Wednesday, 29 December 2010

My 4P's for 2011

an alternative to New Year resolutions

A newsletter from Chris Brogan today has made me reassess my new year resolutions for 2011. Instead of a long list of breakable resolutions Chris chooses just 3 words to guide his actions for the forthcoming year.   

As someone who likes to write long lists, finding 3 words is going to be a challenge. Last year I set myself the task of 10 for 2010. Ten new things to do in 2010, some were planned goals like going to see a band I like play live, and others were making the most of opportunities that came my way like having my photo taken with the Bradford Bulls 2010 Rugby team! 

1. Saw Reel Big Fish perform live at Leeds Academy 
2. Photographed with the Bradford Bulls rugby team 
3. A weekend sightseeing in
4. Watched Greyhound Racing at
Manchester Belle Vue Stadium
5. Attended my first speed networking event with OMJ Leeds link up 
6. A week discovering the beautiful
island of Malta 
7. My first experience of a music festival at Bingley Music Live 
8. Watched my 1st Ice Hockey match – Sheffield Steelers v
Dundee at Sheffield Arena 
9. Attended the annual public CIM lecture at Leeds Met with Malcolm Mcdonald as guest lecturer (read blog post here) 
10. Invited to my 1st VIP Indian restaurant launch at AM Kitchen and Bar in
Leeds. (read blog post here)

As usual I have a long list of things I want to accomplish next year and since I already have my 30 before 30 List and Bucket List of the World the 3 words approach will be a more manageable list. I couldn’t quite manages to get it down to 3, but the following 4 P’s pretty much sum up my ambitions for 2011 (minus the obligatory stop biting my nails which I inevitably break every year!) and will hopefully help me succeed in all my other lists.

Pleasure – do more things that I enjoy and that make me happy 
People – spend more time with friends and family and make new friends 
Publish – publish content on my blog/linked in/twitter instead of just thinking about it or drafting it then doing nothing with it! 
Practice – put all the tools and tips I read about into practice 

Has anyone else tried the 3 words method and does it work for you or do you have a different approach that brings you more success? 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Dash the Reindeer

Once upon a time, in a little town not so far away from here was a little boy called Ben. He was a handsome little boy with blonde hair and big blue eyes. He lived with his mummy in a house up on the hill.

It was a cold day in November, not quite cold enough to snow but cold enough to turn the tips of your ears red and make your nose tingle. Ben spent all day at nursery where the nice ladies took good care of him while his mummy was at work. And after nursery Ben’s mummy took him to get his hair cut.

Now the man who cut Ben’s hair was no ordinary hairdresser. For a start he had bright blue hair in a big spike on the top of his head! Ben was a very good boy, he sat very still and didn’t cry once while the man cut his hair. The hairdresser with the blue spiky hair was impressed at how well behaved he was and gave him a lollipop and asked
"What does a good little boy like Ben want for Christmas?”
“A reindeer” replied Ben
“a reindeer?”
“yes, a reindeer called Dash”

The blue hairdresser was one of Santa’s helpers and so he wrote a letter to Santa with the little boys request for a reindeer called Dash for Christmas. As you know the traditional way to send Santa a letter is up the chimney but Santa’s helpers have a special way, the man with the blue hair folded his letter up into the shape of a star, and threw up it up in the air, the wind caught hold of it and blew the star across the world to the North Pole. Santa was sat at his desk when the letter arrived, he unfolded the star and began to read.

Santa had a problem, he stroked his beard and scratched his head. He knew Ben was a good boy because his name was right there on the Nice List on his desk in front of him. But Santa couldn’t give him a reindeer. Santa needed all his reindeer to pull his sleigh on Christmas Eve and help him deliver the presents to the little boys and girls around the world.

But Ben’s Christmas request did solve a different problem over in Lapland. Rudolph and his wife had been having trouble picking out a name for their son and the name Dash would suit him perfectly! So the newest arrival to Santa’s reindeer fleet was christened Dash and on Christmas Eve Dash was chosen to help lead the sleigh up at the front next to his dad Rudolph.

With Rudoph and Dash leading the sleigh Santa had an idea. When he arrived at Ben’s house on the hill to deliver his presents he landed the sleigh in the garden where there was a huge trampoline. Santa bounced high on the trampoline up to Ben’s bedroom window. Ben was in bed asleep when he heard Santa knocking on his window. He jumped out of bed and opened the window for Santa to climb in. “Santa, is it really you?” asked Ben reaching up to tug on Santa’s beard.
Santa gave a big belly laugh “Ho ho ho! Yes, it really is me, “now lets go outside so you can meet Dash”

Ben raced downstairs and out into the garden where the reindeer were waiting for him. Ben fed Dash and the other reindeer the carrots he had left out before he went to bed while Santa enjoyed the mince pies. He watched Ben play with the reindeer and was sorry that he couldn’t leave Dash behind. Santa explained to Ben that Dash was needed back at the North Pole for some very important jobs and that they had to leave now to give all the other boys and girls their presents. Ben said goodbye to Dash, he gave him a big hug and whispered in his ear “I love you Dash” and when he placed a kiss on Dash’s nose it glowed bright red, just like Rudolph’s! Santa promised that he and Dash would come back and visit him every Christmas Eve and Ben promised that he would be a good boy for whole year.

Monday, 29 November 2010

AM Kitchen and Bar

Take Two

I went back to AM Kitchen and Bar on Saturday night , yes only 2 days after the launch – I really do like curry that much! (read the launch review here).

When we arrived we were shown straight to a table, our drinks order was taken and popadoms arrived within minutes. For starters we had chicken tikka and onion bahjis. The chicken was even better than launch night, bigger juicer pieces with the spicy tikka flavouring, the only downfall was that the chicken wasn’t hot. The onion bahjis were hot, but a bit lacking in flavour.

I had lamb madras for my main, which was a bowl of hot with an undercurrent of madras flavours. My friend had a lamb balti which she said was a lovely mild spicy dish, unfortunately the chillies in my madras had burnt off my taste buds so I couldn’t even taste a hint of balti spices. Again the meat was a good quality, tender chunks of lamb, but not as much sauce as I would’ve liked. We shared a generous portion of rice and a garlic naan which I’m pleased to report contained a good amount of garlic.

Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures of the food, in fact by the time I remembered to get my camera out all we had left was an empty bottle of wine! The wine was actually really nice, it was the house wine, and was better than whatever wine I had been drinking on launch night. Using a French grape from the Laguedoc region, Moulin Grandet is produced by Australian wine makers. The blend of French grapes with the production methods of the new world wines gives a superbly balanced wine, soft and fruity and smooth. A quaffable drinking wine.

Although I enjoyed the meal, if I had to pick one word to describe both the food and the service at AM Kitchen and Bar it would be ‘inconsistent’.

The service started out great, but then our starters arrived just as we were finishing the popadoms, and the mains arrived straight after the last mouthful of bhaji, no time for a breather to make room for more between courses. After our plates had been cleared it seemed like ages before a waiter brought us some hand wipes and he didn’t ask if we wanted anything else, any dessert or more drinks not even a coffee. I was trying to persuade my friend that she had enough room to squeeze in a delicious kulfi icecream dessert but no one came to take our order. In the end we had to flag a waiter down to ask for the bill, twice, and even then it took more than 15 minutes for someone to bring it. We weren’t impressed because it was cutting into our Saturday night drinking time!

I don’t think AM Kitchen and Bar going to become my new favourite restaurant but I will still go back, I want to try the chicken and keema karahi to see how it compares to the chicken keema dish I usually have at Akbars. But I will only be going back while I have free wine vouchers as it’s a bit pricey. Overall we paid about the same for just the meal as we would pay for the meal and the wine elsewhere. Plus there was a 10% service charge built in and I wouldn’t have tipped that much on this occasion because I wasn’t happy with the service at the end of the night. But its definitely worth going back for the good wine, especially while its free! I still have some vouchers left to give away for a free bottle – e-mail me if you want one!

If you love a good curry come and join my Curry Club on Linked In

AM Kitchen and Bar is located in the former Dysons Clock building on Briggate and is part of the Leeds Marriott hotel.

Friday, 26 November 2010

New Indian Restaurant in Leeds

VIP Launch Night

AM Kitchen and Bar

AM Kitchen and Bar isn’t the most obvious name for an Indian restaurant and the iconic Dyson Clockworks Building probably isn’t the most obvious location.

From the outside it doesn’t look like an Indian restaurant - the main feature of the building being the magnificent Dyson’s Clock. Inside the restaurant is a combination of contemporary styling with the original clockwork features. Glittery black walls combined with the original chandeliers. The old cashier’s officer has been turned into a VIP dining area and instead of jewellery and clocks the display cabinets are filled with champagne.

Last night’s event, the VIP launch was invitation only and was billed as a Bollywood glamour red carpet event. A pre-event write up promised bollywood dancers, celebrity guests and an evening full of entertainment. And although there was indeed a little red carpet out on the pavement in front of the door and some red table runners and glass diamond style table decorations that’s where the red carpet style ended. The only celeb I saw was a glimpse of Galaxy radio’s JoJo as she was walking out the door. In between courses there was some bollywood music being played but from our table upstairs in the corner there were no dancers to see.

But enough about that on to more important things…the food!
The evening's menu was mouthwatering in descriptions.


Seekh Kebab - minced lamb with special herbs and spices
Chicken Tikka - marinated and mildly seasoned, cooked over charcoal
Masala Fish - marinated with our special marinade and deep fried
Onion Baji - deep fried onion and potatoes in a mild spicy batter

The Chicken Tikka was my favourite, lovely tikka flavour with a good kick of spice. The Fish Masala went down very well with my fellow diners, good quality white fish with a nice flavour. The kebab was nice enough, a bit greasy, I’ve had worse, I’ve had better. The bhaji was a bit disappointing, cold and chewy but given the fact that they were serving 150 people at the same time – you can’t expect everything to perfect. Based on the rest of the starters I would go back and try the bhajis again on a regular evening.


Chicken Karahi - cooked in a rich dry sauce with herbs and spices

Saag Gosht - lamb in spinach cooked in traditional Indian style

Tarka Daal - lentil dish tampered with garlic and ginger

Accompanied with pilau rice and naan

Now the mains were very tasty, good quality meat, tender and succulent. All 3 dishes had a lovely blend of spices and a full round flavour. The karhai was my favourite because it had a bit more spice to it. Personally I like a hot saucy dish, so these were a bit mild and dry for me, especially after the spicy starters. But I still really enjoyed all the dishes and got to try ones I wouldn’t usually pick for myself, I was especially surprised by the tarka daal, I wasn’t expecting to like a lentil dish but the sauce was really quite tasty. Nice soft naan bread, next time I’d like to try the garlic version.


Matka Kulfi - kulfi with saffron sauce and specially flavoured chopped almond and pistachio nuts served in  a ceramic bowl (matka).

What really made the evening for me was the dessert. I’ve never had dessert in an Indian restaurant I’m usually far too full (and I’ve had a few disappointing prepacked frozen desserts in Chinese restaurants that have put me off Asian deserts). This icecream was served in cute little individual pots and was totally delicious. Soft creamy purely indulgent icecream topped with crushed pistachios and almonds was the perfect ending. I will definitely be eating this again!

AM Kitchen and Bar has actually been open for quite a while, this wasn’t their opening night, just their launch night. And I’m glad they launched on such a large scale otherwise I would’ve never known it was there. The couple at my table were regulars and raved about the food and the service. They always start with samosas and the lady’s favourite dish is Lamb Passanda whilst the gentleman recommended the Lamb Nehari as a hotter dish. Based on their previous dining experiences I will definitely return to the restaurant and for a true review I need to have my usual dish Lamb Madras to benchmark it against my favourite restaurants. I’d also like to see if the service improves with fewer diners.

A bit more about the venue...John Dyson installed the ornate clock in 1865 when he founded his jewellery business. The second smaller clock was added in 1910 with the Latin inscription ‘Time Flies’ to celebrate his wife’s birthday. The clocks were a popular meeting place for courting couples in the first half of the 20th century and they have become a famous Leeds landmark. Not forgetting the story of the beautiful chandeliers hanging inside, rumour has it they were won in a bet in Monte Carlo! (But some internet research instead claims that Mrs Dyson bought them at the 1890 Paris Exhibition with money won on the gaming tables in Monte Carlo.) The Clockworks building was home to Dyson’s jewellery business for 125 years, can this new contemporary Indian restaurant compete with the history of the building and live up to its landmark status? Probably not – but we can still enjoy the food and the dining experience for as long as it lasts.

On leaving the restaurant we were given a little goody bag. In it there were a generous amount of vouchers for a free bottle of wine when dining before 21 Dec. And as much as I love free wine even I can’t drink that much before then. So I’d like to offer them to my readers, try the food for yourself and enjoy a free bottle of wine. The first 10 people to e-mail me with their address will receive a voucher in the post  (I promise to destroy addresses after use and will not use them for any marketing or other purpose.)

To see the menu visit

AM Kitchen bar is also part of the Leeds Marriott Hotel and apparently you can order room service from the restaurant – eating curry in your pyjama a true guilty pleasure!

If you’ve been to AM Kitchen and Bar I would love to hear from you. What are your thoughts, what dishes you would recommend?

Because i love curry so much I went to back to AM K&B on Saturday night to try the madras, read the update here.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Beautiful Bajis

#7 Learn to Cook Indian Food – Onion Baji Recipe

I always start with a splash of rapeseed or vegetable oil in the wok, a sprinkle of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder.

Have your onions sliced ready, I like to use a mix of red and white onions, for this particular batch I used half a large red one and a small white one. This recipe made 4 bajis.

Heat the oil, salt and pepper on a low heat.
Mix the following spices in a bowl first then add to the oil in the wok.
¼ tsp tumeric
¼ tsp coriander
tip of teaspoon of cumin
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp chilli
pinch of garam maslasa

Mix the spices into the oil, then add the sliced onion and coat them with the oil. The onions will turn a yellowy colour. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 mins until onions go soft, stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent burning or sticking to the pan.

To make the batter mix the flour and spices together in a bowl

3tbsp of gram flour (available from Tesco)
¼ tsp coriander
tip of teaspoon of cumin
a pinch of garam maslasa

Transfer the onion mixture into a clean bowl and add the flour and spices and stir until the onions are coated.

Add a tsp of tomatoe puree to a few tablespoons of cold water and mix into a paste, add the paste into the onion mixture and stir until to create a batter.

Spoon the mixture into balls on a baking tray and drizzle in oil.

Cook for 30 mins at 180oC - half way through remove from the oven and drizzle in oil again.

VoilĂ  beautiful bajis!

Let me know if you try this recipe out and what you think or if you a different recipe I’d love to hear it so I can give it a try too!

I served my onion bajis with masala marinated lamb chops (from Tesco fresh meat counter), bombay potaotes and side salad.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

To Bucket List Or Not to Bucket List?

So with 461 days to go, how well am I doing with the list? Well not so good in terms of crossing things off, but I am happily heading towards toadsville at the moment as the list is actually serving its purpose well. I wrote the list of 30 things to do before 30 to help get me out of a rut and motivate me to try new things. And after never having been to Harrogate before in my life I went there twice last month, once to sample chocolate cake at the famous Betty’s tea shop (yum) and again for a spot of pampering at the Turkish Baths (aah). Both were things I wanted to do even though there weren’t on the list. So this is a small success.

My list isn’t a Bucket List of things to tick off before I die, it’s a list of things to help me make the most of my life and do more things, including taking up opportunities that come my way (like having my photograph taken with the Bradford Bulls team earlier this year). Its also a bit different to a Bucket List because it has a specific time limit, (as opposed to just ‘before I die’) also it doesn’t feature any of the big stuff I still want to do like see the pyramids or the Grand Canyon, ride the Orient Express, or watch a show at the Moulin Rouge or my ultimate must do - go to Disneyland! But all these things need money (and vacation time), so I’ve compiled my list with cost and time in mind to make it a realistically achievable list and to motivate me to do little things every day (including take care of my finances) and make the most of my weekends.

My list is all about things I want to do, not things that other people are doing or things that other people expect me to do. Which is why you won’t find running a marathon or parachuting on it! Apparently a new trend in the USA is the Anti-Bucket-List (according to Glamour magazine’s November issue) a list of things you’ll never do, some examples were ‘I’ll never climb Mount Everest’ and I’ll never bungee jump’ and whilst I don’t have any urge to do these today I wouldn’t like to say ‘never’, it seems such a waste of energy to put together a list of list things you don’t want to do!

Another take on the Bucket List is the idea of a List of One put forward by Jonathan Fields in his blog (
I think its great to do one thing a day, and it isn’t the first time I’ve come across it, but personally I need the bigger picture - a list of goals to work towards. My quest to become a brand manager has also spurred me on to develop my social media and ‘e-skills’ to this end I try and do one thing a day to work towards this goal whether it’s finding new people to follow on twitter or reading a ‘how to blog’ or contributing to a groups discussion on linked in. Today I figured out how to add a countdown clock to my blog, my first gadget! (or widget? – there is so much to learn)

Fitness is another biggie, and on Monday my aim was to set out my goals and objectives for #6 Getting Fit starting with a 5 day guest pass at Fitness First from . Unfortunately my body rejected the idea with a mammoth migraine, so back to the one thing a day I’m doing 30 mins of yoga a day until my body recovers, for some reason I feel like I’ve been battered with a base ball bat, probably form trying to hold up a head that feels as heavy as a bowling ball!

So I end up doing loads of ‘one things’ to bring me closer to my 30 list!

Do you have a Bucket List or a List of One? Or a 30 b4 30 project (or 40 b4 40 etc…)
Or are you an Anti Bucket Lister?
Let me know how you keep motivated to achieving things on your list!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Chapatti Failure

#7 Learn to cook Indian food

So I thought I’d start off with something easy…something basic…something like a chapatti…unfortunately the end result was nothing like a chapatti.
The instructions were quite straight forward – add sufficient water to the chapatti flour to form a dough. But there was no water to flour ratio. The flour is quite thick, almost wholemealy and didn’t seem to want to mix with the water either with a spoon or by hand, and I must’ve added to much as I ended up with a rather sticky ball of dough that I couldn’t get a rolling pin near. Tried to flatten it with my palms and do a bit of pizza-base-stylee stretching. Still feling optimistic at this stage I popped it on the hot griddle pan, a couple of minutes each side. Total disaster! When it came to time to flip it over it just stuck to the pan. Still I scraped it off and tried to cook the other side. But it was too thick to cook through, and I still had raw dough in the middle so as an emergency measure I tried a few minutes in a hot oven – the result resembled a rock hard brick more than it did a chapatti.

Back to the chapatti drawing board for me!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Marketing – the most fun you can have with your clothes on

-malcolm mcdonald-

A few weeks ago now I attended a marketing lecture at Leeds Met, a free lecture to both students and professionals, Professor Malcolm Mcdonald was the guest lecturer, the 1st chartered marketer in the UK, and professor at the Cranfield School of Management. At 73 years old, Malcolm is writing his 44th book, and goes for a 3 mile run every morning, he is not your average 73 year old granddad snoozing in his slippers in front of the telly. He was a really entertaining speaker, surprisingly funny and had some great boardroom anecdotes, with a lovely phrase ‘odious little toad’ (which I am going to steal to describe someone i know). All in all I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a lecture so much in my 4 years at uni and 2 years CIM course (no offence Neil!).

The lecture title was Ten Crucial questions Boards of Directors are asking their marketing managers and the answers they should be receiving.

As a practitioner I found this lecture really useful, not so much for the actual answers to these 10 questioners but the ability to apply what Malcolm was saying to the real world, to my work world. Often as a student, (even as a CIM student in the earlier years of my marketing career with limited exposure to senior management and directors) it can be difficult to apply the knowledge you are receiving with the practical application in the real world – especially in areas that are out of your job scope or control.

A lot of what Professor Mcdonald was saying wasn’t new or groundbreaking but was presented in a way that made sense and was put into context. This wasn’t a purely academic lecture but was sprinkled with real life examples, the best of course were examples of how to do it badly!

One of the key themes that I took from this lecture was know your market.
What’s happening in your market, how big is your market share, how much of your profit comes from market growth. This got me thinking, because as a marketer I like to think that I know my market, but why don’t I know my market share? Because it isn’t one of the KPIs that the company I work for reports on. But thinking about it logically it is something I can roughly calculate. For example if my market is under 16 year olds, and I have a million customers a quick trip to the Office of National Statistics website tells me there are around 11.5million under 16 year olds in the UK*, therefore market share would be less than 10%

And of course knowing your market goes hand in hand with understanding your customer, understanding what they want, what they need, to create your sustainable competitive advantage.

Another key indicator that is interesting to me is how many customers do you loose in a year? Whilst we probably all know how many customers we have and how many new customers we are getting do we know how many we are losing to competitors, or alternative products?

A faux-pas that Malcolm touched on was ‘barometer marketing’ – attributing your success or failure to the weather, which a lot of companies do, how many times have your heard “we’ve had a good season, because it’s been sunny, or snowy etc.” And a timely tweet by TheGrocer proves my point “News update: Slow summer hits Heineken volumes - Heineken has blamed a poor summer in Western Europe for a fall in t...”. It doesn’t show any understanding of customer behaviour, beer sales are down because it’s cold – what?! people don’t drink beer when its cold?– check you sales this winter, say around Christmas or New Year!

I also learnt that I am a statistic, I make up the small 10% of ‘price shoppers’, people who choose brands based on the lowest price. I am loyal to only a few brands, and buy these brands from the cheapest retailer, or wait until there is a sale or I have a voucher, or I can collect points to earn a discount voucher. But 90% of shoppers are not price sensitive to this degree - The theory being that you don’t need to compete on price if you’ve a good differential advantage (which you can create if you know your market!).

You may also be interested to know that I am a late adopter I don’t need to buy the latest thing, that’s why this blog is so late to be published as I had to write it down with good old pen and paper on the train, then typed it up later offline and then upload using my mobile dongle, with the ancient speed of dial up!

So how am I of all people a marketer…because its not about what I want or how I shop, its about understanding who my customers are, understanding how they shop, understanding what they want (and of course creating that unique differential advantage).

To learn more about Professor Mcdonald visit
For information on any of his 43 books visit
Take a look at forthcoming events at Leeds Met

*based on report published in 2008

Monday, 11 October 2010

Better at Bettys?

Chocolate Week

Today I was hoping to be telling you all about the Chocolate Tasting Selection Plate I had at Betty’s in Harrogate yesterday as part of their Chocolate Week celebrations. Unfortunately I got my dates muddles up and I was a day too early!

Chocolate Week does in fact start today and the Chocolate Tasting Plate should be available now until 17th October. Priced at £4.95 it sounds absolutely delicious
Miniature Hot Chocolate: Bettys Chocolate Sauce whisked with hot milk, topped with fresh cream and chocolate flakes.
Cru Sauvage Truffle: Rich dark chocolate made with rare cocoa from the Bolivian Amazon, filled with smooth chocolate ganache.
Miniature Chocolate Brownie: A moist, all butter cake made with finest Swiss chocolate.
Chocolate Macaroon: A crisp, delicate shell filled with rich chocolate ganache.

You can also get you hands on a a limited edition tasting selection of Bettys handmade chocolates put together by Claire Gallagher Bettys Executive Confectioner, which will be available in all Bettys cafes for the duration of Chocolate Week (11-17 October). There are also several meet the chocolatier events at Bettys tea rooms around Yorkshire.

To find more events to celebrate chocolate week in your area check the chocolate event calendar

Back to Bettys, since I’d driven for 45 minutes to get there and paid £4 parking I thought I might as well stay for a cuppa and a cake. A slice of chocolate and raspberry torte was reasonably priced at £3.95 but a pot of Darjeeling tea set me back £3.75 (only 20p cheaper than a glass of wine!). But you are paying for the Bettys experience so I tried to lap it up. Waitresses in full tea shoppe uniforms, cool marble top tables, I loved the tea tray with its silver tea pots, sugar cubes, a large cup that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the set of Friends, but made of china, light and delicate.

The Montpellier bar didn’t have the best view and there was an overpowering smell of vinegar wafting past, not to mention the clink clank of cutlery on crockery from the tea counter. (And a high ratio of couples, so don’t go if you’ve just been dumped!) The afternoon tea room looked like it had a better view out over the park but was busy and loud with the hum of conversations, and drop down a level to another dining room without windows, I don’t think I would’ve been happy to be cooped up down there at those prices, but the toilets were very nice.

Bettys is one of those 'must visit' places, but there are a plethora of other cafes in Harrogate, maybe for all the punters who are put off by the queue to get in, queue to be seated and then the queue to order at the counter! I've been, i've seen and i've eaten, now i can cross it off my list...if i'd put it on the list that is!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

#7 Learn to cook Indian food

10 tips from World Curry Fest

Ok so I didn’t get on the cooking bus classes at the festival but I did pick up quite a few cooking tips from the 3 of 5 cooking demonstrations I managed to see.

1. When cooking a Thai curry boil the coconut milk first before adding the spices or curry paste

2. 2 options for cooking an Indian curry, Chef Oberoi cooked his sauce first then added the meat to cook into the sauce, Chef Moon cooked the meat in the oil and spices then added the remaining sauce ingredients.

3. Hemant Oberoi used corn oil as alternative to ghee, and rapeseed oil was used by Stephanie Moon, I take this to mean use whichever fat you prefer to cook with.

4. Oberoi also cooked in a saucepan, Indians preferring to use the flat bottomed pan or handi dishes, leaving the woks to be used by the Chinese (which is interesting as I always cook in wok)

5. When cooking with yoghurt you can either use it to marinade your meat in before cooking or add it to the pan after you have taken it off the heat – just before serving.

6. Cooking with spinach looks easy - tear up and add to the pan a few minutes before the end and let it reduce down into the curry. I’ve only eaten spinach once before, but the spinach in the pakoras from the food stall and the rhubarb chicken saag Stephanie cooked were both delicious so I am definelty going to give it a try.

7. I was pleased to discover that I add garam masala as an extra ingredient to my dishes just like Grand Master Chef Oberoi does!

8. When buying a whole chicken check if it free range by looking at the legs, caged chickens’ legs have black spots of ammonia from the droppings.

9. Wild wood sorrel has a delicious bramley apple flavour and can be used as a garnish, and its free form the forest! For more tips on foraging check out the wild cooks blog,

10. In Yorkshire we have our very own rhubarb triangle between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, and it’s well known for its production of top quality rhubarb! For all the rhubarb fans at curry fest who wanted the date of the 2011 Rhubarb festival, it will be taking place in Wakefield 26-27 February. For more details see the Experience Wakefield website,
There is also a facebook fan page,

Food festival lovers might also be interested in

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Yummy yummy curry,

I got love in my tummy!

The World Curry Festival celebrates 200 years of curry in Britain, marking the 200th anniversary of the first ever Indian restaurant, which opened in London in 1810. The festival was the first of its kind to celebrate all things curry. I went along to the event at Millennium Square in Leeds last weekend because a) I love curry and b) I want to learn how to cook yummy yummy curries myself, because jarred sauces never taste as good as the real thing.

The World Curry Fest promised curries from around the world; Thai curry, Malaysian curry, Caribbean curry, African curry – can you feel your mouth watering? tastebuds tingling? Visitors to the 3 day event like me were expecting the Extremely Good Curry Show - demos by celebrity chefs, curry on the Cooking Bus, a spice souk, and a restaurant offering ‘sumptuous dishes’.
I was really looking forward to a weekend of curry, the website sad it was a ticket only event, so I booked a ticket for myself and a friend online. I was disappointed to find that Friday was a corporate event – I mean Friday night curry, do I need to say more?! And at £6 a ticket and £1.65 to have your ticket e-mailed to you we opted to just go on the Saturday, so my weekend of curry was down to 1 day. But it was still with great anticipation and high expectations that I arrived at the event on Saturday morning…
Only to find that you could in fact buy your ticket on the door, ok so there was a 10 minute queue, but once you got inside the queues were so big that another 10 minutes wouldn’t have made much difference.
Once inside our first port of call was the Cooking Bus to sign up for cooking classes, which unfortunately were fully booked already. (4 classes with 12 places per class and over 4k attendees, the odds were against us.)

With the £6 entry fee I was expecting some hot food samples, and maybe a goody bag of spices and recipes to take home. But the only samples available were tastings of jarred sauces and chutneys on the stalls to encourage you to buy. And the only spices for sale were a prepacked range that are available in supermarkets. I was expecting something along the lines of an Asian supermarket with the exotic ingredients that are difficult to get hold of to make an authentic dish.

There was a massive queue for the bar but the Schmoo stall were very generous with samples of lassi yoghurt smoothies which were delicious ( Apparently they are available in Tesco, so might pick some up depending on the price. Having paid to get in I was reluctant to spend too much in there, but obviously one of the reasons for going was to eat! We queued for 20 mins for a spinach and potato pakora, which whilst delicious and reasonably priced at £1 didn’t really touch the sides.
The sumptuous restaurant was in fact a buffet, £5 for 4 curries seemed like a good deal until we saw the size of the portions, and the size of the queue. So we opted for a bit of Malaysian chicken curry with coconut rice from Jennie Cook’s stall for £3.50, which was a nice coconutty, slightly creamy curry with a mild spice and smooth flavour. But it wasn’t the feast I’d been dreaming about, and the £10.50 I’d spent all together at the event would’ve been better spent on a takeaway from my local Indian.

The Extremely Good Curry Show was also a let down, I’ve never heard of any of the ‘celebrity chefs’. Grand Master Chef Oberoi from the Taj hotel chain was supposed to be showcasing his signature dishes that he is world famous for. Instead he made a recipe with beetroot that he’d never made before. The Thai demonstration was more of a ‘here’s on I made earlier’, with commentary like ‘add the paste – we make our own but you can buy a jar from the supermarket’ and ‘add the meat, we are using lamb that we’ve already braised.’ (What I want to know is how to make my own paste, how to braise the meet, is it braised with any spices?)
The demonstration by Stephanie Moon (the British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year) was excellent, it did make me laugh that she was advising us to buy a whole chicken as its cheaper if you make use of the whole chicken than buying pieces, and in the current economic climate every penny counts – this to us mugs that had just paid £6 to get in!

I will be writing a secondary blog post with the tips that I did learn from the deomos to be filed under #7 on my list to learn to cook Indian food.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Once upon a time...

Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale of all.
-Hans Christian Andersen-

One upon a time, in land far far away (well, Yorkshire) lived a girl called Louise. Louise is a normal girl, living in a normal little flat in a normal little town. Without a Prince Charming or knight in shining armour in sight to rescue her from a wicked witch or a fire breathing dragon Louise set about writing herself a magical list to incite excitement into her life. (Because lets face it wouldn’t life be much more exciting if houses were made of gingerbread, the sea was full of mermaids, liars noses grew like Pinnochio’s and we all had a pair of ruby slippers to transport us home!)

Louise sent her list into the realms of cyberspace to be posted to her blog. On its way to Louise’s List encountered a rogue Trojan horse loose in the blogsphere. The friendly looking Trojan was offering tempting but cursed cookies to passers by. Louise’s List succumbed to the allure of the cookie, with one bite and a crash of lightning the evil spell of the Internet Kingdom was cast. To break the spell Louise must complete all 30 tasks on her list before midnight on the day of her 30th year of birth or be turned into a toad!

Louise’s List

1. Hot air ballooning
2. Ride in a helicopter (hopefully over somewhere spectacular)
3. Wine tasting
4. Cocktail making
5. Alexander technique classes
6. Get fit and I mean really fit
7. Learn to cook Indian food
8. Become a brand manager/marketing manager
9. Earn £30k (at least)
10. Watch a TV show being filmed
11. See someone iconic in concert
12. TEFL course
13. Learn to ski/snowboard
14. Add another 2 countries to the visited list
15. Watch a major sporting event
16. Publish a magazine article
17. Learn another language/do something with my French

18. Learn to design a website/use design software
19. Belly dancing or cheerleading class
20. Tea at the Ritz
21. Iceskate on an outdoor rink at Christmas
22. Ride a Lambretta
23. Start a pension
24. Visit UK’s top ten beaches
25. Blackpool Illuminations
26. Last night of the proms (prob proms in the park)

27. Bridal dress shopping (for the laugh)
28. TV/film extra or gameshow contestant
29. Read top 10 classic books
30. Take part in a Guinness Book of Records event

Follow Louise’s journey towards toadsville here at