Sarto, Leeds

Eating out
Sarto, Leeds post image

Some new ground for two of Leeds’ existing and best-known independents, Sarto is a restaurant collaboration between the people behind The Brunswick on North Street, up past The Reliance, and the frankly awesome Laynes Espresso just outside the station.

It focuses squarely on pasta, and was born out of a series of test pop-up events that clearly showed the demand. Sarto serves a decent variety of fresh pasta dishes at pretty good prices in a space in Munro House, close to Leeds College of Music and the BBC.

The food is excellent. Fresh pasta, cooked well, with care and attention. Big bowls of rigatoni dressed sparsely with slow cooked shoulder of lamb and mint, fettuccine with wild mushrooms and cream, spike with marsala, big bowls of sourdough bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar … you get the idea. More …

Where to eat in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

Eating out
Where to eat in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York post image

New York, New York. The king of cities. Bustling, frenetic, funny, edgy, and with literally thousands of places to eat.

Here’s a quick round up of the places we ate on a recent short break in the New York, based in the much-recommended neighbourhood of Williamsburg, over in Brooklyn, about five minutes ride from Manhattan on the L train.

Where to eat in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

First off, the grandfather of New York pizza is Di Fara’s in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn is a massive place, and after we realised it’d take the best part of an hour on the subway to get there, then having to face into an infamously slow and somewhat unpredictable service, we decided to give the relatively new Williamburg branch a go instead. Housed in a really good food market type place on N 3rd Street, this outpost is said to be the twin of it’s more famous brother, and it did not disappoint. I’d go as far as saying that this was the best pizza I’ve had outside of Italy. Light, and tasty dough, with a good zing of acidity through it, topped with perfect combinations of ingredients and excellent tomato sauce and slices of mozzarella. So good we ordered more.

Di Fara’s pizza, Williamsburg

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Pasteis de Nata, or Portuguese custard tarts

Food & drink
Pasteis de Nata, or Portuguese custard tarts post image

These little custard tarts present something of a problem. They’re best cooked very quickly, at very high temperatures, so that the top and the edges scorch in an attractive way. That means that ordinary ovens probably aren’t going to cut it, but that pizza oven out in my back garden might just.

That thing is a beast. It hits 450c with ease, a flame rolling over the inside of the dome to cook a pizza through in about two minutes. It makes short work of a custard tart.

I experimented with a pack of ordinary, shop-bought puff pastry. It’s a wonderful product – consistent, dependable, quick, and it’s well worth having a pack or two stashed away in the freezer. Later attempts using homemade puff pastry, using this recipe, were better but far less convenient. There’s a great recipe for puff pastry here.

Scandinavian cinnamon and cardamom buns

Books, Food & drink
Scandinavian cinnamon and cardamom buns post image

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a book, a massive seven hundred and sixty-seven page hulk of a book about Nordic food, perhaps unimaginatively entitled The Nordic Cookbook.

My short review is that it’s well worth thirty quid of anybody’s money, and this is the first thing I’ve cooked from it and also one of the chief reasons I bought it.

Scandinavian baking is excellent. There’s an easy path between bread and cake that fits well into my way of cooking, and these cinnamon buns, rolled sweet pastry laced with cardamom and stuffed with butter and sugar are a superb example. They’re common across all of the Scandinavian countries in one form or another, and they’re fairly easy and forgiving to make.

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Chicken liver ragu

Food & drink
Chicken liver ragu

Chicken livers are extremely good for you.

They’re a rich source of protein, packed with iron and vitamins. They’re good for your brain, good for your fertility if you’re a woman, and great recovery food after a tough workout.

They should be top of the shopping list, but instead, they’re criminally underused, relegated to sad little packs in the supermarket fridge with all the other weird bits that nobody wants to buy.

This is a great tragedy, a travesty. Chicken livers are delicious, and worth so much more than a good blitzing to form a pate, although that’s a fine and noble thing to do with them.

I sometimes buy a pack of chicken livers, fry them off with nothing more than a little salt and pepper and eat them for lunch over the course of the next few days. Three or four lunches for about a quid? Thanks very much.

And yes, they’re ridiculously cheap, cheap out of sync with the massive flavour punch they deliver. More …