Marco, Dan and a Lisbon tart

A PORTUGUESE custard tart at Lisboa, that little cafe with the custard yellow fascia in Sheffield’s Peace Gardens, is £1.95. That’s two euros.

“Last time I had one of these was in Lisbon when it was only one euro,” I say to the chap behind the counter, then pause. “But I expect you’ve heard that before?” The server, wearing a yellow Lisboa t-shirt , nods wearily. “Several times a day. But everything is imported from Portugal.”

“Everything. Flour, eggs, the baker,” says co-owner Dan Martins, sitting at the next table. He opened Lisboa – a bakery and cafe with a handful of tables – last December with fellow countryman and business partner Marco Matias, Sheffield Wednesday’s Portuguese footballer.

Dan, an architect, says: “I always wanted to open a cafe and bring something of Portugal to England. We put our heads together and it turned out out to be pasteis.”

These are not the first Portuguese custard tarts in the city but they are very authentic. And good. We first saw them from Chris Wong, who sold them from a stall in the Moor Market and now from Da Da Shu  on Furnival Gate. The Chinese encountered them in Macao, then a Portuguese colony, from where they travelled to Hong Kong. Local bakeries also make them, with varying degrees of success. And they are made by the Anglo-Russian Cossack Cuisine. The world , it seems, has taken this little eggy tart to its heart.

A pastel de nata (pasteis is the plural) is the photographic negative of the English version. The pastry is flaky not short. The filling, which in England tends towards the underneath of a creme brulee or burnt cream, is lighter and slightly jellied in texture. The top is scorched, not with a blowtorch, but by natural caramelisation of sugars in the oven.

There is artistry in this. A Portuguese can sum up the excellence of a pastel de nata by looking at the markings which should neither be all black nor too pale.

I am a sucker for a pastel de nata. I am not saying it is better than the English version but it is different .

I thought when Lisboa first opened they hadn’t quite got the texture right. Dan agrees. He blames the Sheffield water although I am not sure in which way. The end result, as I ate the other day, is a pleasingly rich mouthful.

Lisboa, which has a floor of authentic Portuguese tiles and a tiled street sign, Rua Fernando Pessoa (he’s the Portuguese Shakespeare), sells some 600 tarts in a good week.

It also makes other pastries, Nutella brownies, croissants, palmiers, custard slices and the Ham and Cheese Wonder, plus a couple of styles of loaves, but if you are going in for a coffee and a pastry you’ll probably have a pastel de nata. The coffee, by the way, is also Portuguese.

There are only three or four tables plus a couple of smaller ones tucked away at the back but an application has been made to the city council for outside seating.

Dan and Marco seem to gave scored a greater success with custard tarts than the Owls have in the Championship.

Advertisements

Kommune gets it together

IMG_2129

Mann’s salmon fishcake

AT Sheffield University in the Eighties urban geographers detected an invisible line which ran through the then Hole in the Road. Below it, past C&A down to The Wicker, taking in the Castle, Sheaf and Rag and Tag markets – and the courts – was territory occupied by what sociologists called rough working class.

Above it, from Rackham’s to High Street, Fargate and the Moor was the domain of the respectable working class and the city’s relatively small middle class.

Modern sensibilities being what they are, we no longer use these terms but some may raise a wry smile that there is now a bridgehead of gastro-gentrification in what was the old Brightside & Carbook Co-Op in Castle House, now the Kommune Food Hall. Here they sell lobster thermidor for £30 a go, Korean spicy pork, vegan salads and sourdough loaves not 30 yards from the Poundland opposite.

Kommune sounds a bit beardy and trendy with tattoos optional and indeed it is, on both sides of the counter. But in the opening weeks this enterprise with 10 different food options has had a real vibe and exciting atmosphere. Sit at the communal tables, bar stools or booths and you get just a hint of Lisbon’s Time Out food hall, although not the sophistication.

IMG_2182

Part of the seating area

On our first two visits it was packed and difficult to find a table, on our third, a Tuesday, it was quieter but still busy. And certainly livelier than when you went to get your divi at the old B&C.

At lunchtimes you order from each kiosk, pay and are given a buzzer when your food is ready. Evenings are more relaxed: pagers are dumped and food is brought to your table.

Kommune is still being developed. On the non-food side there is a splendid bar curving around the well of the building’s impressive spiral staircase, an art gallery and arty magazine shop but the building still has acres of empty space.

I’ve eaten or bought from seven of the independent businesses here. There is a ubiquitous burger and a pizza place, which I have yet to try, but the star of the show has to be Mann’s fish bar, the offshoot of the wet fish business at Sharrow Vale (where owner chef Christian Szurko already cooks up lunchtime fish ordered from the slab).

Kommune is all about street food and you might say Mann’s is hardly that. Here we had an excellent, if slightly small salmon fish cake (£10, to a Savoy Hotel recipe) on a dazzlingly good dill sauce and a ‘fish finger sandwich’ of battered goujons inside a squid ink-coloured bun. Chef Scott Mills, Christian’s partner, is enthusiastic about things so far.

The menu looks tempting: there is also dressed crab, clam chowder, steamed mussels and stuffed squid but did he really sell many thermidors? “They fly out,” he said, perhaps a little over-dramatically. “We don’t make anything on them but it gets us known.” He covers the breakfast and brunch market with dishes like kippers and haddock frittata with more expensive and sophisticated offerings at night.

We have yet to go at night. A trip to the Chaat Cart, a South Indian street food joint, produced an excellently flavoured chicken kati roll (£8), spiced-up poultry with vegetables on a roti. It was chicken for me from Shoot The Bull, a rotisserie and grill. I enjoyed my quarter chicken (£7.50) which was hardly more than a leg. This had been first brined then basted with maple syrup so there was plenty of flavour in the flesh and skin. The price included top quality chips fried in beef dripping. One thought: I never saw more than two birds on the rotisserie so the stall lacks kerb appeal.

Pom Kitchen is an Australian-inspired vegan and veggie option. The salad bowl (£7) was lively salad with decent focaccia let down by boringly bland hummus. A trip to Yoki, a Korean enterprise, offered an interesting spiced pork (slices stir-fried with chilli) which combined heat with a touch of sweetness. It came with a timbale of rice and salad garnish.

Kiwi coffee from local enterprise Tamper is stronger and richer than your average cup (each shot uses 42g of beans instead of the usual 36g) so you might not be safe drinking it after 2pm!

So far, so good. Kommune could do with a desserts offering, perhaps to justify lingering in the evening. It’s so refreshing to see something good, locally owned and independent in the city centre as a change from all those dreary old chain eateries.

Kommune is at Castle House, Angel Street, Sheffield S3. It opens Tues to Sat 9am to 11pm, Sun 9am to 9pm. Web: http://www.kommune.co.uk

#Castle House, a Grade II listed building has a lot of history and a story of delay caused by two world wars. Land was originally bought by the B&C on Angel Street in 1914 just before war broke out so building was delayed until 1927. It was slowed by discovery of the Sheffield Castle site and not completed until 1938. The building was destroyed in the Sheffield Blitz of 1940. The new building, designed by G S Hay, took as its inspiration Irving Park’s Sears Roebuck department store in Chicago, with its two blind walls on the first and second sales floors. The splendid interiors, including a mural, are by Stanley Layland.

IMG_2183 (2)

The curving bar

Tony and the Mi Amigo – does it add up?

IMG_2090

Tony Foulds outside the memorial

BY now the whole world knows of Tony Foulds, the 82-year-old Sheffield man who almost daily tends the memorial to the crew of the USAAF bomber Mi Amigo which crash landed in Endcliffe Park in February, 1944.

He believes the pilot of the Flying Fortress tried to wave him and other children playing in the park that day out of the way before it crashed. All 10 on board died.

He says he has felt ‘guilt’ ever since that day.

When his story was aired on BBC Breakfast by show host Dan Walker in January as a result of a chance meeting there was an unprecedented reaction. The world was touched by the story of a man who had, in the words of the BBC, tended to the memorial ‘almost every day for decades’ or ‘since 1944’ as the Guardian reported.

His efforts were honoured by a flypast over the memorial this February on the 75th anniversary of the crash. Tony has been feted, local people want him to be awarded an honour and city council leader Julie Dore has called for him to get a ‘star’ in the pavement outside the Town Hall.

But does Tony’s story stand up?

Here he is in a YouTube video recorded in November, 2018, and uploaded the following month, filmed by Sheffield University journalism student Harry Gold https://youtu.be/KEUJfLEaWco in which he says that two years ago he broke from his usual routine and, instead of meeting friends, he visited the memorial. He noticed ‘ how dilapidated the memorial was. From that day on I put flowers on, swept it, made sure that it was clean.’ That’s commendable but hardly very long. And it was recorded before he met Walker.

I am not the only one to wonder whether Tony has been doing this for half or all of his life. Local journalists who have written about the Mi Amigo over the years, have never met him.* By his own admission he never turned up over the years for the annual service at the memorial on the anniversary of the crash, which seems odd.

IMG_2091

David Harvey’s book on the crash

His devotion was missed by the Friends of Porter Valley, who tidy up the park, including the memorial. I was told: “We had not come across Tony before Dan Walker brought him to everyone’s attention. We have undertaken some volunteer work day activities at and around the memorial over the years but presumably not at the time or times Tony has been there.”

Tony’s work at the memorial might have gone unnoticed but for that chance meeting with Walker, who stopped to talk.

Walker tweeted excitedly on January 2: “Just met an amazing man in Endcliffe Park. Tony Foulds was an 8-year-old playing in he park when a US plane crashed in February 1944. He has diligently maintained the memorial ever since. He was planting new flowers. What a man. I’m in bits.”

Perhaps if Walker had been less in bits he would have carried out basic journalistic checks.

For a start, the memorial wasn’t put up until 1969 – a quarter of a century after the event.

He could have interviewed the expert on the crash, David Harvey, author of the definitive account, ‘Mi Amigo – The Story of Sheffield’s Flying Fortress.’ It was published in 1997 after four years of research.

Harvey would have told him the story of the plane avoiding the children was an ‘urban legend’ which first emerged in the 1990s. “There is no factual evidence to support or corroborate this story,” he writes in his book.

IMG_2093

Casting doubt on Tony’s version of events

Harvey recalls Walker messaging him on Facebook on January 23, well after the story was aired on TV, but not following up. The two men have not spoken.

Harvey points out none of the newspaper articles at the time mentions the children or Tony. He writes that if the pilot had swerved to avoid the children the nose of the Mi Amigo should have been pointing uphill. In fact, eye witness reports and photographs show it pointing down. “It could not have been trying to make the infamous belly landing.”

It has since emerged that the plane had circled the city for about an hour and tenders from the National Fire Service had been standing by.

Far from attempting to make a belly landing the Mi Amigo had suddenly spiralled down out of the sky. Tony’s story is at odds with eye witness reports.

Not long after Walker’s report the BBC began getting calls which threw doubt on Tony’s story. But the flypast had been arranged, the BBC had booked the Endcliffe Park Cafe as its headquarters for the live broadcast, thousands were going to turn up.

Local and regional newspapers were also informed. ‘At this stage, having assessed all of the material presented to me by one of my best journalists, I am not minded to publish,’ one executive told me.

I met Tony at the memorial, now covered with wreathes and flowers, and asked him about the November 2018 video, made before he became a celebrity, in which he said he had been tending it for two years.

He said this was the point at which he had decided to give the monument “a bit of colour.”

He insisted he had been attending the site since 1953, at the age of 17, when he had realised the full significance of what had happened. When I pointed out the monument had not been erected until 1969 he claimed there had been “a hole in the ground and a plaque.” He also went around sprinkling flowers.

Author Harvey, who records in his book that the memorial came about through the efforts of Bert Cruse of the RAFA, says this “is the first time I have heard of a plaque prior to the erection of the RAFA stone in 1969.”

At this point in our conversation Tony was getting agitated. Asked how he reconciled his account of the attempted belly landing with eye witness reports in the book of the plane spiraling down he then agreed it had “plummeted,” seemingly contradicting himself.

Tony made clear he did not agree with Harvey’s book. He stressed he himself had been an eye witness and turned away to meet his fans.

But I was left with questions: Why were Tony’s own recollections of the crash so at variance with others and of the evidence? Why had so few encountered him before Walker?

Perhaps only Tony knows the answer.

20190311_13283670490667.jpg

The memorial in Endcliffe Park

*Since this post was first written an article in The Star from February, 2018, has come to light with Tony retailing the same account. His claim was reported but not verified against the paper’s own records nor with Harvey’s Mi Amigo book.

From burgers to braised pork

AS predicted by this blog, the site of the long-established Sheffield burger bar Yankees is to open as a Chinese restaurant in April, Lounge 418.

Or, more precisely, as a ‘cafe and Chinese restaurant’ according to owners Chun-Fat Lee and his wife Corrie Wong, who bought the site for a reported £525,000.

This is the Chinese Year of the Pig, which purportedly signals wealth.

It will be the first Chinese restaurant on Ecclesall Road (home to Indian, Japanese, Thai and Italuan eateries) for a very long time, possibly ever. And that’s despite it being a short hop away from London Road, the city’s unofficial Chinatown.

Mr Lee told the Vibe website that the new business would not look like a conventional Chinese. For a start the Yankees’ red (an Imperial and lucky colour) has been painted white and Lounge 418 must be the first Chinese restaurant with a dartboard.

The Hong Kong-based couple are in Sheffield where their son is studying and already own commercial premises further along at Banner Cross.

Yankees, at the corner with Thompson Road, was opened by the Freeman brothers in May, 1979, eight years after Ron Barton’s Uncle Sam’s. In recent years it had lost its way, at one point advertising a menu on banners outside not available within. It closed before Christmas 2016 and will have been ‘dark’ for over two years.

Encouraged by several thousand mainland Chinese students at the two universities a swathe of ethnic restaurants have opened in the West Street area to serve them. They are also a boon to local foodies as there is no pressure to Anglicise menus. Lounge 418 will have a South China (Cantonese) menu.

Some Sheffield-based Chinese restaurateurs have remarked upon the students’ reluctance or ‘laziness’ to travel far off the beaten track. It remains *to be seen whether the New Era complex and tower block between London Road and Bramall Lane, with plenty more student flats, will be near enough for Lounge 418 to attract their attention.

Or whether it will stick to the Anglo market.

Yankees as it was

Food to make a Mexican wave

IMG_2105

Richard and Abi Golland

CURIOUSLY, for a couple who have made a thriving business out of burritos and cashed in on the chilli-hot dishes south of the border down Mexico way, Abi and Richard Golland have never, ever been there.

“We have just been too busy but I think we should set a target to go to Mexico,” says Abi, nibbling away at her chorizo hash in their Street Food Chef burrito bar on Arundel Street, Sheffield. Richard pours agave syrup on his breakfast pancakes and shrugs. They have recently introduced a new breakfast menu and have asked me along to try it.

Well, as it says on their website, you don’t need to go all the way to Acapulco to taste the food and I’m enjoying the huevos rancheros from their new breakfast menu. The last time I ate this was in a Tex-Mex joint in Texas and the chillies blew my head off while I burped all the way round The Alamo. (The Mexicans are still besieging it, although now from food stalls outside.)

The Street Food Chef’s version is milder – I shall not be burping in the Winter Garden, my next stop – but I love the tender black beans and chipotle sauce.

Abi tempts me to a nugget or two home Mexican-style chorizo. It’s gentler and unsmoked compared to the Spanish version, made from local Moss Valley pork. They make the chorizo, mole sauce (chocolate and chilli), black beans and even the small tortillas themselves. “We decided from the start on never buying stuff in,” she says.

Street Food Chef has been around since 2010, the couple rather longer. They met in Oxford. “Richard was living on a boat on the river making gargoyles to sell to tourists. I was teaching,” she says. As Richard was from Sheffield they decided to make their home here in 2006 but needed a business idea they could both get involved in.

IMG_2100

My huevos rancheros

They thought of food but Richard had had his fingers burned while running a restaurant and wasn’t keen, at that point, to plough their money into property. So they decided to go on the streets with a trailer. But what would it be?

“We thought about ideas such as (selling) soup, porridge or hot dogs but as the council issued the licence they wanted something healthy. It was Richard’s dad in Toronto who kept sending us pictures of burrito bars,” adds Abi.

It was pretty good timing. Mexican food was just coming into fashion in the UK and Sheffield is notoriously always half a decade behind in food trends. There was not much Mexican food in Sheffield so they went to London to taste it there. “It was winter and I remember tramping the streets and thinking it was going to be cold selling here!”

They did well at markets, fairs and events – it’s a quick learning process and you either sink or swim. They learned a lot. But when they went to the council for a permanent pitch the following year they were persuaded to take “four square metres” in an empty building on Pinstone Street, in 2011.

The young business started winning awards but now they needed to get into bricks and mortar. Arundel Street opened in 2012 and there is another branch on Sharrowvale Road (one on Glossop Road, proved to be the wrong place).

IMG_2103

Chorizo hash

Their clientele in the city centre tends to be local business and university lecturers and staff. I’d have thought students but perhaps the average spend here of around £8.50 puts them off. But the couple make no claims that their bright, very red and yellow cantina is a destination place. “You come here on your way to somewhere else, the theatre or the Showroom,” says Abi.

With the enthusiastic assistance of chef Rob Cater-Whitham, who ensures even the queso fresco (fresh cheese) is made in-house, the couple have been able to fend off corporate Pedro-come-latelys in the Mexican market.

Customers may have drifted off to sample the likes of Taco Bell and the introduction of a KFC Mexican menu but “they’ve come back with their tails between their legs,” laughs Abi. In fact, the new arrivals put sales up.

The menu offers the usual mix of burritos, tacos and quesadillas although as Abi points out the former  is more a Californian thing. Mexicans always go for tacos.” Mexicans in Sheffield, they say, have responded favourably and particularly like the corn tortillas. You could say Abi and Richard have been given a cheerful Mexican wave.

So have their three children, Billi (23), Alfie (19) and Phoebe (16), all of whom have helped in the business and given their parents candid criticism. “The best people to test your food on is not your friends – they say ‘that’s very nice’ – but your children,” their mother says.

Richard, whom his wife describes as a serial entrepreneur, is already thinking up his next one. “We’re going to focus on pop-ups,” he says, describing the sizes of the carts they have. And perhaps go back to the idea of US-style hot dogs.

Who knows? Perhaps one day they’ll even find themselves down Mexico way?

*The breakfast menu is available until 10.30am on weekdays and until noon at Arundel Street, weekends only at Sharrowvale. Web: http://www.streetfoodchef.co.uk

IMG_2097

Street Food Chef on Arundel Street

There’s no blood in a white pudding

IT IS years since I had a white pudding. It is a very regional dish: think black pudding without the blood and you have more or less got it.

The Irish have a fancy for it, very often alongside black pudding which makes their breakfasts the Very Full Irish. In fact the best breakfast I have ever had was on the train heading south from Dublin with puddings of both colours and the tastiest sausages I have encountered.

When I worked on a Sunday paper in Devon white pudding, or hogs pudding, was always in the shops but I lost sight of it coming north. Now I’ve found it, or at least the Irish version (made in Lancashire), on sale at Dearne Farm Foods’ stall on the Moor Market.

As I understand it white pudding may or may not contain meat alongside the fat , oatmeal and spices. This pudding was made with quite a bit of pork as well as finely chopped bacon but seemed low on oats. It did have a rainbow of herbs and spices: white pepper, pimento, ginger and cinnamon along with rosemary, sage and thyme.

When I cooked it in the pan, simply by slicing and frying, I found it meatier than I expected and less oaty than I would have liked. But it was enjoyable . Think polony (which the stall also sells) but with a firmer texture.

Unlike most black puddings, there weren’t any little nuggests of chopped back fat but this would certainly go well in a ‘poor man’s fry up’ as the only porky contribution.

The stall has been selling it in 200g ‘stubs,’ as the plastic-wrapped sausages are called, for the last four years. “The Irish buy a lot of it,” the butcher told me.

The Scots have their own version, mainly oats, suet and beef, which sounds closer to the Devon hogs pudding I recall, although that didn’t have beef in it. There are even versions of white pudding which contain dried fruit, a recipe which goes back to medieval times.

This white pudding is made by the Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company and he also sells their award-winning black pudding. I bought some of that as well. Also on sale are stubs of polony, once a famous Sheffield delicacy but now fallen from grace, from Potters of Barnsley. Polony is still favoured in South Yorkshire funeral teas for the elderly and by anglers as bait.

I intend to have both black and white pudding, along with bacon and eggs, on Sunday mornings – a Very Full British Breakfast!

Why I’m in hock to the pig

20190204_130204-194098991.jpg

Pork hock rillettes

SOME THINGS are such a bargain it should be a criminal offence not to buy them. So it is with me and pork hocks. They are the cheap-as-chips joint that just keeps on giving. And when I saw them for sale at Roney’s the butchers on Sharrowvale Road, Sheffield, at £2.99 for one, a fiver for two, I knew just what I was going to do with them. I ought to say you can get them even cheaper on the market.

  • After boiling for three hours or more, the best of the meat would give me pork rillettes, a sort of halfway house to a full-on terrine (I would have needed two hocks for that).
  • The broth the cooking water had become would give me the base for soups.
  • The skin, gently cooked in a frying pan on the lowest of lights for two or so hours would give me crisp, tasty pork scratchings (and the resultant fat saved for frying or roasting).
  • Meat not soft or good enough for rillettes would be sliced fine for a Chinese stir-fry.
  • And the bone, stripped of any surplus fat but not the gristle, would add flavour to a pot of soaked, dried beans I was cooking up for the freezer and future chillies.

This goes up to eleven on the Frugality Scale of one to ten and ticks every box you can think of: economy, taste, versatility and that one about paying your respects to the animal by not wasting a single gobbet of goodness.

Here’s what I did. I put the hock in a pot with onions, carrots, celery, bay and herbs (no salt), bringing to the boil then simmering for three hours, or until it is beginning to fall off the bone. As it’s a salty joint you might want to bring to the boil, drain then start again with fresh water. I didn’t.

I took the hock out and allowed to cool overnight, also straining the cooking liquid and leaving it in the fridge. You can proceed while the meat is still warm but it takes a couple of hours before it stops burning your fingers.

The next day I cut off and reserved the skin. You will soon discover which is the best quality meat. You will have to scrape off the fat and cut away tendons. Now, using two forks, break up the meat into soft strips. (You can do a bit of fine knifework if this gets too tedious).

Put the meat into a bowl. Season. Add two tablespoons of good cider or white wine vinegar, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, herbs of your choice, finely chopped gherkin/olives/caper berries and anything else that takes your fancy. Now get out the cooking liquid which will have jellied and scrape off some of the fat which has settled on top. Mix it in with the meat. It’s optional but a little bit of fat adds to the texture and ‘mouthfeel.’

Pack tightly into ramekin. One hock filled two ramekins. Now take a ladleful of that jellied stock, gently reheat it and pour it over the meat in the ramekins until it reaches the surface. Allow to cool when it will jelly back up again.

This is almost a terrine but isn’t and tastes great on toast or with a salad and freezes well.

Meanwhile cut up the skin, fat and all, into one or two inch squares, heat a heavy frying pan on a low light and leave until you have beautiful scratchings. Drain off the fat for later use.

The stock can also be frozen. You will probably want to dilute it 50-50. I used some of the leftover meat, finely diced, to make a meat and veg soup. The rest went in the freezer. The fat went on to baste a stuffed pork fillet for Sunday lunch.

The rest of the meat added to a stir-fry and the bones went in my beans.

I could, of course, have roasted the joint. It would have been a rather rugged meal but would still have been a tasty treat.