Dont’ be so cheeky, Evuna & Sapporo

Another manic week has flown by and went something like; Drive to London, get replacement laptop, drive to Manchester, eat in nice restaurant, next day all day team meeting (made them my chocolate and raspberry special, went down very well!), fly to Glasgow, attend breakfast meeting, have update session with colleagues, fly back to Manchester, eat in another nice restaurant, next day present to decision makers with colleague, drive back home……..!

I had a clean out in the herb/spice cupboard a couple of weeks back and placed an order on my favourite specialist supplier Steenbergs, luckily they arrived in time for last weekends cookery experiment and I was looking forward to trying something a little different.

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What I love about Steenbergs is that you know where the contents originate from, unlike the anonymous brands in the supermarkets. Amongst the regular well known products I also ordered some more unusual spices, you may notice Kala Namak (Black Salt)Ajwain (Bishops Weed) and Blue Mallow (Creeping Charlie) this is in readiness for a cookery course I am attending in November run by Sumayya Jamil, known as the Pukka Paki if you are on twitter.

I have recently become a ‘cheek’ fan, after being blown away by one of the Tapas dishes I cooked for our Silver Wedding Anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  I remember having an Ox Cheek in the freezer that I bought a couple of months back, it was ideal for a slow cooking experiment I wanted to have a go at.

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This is an asian inspired dish, with a hint of mexico thrown in for good measure and embraced by the french love of red wine!

Cooking Ox cheeks is a Long, Slow process. It took about 7 hours to complete this particular culinary delight but blimey, it was really worth it, and with new spices to add depth and flavour, lets get started.

You will need; Onions, Carrot, Celery, Tomatoes, Chipotle Chilli’s, Red Wine, Beef Stock, Red Wine Vinegar, Tomato Puree,  Star Anise (I ending up using 2), Black Peppercorns (I used 10 Lampung Indonesian), Clove (about 2-3) Cinnamon Stick (a quarter of a stick), Parsley and Thyme and some Maldon Sea Salt. You will also need some seasoned plain flour to dredge the Ox Cheek in prior to cooking.

Before starting, put the kettle so you can soak the Chipotle Chillis (2) for 20 minutes, and get the Beef Stock ready, fresh is fab but I used a Low Salt Organic Kallo stock cube which you can get in most supermarkets, you need 1/2 pint. Also, set you oven to 125 degrees (fan).

First, cut the cheek into approximately 1 inch cubes and dredge with the seasoned salt. Take a large casserole or dutch oven and fry the cheeks in butter and olive oil until browned, and remove from the pan.

Chop the Onion, Carrot and Celery into small chunks and add to the pan, cooking on a lowish heat for 5 -10 minutes until soft. Add the peppercorns (crushed), 2 Star Anise, 2 – 3 Cloves, a quarter length of Cinnamon stick and cook for  a couple of minutes, the aroma’s will delight your senses.  Add the Thyme and Parsley next, and a tablespoon of Tomato Puree cooking for a further 2 – 3 minutes.

Now put the cheeks back into the pan, chop the chipotle chilli’s in half and add them too,  half a bottle of Red Wine goes in and simmer, reducing by half, then add the Beef Stock and about 2 tablespoons of Red Wine Vinegar.

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At this stage it should look something like the picture above, and be filling the kitchen with fantastic aroma’s. You now need to make a ‘Cartouche’ out of greaseproof or baking parchment. Take a square of paper larger than the pan and scrumple it up, then un-scrumple and put into the pan so the paper is touching the total surface of the liquid, and it should also come up the sides, a bit like a lid. The cartouche prevents a skin forming on the surface of the liquid. Finally,  put the lid on the pan and place in the oven for 5 – 6 hours, I checked mine at the 3 hour level to see how the sauce was reducing.

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To accompany this very rich dish I decided on Saffron and Garlic Infused Mash Potato, and French Beans wrapped in Panchetta. Take a quarter cup of Full Cream Milk, and add a pinch of Saffron and a couple of lightly crushed Garlic Cloves, I prepared mine when the Ox Cheeks went into the Oven, and stuck the jug in the fridge to infuse for several hours.

After 5 – 6 hours, take the Cheeks out of the oven, put back on the hob on a low heat and remove the lid and cartouche. Its now a judgement on how thick you want your sauce to be, I cooked slowly whilst the potatoes were boiling so approximately 30 minutes.

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I like James Martin’s approach to Mash Potato, adding loads of butter not forgetting the infused Milk from the fridge, passing through a tea strainer to remove the Garlic and Saffron Stems. Served with a decent bottle of Red Wine this dish is outstanding, the boss, who was not keen on the idea of eating Ox Cheeks loved it, as did I.  Its a long slow cook but the results are fantastic, I shall be revisiting this one in the winter months for sure.

Evuna – A Little Taste Of Spain

The 1st stop during my manic week was Evuna in Manchester. After a busy day the thought of some light Spanish Tapas was very appealing, so a table reserved for 7:45 was just what the Doctor ordered. Evuna is located in Deansgate, Manchester and was a 15 minute walk from the hotel.  Spanish waiters and waitresses make this place special, they know what they are talking about and provide fantastic service. Evuna is quite unique as they also specialise in importing excellent wines from Spain, which you can purchase to take away, as well as drink with your meal.

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Gallego Merluza (Galacian Style Hake), and Albondigas were delightful. The Hake was coated in a very light batter and served with a delicious Vegetable stew, very very tasty, the Albondigas (Pork & Beef), served in a Wine and Tomato sauce were equally delish. The restaurant style is very homely, with shelves of wine acting as a atmospheric backdrop. Evuna has Wine events throughout the year, and specials on the menu each week, I had a very tasty red to go with my food.

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 To accompany the Hake and Albondigas I had ‘Las mejillas de cerdo’ (guess what, Pork Cheeks), I just had to try them after cooking my own, and the Ox version the previous day. These were downright fantastic, light, soft and jam packed with flavour i had made a good choice. The Patatas (Evuna’s style chips) were served with a mayonnaise which worked very well.

All in all, a fantastic evening with great food. Well recommended and worth a second visit, maybe a third and fourth!

Sapporo – Teppanyaki Done Well

I landed back in Manchester on Wednesday evening, and was looking forward to trying Sapporo, a Teppanyaki Restaurant 10 minutes taxi from the hotel. Teppanyaki is a Japanese style of show cooking that is done on a hot plate like the one below at Sapporo. All the guests sit around the outside whilst the Chef prepares the food in front of you.

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For my starter, it was really difficult to choose as there is so much on offer. Hiyashi Wakame (seaweed in a sesame dressing), Gyoza (Grilled dumplings served with soy dipping sauce), Ebi Tempura (King Prawn in a very light and crispy batter), in the end I opted for Nigiri Sushi (in my case fried Soft Shell Crab, Rice and Nori Seaweed, topped with spicy Tobiko sauce), Tobiko is Flying Fish Roe!

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OMG, It’s impossible to describe how tasty they were just mind blowingly fantastic and the presentation was stunning as you can see in the picture above.

On to the mains and this was where the fun really started. Our Chef had done his ‘mise en place’ whilst we were devouring our starters, and as we finished we were all asked how we liked our food cooked (where needed), and he started to cook the saute potatoes which was part of the show.

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Lightly seasoned, the Chef beckoned us in turn, to open our mouths as he flipped portions of Saute Potato into the air, what a laugh that was, some missed, eventually hit the spot with a couple of people catching with their hands, It was great fun. The Chef served each of us with the Potato’s which we started to eat as he prepared Stir Fried Vegetable.

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We were warned to stand back as he turned the overhead light out and flamed the hot plate, whoosh and the flames licked the ceiling!

We were the served the Vegetable’s which we also started to eat, this is the way they do it Teppanyaki Style, as each element is served you start to eat, like Chinese Cuisine, Meat is a small part of a healthy vegetable ensemble. The Chef then prepared egg fried rice, juggling eggs from a bowl, into his Chef’s hat and then finally onto a cook slide which broke the egg almost in two as he layed yolk onto the hot plate in the shape of a heart…!

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The protein element of my main was Yakitori Chicken dressed with  Tare Sauce (which is generally made up of Mirin, Sake, Soy sauce and Sugar). Again another winner, beautiful tender grilled skewered Chicken, interlaced with Spring Onion delicately dressed with the sweet sharp pungent sauce.

Having never been to a Japanese Restaurant, this experience is one I am definitely going to have again and have already suggested a team night out, at the earliest opportunity. 10/10.

Next time, I will update you on the Ribs & Barbecue Sauce from Scratch….. Have a great week Peeps.

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