food bloggers the online passion project they started out with ends up as an enterprise in print. The BlogNorth4 event in Leeds yesterday heard from two such people who started with blogs and ended up being published authors.

Their stories are very different.
Lynn Hill who started the Clandestine Cake Club was approached by a publishing agent looking for a book but them had to go out and demonstrate that she was both ‘famous’ enough and could command enough of a following before getting into print. Television shows, radio appearences and more ensued to the point that Lynn told us her only regret is that she no longer gets time to see her friends. You can order her beautiful book here.The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook

For Leigh Linley, after initially approaching major publishers cold about his Good Stuff blog and the idea for a book, he found success with a regional publisher who spotted the opportunity for a book which was very focussed on Yorkshire and presenting beer in a modern way to people interested in brewing and, of course, drinking.

His book, Great Yorkshire Beer, is available here.
Great Yorkshire Beer: Good Beer. Good Food. Good People

All set for #blognorth4 Food Glorious Food

It’s nearly time for the fourth Blog North event – Food Glorious Food is being organised by the fabulous CultureVultures blog and on in Leeds all day tomorrow.

There’ll be cake, there’ll be cooking talk, of course, but more than that there’ll be all manner of food related workshops from photography to branding.

I shall be going along for the day – blogging, tweeting, snapping and eating.

I’m hoping to meet some new northern food bloggers – sure there’s some that should be added to my map – sit back and enjoy the workshops.

In readiness I’ve briefed my little n0tice reporter robot assistant, foodiebot, who will be capturing all the action on this dedicated noticeboard.

She’ll be capturing all the social content from the event as follows:
– tweets with the hashtag #blognorth4
– instagram pictures tagged #blognorth4
– Flickr pictures filed under Creative Commons sharing settings tagged #blognorth4
– youTube videos tagged and in the vicinity (none there yet but hey, never say never, video’s the new black don’t you know!).

The foodiebot’s work will mean I’ll have heaps of content stored to enjoy later, I won’t miss anything and I can curate shareable content for everybody from the event such as embeddable picture galleries.If you’d rather not be included in this, please do let me know.

I’ll be blogging here aplenty so, even if you can’t make it to Leeds, check back here for all the action over the weekend.

btw. If you’d like tools like this for your event, blog, brand or company please give me a shout as these are just some of the suite of tools available.

What the food inspectors found in Leeds

The latest part of my investigation into the food premises which received zero ratings during their hygiene inspections is now in and we can see what happened at Leeds takeaways.

Back in July  I started asking various councils across the north of England to open up their files and share what the inspectors found in your take-aways, restaurants and food stores.

The last council to respond has been Leeds which has now detailed the six premises judged to need “urgent action”.

The hygiene standards found at the time of inspection are rated on a scale. At the bottom of the scale is ‘0’ – this means urgent improvement is required. At the top of the scale is ‘5’ – this means the hygiene standards are very good.”

The six were:

* Wike Ridge Inn, Leeds Golf Centre, Wike Ridge Lane, Alwoodley , Leeds LS17 9JW.
Last inspected 11.03.2011. Next Inspection due 9.8.12

* Chapeltown Supermarket, 170 Chapeltown Road
Chapeltown, Leeds LS7 4HP. Last inspected 11.03.2011. Next inspection due 11.9.12
(Note: this report hasn’t been posted yet)

* Shaan Pizza 27 Harehills Road, Leeds LS8 5HR.
Inspected 8.3.12
Next Inspection due 7.9.12

* Kamrans Tandoori, 77 King Street, Drighlington, Bradford. BD11 1EJ
Inspected 6.3.12
Next Inspection due 6.3.12

* Shawarma 73A Raglan Road, Woodhouse, Leeds LS2 9DZ
Inspected 7.3.12
Next Inspection due 7.9.12

* The Jade, 254 Tong Road, Farnley, Leeds LS12 3BG
Inspected 29.2.12
Next Inspection due 29.8.12

You can now read the full findings from the inspections of each of the premises by clicking on the appropriate place on the map or by downloading them here.

I used the Freedom of Information Act to ask five cities – Sunderland, Carlisle, Middlesbrough, Manchester and Leeds – to supply these details of the premises which their inspectors rated zero in the past year using a process that is open to anyone.

If you’d like to know what the inspector found in your local take-away, you can also join in with the investigation in other locations. The full instructions of how to submit a simple Freedom of Information Request and add your results to the map can be found here.

Leeds to host new ‘pop up’ restaurant Chateau Marmot

Have you heard of Chateau Marmot?

If you’re in Leeds then you might be about to discover this new restaurant – it’s just I just don’t know exactly when or where it will be!

Claiming to offer a “mind blowing gastronomic experience” on August the 17, 18 or 19th  the evening is being cooked up by chef Miles Dupree (pictured) who is taking a break from London’s  Ottolenghi..

Organisers say the event follows on from a celebrated sell-out run in York, for two nights and a Sunday lunch the Chateau will pop up in a secret venue in the centre of Leeds to serve up a five course tasting menu featuring creative, locally sourced, Modern British food with an international twist and new cooking techniques courtesy of Dupree:

“I want to share some exciting takes on classic dishes as well as interesting new techniques and flavour pairings with people in Yorkshire this summer.  Our forager in Harrogate is out raiding the hedgerows and our organic farmers in North Yorkshire are selecting their best meat and veggies for us as we speak.  It’s going to be fun!”

Owners Theo Cooper and Danielle Treanor got in touch to explain that Chateau Marmot will feature a tasting menu able to compete with the best but minus the formality of a Michelin starred restaurant, as Danielle explains:

“We want to outlaw the stuffiness associated with eating amazing food; for people to have a fantastic time and be blown away by the food they’ve eaten in a friendly and unexpected context. I’m from Yorkshire and I know the passion people have for food here.”

Duck egg pop quinoa

Guests will dine on a five course tasting menu for just £28 per head with dishes such as roast duck breast, orange puree, black olive, quinoa and almonds or poached snapper, turnips, radish, butter dashi and Dupree’s secret recipe liquorice powder. Drinks will be primarily BYO with wine pairings suggested by their sommelier on their website, they will also serve award winning Rudgate Brewery beer and feature a cheese cart, packed with Yorkshire cheeses.

All of this will be taking place in a secret central Leeds location to be revealed to guests a few days before their booking. There will be art pieces from the Marmot’s own private collection on display and occasional special guests.

To book a ticket go to

Follow the Marmot’s foodie exploits on Twitter @chateaumarmot

Yorkshire Day launch of new food website out of Yorkshire has launched today. It’s an expansion of the Leeds-based coffee and smoothie chain Out of the Woods which, the owners say, will offer British folk the opportunity to discover food and drink from independent suppliers across Yorkshire.

Out of the Woods opened its first shop on Water Lane in 2006 and after four years, Jon Baldwin and co-owner Ross Halliday, were able to open a second shop in Granary Wharf in 2010, where they offer people in the city healthy alternatives in a relaxed and natural environment.

Jon said: “Our customers have told us that they love the locally sourced produce available in our cafes and so the next logical step was to take this online and share these quality ingredients and products with everyone who shares our passion for great tasting food from local suppliers. will also provide pre-prepared hampers for people that are looking to give the perfect gift to food lovers or Yorkshire expats.”

Suppliers stocked on the site will range from well-known sweet producer Farrah’s of Harrogate, to the up and coming Harrogate Preserves and Toftly Treats.

This new venture has been brought to life with the help of employee Chris Large who has a background in e-commerce and shared enthusiasm for local produce. will also provide corporate packages for client gifts or hotels.

Products can be delivered to your home or office, or collected from Out of the Woods’ shop in Granary Wharf, Leeds.