Brunch

Brunch Club

Brunch Ox Club Leeds

A table full at Ox Club Leeds

What’s better than a Sunday morning brunch? Nothing, that’s what! Who doesn’t love that lazy and slightly fuzzy rise followed by plentiful portions and something strong to wash it all down? When it comes to the menu I’m not exclusively a pancake girl, a Prosecco guzzler or a granola fan, because for me variety is the spice of err… brunch. I love it all. Brunch is my bae. I just love brunch. 

Recently, mostly during Leeds Indie Food back in May, I’ve been blessed to enjoy some seriously delicious late morning meals. Mostly with Jen, my fun-loving brunch companion. Now I’ve got the little ones, I find a brunch break is a super convenient way to exercise my social skills. It’s much easier to leave them with their dad or my mother in law during the day because bedtime is a two man job, and I still get to drink! Wahey!

TO DIE FOR Cheddar Bacon Pancakes with Chipotle Maple Syrup, Green Chilli Mac n Cheese and Black Sauce Hot Wings at the Rita's pop-up at Ox Club during #LIF16 - with a glass of bubbly, of course.

TO DIE FOR Cheddar Bacon Pancakes with Chipotle Maple Syrup, Green Chilli Mac n Cheese and Black Sauce Hot Wings at the Rita’s pop-up at Ox Club during #LIF16 – with a glass of bubbly, of course.

Over the past few months we’ve snaffled a selection of exciting, indulgent plates at the Rita’s Ox Club pop-up, and we ate entirely plant-based at Izy Hossack and Noisette Bakehouse‘s In Defence of Plants (which Emma wrote about it full here). Unfortunately I missed out on BundoBrunch which saddens me greatly as Bundobust and Laynes Espresso are two of my ultimate faves. Last year, during #LIF15, I was lucky enough to get a spot at The Man Behind The Curtain x Laynes Espresso early sitting, where I ate, amongst other dishes, a “steak tartare” of watermelon with a mango “egg yolk” alongside a menu of matched coffees. It was easily one of the most creative dining experiences I’ve had – who said breakfast foods had to revolve around bacon, eh? … though in fairness I do love bacon.

Brunch at In Defense of Plants Izy Hossack Brunch

Oat pancakes, dill and potato waffles, granola, fruit salad and two Cherry Shrub fizzes at In Defense of Plants by Noisette Bakehouse and Izy Hossack at Sheaf Street Cafeteria during #LIF16

Nowadays if you’ve got yourself a hankering for a little avo on toast, you’ve never gotta look far. What a time to be alive! Here are the best spots in Leeds for a late morning pick-me-up:

Coffee and a Bloody Mary at Ox Club

Coffee and a Bloody Mary at Ox Club

Ox Club – Anywhere you can order steak before lunchtime is a winner in my book. Try the Steak & Cheddar Eggs, with meat charred on the custom 9ft grill that sits in the middle of their open kitchen, or go for Korean Fried Chicken with kimchi and wild rice. I fully endorse both, as well as the Corn Beef & Kale Hash and the Ricotta Pancakes. Don’t forget a Bloody Mary either. The simple decor is bright and breezy – a top setting to blow out the cobwebs from the night before, and afterwards you can pop upstairs to the roof terrace!

Those pancakes tho, at The Greedy Pig

Those pancakes tho, at The Greedy Pig

The Greedy Pig I’ve written about this gem before and I need to get back there asap. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure (a double buggy will do that to you) but they’ve since added multiple new strings to their bow with their evening service The Swine That Dines going strong and a whole new brunch menu. No better pancakes in the city (served with fried chicken – hubba hubba), plus a house black pudding that’ll knock your socks off. That house Merguez looks pretty great too… Not open on Sunday, so save your visit for a sneaky mid-week treat.

Deeelish seasonal pancakes at House of Koko

Deeelish seasonal pancakes at House of Koko

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Killer Avo on Toast with plenty of chillies, plus a smoked salmon bagel at House of Koko

House of Koko – Tucked away at the heart of Chapel Allerton, House of Koko is a relatively new addition to the Leeds food and drink scene but man has it made its presence known. Try the avocado on toast, in its two different guises – the first piled high with chillies and pine nuts, the second with lemon, feta and spinach. Or go for any of the three options on their pancake menu, personally I like the classic with berries. Dip into their impressive tea menu for an unusual brew while you’re at it. 

Perfection on a plate - Avocado on sourdough with lemon and sumac at Laynes Espresso

Perfection on a plate – Avocado on sourdough with lemon and sumac at Laynes Espresso

My fave - Sweetcorn Fritters at Laynes Espresso

My fave

Laynes Espresso – When I’m going solo, Laynes is the brunch for me. Now serving at their original site on New Station Street, having handed the Sheaf Street Cafeteria reins over to The Grub & Grog Shop, it’s my favourite spot in town for a relaxed start to the day. Another top quality avocado on sourdough, this time with lemon and sumac, or there’s braised beans or one of the regularly changing seasonal specials. Basically, if you like Kasundi and duck eggs, you probably won’t leave disappointed. Served up alongside their top quality coffee too, obvs.

Happy brunching!

Goats Cheese, Chorizo & Chilli Scones

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One of the only things my mother has ever truly mastered in the kitchen, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me saying so, is the humble scone. I didn’t exactly grow up in a home-baked household – my mum didn’t teach me the culinary basics and she certainly isn’t the kind I’d call to request fondly-remembered childhood recipes, years later. She has a go, bless her, with varying results, and I can’t fault her for that. Scones though, that’s different. Years of practice have lead to success, and somehow I don’t think anyone’s can beat hers. 

We hail from Bristol, all of us, the Neales (though my sisters and I have all given up the name, the characteristics are forever embedded). But since we all left home, my parents have moved even further into depths of the West Country, and now live in the quaint little seaside town of Sidmouth, Devon. As you can probably imagine, scones (plus the obligatory clotted cream) are a very important part of their lives. 

As a child with diabetes, baking with mum never consisted of fairy cakes and Rice Krispies folded into melted marshmallows, but being the great mum that she is, she was determined that we’d still give kitchen creation a go. After a short dalliance with peanut butter cookies packed with a teeth-squeaking amount of Canderel,  we almost always defaulted to scones. We thankfully stuck to caster and simply halved the sugar content, and we packed in raisins to make up the shortfall. I always ate the scones hot, straight from the wire rack, twisting and pulling the two halves from each other with my fingers and dabbing on too-cold butter before it was ready. The texture was, and still is, something that dreams are made of: soft, buttery and comforting – the three characteristics that describe most of my favourite things in life.

GoatsCheeseChorizo&ChilliScones2
GoatsCheeseChorizo&ChilliScones3

Because of all that, scones are a fairly regular occurrence in my own kitchen. As always, I favour savoury over sweet, so more often than not I’m packing in leftover cheese and morsels of salty, fried pork, cut through with a bit of garlic or a wilting spring onion or two. Whatever’s in the fridge, basically. And that’s how we got here, today: a dreary Sunday filled with fluffy socks, the Observer Food Monthly and linen laundry. January budgets and an enthusiasm to just be better has lead me to another of those fridge-raiding meals that’s somehow managed to become something quite delightful. Nigel would be proud. See also: Beetroot & Carrot Gyoza from a few weeks ago.

Mostly, I eat scones on their own, but they also work amazingly well on top of stews and chillis, as an inventive alternative to rice, bread or potatoes – indulgent and packed with flavour. 

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Previous experiences with scones… the first bacon and stilton, I think, followed by gorgonzola and spring onion atop a beef and ale stew

And in the spirit of frugality, these babies freeze like a dream. Portioned and unbaked, they’ll last in the freezer for up to three months. Just defrost them thoroughly before putting them in the oven. If anything, a bit of time in the freezer improves their texture. For us, there was no need for freezing this time, Matt and I devoured two for a low-key Sunday lunch, spread with soft, salty butter and garnished with a scoop of last night’s fiery coleslaw. Two more are currently sitting in a tin for tomorrow. Take that, January. 

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Goats Cheese, Chorizo & Chilli Scones
Serves 4
Soft, buttery and comforting - a quick, cheap and easy alternative for lunch
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
18 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
18 min
Ingredients
  1. 315g Plain Flour
  2. 1 tbsp Baking Powder
  3. ¼ Bicarbonate of Soda
  4. 1 tbsp Sugar
  5. 115g Salted Butter, cut into 1cm cubes
  6. 120ml Natural Yogurt
  7. 1 tbsp Whole Grain Mustard
  8. 100g Goats Cheese
  9. 100g Chorizo, chopped
  10. 1 Onion, diced
  11. 2 Birdseye Chillis, chopped and deseeded
  12. Pinch of Black Pepper
  13. 1 egg, beaten
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 220ºC.
  2. Combine your flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar. I used golden caster sugar because it was all I had, but you could use normal caster or granulated without a problem.
  3. Make sure your butter is very cold, in fact, freeze it if possible. Add the butter to the flour mixture and mix until the butter is in roughly pea-sized lumps. If you're using a mixer or processor this'll be easy enough, but if using your hands just rub the butter into the flour, trying to handle it as little as possible - you don't want it to melt!
  4. Add the yogurt and mustard, mix to combine, and then follow with the goats cheese, chorizo, onion, chilli and black pepper. The mix should come together to form a rough, sticky lump - this is what you want.
  5. Turn the lump out on to a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball. Flatten so as to form a round cake, 4-5cm high. Divide into 4 or 8, depending on your preferred portion size.
  6. Brush the beaten egg over your scones and place on the middle shelf of the oven.
  7. After 17 minutes, remove your scones and poke them in their fattest part with a skewer or fork. If it comes out clean, transfer them to a wire rack to cool. If still raw in the middle, pop back in for two minutes at a time until the skewer comes out clean.
  8. Enjoy warm with lots of butter.
Notes
  1. Can be frozen in portions before baking. Defrost thoroughly before putting in the oven. Will last for up to three months.
  2. Eat within 48 hours of baking.
whip until fluffy http://whipuntilfluffy.com/
You can mix things up a little by switching your extras. In place of goats, use blue cheese or parmesan. Try bacon or ham, or throw in half a tin of sweetcorn or some sorry-looking herbs languishing in the fridge door. There are loads of variations to be enjoyed and the formula is simple. Get creative and enjoy. For example, these Roasted Red Pepper & Feta Skillet Scones by Joy the Baker look awesome.

Got a favourite scone recipe? Share it with me down in the comments or over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. Let’s talk soon!

Sick Days: An Ode to a Spanish Omelette

Sick Days

Ah, sick days. Thankfully, until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t had one in a while. Being freelance means it can be hard to take a guilt-free duvet day, so even when I’m sniffily and surrounded on the sofa by snotty tissues, I find it hard not to check in. Not a day goes by where I don’t hear those emails ding-donging into my inbox, unless something really bad happens. But if you follow me on Twitter, you might know that a few weeks back something really bad kinda did happen. A bout of gastroenteritis sent me into a little something called diabetic ketoacidosis and, as a result, I was admitted to hospital. It wasn’t much fun, a little scary to say the least, but thankfully now I’m back at home no more than a little bruised and queasy, and feeling better by the minute.

There’s only so long on the sofa I can handle before I start to get bored. A few days after I got out of hospital Matt had to go back to work, and mentally I was fine. Totally back to normal – thinking about normal things, needing to be entertained. It was just the physical element that was letting me down. Naturally, my thoughts turned to food. Obviously, the less said about hospital food, the better. Eating in hospital when you have diabetes? Even worse. Luckily, for once, I wasn’t really in the mood for food. When I started getting better, there were two things I craved. 1) Ready Salted Crisps. Walkers, if possible. 2) Thick, soapy white bread spread with salty butter. 3) The ultimate blend of the two: a crisp sandwich! So that was the first port of call.

Once I got home to my own living room, bathed, feet up, favourite teddy under one arm (hey, I may be 27, but he’s been with me through every bout of ill-health so far. He’s going nowhere), I started thinking about real sustenance again. I had to take it slowly, of course. Day one, I couldn’t actually turn my thoughts into physical things – so other than one half of a tuna sandwich lovingly made for me, I settled on buying Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers (the first series) from iTunes and whiling the afternoon away watching him stirring up pork and apples in his shallow casserole, folding berries into whipped mascarpone and sizzling sausages with mustard and honey at his perfect, shiny, kitchen island while he cooed softly to the camera. Oh, Nigel. You brought me back to life. When the six episodes ran out, I bulldozed through The Kitchen Diaries autumn section like nobody’s business, wrapped in my waffle knit blanket, with the curtains shut. If I could’ve found a copy of Toast without getting up from my comfy spot on the sofa, I would’ve devoured that too. There’s nothing so healing as Nigel Slater’s voice tiptoeing around your brain. 

Day two, time to eat! And move about a bit! I dislodged myself from my sofa dent and went to the cooker. I wanted buttery, wholesome and filling, but I could stand at the hob for approximately 4 minutes before I fell over. Plus, I hadn’t been shopping in a while. Matt had diligently bought everything I’d asked for, but I hadn’t been thinking about real food at that point – just asking for tea, crisps, bread, oven chips (which I weirdly craved, having not eaten them since my student days) and fruit juice. Now ready to kick the bland stuff, I went rifling through my fridge and cupboards to find onions, potatoes, half a tin of sweetcorn, and in a totally *ahhh, heavens opening* moment, a little wedge of chorizo.

I turned the oven on to preheat, chopped in record time, perched at the kitchen island on a tall stool, and then had a little rest. Later I pulled that stool up to the oven, and got it all frying. Onions first, followed by potatoes, then I left it sizzling with a lid on over a low heat for 15 minutes before throwing in chorizo and sweetcorn.  After five minutes I poured over 4 eggs and slid it into the oven for 20 minutes until it had a little smidgen of wobble left in the middle. Spanish omelettes (or tortillas) are so low maintenance. I turned it out onto my butchers block and carved it into wedges, which I happily revisited over the next 4-6 hours, testing the waters with a little bit more each time, squidging each segment between a folded piece of bread. For my tastebuds, and my extremely empty belly, this was pure heaven. salty, savoury and with just a touch of spice, it got me back on track. After that I didn’t look back, I even dashed a few drops of Tabasco over the last piece I ate.

That experience, of cooking from a seated position, swaddled in a dressing gown, with an extreme hunger in my tummy reminded me of a memory I have. I was 13, it was the 23rd December, and I was sitting on a ward in Bristol Children’s Hospital. It was diabetes related again (it always is)- a nasty cold had developed into a chest infection and then pneumonia, and I was so desperate to get home in time for Christmas. The Play Specialist was really pushing for me to make a collage, but I was a moody teenager on a ward full of sick babies and I was cross. I hadn’t consumed anything other than a glass of that sickly sweet apple juice that looks like (sorry) extremely unhealthy wee, every mealtime for about 4 days. My mum asked the nurse if she could make me some toast. It was the thinnest, cheapest white bread in existence, but man was it good. Crispy, almost burnt around the edges and deliciously anaemic in the centre, spread with real butter. I ate it and it was like colour started bleeding back into the scene around me. I was home by the end of the day. Even now, I genuinely think that moment is responsible for my constant need to have butter in the butter dish at all times.

Back to this year, the week that followed that spanish omelette brought all the comfort food I could take. Spaghetti Bolognese started me off, then sausage and mash with onion gravy which no one makes better than my husband. On my first trip outside the house I wolfed down a Patty Smith’s burger like never before. These days, I’m off a purely beige diet and back to eating normally. That’s if normally includes a whole kilo of cheese shared between four of us on the weekend just gone. I went to the Scottish Highlands for a four day break with some friends, which was probably the most restorative, healing trip I could’ve gone on. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, I absolutely loved it. I’ll be back soon with some photos.

What do you eat when you’re poorly? Is there a specific food memory that you have relating to a bout of ill-health? Tell me your stories of eating to replenish, heal and recover.

Smashed Avocado on Toast

Smashed Avocado on Toast with Chilli

Ah, that special moment when you find something good for you that actually tastes nice. As a slave to all things basted in butter and deep fried to oblivion, it’s rare that a “healthy option” provokes anything other than a suspicious side-eye from me. While not 100% skinny-minnie, what I had for brunch this Bank Holiday weekend was packed full of nutrients and had me feeling spritely afterwards, a far cry from that fry-up fugg that comes with crispy pork fat and your weight in carbs before 11am (OMG I love it tho). 

Brunch on the weekend always sounds great. Like, yeahhh I’ll just roll out of bed, open my bountiful fridge and whip up eggs, pancakes, or whatever I have for all the beautiful people in my home. In reality, the need for brunch usually accompanies a hangover, or at least a late night the night before, and you have to be super prepared and full of energy to get it done without killing someone (usually a long suffering other half). That’s where this recipe comes in. It ain’t rocket science. It takes 10 minutes from start to finish and if the ingredients aren’t things you’ve usually got in your fridge and cupboard, it’s a very short shopping list for the day before. 

Smashed Avocado on Toast with Chilli

Smashed Avocado on Toast with Chilli

I always have sourdough in the freezer. It originated because Matt and I can never get through a full loaf before it goes stale, and a back-up stash comes in pretty useful. I buy my sourdough from Leeds Bread Co-op via my neighbourhood coffee shop, and when I get it home, I slice the whole loaf and put half of it in the freezer. You can defrost it in the toaster no trouble, I find it just needs one and a half goes through the defrost setting otherwise you get a cold bit in the middle. It’s great for breadcrumbs too, instead of freezing in slices just blitz in a food processor and freeze in bags. Having a store of crumbs is really handy for dishes like meatballs, fishcakes and mac n cheese – making your weeknight meals so much easier.

To my avocado I add chillies, sunflower seeds and a squeeze of lime. Avocados can be delicious but as is they’re pretty bland, so they take buckets of salt and pepper – perfect for replenishing after a skinful of booze. Personally, I find that spice really helps my hangover so I load up on the hot stuff, sometimes adding a sprinkling of Tabasco too, but you can plus or minus chillies as you see fit. Here’s a bit more info on why this dish is good for you (great for diabetics):

  • Sourdough: easier to digest than normal bread, thanks to lactic acid. Low GI so causes fewer spikes in insulin production.
  • Avocados: monounsaturated oleic acid helps lower cholesterol. Rich in vitamin E, folate, potassium and dietary fibre. Great for skin and hair.
  • Chillies: packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and also capsaicin which does loads of good stuff, including lower cholesterol.
  • Sunflower Seeds: vitamin E helps cardiovascular health, magnesium helps muscles and nerves stay healthy and, yep you guessed it, sunflower seeds can also help reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Lime: keeps scurvy away like nothing else, also thought to be a “diabetic superfood” thanks to high levels of soluble fibre which helps regulate the bloodstream’s uptake of sugar.

Have I sold it yet? Follow the recipe below for a guilt-free, smug-face-inducing way to start your day.

Smashed Avocado with Chilli on Toast
Serves 2
A simple, healthy breakfast recipe with just a hint of spice.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 Large Slices of Sourdough
  2. 2 Avocados
  3. 2 Red Chillis
  4. 1 tbsp Sunflower Seeds
  5. 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  6. 1 tsp Flaked Salt
  7. ½ tsp Black Pepper
  8. 1 Lime
  9. 2 Eggs (optional)
Instructions
  1. Scoop the avocados out of their skins and into a small bowl.
  2. Finely chop your chillies, removing the seeds, and add them to the bowl along with the flaked salt and black pepper.
  3. Put the sourdough in the toaster and while you wait, smash the bowl's contents together lightly with the back of a spoon.
  4. When they pop up, chop each slice of bread in two and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Spoon a heaped tablespoon of smashed avocado mix onto each half slice and spread out, careful not to obliterate the chunky texture.
  6. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and douse with lime juice.
  7. Add a poached or fried egg on top if you fancy it.
whip until fluffy http://whipuntilfluffy.com/
Smashed Avocado on Toast with Chilli

The Greedy Pig

The Greedy Pig

Ox Tongue Rueben

To call something a “hidden gem”, to me, seems outrageously patronising. An assumption that you’re (YOU, that’s right!) too ignorant or uncool to know about it, or worse, that somehow the owners aren’t doing it right, that they’re not putting themselves out there. “Hidden gem” is not a phrase I ever intend to use to describe a place, but it seems to be the way many of Leeds’ food-loving types describe The Greedy Pig. Similar to Cafe Moor in the market until their successful stint in Trinity Kitchen, if you know then you know – smug faced and full bellied as you walk back to the office from your lunch break.

For me, The Greedy Pig is not a hidden gem. It’s very much out there, ready and waiting, clear as day. It’s something I’m keen to shout about as loud as I can. Just a gem, if you will. Of course, it’s true that sometimes for some, things just slip under the radar. That’s why I’m here, see – to help spread the word. And, if you’re not a regular, you’d be justified in saying that you never gave The Greedy Pig a second glance. It’s a little off the beaten track (North Street, just along from The Reliance) and I don’t think I’d offend anyone by saying that it seems little more than a greasy spoon cafe. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but give it a try and you’ll find there’s so much more on offer than breakfast and tea you can stand your spoon up in. A veritable treasure trove of nose-to-tail cooking, step beyond the (excellent) fry ups and stacks of American pancakes to find brisket burgers, tongue tacos, pressed sandwiches and ruebens to melt your face off.

What these guys do is labour intensive. They’re smoking their bacon, brining meat, simmering pans on the hob for hours, packing pies, rolling scotch eggs and baking an array of sweets. The service is always friendly and relaxed, it’s probably my favourite laid back brunch/lunch spot – somewhere Matt and I go on my way into the office, to catch up after he’s been on the road for a busy weekend. Sometimes they do events too, selling their deli items and nose-to-tail tapas. Next up, they want to start opening in the evenings. To do that, they need to fund an accessible toilet for their customers. So they’re running a Pie, Mash and Gravy night, tonight, to raise money. I’m going along, paying a fiver (excellent value, as always) and getting a rich, meaty pie and all the accompaniments in exchange – and hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to go in the evening again.

My main reason for writing this post, is not just for The Greedy Pig – a business I love and would like to show my support for – but to encourage all of you, no matter where you’re based, to show your favourite cafe, restaurant, shop or coffee spot some love. From someone who runs one, albeit not customer facing, life can be tough out there for an independent business, and just knowing it’s there and thinking that’s nice isn’t enough. Use it, visit, speak to the owners, recommend it to others. These amazing spots won’t be there if they don’t make enough money, so go in, eat well, pay for it, and tell everyone you know. 

The Greedy Pig, Leeds

Beef & Blue Burger with Twice Fried Chips

The Greedy Pig

Veggie Breakfast with Spicy Corn Bread

The Greedy Pig

American Pancakes with Greedy Pig Smoked Bacon

The Greedy Pig

If you’re in central Leeds tonight then go on, make the trip. The menu goes as follows (please note: despite all the offal on the menu, vegetarians aren’t ignored at The Greedy Pig):

1) Celariac, Barley & Shiitake.
2) Beef, Stout & Lentil.
3) Butternut, Chickpea & Spinach 
4) Rabbit, Fennel & Ham Hock.

The Greedy Pig 58 North St Leeds LS2 7PN | @the_greedy_pig @thegreedypigkitchen

The Blue Cheese, Bacon & Apple Wafflewich

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I finally got a waffle iron. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and it turns out it is, officially, the best. But I didn’t want to go about my first foray into the waffle world the predictable way. Waffles and syrup are a delicious combo, for sure, but let’s be real: it’s the easy option. I wanted a challenge. I wanted to set the bar for the waffle game high. So when I made blue cheese, bacon and apple sandwiches for lunch this week, I swapped the bread for waffles. Turns out, this is life changing stuff.

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Blue-Cheese-Bacon-Waffle-Sandwiches-4

All credit for this idea must go to Joy the Baker for bringing us Waffle BLTs with a side of ginger cat in May. They looked so delicious they’ve barely left my consciousness since I read the post. I used her recipe for my waffles with some tweaks – purely because I live in the UK and couldn’t get all of the ingredients. Sure, they’re mostly made up of standard stuff. Things like eggs, flour, baking powder, you know the drill. But obviously, the best waffles – just like the best pancakes – contain buttermilk. I used to be able to find it in my local Tesco, but then one day it disappeared from the shelf. I could make my own – buttermilk is a simple byproduct when you make your own butter, which I quite fancy doing, but haven’t got round to yet. So until then, I’ve been working on the perfect ratio of yogurt to milk to replace it in baking recipes. For me, it’s working well as four parts yogurt, one part semi-skimmed milk.

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Blue-Cheese-Bacon-Waffle-Sandwiches-6

Once the waffle mix was made, it was time to talk fillings. Breakfast foods are nothing without crispy, salty pork fat, so naturally bacon was a clear match. Streaky and smoked, please! Baked on a sheet in a 175º oven until dark and glistening. Blue cheese adds some creamy sharpness, while apple brings tartness and crunch. Squeeze over some maple syrup and you’ve got a party.

The warmth of the freshly made waffles brings the fillings together in a series of gooey, squidgy mouthfuls, and I could’ve eaten eight of these in one sitting. Cut them into quarters and devour around the breakfast table with friends, with no one speaking a word. I spent last night out in Manchester with three of my best lady pals, and I plan on making a large pile of these tonight to banish the hangover I’m nursing from one too many Zombie cocktails at the tiki bar.

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Blue Cheese, Bacon & Apple Wafflewiches (makes 8 waffles or 4 sandwiches)

nb. my first batch of waffles had to sit around a bit, and as a results weren’t as fluffy when it came to eating them. Learn from my mistake and don’t even switch that waffle maker on to heat up before you have all your fillings prepped.

Preparation and Cook Time: 15-20 minutes all in

Waffles adapted from Joy the Baker:
180g Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbsp Granulated Sugar
50g  Unsalted Butter, melted
2 Eggs
230ml Yogurt
70ml Semi-Skimmed Milk

For the filling:
150g Gorgonzola Cheese
12 Rashers of Streaky, Smoked Bacon
1 Apple
50ml Maple Syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 175ºc and place your bacon on a baking sheet with a rim, lined with foil. While the oven heats up, crumble your gorgonzola. Slide the bacon into the oven and set the timer for 14 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix all of your dry waffle ingredients. In another bowl, mix your wet ingredients. All at once, add the wet to the dry and mix with a wooden spoon until just incorporated. Don’t beat the life out of it, you want a few lumps left so nice big bubbles form as they cook and you have a light, fluffy waffle.

3. Leave your mix to thicken as your waffle iron heats up. By the time the iron is ready, the mix will be super thick with bubbles already forming. Cook according to your waffle iron’s instructions. When they’re done (mine took 2 and a half minutes each), remove from the iron and place on a wire rack – this will prevent unwanted sogginess and create ultimate crunch. Repeat until you’ve cooked the whole batch.

4. Remove the bacon from the oven, leave to drain for a minute on kitchen paper. Slice the apple and then assemble your sandwiches. I went for cheese first, smooshed into waffle number 1 with a fork, bacon next, then 4 slices of crisp Granny Smith, drizzled with maple syrup. Take a big bite. Heavenly.

Blue-Cheese-Bacon-Waffle-Sandwiches-10

Blue-Cheese-Bacon-Waffle-Sandwiches-9

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.

 

Sweet Potato Hash with a Fried Egg

SPH7

Brunch is nice. It’s like breakfast, but also like lunch. It’s great on Sundays. You can have it out, you can cook it yourself. It’s very flexible. Brunch is nice.

I’m partial to a bacon sandwich.I like a full english too, but sometimes I just want to do things a little differently. In America the massive breakfasts are always my favourite meal. The concept of “Home Fries” makes me very happy. Potatoes? Fried? For breakfast? Winner. So last weekend I wanted to do a different take on the whole home fries thing, make it more seasonal and maybe spice it up a little. Sweet Potato Hash is what came of my adventure.

Number one, sweet potatoes are great. High in fibre, relatively low in carbs and deeeeelicious. In Autumn I tend to use them a lot, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas time when they’re featured on every food blog around the web. If you’re a hater, this would work fine with normal potatoes too (Charlotte, probably) but the sweetness with the spice works really well here and creates a lovely balance. Number two, there’s a meat element here but there doesn’t haven’t to be. If you’re a veggie, just take that meat out and maybe add some green peppers or aubergine (mushrooms are the devil’s work so don’t even talk to me about that. I’m told it would probably work but I just don’t want to hear it, alright?). My original idea for this was to use lardons or pancetta, but alas the cupboard was bare. Instead I chopped up some leftover pork sausages and chucked them in. The char on the fatty meat is the best. Just use whatever meat you got!

You can fashion this dish to whatever suits your needs. I like it hot so I used 2 whole chillis and a good, thick paste of spices. Tone it down if you like, but I think the spiciness is all part of the fun. Alternatively, you could whack a little sour cream on the side to cool things down. Just tart the creamy stuff up with a little salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped parsley. For toast, you can bake your own bread if you’re feeling flash. I bet you’ll feel very accomplished. But let’s be honest, ain’t nobody got time for that on a Sunday morning. Pick up a good loaf from your local baker or supermarket. The crustier the better. Sliced white won’t cut it here.

I’d make this dish again in a heartbeat, in fact, I may well make it tomorrow. It’s a different take on a traditional brunch and has an rooty, warming flavour ideal for this kind of year. Get your brunch on!

SPH5

Ingredients (makes 2 generous portions)

1 Onion, diced
1 Large Sweet Potato, cubed
1/2 Cup of Chopped Sausages or Bacon (whatever you have)
2 Cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
2 Birds Eye Chillis, diced
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
Salt to taste (I used approx 1 tsp)

2 Eggs
4 Slices of Crusty Bread
Chopped Parsley to Garnish

Method

1. Once you’ve done all your chopping, get the onion in a frying pan over a medium heat with a tsp of oil (I used a light olive). We want to brown these guys not just soften them, so don’t be tempted to turn the heat to low. After five minutes, add in the garlic and the chillis. Keep it moving and keep an eye on it, we want the edges to catch but we don’t want to burn it to a crisp. You want to add the garlic to the pan after the onions are already partially cooked as garlic needs far less cooking time and can turn bitter. This way your slices will be browned and chewy upon plating up, not burnt.

2. Throw in the meat and cook for five minutes. The edges should be turning brown when you add the sweet potato. Turn the heat down to low and leave for five more minutes. When everything but the potatoes are starting to form a crust (they’ll look a little anaemic – it’s ok), throw in the spices and mix to coat all the ingredients in the pan. Pour in half a cup of tap water, turn the heat up to medium-high and cover with whatever you can find. As long as there’s some steam circulating you’ll be fine, no need to worry about a perfect fit.

3. After ten minutes remove your lid. The water should have reduced to a paste and the potatoes should be starting to get tender. If a few bits look black, no worries, the char only adds to the flavour. At this point, use your judgement. If your potatoes are still solid, add some more water and recover for a little while longer. If they’re just a little hard in the middle, keep them over the heat for another few minutes until a fork goes through easily. Season with a sprinkle of salt.

4. When the potatoes are soft in the centre, make two gaps at the edge of your pan for the eggs. Crack them in and leave to cook for approx 4 minutes. They’ll be done when the edges start curling up from the pan. While they’re frying, toast your 4 slices of bread. Pile them on 2 plates and drizzle with olive oil. Carefully remove your potatoes from the pan and spoon them on top of the toast. Then use a fish slice to place your egg on top. Sprinkle with a little more salt and some chopped parsley. Serve alongside a little bottle of Tabasco.

SPH8