Friday, 30 September 2011

Autumn Grazer Market, Jesmond

Looking for something to do this Sunday?

Pop along to Northumberland Tennis Club for an autumnal food market. Organised by Anna Hedworth, Autumn Grazer will feature food and drink from north east suppliers including Ringtons Tea, Northumberland Cheese Company, The Consett Popcorn Company and Carruthers and Kent. The Broad Chare will also be there, serving up pub snacks and real ales and Hotel Du Vin are hosting an outdoor BBQ. Let's just hope this lovely weather holds out.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Feathers Inn, Hedley on the Hill

However did we manage without sat-navs? Well, we probably just planned the journey in advance, used a map, and got there on time without too much fuss. Yesterday, we set off on the 30 minute journey to the Feathers Inn without any prior knowledge of where we were really going. We arrived over an hour later, having at one point ended up on the longest, rockiest country track I've ever seen in my life. We also drove precariously across the narrowest bridge known to man, crossed the same river three times, and at one point, following directions from the lovely sat-nav lady, ended up in a field.

Not to worry though, we got there in the end. Even if our ears were popping from the ascent up the hill and our nerves were slightly shaken, we were hungry.

The Feathers Inn has been on my 'to do' list for a while now. Featured in the Good Food Guide 2011 and recently named Great British Pub of the Year, it's acquiring an excellent reputation both locally and nationally and I couldn't wait to sample their offerings.

It's a typical English country pub, cosy and without any pretensions. Lots of wood and a warm, rustic feel. A few locals prop up the bar with an ale in hand, and all tables are fully occupied with diners.

The menu features British food with a local twist. Most of the produce is sourced only a stone's throw from the pub, and suppliers are detailed on the back of the menu. For starters, we shared the charcuterie board, served with celeriac coleslaw, toast and pickles.

Pork and grouse terrine, and a chunky pressed ham hock were beautiful, but the chicken liver parfait is the highlight. Creamy, soft and meaty, almost the texture of butter, it was delicious lashed onto the toast. There was ample for two people, though I could have quite happily had some more of the parfait.

Moving on to the main courses, we ordered beer battered North Sea fish with chunky chips, tartar sauce and mushy peas, and the the sausages with creamy mash.

The fish was fresh, flaky and delicate, encased in a light batter and served with fluffy, perfectly seasoned chips. I could eat the chips again right now. Contenders for 'chip of the year'.

We could hardly manage a desert, but in the spirit of making an across the board judgement, we shared the dark chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and wild cherry ice-cream.

The picture does this no justice. It was rich, dark and moist, accompanied perfectly by the creamy and refreshing ice-cream. I don't have a massive sweet tooth, but this was a perfect round off to a perfect meal.

There's also an extensive, reasonably priced wine list, as well as a good selection of local ales. Service was friendly, knowledgeable and professional, striking the balance just right between not-being-there-when-you-want-them and in-your-face-annoying.

The bill came to £48, including 2 glasses of Pinot Grigio and a ginger beer. Very reasonable for such a lovely meal in great surroundings and excellent service. It was also refreshing to see that there wasn't a 'discretionary service charge' added to the bill. I'm all for tipping great service, but it isn't discretionary when it's already added.

The Feathers Inn really is something special, and I'll be back very soon.

Though next time, we'll just use a map.

Result: 10/10

The Feathers Inn
Hedley on the Hill
NE43 7SW

Friday, 23 September 2011

Jamie Oliver's Fiery Dan Dan Noodles

It's Friday evening, and this of course calls for easily made, quick recipes which are satisfying and best washed down with a few beers.

I've been a big fan of Jamie Oliver since his Naked Chef days. Aside from the fact that many of his recipes are now in my regular repertoire, I'd love to go for a pint with him and have a good old chat. He just seems like a lovely bloke. His commendable dedication to numerous food related causes, his lovely old nan, his gorgeous wife, his beautiful children, named after various perennials... makes you sick, doesn't it?

Anyway... I love this recipe for Fiery Dan Dan Noodles. Perhaps you could question its authenticity, even more so after I've added my own variations to Jamie's original, but it's very good nonetheless.

Also, it's simple to make, requires no more ingredients than what you'll probably already have in your fridge, and can be on your plates in less than half an hour. Silky soft noodles, fresh crunchy vegetables, punchy raw garlic, crispy beef with a sweetness from the honey and a real kick from the chilli.

Recipe serves 4.

500g minced beef
2 tablespoons runny honey
500g wheat noodles
4 handfuls mixed green vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, bok choi, etc), cut into 1cm strips
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons Szechuan pepper
4 tablespoons chilli oil
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped (you might want to omit this if you don't have a good tolerance for chilli, as it's quite hot already if you only use the oil)
2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
1 lime, quartered, to serve

  • Throw the beef into a dry pan on a medium to high heat. Keep it moving about for about 10-15 minutes, or until it's becoming golden and crispy. Drain out any excess fat and stir in the honey, mixing it in well, and continue to heat for around 40 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Cook your noodles on the hob according to packet instructions. When they have about a minute to go, chuck in the green vegetables. They should be heated through but still really crunchy.
  • Drain the noodles and vegetables in a colander. Tip them back into the hot pan with a mugful of water. Add the garlic, soy sauce, Szechuan pepper, chilli oil and fresh chilli. Give it all a good stir.
  • Put the beef back on the heat for 30 seconds so it's piping hot.
  • Divide the noodles into 4 bowls. Sprinkle the crispy beef on top. Throw on the spring onions and serve with a lime quarter.

Tip for superstitious types: Don't serve your noodles with the chopsticks stuck into the bowl. It's traditionally associated with death. Just balance them on the side then let your guests do the rest.

Lovely served for friends with a beer.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

What's on in October

I'm a bit of a stickler for organisation. My diary is a wealth of knowledge on all forthcoming events which may involve the opportunity to partake in two of my favourite pastimes; eating and drinking. In reality, I'd probably never find the time to make it along to all of them, but my well organised intentions are there nonetheless. Rather than keeping these to myself, I've put together a list of my personal favourites for the month ahead.

Blackfriars Ladies' Lunch

Do you fancy yourself as a lady-who-lunches? Yes, so do I. Get yourself along to the brilliant Blackfriars' monthly event, which features a demonstration by a local expert (this time, make up artist Kerry Nicholson from The Perfect Base) and a three course meal including a glass of wine and coffee. Make new friends, learn the tips and tricks of make up artistry and sample the food of one of my all time favourite Newcastle restaurants. Tickets are £25 and it's advisable to book in advance.

4th October, 11.30am
Blackfriars Restaurant, Friars Street, Newcastle, NE1 4XN
0191 261 5945

Northumbria Food and Wine Festival

The first of what is promised to be an annual event, recently crowned 'British Pub of the Year', The Feathers Inn, is collaborating with Fasol Menin and Tynedale Rugby Club to bring us the first Northumbria Food and Wine Festival. The event will feature pop-up restaurants, cookery demonstrations, wine talks, wine tasting events and live music. They aim to 'create an environment that allows people to shop easily, discover new facts about wine and food and try lots of new tastes.' Tickets are available for £20 via the website, or for £25 on the door.

7-9th October
Tynedale Park, Corbridge, Northumberland, NE45 5AY

Pop-up Indian restaurant

Newcastle based food writer and private chef Maunika Gowardhan hosts the region's first pop-up Indian restaurant. Held at Terry Laybourne's Caffe Vivvo, this one off event will be 'showcasing regional influences from the Indian sub continent whilst celebrating Indian street food along with home cooked meals for discerning diners and Indian food fans alike.' 3 course menu, £30 per person.
Note: this event is now fully booked, though Caffe Vivvo are holding a waiting list, in case of cancellations.

10th October, 7pm
Caffé Vivo, 29 Broad Chare, Newcastle, NE1 3DQ
0191 2321331

Durham Food Festival & Book Festival

Durham Food Festival brings gourmet food marques, a continental market, local farmers' market and chef demonstrations to the city. The final day, Sunday 23rd October, coincides with the Durham Book Festival and some foodie talks are served up on the Palace Green, with a distinct emphasis on all things baking related.
At 12pm, award winning baker Dan Lepard will be discussing his new book, his baking philosophies, and whisking up some treats. At 2pm, Edd Kimber, the 'boy who bakes' and winner of BBC2's Great British Bake Off, will be sharing tales of his baking adventures.

20-23rd October
Durham City

With such an interesting and diverse programme of events in one single month, it's pretty fair to say that it isn't so grim up north.