Two interesting ‘new’ shops for foodies in Leeds, one selling Romanian food and ingredients, the other ‘hot’ chilli products.

Kaiser, Toba, Bors, Buillon and 'real' cornmeal (malai) from the Romanian shop in Leeds Kirkgate market

Kaiser, Toba, Bors, Buillon and ‘real’ cornmeal (malai) from the Romanian shop in Leeds Kirkgate market

In my post of 5 November I mentioned the difficulty of getting cornmeal as good as that I was used to in Romania and that I would visit a ‘newly opened’ Romanian shop in Leeds Kirkgate market to see if some could be brought from my wife’s grandmother’s village. It turned out that the shop stocked some rustic cornmeal (malai) and this is much better than those which I’ve been able to get so far. It’s not quite as good as grandma’s but I think it’s a matter of texture as it seems to have a bit less bran (tarate).

Wheat bran is the basis of bors (odd that a Romanian product doesn’t use the correct Romanian character on the label – see picture; the final ‘s’ should have a cedilla to give it the ‘sh’ sound. I don’t have it on my computer. However, ‘sh’ or no it’s great to have real bors as it gives a much better taste to the sour soup made throughout Moldova, also known as bors (borsh), than the dry packeted stuff produced under the Maggi (Nestle Slovakia) and Delik’at (Unilever Romania) labels. By the way, Romanian bors does not necessarily have beetroot; two of my favourite versions are potato bors (vegetarian) and bors made with chicken wings.

Apart from the malai and bors, I bought some bouillon (tomato paste) with the renowned Romanian brand ‘Olympia’. I know tomato paste (puree) is widely available here in UK but if you have tasted Romanian tomatoes you will know why I bought bouillon.

Borsec mineral water

My other two purchases (pictured at the top) were a chunk of one of my favourite cuts of cured pork, known as kaiser, and another of my favourites – toba – which translates as brawn, but it’s a lovely chunky brawn.

A bottle of Borsec mineral waterI didn’t buy this time something else which I was delighted to see stocked – Borsec mineral water, in my opinion the world’s best-tasting mineral water. Living in Yorkshire I generally drink tap water, having left it to stand to get rid of the chlorine introduced by Yorkshire water and trying to ignore being poisoned with fluoride. But I’ll buy some Borsec in the future for the taste. Borsec, a small spa town 900m up in the Romanian mountains, has many springs of carbonated water. Some of the other products on display are shown in the slide show below the picture in the shop below.

The Leeds shop is run by Marinela, who hails from the Romanian capital Bucuresti (Bucharest), and was opened three months ago (I happened to find it on the day it opened). It’s in what is currently the ‘butchers’ row’ in Kirkgate market but will move to another part when some renovation of the market starts in February next year.

In her shop, owner Marinela Stoian, 3 years in the UK but 25 years in commerce in Romania, with a chunk of 'gusa' (I think this is the outside of the throat of a pig)

Shop owner Marinela Stoian, 3 years in the UK but 25 years in commerce in Romania, with a chunk of ‘gusa‘ (I think this is the outside of the throat of a pig)

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There are, of course many more Romanian cured meat products in the shop, some smoked – ribs (costita), ciolan (leg) and a range of salamis including the exceptionally good, very dry, Sibiu salami – as well as things like pickled white cabbage (vasa murata), used to make sarmali (stuffed cabbage leaves), and tripe to make another of my favourite soups – ciorba de burta.

Another hot shop in Leeds – with a free chilli ‘hit’

Picture of chilliesFrank Jay, founder of the Chilli Shop in Brighton, has moved north to Yorkshire (sensible guy) and opened a chilli shop in the Merrion Centre in Leeds (a few minutes walk from Kirkgate market). I’m not myself a great fan of very spicey-hot food but this place is a Mecca for anyone who is (and there are armies of vindaloo eaters in this curry county).

Jack is a friendly guy and knows his chillies (and probably his onions too). The shop is unique with 50 free tasters from 1/10 ‘hotness’ to 75/10 and Jack will explain to visitors the meaning of this index, from 0/10 of the bell pepper to the hottest chillies like the Ghost and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Then there’s standard grade police pepper spray … He’ll arrange chilli eating contests at events and parties too (

The shop is stocked with a host of chilli-laced products including chocolate, toffee, sauces, snacks, cheeses, jams, etc, some familiar (like Tabasco), some a revelation, and some chilli-based gifts.

A hot chilli (locally grown and something like a Jalapeno to my inexpert taste) is usually munched with the Romanian bors mentioned above; my wife likes it but it’s not for me.

Yesterday was a damp, misty, chilly day so very suitable to serve our dinner guests a classic boeuf Bourguignon (or, if you prefer, boeuf a la Bourguignonne); very filling so a simple, light starter (more below) and a small but rich classic desert – mousseline au chocolat – with a little side of fresh fruit to offset the richness.

Romanian wines, red and whiteMuch as I like French wine, it was a good opportunity to drink a couple of excellent Romanian wines which have been in the rack for a while, a red called ’3 Hectare’ (three hectares) from the Murfatlar wine region, between the Danube and the Black Sea in south east Romania and made from the ancient Romanian grape variety Feteasca Neagra, and a sweet white called Grasa de Cotnar, from north east Romania, with the dessert. This latter is a wine favoured by French visitors as an affordable alternative to Château d’Yquem. With the starter I chose a refreshing dry Riesling from Germany.

This is the first ‘haute cuisine’ I’ve attempted in quite a while, for reasons I touched on in the previous post (and I forgot to take photos for this post so have cobbled some together from left-overs and pix taken by my wife at the occasion).

‘Crayfish’ and asparagus mousse verrine

Starter151114Catching up on the blog-related emails I came across a post from blogger ‘a French girl cuisine‘ which seemed to fit the bill for something not too demanding after slaving over the beef. She gives it as a Crayfish & Asparagus Mousse Verrine but I haven’t seen any crayfish since I used to catch them in the nearby River Wharfe when a child so I used King Prawns. I won’t give the recipe here (I’ll just say that it takes more time to wash the liquidiser than to make the recipe!) but follow the link to a French girl cuisine .

Mastering the art of French cooking

The two other recipes come from a book which I’ve said before on this blog is one of my few favourites and that from which I learned to cook classic French: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It wouldn’t go down well with the judges of Master Chef who favour meagre sculptures on  a plate, nor the so-called ‘healthy eating’ brigade, but it covers the sort of food I became used to when I had a business client in Normandy (and the sort of quantities served there then, reminiscent of my Yorkshire grandmother’s table).

Boeuf Bourguignon on the plate with parslied potatoes and peasBoeuf Bourguignon is a labour of love if made in the classic way but not costly other than the necessary bottle of good red wine. It can use a relatively cheap cut of beef; I used skirt. Topside or silverside would be a bit more costly alternatives, or rump if you want to push the boat out, but I really don’t think it’s worth it. Some people marinade the beef before cooking but it isn’t necessary – make the basis a couple of days in advance and let the cooked beef marinade in the gorgeous wine sauce which results from the first stage.

The recipe – for six

A brief summary of the recipe should be sufficient here. Cut 3lb (1.25kg) of lean beef in two inch (5cm) cubes. Cut a 6oz (140g) chunk of streaky bacon in 1/4in (0.5cm) thick lardons and saute to brown slightly in a heavy casserole which will just take the beef. Blanch the bacon rind. Put the bacon aside, raise the heat to almost ‘smoking’ and saute the carefully dried beef cubes a few at a time until brown all over; add the bacon and a carrot and an onion, sliced and browned together.

Toss the beef with 1tsp (5ml) of salt and 1/4 tsp (1 ml) pepper. Sprinkle on 1oz (25g) of flour and toss again. Put in the oven at 450degF (230degC)  for 4 minutes, toss again and put back in the oven for another 4 minutes. Now the meat is covered with a thin brown crust. Remove the dish and lower the oven temperature to 325degF (160degC). Add a bottle of good red wine, enough beef stock to just cover the meat, 1 tblsp (15ml) of tomato puree, two mashed large cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) of thyme, a crumbled bay leaf and the bacon rind. Cover the casserole and seal the lid with foil. Put in the oven and regulate the heat so the liquid simmers very slowly. Cook until the beef is pierced very easily with a fork (3 to 4 hours). Cool and put in the fridge until required (at least a day before, preferably more).

On the day of serving, saute about 20 small onions in 1 tblsp (15ml) of oil and 3/4oz (18g) of butter, gently rolling about until browned (about 10 minutes). Braise, covered, in 1/4 pint (150 ml) of good brown stock with a medium herb bouquet (4 sprigs parsley, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme) until tender but holding their shape (about 45 minutes). Remove the herb bouquet and put the onions aside till needed (this can be done well in advance).

Saute 1/2lb (225g) of button mushrooms in 1.1/2 tsp (7.5ml) oil and 1oz (25g) of butter until lightly browned (about 4 or 5 minutes). I don’t need to tell the cooks here that the fat should be hot or the mushrooms will just boil in their own juice rather than saute; it is hot enough when the butter foam just begins to subside. Put aside till needed. Again, this can be done well in advance.

When ready to serve the dish, bring the beef up to almost boiling and pour the sauce through a sieve into a pan. Skim fat off the sauce. If the sauce is thick enough to lightly cover the back of a spoon it’s OK; if not reduce to this point; if too thick add a little stock. Taste and season to taste. Try not to consume all the sauce.

Heat the onions and mushrooms and distribute them over the meat and vegetables back in the casserole. Pour over the sauce. Again this can be done in advance.

Just before your guests arrive, cover the casserole and bring up to a simmer and leave for a couple of minutes and, voila, one of the best creations of French cuisine.

Serve with small boiled potatoes, tossed in butter and chopped parsley, and buttered peas.

Mousseline au chocolat

There are of course many recipes for chocolate mousse and the one I usually make for ‘every day’ eating is very simple, from one of those little books with names like ‘Yorkshire teatime recipes’ and widely available in tourist destinations in the UK for £1.50. In this it’s called Yorkshire Chocolate Pudding!

mousseline au chocolat with an apple and orangeLast night I settled on the one the authors of Mastering the Art of French Cooking say is the best, and I’d go along with them. As it’s very rich I served it in a little pot with a rosette of cream on top and raspberries, slices of Cox’s apple and bits of fresh orange, all marinated for a couple of hours in spiced rum with a little sugar at the side. This adds a bit of colour to the dish too.

For four people (following a substantial main course) you need three large eggs (use 4 eggs for six with other ingredients in proportion), 3 oz (100g) of sugar (I use unrefined ‘golden’), 4 oz (100g) of dark chocolate (I use 70%), 2 fl oz (60ml) of orange liqueur, 3 oz softened unsalted butter, a tablespoon of strong black coffee and an extra 3 tsp of sugar.

Beat the sugar with the egg yolks until it is pale and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon. Then beat it over hot water, not quite simmering, until thicker like a mayonnaise (about 4 minutes, just too hot to keep your finger in). Then beat for another 4 minutes over cold water. Beat in the orange liqueur. Meanwhile melt the chocolate, with the coffee, over hot water (not touching). Beat the softened butter into the melted chocolate a little at a time. Beat the melted chocolate and butter mixture into the egg yolks. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on 3 tsp (7.5ml) of sugar. Beat until firm peaks are formed. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until well distributed, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites. Drop into little serving pots and pop in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. That’s it. Decorate if you wish. You can serve with a creme anglais or lightly sweetened whipped cream, but I think it’s enough without and prefer to accompany with a little marinated fresh fruit.





The only French product on the after sweet cheese plate was a Brie. Stilton from Colston Bassett and a Yorkshire traditional Wensleydale from Hawes reminded us of where we were.

The morning after

We forwent our usual traditional English for Sunday breakfast. Two lightly poached eggs with buttered toast and Yorkshire tea was perfect

100th post

Fittingly I think, my previous ‘resurrection’ post was grumpytyke’s 100th.





Grumpytyke is back, I hope fairly frequently, after a long absence, and I’m trying to decide whether to resume with the wide ranging subjects which I wrote about before – Romania, VW campers, classic minis, haiku, Yorkshire and food and cooking, and a few more as the mood takes me – or to limit myself to one or two themes. That might be difficult for me.

I just ploughed through emails going back to February this year – helluvalot of spam – and was glad to see a lot of ‘old friends’ still posting, though some seem to have disappeared in recent months. Apart from one short post in February ‘explaining’ my absence I haven’t really posted or looked at emails for about a year.


Much of my absence has been due to a major health problem. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, had my first ever stays in hospital and spent a while with tubes and bags limiting my movement. Hopefully it’s under control for the moment. I might have something to say about the wonderful overworked nursing staff in the NHS, but the often abysmal administration, management and systems, in a future post. (more…)


It’s a long time since I wrote something on this blog, one reason being that the blog/site I created and maintain for the village in which I live has taken up much of my spare time. However, I have often written on this blog of my admiration of Romania and Romanians so thought I would re-blog the latest post on my village website here as Farage’s comments about Romanians just lost him a vote, albeit an ‘anti-Cameron’ rather than pro-UKIP vote, in the European elections. Grumpytyke

Originally posted on menstonvillagewharfedale:

In the week of the local and European elections, our columnist ‘grumpytyke’ faces a dilemma:

“In my opinion Menston has an excellent local MP in Philip Davies, the current Wharfedale Ward Councillor Dale Smith seems to have worked for the people of Menston, and the candidate Gerry Barker says he will do so if elected. So what is the over-riding reason that I cannot vote for the last named this week and the first named next year?

“It’s very simple: a vote for them is effectively a vote for David Cameron and ‘Concrete’ Boles. These two (ironically assisted by Labour Councillors in Bradford), despite their protestations to the contrary, are clearly intent on destroying for ever – for short-term gain – much of not only what makes the Yorkshire Dales loved by all of us who are fortunate enough to live here but many areas of beauty elsewhere in this green and pleasant…

View original 821 more words

The reaction to my most recent haiku – the most ‘likes’ on any post of mine since I began blogging some 16 months ago – has really inspired me to stop and try to express my thoughts in 17 syllables more often. Of course, over the months I’ve learned that there are many other formats for a haiku, but the rigid discipline of 5-7-5 really appeals to me. In some ways this has similarities to the discipline of writing headlines and advertising copy – part of my professional activity for over 50 years – conveying a thought in very few words. I’ve also learned the importance of that change of thought in the last five syllables.

It all began with a box of photos and a regular blogger of haiku who has since, sadly, disappeared – fivereflections. At the time I came across his haiku below I was sorting through photographs found in a box at my recently deceased mother’s home. Here it is:

from the old locked box
photographs you left behind
my eyes become yours

I found a photograph of a Coronation street party in 1953, and felt ‘my eyes become yours’ – I saw through my mother’s eyes – as the photo showed myself and siblings together with neighbouring children in a play I wrote – it wasn’t my first piece of fiction but it was my first play … and my last. (more…)

Icon of Saint Dimitrie

This icon of Saint Dimitrie, Dimitrios (Greek) or Dumitru (Romanian), is one of several in our home

Today is Saint Dimitrie’s day, so also ‘my’ day as Dimitrie is my name too, given to me when I was baptised on 26th October. In the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, the name day corresponds to the day on which a saint “fell asleep”, or died (Gregorian calendar).

I was given the name in the Orthodox church of ‘Stefan cel Mare Domnesc (the Lord’s Church of Stephen the Great), Iasi, the church I attended when I lived in that Romanian city (and the church in which I was married).

Although in Romania the saint is known as Dumitru, I chose the Russian version – hence Dimitrie – and that is how my several Orthodox priest friends, and some other friends, call me.

When I was in Romania people would call at my home on this day and share a drink and a snack, or even a celebration meal. Now, in the UK, I receive email messages and ‘iconograms’ from friends and relatives in Romania, especially from my Godparents – Godfather Vasile, now a mathematics lecturer in an Australian university, and Godmother Gabriela. (more…)

Green satiated

Winter songsters’ sanguine store

Shiver prophesy

Rowan tree in berry

I haven’t been motivated to try a haiku for some time. As often happens, a ‘like’ – on my previous post – took me to a new world. Not geographically – Marsden village is bounded by scenery as beautiful as anywhere in Yorkshire though not as well known as the dales in which I live, so I have visited and walked there often. David Coldwell’s ‘like’ took me to The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society. And motivation.


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