I squeezed my trotters (sorry) into my beloved wedding shoes (which haven't quite fallen apart yet) last night and with a strategically growling belly, skipped into the belly of The Pig, sniffing the air like a Bisto kid, ready to greet this absolute dream team of lovely bearded menfolk, and one non-bearded woman.
(L-R Stephen of George and Joseph, Jo, Stu and Dan of The Greedy Pig)
I was completely enraptured by the format of the menu, consisting of poems created by The Writing Squad, a development programme for writers. Each course was accompanied by beautiful words which really did make this evening a pleasure for all the senses.
Course one) Dale End Cheddar Cheese and Marmite Consommé
Ever since George made his medicine I've been dreaming of feeding people. Mother calls broth soup for the soul because angels ate it first. Some boys call the floating mushrooms human brains, so we imagine zombies in the clear, still liquid. This is how I describe it: as though eating heaven. This is how they make it: the clouds beaten into cheese, the stars crushed into croutons. I discover Marmite kissing the man who worships it, then on Sunday we eat his house together. The body is a temple. We feel pregnant. I break the bread with him. We break the bed, the body, the microwave.
Jasmine Simms (not on Twitter)
It was WONDERFUL. I have raved about Stu's glorious crystal clear broth before but this Marmite soup, hilariously inspired by Stu's love of Pickled Onion Monster Munch (which sounds bonkers, I know) was absolutely delicious. I have made balsamic vinegar pickled onions before and added them to tomato sauces but never thought to put them in soup. Genius. The amazing cheddar inside the dumpling was paired with mustard to evoke the spirit of Welsh Rarebit.
Course two) St James Sheeps Cheese Salad
“Look at cows and horses; they have to eat all day to stay alive.” My asparagus stalks boil in a saucepan, bound in rope: hostages of my hunger. We all feel tied down at times. I marinate mushrooms in a mix of red wine vinegar, parsley, brown sugar and garlic. “We’ll starve like this. There’s nothing robust about a salad.” I can taste the sugar in the air, leaves steaming in the sauna of a saucepan, their shape relaxing into the space. Understand, there is more to salad than its wholesomeness; its greediness for light. There is much in this world that nourishes that isn’t a turkey sandwich. Even now, chopping the watercress, I am full with all the words for love.
I love asparagus, but it's often paired with delicate creamy things like hollandaise or poached eggs. This dish was not for the faint hearted - a seriously ripe tasting creamy sheep's cheese and wild garlic made this a seriously pungent yet completely delicious mouthful.
Course three) Katy’s White Lavender Brûlée
There is a shade of early called lavender rolling down the climbing bannister of morning. How long we waited for August’s up thrust: long-fingered blooms nodding amongst themselves, conducting the haze of sleep-sinking bumblebees. Something ancient here in the shears, in the shape of bent stalks, taking flowers from the base, pruning, laying out careful collections trussed the particular way. Our lanolin treated hands won’t wash, whorled green. There is no such thing as a lonely summer: Francophiles standing in blue fields with our muddy feet, our perfumed mouths. Let the calendar linger here, wallowing in the Sunday afternoon render of already-ending. Now, with the rafters and the hooks all occupied, the house smells like warm things, drawing in and taking folded jumpers out of storage.
It's no secret that I love lavender. But I mean really LOVE lavender. I cook with it all the time, mix my own lavender tea, and I even wash my face every day with oats and lavender buds to crush that gorgeous scented oil all over my face. That being said, I used to find Shepherd's Purse lavender cheese a wee bit too strong because it was made with lavender oil which gives food a bit of a soapy almost synthetic taste. Their improved method of rolling the cheese in lavender reveals a much more subtle flavour which really really works for me. Put it this way - if something has too much lavender in it for me, the rest of you have no chance! Jo amused me by prefacing this dish by saying she didn't think it should be called a brulee because it of course wasn't topped with a burnt sugar crust, so please correctly consider this just custard. Not that there's any "just" about it, it was gorgeous!
Course four) Picos Europa Fritter
The rocket leaf excites the sexual desire of drowsy people, wrote Virgil. He would know, gorged on cheese at a Roman party. All things grow in the Mediterranean basin where Calypso watered celeriac in her garden: thirsty stalks, waiting to blossom and two millennia later, be described to pupils in Greek mythology. Calypso was not myth. She was there, the soil was there, the vegetable shavings left on the counter for wandering warriors and classical poets to pick over
Oh gracious good lord was this good. I usually find Picos to be a little bit too coppery for me, as blue (or rather grey) cheese go, but the flavours in this dish were so well balanced that I really have reconsidered my view on it. It's an excellent cooking cheese!
Course five) Ricotta Muttabaq
Five Year Anniversary
We have come out on her anniversary, put on smart clothes, done something cheerful. I couldn’t let him sit, going through her things, cups of tea going cold besides him. So, I have taken him out for dinner, filled him with fritters and purees and consommé, with ravioli and asparagus and mushrooms, beautiful little courses he doesn’t taste. She might as well be sitting at the table with us, I’m surprised the waiters haven’t laid a place for her. We order Muttabaq, wanting the sweetness of honey and the comfort of soft cheese. I’m wearing his diamond ring, we’ll pay on the joint account, but as I break into each filo parcel, it feels like robbery.
This pudding was nothing short of sublime. If you're a fan of baklava, then this ricotta stuffed filo festival is definitely one for you. The muttabaq was an incredible structure of pistachio, unctuous globs of honeycomb, tangy rose water, cheese and amazing, crispy, perfect filo. I took a second portion home for The Husband but I might actually consider divorcing him if he doesn't let me eat it all to myself.
Don't miss other opportunities to participate in #LIF15. Leeds is rich with amazing independent food producers, far superior to homogeneous and soulless chains. Discover them for yourself!
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George and Joseph are based in Chapel Allerton and are probably the best purveyors of cheese outside of my spiritual homeland, Barthelemy in Paris.
Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.
Title: Seven Years In Tibet by David Bowie