Flying Dog Raging Bitch

Every beer blog worth it’s salt has written about the dreadfully named and dreadfully tasty Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA.

I’ve not got round to it yet, but I’m drinking a bottle for the first time right now, while watching the USA lose to Ghana.

It’s a bloody good beer. Not intensely bitter too the point where the toe-curling hop blast dominates, and beneath that dryness, it’s all tropical fruits and sweetness – like bubblegum, and those yellow and orange striped sweets you used to get.

It’s very good. Incase you haven’t tried it yet, make sure you do.

Foraging: food for free

Some of our foraging spoils

Some of our foraging spoils

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I’ve been getting quite excited by the idea of becoming more self-sufficient. I want to grow my own veg, brew my own beer, make and repair my own things. I quite want some chickens too.

It feels good doing these things, it’s amazingly cost-effective (it’d be nice to spend less time having to think about making money and more time having fun, no?), and it’s good for the world if you cut down on things like transport costs for food, screwing over of farmers, that kind of thing.

I’m no revolutionary. And I don’t know much about much of these stuff. Many of my ideas have come straight from Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler and also Carolyn Steel’s Hungry City, which I’ve mentioned before.

Because of this newfound excitement about such things (maybe it’s just a phase, I hope not) when I read this article in Leeds Guide a month or so back, I decided I had to do it. Incase you haven’t clicked the link, it’s a piece about Food For Free Foraging Works in Leeds, a guided walk around parts of Leeds teaching what grows in the parks and woodland in Leeds, what you can and can’t eat and how to pick it in a way so as not to damage the wildlife.

I did this walk earlier today. And it was excellent.

Our guide, Mina, was effusive and clearly excited by the possibilities of foraging (she gets most of her food through foraging and freeganism) – you should have seen her excitement at finding osyter mushrooms – and she took us round Meanwood Park (which is simply stunning, look at the picture below) showing us some choice selections.

Meanwood Park, ahhhh

Meanwood Park, ahhhh

It’s amazing just how much you can pick and eat. Mina pointed us in the direction of the obvious (nettles, camomile, water cress) to the more obscure (jelly-ear mushrooms and hairy bitter cress) showing us how to identify plants and mushrooms, how to check they’re not going to kill you, and how to not deplete the area of any plant (ie never take something if you can’t find it twice in the area).

The key finds, other than the aforementioned osyter mushrooms were wild garlic (which is all over Meanwood and is a long-leaved plant that smells just like garlic) and chicken-of-the-woods mushroom. The latter was half way up a tree, required some climbing and is amazing. It smells, looks and tastes like roast chicken. And it’s quite ugly look:

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

After a good three hours of strolling, picking and tasting, Mina serves up an amazing picnic of quiche, pie and cake, made using ingredients found from foraging. Plus, she cooks up some wild garlic and oyster mushrooms that we picked just an hour ago – no more than one food mile there!

It’s a fascinating walk, and it’s left me itching (not literally, although I did get a few nettle stings) to get back out and do some foraging of my own. I’ve already got a wild garlic pesto in the fridge from today’s finds, and a third of that chicken-of-the-woods mushroom to boot.

As a final note, all the proceeds from these walks go to a very good cause, a non-denominational education centre in Kenya (more info here: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=34548307757&ref=mf) run by Mina’s family.

If you’re interested in doing the walk yourself, contact Mina at minamoo@gmail.com, and she will get in touch with the next dates

Homebrew Batch #2

46 Bottles of Beer on The Floor, 46 Bottles of Beer

46 Bottles of Beer on The Floor, 46 Bottles of Beer

I’ve recently been getting very excited about the idea of self-sufficiency. You know, growing your own, making your own, finding ways to make the chain from ground to mouth as short as possible. It’s been exciting, and my next post (which will probably be posted within an hour of this one, can you wait?!) will delve into that in more detail.

One great way to cut costs and make your own is to make homebrew. Beer is quite expensive (I’ve been known to pay up to £7 for a good bottle of beer, not a lot by beer geek standards, but a fortune by most people’s), and I drink a fair bit of it (I’ve not got a problem, but probably have a bottle at least one in every three nights).

Now, my only problem with my first batch of homebrew was that it wasn’t all that great. It was ok, but it cost about 50p a pint and, boy, could you tell!

Batch number two is currently undergoing secondary fermentation in the bottle, and thus will not be drinkable for another four weeks (dang!) but I’ve got high hopes.

See, the folk at Abbey Home Brew (a great homebrew shop on Kirkstall Road Leeds, near the big Morrisons) have a new kit called Design-A-Brew that’s designed as the middle ground between a full mash brew (expensive and an arse) and kit brewing (easy, cheap, not that nice).

It’s very clever. You buy two cans of malted barley (in a range of colours and bitterness) and then you buy extras, like different malts, hops, yeasts and flavourings. Most of which come in a tea-bag style holding-thingy, so they impart their flavour with filling your beer full of crap (homebrew comes with enough sediment already).

I’m making a nice spring ale with lemon grass and cascade hops. It smells nice already. And, as a nice bonus, these 46 bottles will mainly be drunk at my wedding in September (alongside a cask or two from Roosters in Knaresborough – stiff competition indeed). I hope the guests like it!

APERITIVO

One of my favourite things about my last holiday in Italy (Couchsurfing around Bologna, Padua, Venice and Florence, absolute bliss with my girlfriend, eating amazing food and meeting some lovely hosts) was discovering, via Geovanni, our great host in Bologna, about the aperitivo culture in Northern Italy.

Post work, the Italian’s don’t head down the pub for a pint (not that I’m disparaging that. Hell, read the rest of blog), they head out to the bars for a Spritz (Campari and soda, really refreshingly bitter) and then getting loads of free food. Sometimes it’s just endless bowls of crisps, sometimes it’s bruschetta (that’s bread with tomatoes and stuff), sometimes it’s bread and oil, sometimes it’s a massive buffet. The premise is simple, you pay a fixed (normally relatively high) price for your drink between, say 5 and 7pm, and included in the price is a never ending supply of grub. It’s great. The food means you don’t get too pissed, and it’s so unbelievably sociable.

The other thing I thought was great about Italy (again, something you learn from Couchsurfing and being shown the city by a local) is  that it is the LAW that if you order an espresso at the bar (ie not needing table service) they can’t charge you more than €1. That makes it just about the cheapest drink you can get. And shows how much the Italians love their coffee.

(one more thing I like, but isn’t relevant here, is that almost every train station has a cafe that does great coffee, sarnies and pastries, beats what we have here)

Anyway, I always miss this in Leeds. Quality coffee for nowt (honestly, try Starbucks coffee after trying Italian coffee, it tastes bland) and this great culture of aperitivo.

But all is not lost. One enthusiastic business owner, Alex, from Milan, wants to bring that Italian culture to Leeds and is doing his based with his little espresso bar, La Bottega Milanese on The Calls. He’s been pedalling quality coffee (at a mere £1 for an espresso) for six months, and now he’s launched an aperitivo menu of his own, using a non-alcoholic campari equivalent and loads of crisps, nuts, tomatoes, mozarella and bruschetta.

What a great idea. I’ll be getting down to support it.

Duke of Uke

On days like today, I would like to just sit outside and play my Ukulele all day.

At present I particularly like playing ‘I Wish That I Could See You Soon’ by Herman Dune (see below), and ‘Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay’ by Otis Redding.

God Damn Right It’s a Beautiful Day

Uh-huh.
Ain’t Meanwood pretty?

Nightclubbing: more of a question that a post, I guess

I went to a wedding on Saturday. It was great. Not that you’re that interested, like.

While at said wedding, a friend of mine did a DJ set that had me dancing for a good 90 minutes, stone-cold sober, and bloody loving it. He played stuff like:

Blur – ‘Girls & Boys’
Dexy’s Midnight Runners – ‘Geno’
Pixies – ‘Debaser’
Michael Jackson – ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’
Eels – ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’

Now how great would it be if Leeds had a clubnight that played stuff like this? 80s and 90s music that isn’t cheesey, or obscure, or twee, or hip, just genuinely good tunes you can dance and jump around to, and know and love.  There are brit-pop nights aplenty, yes, there are 80s power ballad nights, there are twee indie nights, but I don’t think there’s any like this, is there?

Please tell me if I am wrong, and I will go.