What A Tart

lemon-tart

Now as summer approaches, and Jubilee parties commence, most people”s thoughts will be turning to BBQs, salads and Pimms. But this Tart au Citroen (lemon tart) will dazzle your friends, guests and give you that zesty summer sweet hit to cleanse your palette after a hotdog & burger meaty feast!

If like me, you use BBC’s Good Food for lots of new recipe inspiration, this tried and tested lemon tart recipe by Gregg Wallace is one you should add to your binder. The first time I made this, it was early spring so I served with a blackberry coulis to give an autumnal balance to the summery tart flavours, but now we”re moving into high summer, a strawberry or raspberry coulis or just fresh berries with creme fraiche would work as a perfect accompaniment.

Ingredients

For the pastry:
500g plain flour , plus extra for dusting
140g icing sugar
250g unsalted butter , cubed
4 egg yolks

For the filling:
5eggs
140g caster sugar
150ml double cream
juice 2-3 lemons (about 100ml) and 2 tbsp lemon zest

Method 

Starting with the pastry, mix the flour and icing sugar in a bowl.

Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it resembles bread crumbs.

Mix in the egg yolks.

If the pastry is still too dry, add 1-2 tbsp water until it comes together.

Roll into a ball and divide in half (freeze one half for another recipe).

Flatten out the pastry with your hands, wrap the dough in cling film, then chill for at least 30 mins.

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling.

Beat all the ingredients, except for the zest, together.

Sieve the mixture, then stir in the zest.

After 30 minutes, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin, then lift into a 23cm tart tin.

Press down gently on the bottom and sides to make sure you get a good tart shape when cooked, then trim off any excess pastry.

Stab a few holes in the bottom with a fork and put back in the fridge for a further 30 mins.

Heat oven to 160C.

Line the tart pastry with foil and fill with rice or dried beans to weigh it down.

Bake for 10 mins, then remove the tart tin from the oven, discard the foil, and bake for another 20 mins until biscuity.

When the pastry is ready, remove it from the oven, pour in the lemon mixture and bake again for 30-35 mins until the filling is just set.

Leave to cool, then remove the tart from the tin and serve at room temperature or chilled.

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Restaurant Bar & Grill, Leeds

restaurant-bar-grill-fillet-steak

In the grand old Post Office building in the heart of Leeds City centre, boasting the biggest floor to ceiling wine display you have ever seen, Restaurant Bar & Grill, Leeds has managed to keep it’s ‘just opened’ buzz for years now.

I’ve been for all sorts of occasions over the years – a quick glass of wine (or three) after work, a pre-dinner cocktail, lunching with clients, romantic meals and 30th birthdays in their private room upstairs, it remains a firm favourite of mine and being a stone’s throw from Leeds train station, it’s usually the automatic obvious choice.

Another reason to keep heading back is the continuously reliable great food. Whether you’re after a spicy Thai noodle salad with a cold beer, or a perfectly cooked fillet steak with shallot & parsley butter, you’re guaranteed to enjoy!

Over the past few weeks I have been reminded of my favourite thing about this place: their massive al fresco dining area slap bang in the centre of City Square. If the sun is out, so is the furniture and it makes for a very cool mixed scene of suits, cougars, shoppers and lovers!

Last Saturday I was the latter. My boyfriend and I were in desperate need of a night out and what with £40 of Club Individual points (their loyalty scheme) saved up, we decided to treat ourselves to some steak and wine.

Naturally I had to have a portion of duck spring rolls to start with which arrived hot and crispy with a small pot of plum sauce‚ just gorgeous! And what followed was even better, two perfectly medium rare fist size fillet steaks, warm through to the middle but so well rested, juicy but not bloody and still a deep reddy-purple colour through the centre.

Every item on their generous grill menu comes with accompaniments and a choice of sauce. I am ashamed to say I am hopelessly devoted to peppercorn and when it comes to steak sauce, I don’t take risks. That said, my other half was more than willing to go with my recommendation of the shallot & parsley butter which will be making a guaranteed appearance on my next order, fresh, rich and full of flavour, this naughty but nice dip/sauce is an absolute must-try!

Another great meal… but the highlight for me was our waitress. Not only was she the right level of attentive throughout, but was happy to leave us to enjoy our ‘down-time’ whilst perusing menus, and when asked for her recommendation between two reds, she pressed for the cheaper option on the basis that it would work much better with our food order.

Restaurant, Bar & Grill competes with Blackhouse and Bibis Italianissimo in my eyes, but the service, reliably great food and surroundings make it a winner for me.

See their full menu and a few more restaurant pics http://www.therestaurantbarandgrill.co.uk/leeds.html

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The Ivy

The-Ivy-fish-of-the-day

Rolling up a very normal looking London city back road, and stopping just outside a strangely inconspicuous grey corner building in a black London cab was my first realisation that I had completely miss-judged The Ivy.

As we got past the spiral staircase-consumed entrance and cloak room we were shown through some dark mahogany double doors, and welcomed by a soft buzz of lunchtime dining in a light, traditional and fairly compact restaurant.

I had been invited by clients to sample all that The Ivy had to offer: gourmet food, moreish booze and a very ‘those in the know’ atmosphere. Although my expectations were of a moody, mysterious and forever-night-time haunt, I was impressed. It felt businessy, but we were on a business lunch, so that was ok. It felt friendly which was most unexpected. And, above all, it felt relaxed.

A top London restaurant, with top London prices and a celebrity clientele list as long as my right leg… why did I feel so comfortable? Perhaps the pre-dinner Prosecco? But on further observation‚ the place was full of normal, business folk; just like us, just having lunch. Granted, there were a lot of noses in the air but not a celebrity in sight!

Had The Ivy let us down, had its day, had its wicked way with every celeb in London and burnt out?

My visions of The Ivy being a sultry celeb hangout had all but vanished, when suddenly my client from across the table mouthed “Nicky Chapman!”, to which most of the table replied “Who?!”

***

Celebrities or none, there is no denying that The Ivy will certainly have gained its original reputation from the thoughtful, seasonal and ‘want to try it all’ menu.

Normally I am the first to order, having looked at a restaurant’s menu a week before visiting to whet my appetite, but this really was a tough call.

Knowing I had a train ride back to Leeds to follow and having been absent from the gym for several weeks, I opted for a fairly light starter/main combo:

Artichoke tortellini, a trio of artichoke filled tortelloni topped with grilled artichoke heart slices, sage leaves and a truffle cream sauce… absolutely gorgeous. The filling was pureed which gave a lovely texture and the aroma floating up from the cream sauce would have had you believe there were some caramelised mushrooms hiding on the plate.

Followed (not too closely) by Fish of the Day: which today was a succulent, pure white and market fresh fillet of hake. Chargrilled to perfection the hake had a super soft flaky texture whilst the charred flavour complimented the surrounding juicy and light dressing of fennel, tomato, black olives, baby shrimp and smoked potatoes.

The aniseed of the fennel was still in-tact and combined with the distinctly different smoky flavours from the fish and potato, the sweet tomatoes and salty olive hit, this dish was an epiphany for me – now I appreciate how well the professionals truly understand flavour and have an ability to balance what hits your taste buds with each mouthful.

Whilst I reveled in my food, I watched the other 6 party members on my table.

I watched every one of them equally enjoy three courses, talking to each other about how wonderful their food tasted and giving each other samples to try… steak tartar, tuna sashimi, pork sirloin, rack of lamb, creme brulee… it was diverse but traditional all at once and created an interaction amongst our table that you only get from truly great food. The kind where the first bite goes in your mouth, you refrain from chewing until you’ve screwed your face up, tipped your head back, said “mmmmmmmm”, and nodded. When eating great food, only then can you chew.

The waiters had great banter and I found them to be very attentive, largely backed up by the number of Proseccos I managed to consume given that I was supposed to be drinking the white wine. But I wasn’t complaining and neither were our clients… we all had a fantastic time. So much so we delayed our train home by 2 hours and didn’t feel at any point rushed. I’m sure had we not been required back at base by our loved ones we would have happily sat in for the evening’s service and done it all again!

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