Food and Drink October 12, 2011
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Paul Leary on what makes Leicestershire special

Welcome to the 2011 Leicestershire & Rutland Food & Drink Guide. When I started my career at Southfields College (now Leicester College) I always knew I wanted to be a chef. Despite a brief spell with Hilton Hotels, I have spent the majority of my career in Leicester, drawn by the beautiful rolling countryside, the abundance of local farms, the natural parks and woods, and the many walking trails that lead you to fantastic village pubs.

I have seen my career develop from feeding thousands at Leicester City Football Club as the head chef, hundreds at various pubs and hotels, and many students when I lectured at Leicester College, to guests enjoying fine dining in my own restaurant, The Woodhouse. The culinary path I followed has been an exciting one, and I think this year may prove the most rewarding yet. Customers are now looking for that something special on a plate – the locality of ingredients, how fresh the product is, how tasty the ingredients are, whether they go together and complement the dish. With cooking on television increasingly popular and many farms now selling their own produce rather than onto outside suppliers, inspiration is everywhere in Leicestershire.

We have veal from Old Dalby, ducks and beef from Barkby Thorpe, pork from Scartho Meadow, rapeseed from Welland Valley, flour from Claybrooke Mill, Stilton from Webster’s, Long Clawson and Quenby Hall, Red Leicester from Sparkenhoe, cream from Thrussington, water from Swithland and much much more.

The culinary diversity in Leicestershire makes the area one of the best places to go out and have a quality meal. You don’t have to go far to find almost every different type of cuisine there is. We are Britain’s curry capital and home to one of the largest food and drink festivals in the UK. We have everything from Michelin-starred restaurants and fine pubs, to Chinese, Italian, Thai and Japanese eateries.

The best way to try our local produce is through the farmers’ markets. From Tuesday to Sunday there is a market going on somewhere (if you log onto www.leicestershirefoodlinks.org.uk you can find out when the next market is and where you can find it). This is where, short of growing it yourself, you can get closest to some of the finest organic, specialist meat, fruit, vegetables, cheese, preserves and bread Leicestershire has to offer – nothing else will get the chef inside you more passionate and enthusiastic about going on your own culinary journey.

Another passionate pastime of mine is foraging. Take the dog and the kids and pick beautiful blackberries, elderberries, sloes and damsons, and when you get a bit more experienced, wild blewit mushrooms, wood sorrel, watercress, mallow leaf and mugwort. Then go back to your kitchen and create culinary masterpieces with your fine fodder.

So, when you open this guide and discover some of Leicestershire’s fantastic restaurants and eateries showcasing all that fresh, local, seasonal produce on their menus, think about what a great county we live in and enjoy.

Happy eating.

Paul Leary,

The Woodhouse


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