The Leeds Loves Food Festival wouldn’t be complete without something for the veggie community, and the Veg Out! day at Wharf Chambers certainly delivered.Although slightly dubious about bringing my meat eating and very hungry boyfriend to a vegetarian food festival, after the first mouthful of Manjit’s Kitchen’s speciality, I realised I didn’t have anything to worry about. He tucked in and ate with vigour, as did I and everyone else in sight. The small intimate setting of Wharf Chambers was packed out with food stalls and street vendors, families and young couples who were all indulging in the healthy veggie goodness.
Upon arriving at just after midday, we stopped at the counter of The Real Cider Company, manned by Phil Kennedy and his accomplice Laurence Poulley, who happily supplied us with samples of every type of cider under the sun; my favourite being the sweet Elderflower Cider which I would willingly drink all day. A few more sweet options on offer were the Blackberry at 4% – “it’s not falling over juice” in Phil’s words – alongside the Bramble, and Strawberry with Lime which made a refreshing change to the sugar coated Rekorderlig’s you often find in pubs.
Among the drier choices was the Old Rat’s Tail which just about stripped away all the moisture from my mouth, whereas the Pheasant Plucker provided a dry yet lighter texture to the others. The fresh Cornish Orchard tasted as though it was made from pure apple juice, and the perry ciders made from fermented pears – as opposed to apple and pears like most perrys – were utterly divine.
It didn’t stop at sweet ciders however – there were a number of weird and wonderful options to choose from, such as the Rosquijeau which tasted of… Stilton. Pair a flagon of the Rosquijeau with a cheese board, and it really is a match made in heaven. The Kingston Black on the other hand produced some more complex and sharp flavours pertaining of vinegar that created a bitter taste. Not a personal favourite but still worth a try, and I honestly could not praise Phil and Lawrence enough for such excellent service.
The aforementioned Manjit’s Kitchen was a true delight to behold; a colourful plethora of steaming saucepans and tempting aromas, the food included the specialty Chana Bunny Chow made from chickpea, curry, salad, chutney and a hollowed out bread roll. The recipe originates from a South African dish, but the owners adapted their own home made spin on the much loved recipe. A spicy kick of chilli was levelled out perfectly with tumeric, as the bread roll nicely soaks up the flavour.
For a little sweetness afterwards, they had the famous Chocolate, Chilli and Tequila Brownie, where the flavours hit you individually. The rich and tantalising chocolate flavour came first, closely followed by a strange yet alluring mixture of salt and tequila that hits you at the back of the throat like the spirit itself. Lastly, you’re left with a strong taste of chilli which gave it quite an edge. It may not have been something for everyone, but it was definitely worth a try all the same.
The premiere screening of ‘Street Food Kolkata’ was shown early on in the afternoon, and to be honest I didn’t quite know what to expect. The idea of a film about food didn’t exactly thrill me, but within the first few minutes I was completely hooked. The director Angus Denoon spent seven years travelling to and from India to gather footage, and edited his findings to create a one hour long, insightful documentary about Indian street food.
He expertly depicts life in the vastly populated country which, in Angus’ words, would be “a hell hole if it wasn’t for the food”. A blend of lovely cinematography, interviews with the locals and eye-opening demonstrations of how the food is made, created a truly enjoyable watch that made me extremely hungry, and want to catch the next plane to India for a refreshing glass of Sattu.
Angus spoke about how empowering it is that you can cook so healthily and at such little cost, all of which creates delicious snacks that you could purchase at his own Jhal Muri street cart outside. Served up in a paper cone, the dry mixture of rice, chilli, oil and diced cucumber, the Jhal Muri made a healthy, filling snack that you rarely find in British cuisine.
The film complemented the day quite well; every dish made in the film, and at the festival itself, was made with passion and an air of spontaneity that you rarely find in gourmet cooking. Instead, it was more about making recipes that were healthy and wholesome.
Returning to some more Yorkshire traditions, Drive By Pie were there with some delicious vegetarian and vegan pies; butternut squash and roasted nut, spinach, stilton and potato and chickpea and tomato and coconut curry were all served warm and at just £2 a pop.
There were all sorts of delicious cakes at the vegan bakery That Old Chestnut – I went for the banana and chocolate cake after much deliberation. The owners Elly Robinson and Chris Kubiszewski had prepared a fantastic stock of enticing cakes and helped me pick out my chosen flavour, which turned out to perfectly blend the banana and chocolate together.
Next on the list was the Bread Co-op where I sampled the cherry and fennel focaccia, a sweet mixture of ingredients that worked wonderfully well. El Topo also had a large gathering of hungry customers, as they cooked up their halloumi and mushroom or mixed veg burritos.
Served with red rice, refried beans, their own sour cream, cheese, salsa and guacamole in a tinfoiled wrap, they were so good that I ended up ordering two – in fairness I did stay at the event for nine hours. The atmosphere was too good to abandon, what with the constant mill of people out in the sun, a foosball table, graffiti artists, live bands and a kids wall for them to draw their favourite vegetable – all in all, the day was a complete success.