Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Tale of Two Curry Houses - Kashmir & Amaan's

It has been a while since I wrote a blog. I've been busy having a baby and balancing work, fun and sleep. When I'm not changing nappies, my 3 year old likes me to be Elvis Cridlington, Fireman Sam's incompetent sidekick.
Fancy a curry, Sam?

Being at work in Bradford gives me a chance to take sneaky curry lunches, and for some time I have been meaning to write about a couple of my favourite places. With the World Curry Festival this weekend in the city, here's my own 'celebration of all things curry'.

The Kashmir will be familiar to all Bradfordians. It competes with the nearby Karachi for the title "oldest curry house in Bradford", both of which were established in the 1960s to feed to increasing number of immigrant mill-workers, hungry for some home-style cooking. While the Karachi has ridden the Rick Stein wave - the chef visited in 2002 and the Lamb and Spinach dish is now "Lamb Rick Stein" - the Kashmir has stayed largely the same.

Visitors to the Kashmir are confused by the upstairs/downstairs option, with the place often looking shut during the day. The wooden side door reveals a shady stairway and aromas of what's to come.
Where's the door? Is it open?
There are no pretensions here. It retains its cafe-style atmosphere and there is almost pub-like assumption by the staff that the regulars are happy with their "usual" without any fuss or frills. A nod and a flourish of the menu are all that's required before the order is shouted over to the chef. 
The Kashmir rarely advertises or promotes itself at events, seemingly happy to survive on regular trade and reputation. If there were a tour of legendary establishments in the city, the Kashmir would be on it, along with the Fighting Cock pub.
So onto the food. The onion bhajis and mushroom pakora are always worth having as a starter. Quickly served, steaming hot, solid but not bready. Big portions are served with thin raita, salad and tap water on every table (no fancy bottles, just jugs of Yorkshire Water in school dinner glasses).
Sauce and salad

onion bhajis - nearly gone

I'm a creature of habit when it comes to the main dish. Even though I'm a meat-eater, I always go for the Veg Rogan Josh. It's more like a spicy stew of mixed vegetables, oily and tomato-rich, garlic and chilli flavours intense. I've tried the meat dishes and like them too, but this one always hits the spot for me.

Meat Madras
Veg Rogan Josh

Thick chappatis help to absorb the oil that is always a feature of Kashmir curries. They're heavy and deeply flavoured, not delicate or refined in any way. The meat isn't always the best quality and it some dishes can be a bit hit and miss.
The place itself has never benefited from a refurb - they tried a few years ago, but it just meant some less-tacky chairs and a lick of paint over the slightly sticky walls. 
The pub/cellar environment is part of its appeal to regulars, keen to show out-of-town guests the real Bradford. They'll go home to tell their friends about this "dingy" downstairs place where there was no cutlery but the curries were the best. And that's how the Kashmir survives and thrives. They don't pretend to be anything else.

Meanwhile, half a mile away, across the University campus, there's a new kid in town.
Amaan's Grill House opened in May, next to Haqs Supermarket in Legrams Lane. 

Set up by Ajaz Akbar and Sajid Ajoob with chefs from the Sweet Centre on Lumb Lane, Amaan's is a small  and smart unit.
 “A unique restaurant serving traditional kashmiri breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Our range includes : Channa Puri, Gol Gappay, Halwa, Paya, Maghaz. Complimented by amazing service.”The menu offers a good selection of favourites and traditional dishes without being too "fancy". They do breakfasts (the channa puri is fantastic) and a great value lunchtime deal for £5. This includes several starters and a half portion of curry and naan for £5.  

£5 special
The food is exceptionally fresh and the atmosphere is vibrant. Large pictures, portraits of Pakistani singers and modern finishing provide a pleasant feel - neither restaurant nor cafe, just a nice place to sit and eat. The service is friendly but not overbearing. 

Curly popadoms are a great appetiser and it's onto the main course. Since May, I've had the Saag Gosht (lamb and spinach), the Fish Karahi and the Keema Karahi. They were all extremely good. Less oily than the Kashmir but just as flavoursome. 

Fish Karahi
Like any new business should do, Amaan's is using social networks to promote itself. A recent picture of George Galloway visiting the restaurant is on its facebook site along with pictures of friends and regulars, all of whom are positive about the food and delights on offer.
This lunchtime, Amaan's was full of local businessmen, families and workers. People were waiting for tables outside.

So let's hope the old boys like the Kashmir can continue to flourish in the city, alongside new boys like Amaan's. Both have their benefits and both can thrive while Bradford's reputation is enhanced by their bigger brothers like the Aagrah and the burgeoning Prashad.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dick's Dinners: Cheesy Peas

A slight change of direction for this post and one which may become more regular.

For a few years now, I have dabbled with sharing my recipes and food ideas online. When I had more time on my hands (pre-fatherhood) I even did a few videos and posted them on youtube.
I found it hard to "be myself" on these films so I devised a comedy character in my head, a kind of unstable Gordon Ramsey, becoming slowly more deranged with each movie. He furiously mashed potatoes as if carrying out a revenge killing, filming himself on a cheap camera phone.
I had a few comments, some of the "you're mad" type and some thanking me for the recipe. I won't post the links to these episodes but they are still on there.

In more recent years, I have been posting pictures of my meals on facebook, under the title Dick's Dinners. I like to think friends are interested. And for those that aren't then tough - here's a picture of my dinner, there's a picture of your cat. Instagram that.

Anyway, this blog is about food and Bradford, so as well as posting local stuff I will be using it for the odd recipe - stuff that's easy to cook and doesn't cost too much in time or money.

I'll begin with something that isn't even a recipe as such - just a description of something I threw together last night (hey - I sound like Nigella already!).

2 packs of Paneer Butter Masala
Frozen peas
fresh coriander
green chillis
Rice and plain naan bread.

Not very exciting is it?

One of my favourite Indian dishes is Mattar Paneer - Peas and Cheese - "cheesy peas" as it's known in our house.

I would normally make the sauce for this from scratch, but a trip to the Bargain Nirvana that is Mr D's in Bradford's Oastler Centre had revealed packets of Kohinoor Paneer Butter Masala at only 50p a pop.

"...tender Indian cottage cheese delicately cooked in thick tomato onion gravy with authentic Indian herbs and spices" said the packet - what could go wrong? They were only 3 weeks out of date!

I knew that this ready meal dish wouldn't amount to much on its own, in fact the the bag in the box
resembled a used colostomy bag, so I went over to Haqs for some paneer, coriander, chillis and naan bread.
I also have one of these big boys in the fridge:
6 inches for £2
...which is a lazy way of pimping up a naan bread. Simply spread it onto the naan with melted butter before grilling. I'm sure this is what the Kashmir uses for its garlic naan.

1. Cube and fry a block of paneer.
2. Add 2 packets of sauce and a mug of frozen peas - heat through until peas are cooked.
3. Add chopped coriander and chillis to taste.
4. Serve with basmati rice and garlic nan.

Cheesy Peas. Done!

I served this with a starter of samosas from Haqs and some homemade raita (yoghurt, chilli, cumin, mint).


It was really nice and enough for 3 good portions.

Check back soon for more Dick's Dinners - and next time I'll post something that's a bit more adventurous.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Great Bradford Sausage Test

As a follow up to my last post about the Oastler Centre market, I decided to investigate more about the products offered by the five butchers resident in central Bradford. I asked myself how I would compare the fayre they offered. What item would get me wanting more and writing about these independent traders?

The answer? Sausages!

"A butcher stands or falls on the quality of his sausage!" I declared, to anyone who would listen.

So last week I returned to the market, a fiver in my pocket, and visited each butcher.
"Can I have three of your most popular sausage please? I am doing a taste test...".

So here are the results and reviews. Inevitably, the following report is laced with innuendo.
I grilled all of the sausage at the weekend and review them on taste, texture and value.

I began at the back of the market, where the two bigger outlets, Taplins and Binns are located.


These were the cheapest in price. 3 cost 38p. The thin pork sausage was quite pale and floppy - it didn't look very appetising, but then no-one is going to eat a raw sausage.

Pale and Floppy

They are pictured above next to the fat banger supplied by Hutchinsons. More of that later.
When cooked, Taplins sausage released quite a bit of water. They tasted very salty - the most salty of all the sausages I tasted - and weren't very meaty.
I suspect the pork content is quite low and the cereal, salt and fat content high. They weren't chewy and reminded me of the sausages I had as a kid.
Taplins - salty


I had high hopes for Paul Binns sausage. He told me there had been a competition in the market last year. A fry-off between all of the butchers. He had done well in that, and had several awards displayed on his stall.

I am a big fan of his sister's sausage (damn this all sounds so wrong...)  - Dawn runs Binns in Saltaire and uses a similar family recipe.

His sausages looked meaty and felt firm. The were bigger but priced well at 50p for three.

Cooked, they retained their firm texture. They were coarse but not chunky and well flavoured with pork. The skin was good too. However, they were let down by the salt content. I like salt on my food, but after tasting Taplins and Binns I had a raging thirst.
I wasn't a big fan of the coarse texture - but that's just a personal preference.

Moving on to the three butchers located on the side aisle - Hutchinson, Pickup and Holland.


Hutchinson told me that his most popular sausage was not the thin pork, but the pork and chive. These were large bangers - more the kind of thing you would have with mash and gravy. The cost £1.50 for three - the most expensive, but also the biggest in this test.

Look at the size of that sausage!
They cooked well and tasted good. Just a little salty this time, but certainly worth trying as a dinner sausage. They were fresh and had a good 'homemade' feel to them. Thick-skinned, as required by a fat girth. Here they are in a glorious close up shot..

3D Sausage Action

I would be keen to try their thin pork next time.

One of the smaller stalls, Pickup looks to keep things simple. His sausages were longer and darker than the others - a good indication of meat content. They cost 60p.     

These boys released very little water or fat and certainly looked appetising. They had a smooth, meaty texture - very porky - and importantly, not too salty! They were great in a bun with ketchup. So far, the best I had tried.

Porky Pickup


J Holland & Sons also have a popular thin pork sausage. Their appearance was pale and the texture smooth. These looked a lot like the Taplins sausage I had tasted earlier, but they were twice the price, so I expected good things.
On my notes, I have written "a bit thin, watery, tasteless and cheap". This is how my other half described them. I would say they were just a bit dull. Not over salty but not very meaty. Just a bog-standard, innoffensive sausage. 

Bland sausage

Mr Happy likes a nice sausage

My two and a half year old boy liked these. He also liked Pickup's. For that reason, we have a clear winner - for all the family, I declare A J Pickup & Sons winner of the Dick Digests Sausage Test!

Next week (25th - 31st March) is National Butchers' Week. It also sees the opening of Bradford City Park - so why not get down to the market in Bradford and taste some of the meaty offerings Bradford's city butchers have?

Monday, 27 February 2012

Bradford Market and Bargains

As a Bradford student in the 90s, I used to love going to Canon Mills on a Sunday. I was known as "fruity Richard" - known for offering friends cheap fruit that was close to the end of its edible life. My room had various "cool" items gathered from markets and secondhand stalls.
Twenty years on, I still love to potter around the markets and discount shops. People claim it is because I am now middle class and feel a nostalgic need to hang out with the working class and "feel dirty" - knowing I can walk away and drive home to my suburb. They shake their head when I tell them I just like a bargain.
A trip to Bradford wouldn't be complete without doing the pound-shop holy trinity of Poundland, Poundword and Pound City. Supplement this with a visit to Jack Fulton's or B&M and you're in bargain heaven.
Where else can you get a usb memory card reader, 5 kitkat chunkies and some Johnson's baby oil for £3? A cheap and entertaining night in with a young friend - sorted.
Joking aside, although the pound shop is a sign of the times - and times are hard in Bradford - they can offer some bargains whilst keep premises occupied and people in work.
Bradford's John Street Market - or The Oastler Centre - contains about 8 butchers, a fishmonger, 2 greengrocers, a deli, cake stalls, a spice stall and various other food and retail outlets. You can do all of your fresh food shopping there.
Pig's trotters, rabbits, cod roes, dressed crabs, smoked kippers, polish salami, coffee beans, cheeses, fresh coriander, lentils and masalla mixes - all under one roof.

Priestley's fishmongers have been trading in Bradford for over 100 years. They sell quality fish and seafood and can deliver your order for free. Shellfish, smoked fish and seasonal catches are all excellent.


Roswitha's Deli has a massive range of continental meats, salamis and sausages. They also have over 50 cheeses and pickles, olives and preserved fish including herring, anchovies and clams. Their Polish delicacies include pirogi, bigos and stuffed cabbage. Coffee and bread is also good from here.

Roswitha's Deli
Huge salami selection!
The fruit and veg stalls include an Afro-Caribbean specialist where you can buy plantains, sweet potato and yam. The other veg stalls sell just about everything else - including the fresh coriander and methi.

Yes we have no bananas.

Veg stall
Some of these stalls reduce their prices at the end of the day - so visit in the afternoon for bargains.
If you're after a real deal, in the far corner is Mr D's - they sell "a wide range of groceries, beverages, snacks and tinned foods". OK  - most of it is out of date, but it's all legal and fine. In fact, they are serving the green economy by selling on those end-of-line and past-best-before goods that the supermarkets would otherwise chuck into landfill. (That's what I'll tell the doctor when I get food poisoning from eating Mr D's stale biscuits).
In the past, I have bought a kilo of very ripe but perfectly edible goats cheese from here for £1 and some good coffee and pickles for pence.

Mr D's. Where "Best before" doesn't mean "worst after"
If you really want to stock up with discounted confectionary and crisps, over the road on John Street is the famous No.10 The Bargain Den. Most things cost about 10p here.

If you've worked up a hunger while bargain shopping, there's a good range of food outlets serving everything from chicken massalla to pie and chips. I'm a big fan of the Japansese Noodle Bar, where you can sit and have your lunch cooked in front of you. For £2-3 they do a simple menu of noodle and rice dishes.

For more of a treat, just over on North Parade another of Bradford's hidden gems- Feroni's - does good coffee and food.
Or if you need something stronger, you're a few seconds from the Sparrow Bier Cafe - with fine real ale and bar snacks.

It's hard not to sound like a cheap tourist information film when writing this. "Bradford Markets - Everything Under One Roof"... but this is a real shopping experience. Get down town.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Local Ale and Alehouses

I don't get out much these days. When I do, being middle-aged, the quality of the drink and the quality of the pub are all important. If time allows, Friday lunchtimes means the Fighting Cock - one of the few remaining original boozers in BD7.

The Fighting Cock, Bradford 1983
On the way to this shrine in the back streets of Listerhills, I pass the men attending their own Friday worship at the Preston Street mosque across the road.
At the altar of t'Cock, Glentworth beers can often be found - more South than West Yorkshire - always light and hoppy.
Golden Pippin and Taylor's Golden Best are other favourites for a lunchtime tipple.

I live close to the Saltaire institution that is Fanny's Ale House and to The Old Tramshed, both of which serve one of my favourites, Farmer's Blonde.

Although never quite the same, the quality of bottled ales can be good. Bottled Golden Pippin from Copper Dragon is always worth a go - great with a bowl of mussells!

Saltaire Brewery produce some great ales, all of which are available in bottles in local off licences.  I'm a big fan of Cascade "an American style pale ale with the floral aromas and strong bitterness of Cascade and Centennial hops". 

For those that like their beer really pale, the lager-like Cravenbrau from Naylor's Brewery from just down the road in Crosshills. It can be found in Asda.

Another great local pale ale is Golden Sheep, from the Black Sheep brewery.

Finally, on the bitter side, a pint of Ilkley Best always goes down well!

Ahh! That's better!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Brickyard Organics

A February selection
We get a delivery of vegetables every 2 weeks from Brickyard Organic Farm. After buying some veg from them at the Saltaire Farmers Market, we signed up to the weekly £10 bag - but it became too much and so we cut it down the a more manageable fortnightly delivery.
Their produce is always fresh and seasonal - and £5 a week is great value. They will deliver whatever you want/don't want! For example "no sprouts or celery". I do have a bit of a kohlrabi glut at the moment but the doctor said it was because I was middle class and there was nothing he could do.

Prashad. From Sweet Shop to Foodie Heaven.

I wrote this review last year. As a former resident of Horton Grange Road, opposite the Prashad, I have always had a soft spot for it. Especially the "pea balls"...
Since writing the review, the only other Indian vegetarian in the city has sadly closed - a victim of the building works for the City Park.

Pea Balls
I hadn’t re-visited Prashad since Gordon Ramsey put it on the map last year. I have been a regular admirer of its snacks and delicacies for 20 years, having lived nearby when a student in the early 90s. Back then it offered sweets “Direct From Leicester” from the shop behind the launderette.
Today’s lunchtime visit with work colleagues saw the Prashad in its post-Ramsey premier league status – complete with new menu, busier dining area and more awards and accolades than before. We were greeted by an attentive waiter who offered drinks, popadums and an explanation of anything on the menu we were unsure of.
The menu itself had expanded since my last visit and now offers several more starters, curries, roadside snacks and specialities than before. I was pleased to see the old favourites still there – Pea Kachori, Bataka Vada and Special Chaat had tingled my taste buds for many years. New dishes such as Hara Bara Burger and some new curries were tempting to try.
I had always thought Prashad prices were a little on the pricey side for Bradford but worth paying for the difference and uniqueness of its delicate Indian dishes in a city dominated by the oilier and richer food served in Pakistani curry houses. However, I was surprised to see the increase in price on the menu. £4.75 is now the price for all starter portions – Samosas, Kachori, Pakora, Stuffed Chilli. This seemed a significant increase on the pre-Ramsey prices, when it was possible to get a mixture of 10 starters to take away for £5-6. Even the fairly expensive Aagrah chain charge less, with all of their Vegetarian starters priced at £2.50 - £4.
On this occasion, after an excellent range of chutneys and pickles, myself and a colleague shared a Massala Dosa as a starter. We were asked whether we were “familiar with the dosa” and after a slightly long run-through we proceeded to split the crepe and its spicy contents. I must admit to being a little disappointed with the quantity – we each had just a tablespoon of the potato and onion mixture. The lentil soup, although traditional, added little to the dish, which was tasty overall but not outstanding. Perhaps my tastebuds have hardened over the years, but there was little evidence of the chilli that I used to expect in many Prashad dishes.
ladies fingers

For a curry dish, we shared a Vegetable Handi, at £8.95, one of the more expensive curries on the menu. The mixed vegetables were, disappointingly, just peas and a little cauliflower. It was tasty and delicate, but no better than curries I had had at Bradford City Centre’s Tulsi buffet, a rival vegetarian Indian restaurant which charges just £8 for a good “eat all you can” lunchtime buffet selection of dishes. The accompanying Rotli were thin chapattis, more subtle than the steaming cloths served “free” by the likes of Kashmir, but equally less filling. An 80p each, 4 of these added significantly to the price of the dish.
After the meal, head chef and mini-celebrity Kaushy did the rounds of the diners, shaking our hands and asking us how we liked the food. She had a date with the press so we didn’t keep her.
Overall then, Prashad is still doing what it always did best. Fresh, vegetarian, home-cooked delights served in a friendly and cosy setting. The food is, and always has been, of a high standard. My concern is that it is cashing in on the popularity generated by Ramsey and upping its prices to a level that it can’t justify or sustain. It can ride the wave of publicity by attracting curious and moneyed non-locals for a certain duration, and good luck in doing so. These customers may, however, start to dry up in coming years and it needs to maintain its local and regular customers in a highly competitive local market.
I will continue to visit, but less often than before – the price dictates that it is now a rare treat rather than a regular haunt. It may well be the 2nd Best Restaurant in Britain but in my mind it doesn’t quite offer the restaurant experience that its prices suggest. It does, however, remain a gem in Bradford’s culinary crown.
[above photos courtesy trip advisor]
a selection of Prashad takeaway delights