Bang Bang Shrimp

Bang Bang Shrimp

This is one of those recipes you might find on Pinterest, designed as the perfect game day snack. The effort that some Americans go to for the ideal half-time taste pleaser is quite frankly admirable, but while I can see what a glorious complement this dish would be for a clash of sporting titans, there’ll be none of that under my roof. Instead, I fried these up during one of my husband’s 8 hour Skyrim binges, and served them to him on a wooden platter to eat with one hand as he slayed dragons… lucky bastard.

These crunchy little prawns have a firm place in my culinary arsenal now and they’re a real people pleaser. The way I make them they pack a massive punch, bursting with sriracha and fresh chilli. The great thing though, is that you can adapt this to suit all palates. Without the spice they’re not quite as interesting but they’re still as moreish, like a savoury, tangy popcorn. It’s important to state that I can’t take the credit for these, I was inspired by a recipe I found at Fake Ginger and I’ve just adapted it a little over time to make it exactly what I want it to be. That’s where the name comes from, it may seem silly, but once you taste them you’ll understand. Now I can’t call it anything else!

Bang Bang Shrimp

Bang Bang Shrimp (makes enough for 4 sharing, or 1 very hungry dragon slayer)

400g Raw Prepared Prawns
750ml Vegetable Oil
Birdseye Chillies & Fresh Coriander to garnish

For the Sauce:
100ml Mayonnaise
3 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 tsp Caster Sugar
1½ tsp Rice Vinegar
1 Red Birds Eye Chilli diced

For the Egg Mixture:
1 Large Egg
120ml Milk

For the Breading Mixture:
75g Plain Flour
65g Fine Breadcrumbs
15g Seasame Seeds
½ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Garlic Salt
⅔ tsp Black Pepper
½ tsp Ground Basil
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper

1. In a shallow bowl (I used these) beat your egg and milk together. In another, mix all the breading ingredients. Set aside.

2. Grab a handful of prawns (around six if medium sized, up to 15 if you’re using the tiny ones) and, using clean hands, roll them around in the breading mixture. When they’re nicely coated, transfer them to the egg mixture, then back into the breading mixture. The double dip will build up the thick coating needed for a good crunch. Place on a baking tray. Repeat until all the prawns are covered. Place in the fridge to set for 10 minutes.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Whisk until combined. Cover the bowl and set it to one side. Don’t put it back in the fridge, the sauce works better the looser it is.

4. Pour the vegetable oil into a deep frying pan or medium sized sauce pan (unless you have a fryer, in which case – lucky you, fried things for every meal!) and heat. I used the chopstick method explained in this post to test when it’s hot enough. Remove the prawns from the fridge and drop in 5-10 at at a time, depending on the size of your pan – you want them to be spaced out enough that they don’t touch.

5. Turn the hob down to medium and leave the prawns to bob around. After 1.5-2 minutes they should be golden brown. Flip them over and wait for the other side to turn the same colour (approx 1 minute). If you’re cooking with smaller prawns, reduce the time by at least half, you’ll be able to tell they’re done by the colour. When they’re done, remove the prawns from the pan and place them on a couple of layers of kitchen paper. Repeat until all the prawns are cooked.

6. Place the cooked prawns in a bowl and pour over about half of the sauce. Fold the sauce through so that each prawn is coated, but don’t be too rough or the batter may start breaking up. Add more sauce if you fancy it. Sprinkle with chopped chillies and fresh coriander and serve. Use the left over sauce to dip!

The prep and frying may seem fiddly, but these prawns are brilliant at a party. Serving on a platter with cocktail sticks to grab makes communal nibbling easy and keeps washing up low. They’re also excellent with alcohol. Beer, especially. On the flip-side, all that spice and crunch soothes a hangover nicely. Rustle these up for a boozy house party, but make sure you keep some leftovers for your recovery the next day.

Notes:
– Can’t get raw prawns? Use cooked, they’ll just be slightly firmer after frying. I think raw provides the best texture.
– In the abscence of rice vinegar, it’ll work with white wine vinegar too, just add ⅔ tsp sugar instead of a whole one.
– It’ll work perfectly fine with a full tsp of sea salt if you can’t get hold of garlic salt. The garlic salt just makes the flavour of the coating slightly more robust against the sauce.

Little Tipples

Little Tipples

Subscription services are pretty commonplace these days. There’s Birchbox, The Foodie’s Larder, hell, there’s even a box for your cat. Personally, I like it. I like that you don’t even have to go out to try new things. Stuff comes right to you, and it’s good stuff too, usually curated by someone in the know. The idea of trying different products at a much lower cost than if I were to buy them separately really appeals to me, especially when it comes to food and drink. So when  I was offered the chance to try Little Tipples, miniature measures to taste & savour, I got excited. Rum through my letter box? Don’t mind if I do.

Little Tipples

Little Tipples, as I understand it, runs on two aims. The first is to provide you with quality, varied spirits to drink at home at your pleasure. The second is to develop your palate and teach you a bit about what you’re drinking. Each month you’ll receive two 50ml bottles. Once you unpack them, the idea is that you log on, enter the codes marked on the front and read the tasting notes while you try them. After you’ve tasted them, both neat and with your favourite mixer, you click the reveal button to see which rums you’ve been supping on. You record your prefences, type up your comments and save them to your profile. That way you can revisit your thoughts whenever you like. If you wish, you can go ahead and purchase a full size bottle of any of the rums you’ve tried directly from the website.

The website itself provides a number of good resources to help you on your rum tasting journey. Not only is there a dummy-proof tasting method to walk you through your experience, but there are cocktail recipes to help you make the most of your minis. A leaderboard keeps you abreast of which rum other users rate, so you can anticipate next month’s delivery.

Subscriptions from Little Tipples come in at £10 a month including delivery straight to your door. The boxes are small enough to slip right through your letter box so no need to worry about those pesky “Sorry we missed you” slips. There are no long term commitments and your subscription is available to cancel at any time. You can also earn referral points if someone signs up because you sent them. You can put your points towards a full sized bottle from the leaderboard.

To be quite honest, I have very little to be critical about here. I think the price is good, the rums are varied enough that you wouldn’t get bored, and I think the fact you can log in and see what you liked from the start of your subscription is very useful (like those little tasting notebooks big fat men on real ale trails carry in their pockets, but digital). My only criticism would be that it’s limited to rum, but the word on the street is that whisky and gin are on their way. In conclusion, I wholeheartedly love this. Sure, it’s a bit of an indulgence, hardly a monthly necessity when you’re working out your budget, but it’s fun, informative and a nice thing. And we all like nice things, right?

Little Tipples

After I tasted what was in my bottles, I preferred the white rum (Banks 5 Island) neat and the dark rum (Pussers Blue Label) mixed, I thought it was only right to make a cocktail to celebrate. Rum is my favourite spirit and a Dark n Stormy probably my favourite cocktail, so I rustled one up. Little Tipples have their recipe listed on their blog, and it’s pretty darn perfect. Though a Dark n Stormy should be a long drink, I was taking it steady so I kept the measures small this time. I didn’t want to drown out the rum with too much ginger. For a traditional drink use a double shot. I also had no lime so used a lemon instead, but this is by no means a substitution I’d endorse. Sure, it’s better than nowt, but lime is the ideal complement to the spice of the ginger. The deep caramel flavour of Pussers Blue Label matched perfectly in this but if you’re making it at home with what you have, a spiced rum like Morgans or Sailor Jerry would work well too. This is how I made mine.

Dark n Stormy makes one cocktail

25ml Dark Rum
250ml Ginger Beer (I used Old Jamaica)
Wedge of Lime
3 Ice Cubes

Pour the ginger beer into a tumbler over your ice. Top up with rum. Take your wedge of lime and squeeze it lightly into your drink, then drop it in. Mix and enjoy.

Little Tipples £10 inc. delivery per month available to cancel at any time | @LittleTipples

Disclaimer: I was sent my first box for free to try. My thoughts on this product are unbiased and honest. I only endorse products I feel strongly about and this is one of them! I will be paying full price for an ongoing subscription.;

Where to Eat in Leeds

I eat out a lot. To the point where I’m almost ashamed. The other day I was outed on Instagram, tagged to do the #widn tag with the comment “@whipuntilfluffy who is prob out having an awesome looking lunch again” … What can I say? Guilty.

So with this (excessive, if anything) experience, I thought I’d put together a little guide to eating in this city. Whether it’s a 3 course meal or a quick snack, here are what I consider to be the best bites in town at the moment.

Where to Eat in Leeds: Shears Yard

Shears Yard A firm dinner favourite since its opening in August last year, Shears Yard is my go-to for a special occasion. Brought to us by the team behind the Arts Cafe on Call Lane, Shears Yard serve seasonal, British cuisine with a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. Each plate throbs with tastes and textures, every element seems painstakingly created so that it all sings together on the plate. Not even the bread is boring (whipped truffle butter, anyone?). The dishes are complex, elegant, but they’re not pretentious. You might struggle to choose just one dish, so coordinate with a partner and go halvsies. Visit on a Thursday night, it can get noisy on the weekends. Dishes pictured include Duck liver parfait & homemade duck “ham”, black pudding brioche, white onion chutney & blackberry gel and Local corn fed chicken breast & leg, crab & lobster fritter, sweetcorn & chorizo salsa & lobster mayonnaise. Starters from £4.50, mains from £10.95.

Shears Yard 11-15 Wharf Street, The Calls, Leeds, LS2 7EH | @ShearsYard

Where to Eat in Leeds: Zucco

Zucco This is the neighbourhood restaurant that dreams are made of. Draped in a candlelight blanket, Zucco serves Italian small plates, classic cocktails and really good house wine. It’s dark, atmospheric and there’s a clatter from the open kitchen just loud enough to feel exciting. The menu changes every day depending on the produce available but some favourites are there day in, day out. I’m talking fritto misto, served simply with the lightest, crispest of batters. There’s aubergine parmigiana, deep fried zucchini and mint and, what I believe to be the best plate of pasta this side of Rome, braised beef pappardelle. Zucco has become a regular in my friday night routine, the perfect place to rock up to after a couple of post-work pints, feeling a little tipsy and positively buzzing at the thought of the weekend. Treat yourself to a Negroni (it comes with a stripy paper straw!), order enough food to cover the table top and return the next day to nurse your hangover, sitting at the bar with a pizzette and a carafe of wine, ready to flick through the newspaper. Plates from £2.50 to £8.50. Book early in the week to secure a table on Friday or Saturday nights, but don’t panic if you didn’t plan ahead, time it right and there’ll be room at the bar.

Zucco 603 Meanwood Road, Leeds, LS6 4AY | @zuccouk

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen

Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen While it may not be the obvious choice for dinner in the city centre, this music venue and bar holds some serious culinary gems. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you might not get past the door without a lumberjack beard and full sleeve of tattoos, but never mind that, just bust on in there and get yourself some pizza. Belgrave currently offers three food options: Dough Boys Pizza, Patty Smiths & Fu Schnickens. Each offering is outstanding in its field, but the Guo Bao by Fu Schnickens are really something to behold. Little steamed buns made on site and filled with pork belly, hoisin, cashew nuts, sesame, palm sugar, pickled carrot & mooli, they originate all the way from Taiwan and I would go so far as to say they are the best single bite available in Leeds right now. The crispy panko chicken version is pretty tasty too. Here’s my advice: arrive at Belgrave, buy a pint of Symonds cider from the bar or a flat white from the Laynes pop-up, get yourself a guo bao, wait a bit (optional), get yourself some pizza, wait a bit (optional), get yourself a Patty Smith’s Dirty Burger, repeat. Grab a half price slice (£1-£1.40) everyday until 7pm, get two Guo Bao for £6.

Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen 1-1A Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, LS2 8JP | @Belgrave_Leeds @DoughBoysLeeds @PattySmithsUK

Where to Eat in Leeds: The Reliance

The Reliance What I consider to be one of Leeds’ unsung heroes, The Reliance is that perfect, solid option to keep in your back pocket and play as your trump card. Sure, it’s pub grub, but it’s more refined than rustic. The dishes are seasonal, they’re simple but in the most glorious sense of the word. No foam, no espuma, no soil, but flavours that bowl you over. It’s good, honest food and I never leave one morsel on my plate. Not one. Whether you’re soaking up last night’s gin with a fish finger sandwich, or getting rosy cheeked over candlelight and featherblade, The Reliance is that old friend who’s just easy to be around. With good beer and relaxed, friendly service, you’ll leave with a smile on your face. I wish I lived next door. Oh, and they cure their own charcuterie too. Starters from £4.25, mains from £9.95.

The Reliance 76-78 North Street, Leeds LS2 7PN | @The_Reliance

Where to Eat in Leeds: Trinity Kitchen

Trinity Kitchen I thought and rethought Trinity Kitchen’s inclusion in my top five, and while it feels wrong to tarnish the indie attitude of this list so far, it is true that some of the best things I’ve eaten over the past six months have been part of the shopping centre’s street food line-up. Trinity plays an important role in bringing exciting and diverse street food to the people of Leeds, and without the capitalist big-guns I wouldn’t have discovered this month’s favourite, Dorshi, or even (heavens, just imagine!) my beloved OFM. I can’t endorse any of the main-stays in the Trinity Kitchen set up, I’ve tried all of them and been thoroughly unimpressed, but the street food rotation is always interesting and provides somewhere different to go on an otherwise monotonous lunch break. I look forward to seeing what’s new every month and I like that it brings London traders up here to Yorkshire, somewhere they probably didn’t give two hoots about before. Highlights have been the Bacon Blue Burger (@OFMLondon), crispy chicken with fried “rice” (@eatDorshi) and just about everything from Cafe Moor (@CafeMoorLeeds). Street food meals starting from around £4.50.

Trinity Kitchen Top Floor Trinity Leeds Albion Street Leeds LS1 5AT | @TrinityLeeds

Fail-Safe Blondies

Chocolate & Macadamia Blondies

Most of us kitchen-dwellers have that one reliable thing. A last minute recipe for when a friend pops round for coffee, a quick dessert if we’ve wasted all our planning time on the starter and main (something I often do). It’s a people pleaser that’ll get us out of a fix. This blondie recipe is mine. Over the past few years I’ve made these beauties so many times. Oh, it’s your birthday? Have a blondie! You’ve just moved house? Take these blondies to help you settle in! You know, it’s the recipe that never lets me down.

Just to illustrate my point further, in the last 3 months alone I have used this recipe for: a house warming gift, one of many puddings at an American themed going away party, an in-law pleaser and just a naughty snack for Matt and I on a lazy sunday. They’re great because they’re versatile. Cook them for varying lengths for a sliding scale of gooeyness, wrap ’em up in brown paper to eat on the go, warm them in a bowl and consume with a hefty scoop of icecream. You can chuck in whatever extras you have in your cupboard: plain chocolate, white chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, glace cherries, mini marshmallows. Seriously, they’ll take pretty much whatever you throw at them. They’re always good.

Chocolate & Macadamia Blondies

Chocolate & Pecan Blondies – makes 6 large portions, 12 smaller

225g Plain Flour
1tsp Salt
1tsp Baking Powder
2 Large Eggs
4tsp Vanilla Extract
110g Light Brown Sugar
165g Unsalted Butter
75g Plain Chocolate Chips
75g White Chocolate Chips
75g Chopped Pecans

Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Grease or line an 8×8″ baking tin, I usually grease all over with a little bit of butter or vegetable oil, then cut a square of parchment to fit the bottom of the tin.

Combine your flour, salt and baking powder. Give it a whisk to get a bit of air in there. In a separate bowl (if you’re using a Kitchen Aid mixer, use the attached bowl for this part, not the dry ingredients) beat together the butter and sugar. Once combined, add in the eggs and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.

Sift in the flour mix and combine by swiping your wooden spoon around the edge of the bowl and folding in. Now it’s time to throw in your extras. If chocolate and pecans doesn’t suit you, another top combo is white chocolate and macadamia nuts. When I change up the extras I generally stick to multiples of 75g. For this I would add 150g white chocolate and 75g macadamias. For a fruit and nut option, stick 75g each of plain choc chips, chopped walnuts and sultanas. For a rocky road affair, 75g each of choc chips and chopped digestives, and 40g mini marshmallows. Happy days.

Scrape your mix into the pan and stick in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes for extremely gooey middles, 30 minutes for a firmer snack. For a structurally sound blondie, leave to cool for at least 2 hours before cutting. Personally, I can’t wait that long, so I slide a piece out with a spatula and eat it from a bowl, natch.

12 Week Old Kittens

OK, so kittens aren’t blondies but they are cute. I thought I’d share a quick pic of the new additions to our family. Meet Hazel (left) and Rousseau (right), we’ve had them for two weeks now and they’re settling in perfectly 🙂

Sharing the Love

Sharing the Love February

1. Finally unpacking my unhealthily large cosmetics collection #sorrynotsorry 2. Katsu Curry with Rice from @_YuKyu_ at Trinity Kitchen 3. Setting up for a Burns Night party 4. Eating What to Eat in February 5. Sweet Cured Beef for dessert at the Beef & Bourbon tasting event at RARE 6. Happy Husband <3 7. Posh nosh at Shears Yard 8. Leeds’ best roast? At Cross Keys 9. We’ve got kitchen shelves! 10. Selfie 11. Veg Board at The Reliance a few weekends ago 12. Learning to love coffee: the one shot Piccolo.

I have to apologise for being a bit few and far between these last couple of weeks. It’s not for lack of inspiration, I promise! Work is busy and I’ve had lots of lovely visits from family and friends taking care of my weekends. One small mercy of living so far from family is when they visit I get to show them the best sights (aka restaurants, cafes and bars!) in town. All for their benefit though, of course *licks lips*. Seriously though, I’ve been so spoilt lately that I’ll be putting together a “Where to Eat in Leeds” post in the next few weeks. I feel like I’m a pretty good authority on that now.

So, because of that, Matt and I are finally waking up and coming out to play after what feels like a whole winter of hibernation. With the house to deal with and a seriously limited budget after Christmas, a lot of our weekends have been spent locked away at home until now. Thankfully we’re getting out and about a bit more again now, eating in new, exciting places and revisiting old favourites too. While we were in though, we’ve devoured a lot of one pot chicken dishes and plenty of box sets, including season one of The Bridge. Love a bit of scandi-noir. Have you seen it? We’ve started working our way through True Detective now.

Things are going well with the house. We now have flooring throughout and skirting boards. I can’t believe how done everything looks. We keep wandering around saying “this looks like a real room now”. We still have gloss-work to paint, starting on the bathroom. After the painting in the bathroom is done I’m going to put together a little Before & After post  – it’ll be our first finished room and I’m excited to share it. When I look at the pictures I can’t believe how far we’ve come. We also have some open shelving up in the kitchen which means I can unpack all my crockery and pans too. I’ll be sure to share some pictures once the wood is oiled and the boxes are empty.  It means I can finally tell you all about my kitchen favourites and must-haves too, something I promised way back when I was talking about How to Eat Well. The kittens have arrived too, so if you have me on Instagram @whipuntilfluffy you might want to unfollow if you aren’t a fan of furry friends. Kittens and burgers are pretty much all you’ll see from me from now on, sorry (not sorry).

Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past few weeks:

What have you been enjoying recently? Let me know what you’ve been loving down in the comments or over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. I’ll be back later this week with an event write up and a recipe. But now, I’m off to play with my new kittens!

What to Eat in February

What to Eat in February

Vegetables: brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, chicory, jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, shallots, squash, swede, sweet potatoes, truffles (black), turnips.

Fruit: blood oranges, clementines, kiwi fruit, lemons, oranges, passion fruit, pineapple, pomegranate, rhubarb.

Meat & Fish: guinea fowl, partridge, turkey, venison, clams, lemon sole, lobster, mackerel, mussels, oysters.

As I write this, there’s a storm out. When I look up, the grey is clearing, making room for bright blue skies with candy floss clouds, but I still hear the rain sploshing on the windows and the doors banging in the draft. It occurs to me that this kind of sums February up, the last month of Winter. Times are a-changin’, but probably only in small increments for another 28 days, when dull and biting February will buckle to bright and breezy March and spring’s first days allow us to shake off our winter coats and leave them in the cupboard. January may have been bitter, but it’s ok, hope is on the horizon.

For me, February is all about roots. It’s our last chance to make the most of those knobbly, earthy gems before Spring brings greens and we’re all gushing about asparagus and pea pods, before anyone who’s anyone is leaving those muddy, scraggy guys to rest in favour of their prettier relatives. I’ve got a lot of love for those roots, so in February I like to make use of what’s left, think parsnips, turnips, jerusalem artichokes. And of course, that nubby diamond in the rough, celeriac.

For this month’s recipe, I went with what was in stock. Sweet potatoes and a butternut squash, jewel-like against a browned spiced chicken, rubbed in moroccan flavours, topped with charred cauliflower. All in one pot, softening in each other’s juices, speared with fresh rosemary. Killer one pot chicken dishes are usually my husband’s forte. Caribbean, French, North African flavours, he’s mastered them all. This is the stuff winter is made of, for us. Marinated and cooking in it’s own fat, alongside a smidge of lard and a bit of stock, all dryness is banished from the bird and the flesh comes away from the bone like butter. A one pot is easy to put together, saves on washing up and looks as impressive as a roast with a tenth of the effort. Perfect for a lazy February afternoon, when all you really want to do is snuggle under a blanket with your book. Add a tumbler of wine and you’re in for a warming, seasonal treat. Probably a mid-afternoon snooze, too.

What to Eat in February

One Pot Spiced Chicken with Smashed Squash, Sweet Potato and Charred Cauliflower (enough for two)

1 Small Chicken
1 Butternut Squash
2 Medium Sweet Potatoes
Half a Head of Cauliflower
Half a Lemon
Fresh Rosemary to Garnish
30g Lard
Oil for Cooking

For the rub:
2 Tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp Caraway Seeds
2 Tsp Dried Chilli Flakes
2 Tsp Cinnamon
2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Tsp Nutmeg
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary
1 Tbsp Olive Oil

What to Eat in February

If I’m making a one pot chicken dish, I generally find it cheaper to buy a whole chicken and joint it myself. I’m planning to do a post showing you how I do that, but for now, put your trust in Delia. She starts her instructions with “this is nothing to be afraid of” and I wholeheartedly concur. Save your chicken wings and freeze them alongside the carcass, which you should roast off in a hot oven and keep to make stock out of when you have two or three saved up. Whole chickens are very economic, especially if you can save cash with a multi-buy, joint them and freeze the individual pieces for later. You can always buy your chicken ready jointed at the supermarket, no judgement here, and obviously I don’t need to lecture you on the benefits of bone-in, skin-on thighs and legs vs breast fillets, right? Right.

Once you have your chicken pieces, measure out your spices. Here, I find it easiest to use an electric spice grinder, but a pestle and mortar is a good work out and will make you feel like you earned your supper. Alternatively, use the end of a rolling pin on your chopping board, just make do with what you have. When you have a fine mix, add in your oil and mix, you should end up with a thickish, red paste, still relatively dry. Roll your chicken around in it, rub it into all the crevasses. Set aside for later.

What to Eat in February

Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Put a large saucepan full of salted water on to boil. In the meantime, peel and cube your squash. Those buggers can be tough, but don’t let them win. This video from The Shiska in the Kitchen should help, if you need. Next, do the same with your sweet potato. When the water comes to the boil, dunk your veg in and turn down to a simmer. Find yourself an overproof dish big enough to hold all your ingredients. I went with a Le Creuset Shallow Casserole (love of my life) which is 26cm across. Pop in a glug or two of oil, veg or olive, and heat. When the dish is good and hot, place the chicken in. Leave it in there, sizzling, while you drain your vegetables. They should’ve been cooking for around 5 minutes at this point. Cover and set them aside. Brown your chicken in the dish for around 4 minutes on each side. Turn off the hob.

Place your knob of lard into the dish with the chicken. Transfer your root veg into the dish and arrange it around the meat. Scatter over  some fresh rosemary. Chop your cauliflower into little florets and arrange it around the outside edge. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and cover. Place inside the oven on the middle shelf. Cook for 30 minutes. When your timer beeps, reach in and remove the lid. Mix things around a bit. If you’re worried things are getting too dry (each bird will release a different amount of fat, after all) you can simply add a cupful of chicken stock. Cook for a further 30 minutes or until the edges of the veg are turning a deep brown. If you’re worried about the chicken, just stick a fork in and if the juices run clear, you’re all good. To serve, mash any large chucks of squash or potato roughly with a fork and sprinkle with more fresh rosemary.

What to Eat in February

Take the dish to the table and tuck in. It’s a fairly filling meal for two, but if you want to flesh it out, add some buttered rolls as a side and you might end up with some chicken leftover for lunch in the week. The spice and richness of this meal pairs well with a red wine, as you may find that a white is delicate for the robust flavours. Personally, I wouldn’t call this a really spicy dish. It doesn’t blow your head off but leaves more of a background warmth instead. If you did want something cooling to cut through it though, a blob of sour cream with a little lemon juice mixed through would do nicely.

Other dishes to eat in February:

Farfalle, Pancetta & Kale from Food&_
Roasted Winter Citrus from Joy the Baker
Celery Root and Cauliflower Puree with Garlic Greens from Gourmande in the Kitchen
Warm Brussel Sprout Salad from A Beautiful Mess
Jerusalem Artichoke and Cheese Gratin from Lavender and Lovage
Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Ravioli from Eva Kolenko
Pomegranate, Pear & Kale Salad from Chasing Raspberries

Tell me, what are you eating this month? 

Filmore & Union, Leeds

Filmore & Union, Leeds

I can’t lie, health conscious food is not something I usually look for when I’m dining out. Meals out are generally a treat, something I don’t eat at home and, let’s face it, preferably something fried. I know I know, that’s not the right attitude. But sadly, a carb lover never changes her spots. However, being a diabetic, my choices are often limited, so I appreciate that something of a food haven exists for those with dietary requirements, and that a diet-savvy alternative is there for those who want to dine out without fearing the calorie intake.

About two weeks ago I had lunch at Filmore & Union in the Victoria Quarter, Leeds City Centre. It’s kind of an odd spot. A cluster of tables sectioned off in the middle of a shopping centre, albeit a beautiful and upmarket one, the design of the place is modern and rustic. It’s gorgeous but it’s not an obvious lunch choice, especially on such a cold and blustery day in January. Arriving with hands bundled in pockets, I was pleased to see patio heaters belting out waves of warmth, with an army of fluffy throws on the backs of chairs, perfect for covering chilly knees. Obviously this kind of venue will flourish in the summer, but I snuggled up and within 5 minutes I’d already forgotten the draft. The environment was relaxed, some customers sipping on tea, others tucking in for 2 courses. The restaurant manages to be airy, open and light but without being loud. Holding a conversation across a table was easy, unlike a lot of shopping centre eateries, and the presence of other diners and wait staff was unobtrusive.

Filmore & Union, Leeds

Filmore & Union, Leeds

We started with juices. Just the menu itself is a pretty good read, packed full of seasonal information and health tips plus information on the brand’s philosophy. Eat Clean, Eat Pure is the idea. To your smoothie or juice, you can add loads of healthy boosters including chia seeds, echinacea and vanilla whey protein powder, depending on what you’re in the market for. I opted for the Joluxe Immune Booster (£3.75)  juice. It’s made up of blended yellow pepper, carrot, ginger and orange. I topped it off with an Aloe Vera shot (£2) for an added kick up the immune system’s backside. Aloe Vera is a super healer, they say, great for digestion.

Now I’m not big on fruit, I’m a naturally savoury person, so I was interested in trying something vegetable heavy. The juice was zingy, tangy, it seriously sang inside my mouth. I genuinely felt shaken up after I drank it, more alert and productive for the few hours that followed. Plus it left none of the sticky aftertaste I dislike from packaged juices. The best thing about it was purely how orange it was, a great change from the dull greens and browns I usually associate with juices and smoothies. Lauren’s smoothie, Super Antioxidant (£4.95) was packed with strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, apple, mint leaves and coconut water. Jen went for the Raw Choco Fix (also £4.95), made from almond milk, raw cacao, raw cashews, banana and agave syrup. It was weirdly chocolate bar like, but with none of the sickly, cloying characteristics. Healthy and indulgent at the same time! None of the three drinks we tried were overly sweet or filling, which contrasts with the juice bar experiences I’ve had before. They felt clean, simple and fresh.

Filmore & Union, Leeds

For my main I went for an Open Steak Bagel with Sweet Onions, Tomato Salsa and Tzatziki (£12.95). The steak was cooked perfectly, pink in the middle and with a charred crust. There was barely a chew to it and loads of fresh, juicy crunch from the salsa. I was pleased with the generous portions, wrongly thinking eating healthy meant eating small, the bagel came piled high. On the whole, I enjoyed it, my only criticism is that the dish was a little sweet. The sweet potato and caraway chips promised a bit of spice but I couldn’t taste the caraway and I didn’t really think they were necessary, they left a sweet aftertaste I could’ve done without, with no crunch or heat to balance them. The salsa, onions and tzatziki were all very good, but without something spicy or sharp to cut through it the bagel fell just short of full marks. I’d have preferred it with a small side salad or slaw, and maybe a slick  of wholegrain mustard on its lid. My second choice would’ve been what Lauren ate, the Asian Smoked Salmon & Sweet Potato Fishcakes (£10.95). Again a generous portion, two round fishcakes sat atop curly kale and orange segments, with pomegranates and almonds dotted in. The dish was an absolute beauty.

The ingredients in all our mains were clearly so fresh, their colours jumped off the white background. Obviously nothing had been sitting around, there wasn’t a wilted leaf or past-best vegetable in sight. They looked, shock horror, like they’d been pulled right from the ground. Imagine that! The 100% Fresh, 100% Natural produce is a huge part of what Filmore & Union are offering and for me that’s a massive plus. They make a point to source their ingredients from the local area, so there’s every chance your lunch has come from ground to plate within hours.

Filmore & Union, Leeds

Filmore & Union, Leeds

We finished off with dessert, of course. I have never seen so many beautiful but virtuous looking cakes in one place at one time. The counter was overflowing with platters and cake stands offering everything from a gluten free lemon & polenta cake to a vegan chocolate and blackberry cake. It looked good. Like, the kind of good where there’s absolutely no guilt to come from ordering a pudding. It feels like it’s actually the right thing to do. The whole menu obviously caters fantastically for those with dietary requirements and the cakes really don’t disappoint, with more range than I’ve ever seen before. I opted for a Banana, Oat and Flaxseed Muffin (£3.75). There are a lot of oats in my diet for their low GI credentials (again, the diabetic thing), keeping blood sugars level without the peaks and troughs that simple carbs can bring, something that the whole F&U menu boasts. The muffin was a good way to round off the meal, it was fluffy, and came with a deep, nutty texture you don’t find in mass-products desserts in chain coffee shops and cafes. I loved it and I will go back for it again, maybe to take out for breakfast on my way to work. The other desserts our table ordered looked scrumptious, without fail. Even the giant Granola Bar (£3.95) got me salivating. It was so interesting to see a sweet menu really come alive with unusual ingredients, not a nasty in sight. Plus, every dessert comes with a little pot of natural yoghurt and a few berries. A lovely little touch, as if your halo could shine any brighter.

Filmore & Union, Leeds

It was lovely to go back to work without the hangover from a too-large lunch. So many times I’ve come a cropper to grabbing something too heavy in my lunch hour, giving me a headache and having me snoozing at my desk all afternoon long, to-do list forgotten. It’s good to know that you can eat a great meal and leave with a spring in your step, without the threat of the inevitable sugar come down. I’d really recommend Filmore & Union to those looking for not just low cal or carb, but a nourishing, nutritious option for lunchtimes, breakfasts or early evenings. For me, it’s probably best as a brunch spot. They have a great bagel menu, plus muesli, porridge, granola and more. They have a good range of teas and organic coffees, and I’ve already waxed lyrical about the healing power of the juices. It’s also an ideal fit for its environment. The Victoria Quarter is beautiful, with a huge sky light, amazing architecture and luxury stores. F&U is a great pitstop to rest your aching feet, or a great place to drop off anyone who’s holding you back. Got a husband dragging his feet? A nagging teenager? Leave them here, there’s free wifi. The prices are, I think, slightly high. So just bear that in mind when you’re adding extra shots to your smoothie.

I think it’s also important to add that the staff were incredibly knowledgeable about the menu. They answered all our questions, made some great recommendations and really had me feeling like I was in safe hands. If you’re gluten free or vegan, lactose intolerant or allergic to anything, you can really put your confidence in this lot and you won’t leave unhappy.

If you eat clean or you’re trying to be good, you’re going to love this place. If you’re partial to a chicken nugget… maybe not, but give it a go, it might change your life! I haven’t been converted, I’m afraid I’m too devoted to burgers, but I am interested in trying more. Open to eat in and take out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 8am-7pm, Thursday 8am – 8pm, Sunday 9am-6pm.

Filmore & Union Restaurant and Express Bar Victoria Quarter Leeds LS1 6AZ | @FilmoreandUnion

Disclaimer: The Victoria Quarter invited me down to try Filmore & Union free of charge. That has had no effect whatsoever on my opinion. All honesty here, friends.

 

Overnight Oats: 2 Ways

Overnight Oats

Let’s start from the beginning. I never thought I’d be an oats for breakfast kind of a gal. My dad tried relentlessly for years, but porridge was never really for me. There was always something about the warmth of it, mixed with a weird, wallpaper-paste texture I just couldn’t stomach. And, of course, my parents didn’t believe in adding sweetness to anything when I was a kid, so bowls of soggy oats were always just that… soggy oats. Now I’m a grown up and I can mix fruit, honey, jam, goshdarnit even chocolate, into my oats, I thought I’d give them another go.

So, at the start of this month I resolved to take breakfast into work with me. I’m a terrible breakfast-dodger. And when I do it, let’s be honest, it’s usually pastry. In a bid to banish hunger and to eat less for lunch and throughout the day in general. I started filling the new Ball Quilted Jars I got for Christmas with natural yoghurt, a small layer of rolled oats and then topping them with some frozen berries. It seemed healthy and cost effective, best of all it tasted nice! After a few days I started toying with the idea of tarting it up a bit, and having read what seems like 101 recipes for overnight oats, I rustled some up one night. The rest is history.

Real talk: these oats take less than five minutes, they sit in the fridge overnight and you can just grab em on your way out of the door. Great for eating at your desk, or hell, even on the bus. They mostly contain ingredients that don’t need to be fresh (I use frozen fruit, generally) so you don’t even need to be that organised. They can be varied in so many ways you’ll likely never get bored. If you’re not great at diary, switch for almond milk. Guys, there is literally no excuse. Never is a day without breakfast to be seen again! Plus, get yourself some jars and COME ON your breakfast has never looked so cute. Totes adorbs. Get decent quality (the kind with lids that seal, Kilner will do nicely) and you can cart them around willy-nilly. Not a spill in sight! And if jars aren’t your thing, no biggie, tupperware will be fine. Just pick something that seals tightly.

NB I am by no means the inventor of these recipes. These are simply my favourites, tweaked from the hundreds on Pinterest; the ones I’ve been turning to again and again throughout January. Give them a go! Make sure you report back on what you think. Got a recipe you love? Share it!

OvernightOats4

Raspberry Coconut Overnight Oats – this one is fruity, almost tropical. A nice change from the creaminess of regular milk. I find it to be an energising and fresh way to start my morning.

1/2 Cup Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
1/4 Cup Berries (I use frozen mixed berries, but you can use fresh)
1 Tsp Light Brown Sugar

1. Go ahead and pop your oats in the jar. Place the berries on top. Sprinkle your brown sugar on top of them. You could also use honey in place of the sugar – one large squidge from a squeezy bottle should do it.

2. Pour your milk on top of your layered ingredients. Half a cup or to the top of your jar, whatever comes first. It’s worth taking this slowly, wait for the milk to soak through for a few seconds, those guys are absorbent!

3. Screw your lid on tightly. Give it a shake. If you use frozen berries your milk will turn pink – pretty! Pop it in the fridge and don’t come back until morning.

OvernightOats6

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats – great for those cold mornings, the spice adds something comforting. You can also warm this one up if you fancied!

1/3 Cup Rolled Oats
1/2 Banana, mashed
1/2 Apple, diced
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Tbsp Ground Almonds
1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

1. Pop your oats in. Pile on the mashed banana, this gives the oats a lovely silky feel. Chuck in the ground almonds and cinnamon and stir it up.

2. Throw in your diced apple and then top with milk. Screw the lid on tight and shake it up.

3. Pop it in the fridge. When you serve up, sprinkle a little cinnamon on the top. Yum!

Overnight Oats

Original Fry Up Material: Burger Edition

Original Fry Up Material

Last week, friends, I ate three burgers in six days. Let me tell you about it.

Original Fry Up Material turned up at the December changeover of Trinity Kitchen. They’re currently mid-way through a double stint, which means they’re here until February 23rd. Obviously, their main shtick is breakfast. In their own words “ace all-day and on-the-go breakfasts inspired by our respect for the great British fry up with a little soul and celebration of brunch culture from across the pond” (KERB). I’ll tell you now, I’m yet to taste the AM offerings. But I do have a date lined up next week, so don’t panic. I’ll report back.

Original Fry Up Material

So OFM also serve burgers. There are four on offer. The Cheesy and The Veggie come in at £6. The Sweetsmoke and The Bacon Blue, more specialist if you will, come in a little pricier at £7.50. I’ve had a Sweetsmoke, and the Bacon Blue…twice. I’m a devil for that blue, let me tell ya. Late last year, I touched on my criteria for a winning burger in my review of RARE. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Both the texture and taste of the Bacon Blue were eye-rollingly, heart-singingly perfect. I am genuinely salivating just thinking about it. I don’t take perfection lightly – burgers are some srs bznz, after all, and everyone is different. I have friends, for example, who turn a bit pale at the idea of a burger being pink in the middle. Some folk may look for a bit more structure. Some prefer a crustier bun. You get my point. That’s cool. But for me… man. This is it.

Original Fry Up Material SweetSmoke Burger

Original Fry Up Material Bacon Blue Burger

Everything is buttery soft, with gloriously caramalised edges to add a bit of chew without having to do any real work. The bun is a pillowy brioche with a gleaming, glazed dome that collapses in your hands as you chomp. The meat is packed loosely and it’s juicy. Pink, but not in a scary way. So juicy, in fact, that it’s hard to get through the whole burger without it disintegrating in your hands. On our first visit, my friend ate the second half of hers with a knife and fork. She is quite a classy lady, but still, this was necessity not choice. Juice ran down our chins, melted cheese dripped down our fingers, we all shut up.

I love this burger. So much. I thought it might be a fluke, so I went back. You know, just to test. IT WAS THE SAME, GUYS.

Original Fry Up Material

I think the Bacon Blue is the best burger I have ever eaten. The Sweetsmoke is good, but a little sickly for me. Still 10x better than 90% of the other burgers I’ve eaten, though. The title of my best burger is perhaps contested by a small joint in Seattle called Lil’ Woody’s. Classic burgers, served on their lonesome without meal deals and pointless garnishes, just wrapped in wax coated paper and served in a red plastic basket. One of the best single mouthfuls I ate during our 3 week long gastronomic adventure across the Atlantic last September. OFM’s offering is not dissimilar in attitude. The only side on the menu is chips. As much as I love onion rings, fried pickles and all that jazz (and trust me, I really do) that simple choice signifies that they have their priorities where they should be, with the burgers. I’ve heard complaints that the chips are too salty. For me they’re just fine, delicious in fact, but I’m a chronic over-seasoner. If you’re touchy about your salt, ask them to go easy. It’s also worth noting that the produce used to make everything on OFM’s menu while they’re in Leeds is 100% self-sourced from Yorkshire. There’s also an OFM “FryPA” on offer for all those after a craft beer, made in partnership with The Great Yorkshire Brewery. What more could you ask for? Well… the staff dress like quirky butchers. Just sayin’.

Original Fry Up Material

Original Fry Up Material

Now, coming in at a similar price to local competitors Reds True Barbecue and Nation of Shopkeepers, I do think OFM is a little expensive. £10 for a burger with chips is a restaurant price for a meal in a place which is no doubt cool, but still undeniably a food court. Having said that, I understand that something is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. And I am definitely willing to pay for it. I spent £22.50 on burgers last week alone, which is retrospectively maybe a little bonkers. It does prove though that I think they’re worth the buck. There are ways to cut corners, chips are £2.50 but the portion is huge. My friends and I fell into the trap on our first visit of buying a portion each but you can happily share.

In short, get your wallets out and grab ’em quick. These burgers are only here for another month and if, like me, you plan to get at least five in before they go, you’re going to have to get a move on.

Original Fry Up Material Trinity Kitchen Trinity Leeds Albion Street Leeds LS1 5AT | @OFMLondon

How to Eat Well: A Beginners Guide

How to Eat Well: A Beginners Guide

Lately, a few people have started asking me how to cook. To be honest I find that question difficult to answer. I think that’s because, in most cases, what they’re really asking me is how to eat.

First things first, you need the basic equipment. I have a friend who requested a post like this who, 6 months into her tenancy, didn’t own a kettle or a toaster. Kitchen fail. That kind of behaviour won’t get you anywhere. You don’t need to spend the earth to eat well, and you don’t need every gadget under the sun to prepare decent meals. Just a few items will suffice and they’ll pay you back in spades. I’m going to do a full post on my own kitchen essentials in the next week or so, but a good knife, a decent sized sauce and frying pan, a wooden spoon and a baking sheet should get you going. Get thee to Wilko*.

For me, good food is about the ingredients you use. You can have all the skill and equipment on offer, but you’ll only ever be as good as the ingredients you use. Knowing which flavours work together is a big plus, and is a knack you’ll no doubt pick up on the more recipes you read and the more time you spend at the hob. For a foolproof guide, I think The Flavour Thesaurus is a resource well worth its salt. Priceless for beginners and experienced cooks alike, it lists herbs, vegetables, meats and more alongside their perfect pairings. Great if you find yourself in a pickle or if you’re just trying something new in the kitchen.

Again on the ingredients kick, find shops and stalls you trust. It may sound silly to the tech-savvy youth of 2014 but your local butcher, baker or greengrocer will look after you. Get to know them and you’ll benefit from their experience and they may even do you a favour every now and again. Few home cooks become great by staring woefully at Co-op’s withered spinach offering. Having said that, I have nothing against supermarkets. If that’s where you shop, no worries. The man on the meat counter at Morrison’s should know his saddle from his rump so use that knowledge. Just think ahead – 7pm on a Friday night might not be the right time to buy your veg for the week. Time it right and buy the good stuff.

Nigel Slater (no big deal but he’s my hero) has a food philosophy that works well for me. He buys local, he buys day by day and he eats what’s in his fridge and what’s in season. The weekly shop is no doubt inevitable, especially for those of us with tight work schedules or kids, but try to use it mainly for cupboard staples and dried goods. Weekly shops make it easy to fall into ruts. Getting home late after work is the ultimate recipe for a fall-back spaghetti dish or, god forbid**, a take-away. That’s fine every now and again, but cooking the same dishes week on week can soon have you feeling frustrated. Buy a little of the fresh stuff everyday and you can have a little of what you fancy when you fancy it. Even if it’s just some plump little tomatoes to go with your pasta, or a sprig of tarragon for a béarnaise sauce. The Kitchen Diaries is the best example of eating this way and it changed the way I think about food. It’s proper food writing, not just a list of ingredients plus a method, and it taught me that eating ingredients when they’re fresh and ripe leads to a varied and exciting diet. Sure you can get strawberries in December, but for me, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should eat them. At the very least, it’s nice to have something to look forward to eating in the summer sunshine. Buy this book and Nigel will walk you through his everyday meals. They’re simple, they’re delicious. Sometimes he even eats a take-away pizza.

I’d also suggest getting it wrong every now and again. I like cooking, I like trying new things, that’s why some of my meals are fails of epic proportion. If none of your meals come out looking like a brown splodge splattered inelegantly onto a plate, I think you’re probably doing it wrong. Too many nervous cooks in my everyday life think that if they mess something up then it’s because they don’t know what they’re doing. Very few of us do. Just give something a go. If it’s gross, don’t worry about it. Try something different. Expand your palate, go on. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you pick things up, and at the very worst, you’ll know what not to do in the future.

Over the next couple of months I’ll have a few more posts for you on similar topics, including my must-have kitchen equipment, what I consider to be the best books for your kitchen library and lots more. If you like these kind of posts please do let me know. Please leave any thoughts or feedback in the comments below or head over to Twitter for a chat @whipuntifluffy.

* Not for the knife. Splash out, it’s worth it.
** Sarcasm.