Over the four fabulous years I’ve lived (and eaten)  in Leeds The Olive Tree restaurant in Chapel Allerton has made its way firmly to the top of my list of favourite places to eat.  The fact I used to live just around the corner from this compact but gorgeous Greek eatery undoubtedly gave it a good leg up the ladder, but the consistently great menu, generous portions and value for money have helped it keep its position.

The Olive Tree is one of those places that is so reliably good that you want to share it with everyone, which is why I found myself there early on a Friday evening a few weeks ago introducing yet another Leeds friend to my favourite find. The restaurant is of course by no means a hidden secret – it’s been the only Greek restaurant to make the Good Food Guide for the past four years, but because it’s a little out of town, those who live in the city centre can sometimes miss out if they’re not giving a little push in its direction.

So, having a convenient excuse to be there and being in possession of a tastecard that promised 50 per cent off the food bill, I set to work greedily ordering my favourite Greek dishes. Service can be a bit rushed at times at the Olive Tree (probably because they are so busy) and as I’ve come to expect this I’d set my heart on the Whitebait (£5.95) followed by the Arni me Feta (£15.95), long before I’d set my foot through the door – nevermind when the waitress came promptly to take our order. My dining partner went for a double whammy of lamb with Keftedes (£5.85) and Kleftiko (£14.95) and we selected a side of spinach with mint and garlic (£2.45) and a nice bottle of red.

During our very brief wait for starters to arrive we were presented with some warmed pitta slices, which we tried not to yum up all at once, as from past experience I knew I would need to save space for my hearty main course. When starters arrived my high expectations were once again met – the Whitebait was light and crisp and the tiny fish plentysome and not at all greasy. The fish was served  with a refreshing Tzatziki and lemon slice – tasty and simple. The meatballs my fellow diner had opter for were declared the ‘best’ he’d ever tasted and the standards for our tasty mains were thus set.

Whitebait and Tzatziki

The smell of the lamb mains were a delight for our meat-mad senses and we tucked in to the cinnamon, oregano and garlic fragranced joints in near silence. As forks were inserted the meat compliantly dropped away from the bone, it was moist and utterly mouthwatering and the  hint of cinnamon was perfectly complemented by my salty feta and slightly sweet salsa.

Arni me Feta

 

As has unfortunately become fairly routine on my trips to the Olive Tree, I was unable to finish my main course – though it’s worth knowing that if you do find finishing a struggle the staff will give you some tubs to take away any leftovers. I’m yet to sample the desserts – savoury fiend that I am I always opt for a starter. Still, it’s something to aim for as I’m sure I’ll find another excuse to go back soon!

 

 

 

Since signing up, I have been counting down the days until my first Foodie Penpal package arrived and when it finally did on Thursday, I tore the well-taped box open at my desk to have a peek inside!

My parcel came courtesy of Monique at What I’m up to . We’d emailed a few times to discuss my likes and dislikes and I told Monique that I loved anything spicy, was a fan of trying new things and snacking and eat pretty much everything except beans and nuts.  When I eventually got into the parcel I was not disappointed, along with a lovely handwritten note she’d included lots of lovely snacks I can munch at my desk. Here’s what the contents looked like

Treats in a box

Monique explained that she’d popped to her local Turkish store to pick up some of my treats – Turkish coffee (including yummy mocha), lemon tea (smells delicious) and some Turkish delight. Still on a snacking theme she’d sent a healthier treat in the form of some sesame crackers and some fruity chewy sweets and gourmet gummies in pretty packaging.

Being something of a gummy connaisseur, they are the first and only thing I’ve opened so far – largely because I ate them all in one day and made myself feel a little ill in the process. Monique couldn’t have chosen a better snack to send me because I truly love jelly sweets and these were some of the best. The flavours were unusual, I expected them to taste of cola because of the colour, but instead I was greeted with tastes of vanilla and what seemed to be cappuccino and mocha. Unlike cheap jelly sweets (sorry Haribo fans) they had no nasty chemical after taste. I wish I could get hold of more, but I suspect if  I could it would be my downfall.

I plan to test the Lemon tea tomorrow and snaffle the snacks at my desk at work next week.

If like me you love getting surprises in the post – check out the Foodie Penpal scheme by clicking on the button to the right

After the grumpy drizzly weather of the last few days it seems like LeedsLovesFood was many moons ago rather than last weekend! Thankfully, I rediscovered the sunshine and joy-filled event when I finally hacked into my camera to retrieve the photos from my second day at the festival (yes, I’m so greedy I went twice because I simply couldn’t eat/buy/carry enough in one single trip).

This blog is a bit of a photo celebration of the wonderful things that I and my very lovely companion, Maria, munched through on our visit on the last day of the festival. I cannot express how much foodie fun I had during my first experience of LeedsLovesFood, it was great to see (and taste) all of the yummy Yorkshire delights and to be reminded of the brilliant restaurants and bars we have here in Leeds, too. What has now come to be known as my ‘sensational snacking Sunday’ has resulted in me adding a few local venues on to my ‘to visit’ list and reignited my love for a few old favourites.

The first festival treat to make it mouthward was some satay from Sukothai,
the meat was moist and delicious and the sauce a peanutacular delight.
This was of course nothing less than I would expect from what is one of my favourite restaurants in Leeds, I’m only slightly embarassed to admit that Sukothai being based in Chapel Allerton and Headingley was probably one of the main reasons I put off moving into the city centre for so long.
As I walked along no fewer than six people stopped me to ask where I’d
bought the succulent snack (they smelt and looked THAT good). This brief
encounter reminded me it’s  about time I took a trip to the north of the city
paid and my foodie respects to them.

Next up was a sweet treat from the Littleroundcakecompany, though I didn’t actually eat this on sensational snacking Sunday but two days before on my solo Friday visit. Here I purchased a beautiful baked Lemon cake, which tasted more like a mini traditional British pud than a cupcake, but tickled my love of citrus flavours nonetheless. I’ll be keeping an eye on their blog for baking inspiration.

 

Back on to the savoury snacks and the next stop was Pinche Pinche for a chicken taco. The hot, fresh salsa on the top alone made it a worthy choice, though I did prefer the pulled lamb version I munched on my Friday trip. This selection once again reminded me I’d been neglecting another one of my former favourite restaurants, who have a whole new menu since I last visited, I think second trip north is now on the menu!

 

 

Despite being ‘hanging’ (her own words) from a night of alcohol-fuelled adventures, my festival companion eventually tried to tackle some of the tempting tastes around her. Maria settled on some sushi from the Chino Latino stall, which looked (and apparently tasted) great. The hungover one’s choice of food and decision to eat using chopsticks very brave and provided entertainment to rival the professional cooking demonstrations at the main stage!

I’ve never eaten at Chinos but rate their bar staff as making some of the best
(if not the best) cocktails in Leeds and Maria made some positive noises when she finally got the food to hit her mouth, so I may look at something other than the cocktail menu when I pop in there next.

Finally, tired from our we washed down the food with some refreshing champagne cocktails from Epernay, it was a hot day after all!

Despite the hangover, Maria made room for an Epernay champagne cocktail

 

 

 

I definitely felt a whole lot of amore for this pie as soon as it came out of the oven. The pastry treat was put together following a special request for a birthday pie, unfortunately my busy writing schedule meant that the piemaking didn’t occur until a whole month after the birthday took place – but, it was definitely worth the wait. Luckily, the time lapse also gave me plenty of time to muse over appropriate fillings (a pie must be matched to the individual because beauty is in the eye of the pie-holder) and in the end I came up with this meaty Mediterranean treat.

Be warned; this pie is quite heavy – like a pizza it’s designed to be a meal in itself, so I served it simply – a warm slice with some rocket and spinach on the side. Baking it in a tray meant I had enough left over for two people to eat like a king every lunch time for a week, but it’s a great pie to make for a buffet and it’s easy to make vegetarian by omitting the cured meats. In total the ingredients only cost around ten pounds and you get at least 12 super slices out of it – bargain!

Recipe (makes one hefty tray of pizza pie slices)

2x 500g shortcut pastry (yes, I cheated on this occasion)

340g mild goat’s cheddar

200g half fat red cheese

Two medium red onions

3 eggs

400g tin chopped plum tomatoes

20 black pitted olives

Handful of frozen sliced peppers

1 large glug of balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon olive oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of dried basil

1 packet of sliced chorizo (about 140g)

1 packet of sliced pepperoni (as above)

1 tablespoon tomato puree

Pie Assembly

I wanted to achieve a nice layered effect with my pie, but I was also aiming for moistness without my pastry going soggy – a difficult task for a tray pie considering the ingredients I’d chosen – but the outcome was perfect! I’ve broken the assembly down into four stages, though I unfortunately don’t have any photos of the process as my camera is on the blink and my iPhone is less of a photographer than I am (the iPhone photo above doesn’t do the pie justice).

Stage 1: Getting saucy

To avoid the nice cool pastry going limp at the sight of the pizza sauce layer, I made my sauce first and then allowed it to cool before assembly. The sauce itself was a very rich and flavoursome take on a traditional tomato sauce found on pizzas. It was created by draining my chopped tomatoes and combining with the olive oil, olives (sliced), sliced peppers, garlic, balsamic vinegar and basil. Heating the sauce until it started to thicken into a paste I added a squeeze of lemon juice and the tomato puree towards the end to intensify the flavours.

Stage 2: Feeling cheesy

The cheese layer is based on my mother’s showstopping cheese and onion slice recipe, which I adapted to try and make it a little healthier. I actually used far less cheese than Ma Mere and used a combination of mild goat’s cheddar and 50% reduced fat cheese to lower the fat content. As well as having 40% less fat than normal cheddar goat’s cheese is much friendlier for people like me who are allergic to cow’s milk (and too much cheese!). I chopped up the two onions fairly small and put them into a mixing bowl before grating in all of the cheese and giving it a good mix round. I then seasoned with salt and pepper and added two whisked eggs – this binds the cheese and onion mixture together and makes for a nice melty and moist pie).

Stage 3: Going flat out

The nice easy bit! I greased my baking tray and rolled out my pastry to fit with a little extra to seal the ends. I then added the cheese layer and pressed it down with my fingers to get a nice even spread. Next, I spread the cooled pizza sauce on top using the back of a wooden spoon.

Stage 4: Nice to meat yer

Finally, I layered my chorizo and pepperoni on top, with slight overlap between each slice so that there was full coverage of the sauce underneath in order to prevent my pastry crust going soggy! I was very generous with the meat (I usually order double pepperoni pizza) but if you are vegetarian you could always use a thick layer of spinach or courgette slices instead. I sealed the pie by brushing a mixture of whisked egg and milk on the bottom layer and pressing on the crust. To finish I brushed the mixture on top for a nice golden glow and cooked at 170 in a fan assisted oven for about 35 minutes, brushing the lid a few more times for a good even colour.

 

Just like pizza the pie's yummy cold!

On Saturday I was handed a sample of new instant coffee Nescafe Azera to try, with the promise it would turn me into an instant barista and win me brownie points with a grateful other half to boot. Here’s how the advert sells it:

http://youtu.be/Acmr-htIhl0

After days of rain I wasn’t willing to go through with the facade of having trekked out to the local cafe to fetch coffee to impress anyone, besides – that would set up a dangerous precedent that would possibly result in me being thrust out in all weathers to fetch foodstuffs. So, instead I decided to wait until midweek when I got some time alone to give Azera a taste test without all the added pretence (though I did put it in my favourite mug in case that added to the woman’s appreciation in the advert).

Directions were as follows: 1) Open sachet and pour in mug 2) Add 200ml of hot water and stir 3) Enjoy with or without favourite mug while looking very smug about being makeup-face perfect in bed and having bed hair of dreams.

Results are thus:

1) The sample provided disappointingly only filled about a quarter of my favourite mug so I’m not sure I had the same experience as the beautiful and ultimately satisfied blonde in the ad.

2)The coffee produced was steaming and aromatic.

3)The flavour was smooth and easy to drink without the need for sugar and the overall taste was indeed more like a filter coffee than instant (though it doesn’t come anywhere near close to the delicious taste of my favourite La Bottega Milanese coffee).

4)My hair remains brunette, messy, unkempt and disappointingly non-photogenic.

Conclusion:

I’d be tempted to have a pot of this floating about just in case I get any surprise  guests paying fleeting visits but I won’t be ditching my local barista altogether.