Leeds

Take a Breath

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Turns out the last time I did one of these posts was a long old time ago – two years and almost two months in fact! The Tour de France was happening and those twins were nothing but a twinkle in my eye. How time flies, eh? Back to 2016 and it’s been a bit of a bumpy few weeks in the Dix household. As well as our daughters turning a grand old six months, we’ve had runny noses and hospital admissions, alongside cozy nights on the sofa, a few good coffees and catch ups with friends after weeks apart.

We’re all safely back at home, with better health in sight, and finally making plans for our garden just as the summer ends. We’re hoping that by this time next year we will have actually spent an hour or two enjoying it. Plans to pull up paving slabs and conifers are on track for next spring, gravelling the whole thing over and dotting around lots of pots with shrubs and herbs. Stage two is a grander affair with some benches, raised veg plots and even a… shed! How exciting. It’s nice to be working on the house again. I seemed to miss that whole stage of pregnancy, what with giving birth early and having a less than satisfactory time towards the end, so it’s nice that “nesting” has finally caught up with me.

I’ve been spending a lot of time inside recently, I guess mainly so the girls can fully establish a napping schedule and also, because you kind of run out of places to go with a double buggy. I’m very much an “always out” person, or I have been previously to having kids, so I still try to get out and about everyday, even if it’s just for a coffee. It’s easy to feel isolated in the first stages of motherhood but I keep myself busy with classes and long lunches with fellow mum and mum-to-be pals. In general though, I’m back home by 2pm with my feet up. The to-do list for the house is getting smaller, and aside from a repaint in a few rooms and a new runner on the stairs, it’s mainly about soft furnishings and putting prints up now. It’s lovely to have seen it come so far in three years. I suppose we’ll finish things just when we find we need to expand space-wise… typical! I really enjoyed Amy’s post Things I Have Learned About House Renovation and a lot of memories from the early days came flooding back!

I’ve started reading quite a lot more, too. In the past month or so I’ve read The Pelican Brief by John Grisham, A Clash of Kings by George R. R.  Martin, and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. I’d never have usually chosen that last one but I took part in a book exchange on Facebook that ended up with me promising to throw genre expectations to the wind. I really enjoyed it and now I’m part way through The Girl With All The Gifts by Mike Carey and loving it so far. Weirdly, though I turned my nose up at the prospect, a Kindle has really changed the way I read and I’m much more enthusiastic about it somehow. Looking forward to several other novels I have waiting in My Library.

Foodwise, I tried the new I Am Doner via Deliveroo and absolutely loved it. Would recommend the halloumi kebab wholeheartedly. It’s huge, reasonably priced and stuffed with loads of good stuff. The chips travel well too. I’ll definitely be tucking into that again soon. Other than that, I haven’t tried much new recently. I’m a slave to my daily Flat White from Opposite and this summer I’ve really enjoyed sitting on their benches outside, pushing the babies backwards and forwards in the pram and having a bit of quiet time. Matt’s birthday is coming up so I’m looking forward to a meal out then – probably a trip to Ox Club or The Reliance, his favourites. 

I’ve started Baby Led Weaning with the girls this week so hold tight for some posts about that, and I’ve been trying some new recipes at home – hopefully some of which I can photograph and get up on the blog over the next week or so. I’m also heading out to the North York Moors this weekend for a little break so I’ll report back on that too.

In the meantime, let me know what you’re up to down in the comments or come and chat to me over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. Photos go up pretty much daily on Instagram and remember you can keep up with me over on Facebook, too. See you soon!

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!

The One Where I Learnt How to Hand-Stitch Leather

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Back in November sometime I booked a place on the Intro to Hand-Stitched Leather Workshop at Duke Studios. The workshop was run as part of their November Taster Sessions where attendees are invited to  learn something new in a manageable bitesize piece and for a super affordable price.

The class I’m going to tell you about had snuck into December, because thanks to the extreme popularity of the first taster sash which sold out in record time, it demanded a reprisal. Some of the other sessions up for grabs during November included Gin Tastings, Stitch-Up Knitting Intros, Natural Wine Tasters and much more. Keep an eye on the Duke Studios Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds to catch the next ones before they sell out.

Now, it’s a true Lil tradition to try something creative once a year. 2014 brought the excellent Wreath Making Workshop with Katie Laura Flowers and before that it was the short-lived Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group at work where I made a William Morris tote bag with a leather strap that was only big enough to hold a bottle of wine (arguably, that’s all you need). In 2015, it was the turn of the hand stitched, hand dyed leather purse and boy, let me tell you, it might’ve been my most successful yet. For your information, I think 2016 might be the year of Mindful Colouring – I’ll keep you updated. 

Duke Studios Leeds The Conservatory

The workshop was run by Ruth Pullan, a local lady who makes beautiful leather goods out of her home in Ilkley. Take a look, please, because the satchels, purses and belts she makes are gorgeous and really different from the others you find on the web. This isn’t your mediocre Cambridge Satchel Company shiz, you can really see the love and craftsmanship that goes into each item and they’d make for lovely, unique presents – for yourself or a special someone.

Ruth started us off by setting us each a place at the table in the Duke Studios Conservatory (available for hire, and totally the right environment to get those creative juices flowing after a long day at work), complete with all the tools we’d need to make our purses. Ahead of time we’d let Ruth know whether we’d prefer to make a coin pouch or card wallet. I’d chosen a coin purse, ideal for a night out or when you’re carrying a tiny handbag or clutch.

Dyeing

I failed to snap a pick of the natural leather shape we were provided with, but with that in hand we headed over to a table covered with both oil and water based stains. We were given scraps of leather to play around with and shown how to apply the stains for an all over colour, layered effect or use a cotton bud to create a more intricate pattern. Inspired by one of Ruth’s examples, I went for a mottled effect, using cotton wool to dab on blotches of yellow, green and blue dye with overlapping edges. My lack of artistic talent meant I threw caution to the wind and hence I was the first to finish, while much more artistic brains ummed, ahhed and perfected their designs. Mine had lots of time to dry! After staining, we used an old rag to rub oil into the leather, giving it the softer, shinier finish it would end up with.

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Bevelling

This was maybe the most satisfying part of the whole process for me. We used a tool to turn the edges of the leather into smooth curves. We wiggled the exciting bevelling tool (pictured) into the leather at a corner before pushing with purpose to sheer off the sharp edges. Kinda like when you just push the sharp edges of your scissors through wrapping paper at Christmas, it felt awesome. Very satisfying and therapeutic, I could literally do it all day.

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Burnishing

On these newly cut edges we then took this excellent smelling gum stuff and rubbed it on with our fingers on all the edges that weren’t going to be joined. We then rubbed the surface we’d just coated with a rag, because as I understand it, the process of burnishing is the softening of a rough surface via a “sliding” contact with another object. It smooths the surface/edges of the leather and makes it shinier.

Leather Workshop

Studs

Next up, we used a huge clamping device to make holes for our studs to go through which meant the flaps of our purses could fasten to the body. My very weak forearms somewhat failed me on this and I had to battle with the machinery to make my marks, which were then a bit wonky… more practice needed!

Stitching

I’ve probably forgotten a step or two here, but I think what we did next was use an excellent diamond shaped poker to make small holes along the edge of the leather where Ruth had helpfully made marks for us. This is where stitching happens. Next we glued the edges of the purse together where they should join to give it a bit provide the purse with a bit more strength and to give us stitchers a helping hand before we began. Then we picked out some thread/twine from the beautiful selection of colours and materials that Ruth had with her, I went for brown – everyone else went for white! 

Leather Workshop

Stitching was hard and I fell behind pretty quickly. I am in no way an adept sewer or knitter and my eyesight is not so sharp, so even threading the needle seemed to take forever for me. This ain’t no ordinary stitching either. You have two needles, one at each end of your thread and with your purse clamped in a handmade wooden vice popped between your legs, you work with both hands to create this super strong, super pretty stitch pattern. It was awesome but I definitely need some more practice – mine could be tidier! Ruth moved at a really realistic pace which meant I still enjoyed the process and didn’t beat myself up for being rubbish, no matter how many times I asked for help!

Leather Workshop

The Finished Product!

Once we finished the stitches, we burnished the newly joined edges and as you can see, I ended up with a pretty awesome coin purse. I absolutely loved working with leather, and I really enjoyed working with other people to see how they approached the same set of instructions – it was so interesting to see how everyone’s came out! Some people chose a straight-up, all over colour wash, and some of us got a bit funky with patterns. Overall it was a great three hours and I would definitely do it again – Ruth was a very relaxed, laid back teacher which made me feel comfortable going at my own pace, and it meant I could enjoy the experience without feeling rushed to keep up or risk missing the next step.

As I said up top, keep an eye on the Duke Studios feeds because I believe Ruth is coming back this year to teach some more workshops. This one only cost £20 which I think is a complete bargain considering all your materials are included, it’s three hours long and you get a purse to take away! I’d definitely be interested in making something else next time.

I can’t stress enough that if you’re new to Leeds, you’re self-employed or you just want to meet new people and get creative after working all day in an office job, I think these kind of workshops and classes are awesome. I know when I moved up north nearly five years ago now, I was aching for ways to meet people and put myself out there, without having to reach out to someone I barely knew and say “Hey man, let’s go for a coffee!” – this kind of thing would’ve been fab! 

Obviously, from February-ish my movements are going to be pretty restricted thanks to two little bundles of joy (aka tears, sick and poo) dropping into my life, but after the class Ruth emailed around the attendees and said she’d been thinking about putting some starter kits together including pre-cut and marked leather, a couple of the necessary tools, some thread and some dye etc – basically everything you need to get going at home, the way she did (Ruth isn’t formally trained, but discovered a talent for working with leather at a workshop and took things from there – v inspiring). I’m seriously considering investing and turning my dining room into a makeshift workshop between feeds and nappy changes… what do you think? Unrealistic?

Find Ruth over at her website ruthpullan.co.uk and on Instagram @ruthelizabethpullan.

Disclaimer: I’m a resident of Duke Studios and I’ve rented a workspace there for around three and a half years now. I absolutely love the place and was in no way paid or asked to recommend these sessions – I paid to attend with my own cash and just think there’s some great stuff on offer down there – check it out, and give me a wave through my studio window if you’re visiting!

2014 Leeds Food Highlights

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Zucco’s Deep Fried Zucchini At this particular moment I’m very excited. I’m lucky enough to have bagged a space at the bar at Zucco tonight, so Matt and I can ring in 2015 in style. And let me tell you, the anticipation is high. No big deal, but this year the Deep Fried Zucchini single-handedly changed my mind about courgettes. I know, who am I kidding? That’s a big deal. Until this year I thought they were slimy, spongey buggers with no place in my life. However, made by Zucco: dipped in milk, coated in flour, then deep fried and sprinkled with mint, I’m pretty sure I could live on them.

Zucco is my favourite restaurant in Leeds, hands down. Probably in the world, actually. During 2014 Matt and I have become regulars, all too often springing up on a Friday night a little bit drunk, without a reservation and begging for a table. The staff at Zucco are so friendly, so accommodating and always make room for us. They’re very knowledgable about the food they serve and so much of it is steeped in tradition, without being remotely old fashioned. Without doubt every time I go I order the same three dishes, leaving Matt to experiment. That’s the beauty of sharing plates, see. I don’t think he’s rumbled my tactics yet. Zucchini is always top of my list, alongside Arancini and Braised Beef Pappardelle. I could eat and drink at Zucco for the rest of my life and I’m pretty sure I’d never get bored. Throw in an Aperol Spritz to start and a Moscato to finish and I don’t think life could get any better.

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

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I didn’t have a pic of the beans, sorry. Here are two other delightful dishes from The Reliance

Green Beans with Shallots at The Reliance Oh, I love a side dish. I really do. They’re the glitter top coat of the culinary world. Let me start by saying that over the last year The Reliance has really risen up the ranks for me, I’d say it’s the best cooking in the city: forever reliable and never boring. Whether you drop in for a meatball sandwich at lunchtime or a full three courses plied with wine on an evening – the food, drinks and service are all consistently top notch. Somehow the food manages to be at once comforting and exciting, a place to take both fussy eaters and real food lovers alike. It’ll please your (my) “nothing foreign – well, Italian and French is ok… I suppose” parents as much as it’ll please the part of you that wants something a bit special on a Saturday night. Simplicity done exceptionally well seems hardly praise enough for this place but it’s the closest I can get. Green beans and shallots are just that, served in a cute pie dish in all of their seasonal glory, dripping with butter. Kale in Fig Salt is also a triumph, an extra worth getting excited about – whether you eat it with a humble plate of sausages and mash or a melting featherblade.

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

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Dirty Burger on the left, Colonel Patty and Session Fries on the right

Patty Smiths’ Dirty Burger It’s no bold claim that 2014 was the year of the burger for Leeds. This year Byron, MEATliquor, Almost Famous and Five Guys opened their doors in our fair city, alongside a new, independent offering from Boss Burgers in Hyde Park. Building on the success of their launch in 2013, Patty Smith’s – a concession at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen – have been producing consistently brilliant, dirty, oozy burgers all year round. Menu originals the Dirty Burger and the Big Ron remain staples, with The Colonel Patty – a deep fried chicken burger, and Session Fries – fries seasoned with lardons, jalapeños and parmesan, as recent additions well worth trying. My “when in doubt” lunch, the Dirty Burger is just what you want on a hangover or for a cheeky treat. It basically fits any mood. Sticky like that untouchable (dare I say it?) McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger, sweet and salty, it’s cooked pink and the juices run down your chin and you just don’t give a s**t. Nothing beats a good burger, after all. And Patty Smith’s is perfection in a paper wrapper.

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

GrubandGrog2014

Grub and Grog Shop Breakfast at Northern Monk Refectory Silly I know, but I see the Grub and Grog Shop residency at Northern Monk Brewing Co as some sort of urban fairytale. Having consumed their sandwiches, stews and cocktails for over a year, it’s really amazing to see their hard work and talent turn into a sparkly kitchen at the new brewery in Holbeck. At launch night when I set eyes on their menu it was breakfast that really caught my eye, and it’s quickly become one of my favourite places to visit over the past few months. Homemade crumpets made with the yeast from the beer brewed by Northern Monk downstairs, and Breakfast Buns stuffed with celeriac fritters, hash browns, eggs and roast tomato sauce are the stuff dreams are made of. In true G&G style, there are shedloads of veggie and vegan options, along with healthier Breakfast Bowls made up of porridge, granola or Birchir muesli. Prices are really reasonable and the space is beautiful – high ceilings, big windows and perfect sunlight when you roll in at 10am, plus the added bonus of a cloud of hoppy air that envelopes you when you walk through the door. Not to be missed. 

The Grub & Grog Shop Northern Monk Refectory, Marshalls Mill, Holbeck, Leeds LS11 9YJ | @grubandgrogshop

Bundobust Leeds 2014

Bundo Chaat top centre

Bundo Chaat at Bundobust On pretty much every most-loved list of 2014, it’s safe to say that the launch of Bundobust – a collaboration between Bradford’s craft beer pub The Sparrow and Drighlington’s award-winning vegetarian Indian restaurant Prashad – has been the Leeds success story of the year. A bustling bar with canteen style seating, it offers arguably the best beer selection in Leeds and matches them with little pots of Indian street food. Bundo is a great place to start a night out, or refuel as you hop from place to place. The Bundo Chaat is my must order everytime I visit – crunchy, sweet, sour and gently spicy. It’s made up of chickpeas, potato, tamarind chutney and crunchy samosa pastry and it’s like a bloody party in your mouth. The Masala Dosa is also pretty tops. A great place to take visiting friends and a real treat for veggies – a whole restaurant for them – imagine! A real highlight of 2014 for me, and I’ll keep going back.

Bundobust 6 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ @bundobust

The Fruit Stall, Chapel Allerton

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It’s probably become quite clear to people who know me, follow me on Twitter, see me about, that I love where I live. I mean, I really do. I’m a relative newcomer to suburban life, my move out of the city centre coincided with my wedding last September, but man have I adapted well. I’m fully into it. The neighbours, the local independent scene, my single piccolo at 9am every morning, served to me by my friendly neighbourhood barista. I’m one of those people now. Those inner city flats, they’re just so impersonal, aren’t they?! You can’t get asparagus fresh from the ground down there, can you! Those people just don’t understand what they’re missing. </patronising> Joking aside, I know you can shop independently in the city centre, but no one makes it easy for you. What I love about being in Chapel Allerton is that there are lovely, local people running lovely, local businesses everywhere. It’s great!

Anyway, I’m here to tell you about The Fruit Stall. It’s funny because it’s a shop, not a stall. But it was a stall. In the 18 months leading up to the opening in March, Richard set up his fruit and veg on Fridays and Saturdays under a canvas umbrella outside Yorkshire Bank on Stainbeck Lane. Now they have permanent premises in a unit just round the corner on Harrogate Rd, next to Neil the Butcher, so they can trade for longer hours and from a Wednesday through to Saturday.

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I’ve talked on the blog before about how, as I’ve got older, eating locally and seasonally has become much more important to me, so when I heard The Fruit Stall was expanding, I got pretty excited. It seemed like just the antidote the people of Chapel A needed, shortly after the announcement that a new Morrisons superstore was on it’s way. I mean, I’m not judging, I’m realistic: it’s easy to nip into the supermarket on your way home from work – they’re open late and they’re cheap. But the thing is, I believe that supermarkets have us missing out on the way things are supposed to be eaten and enjoyed. Personally, I don’t want to eat strawberries in February and asparagus in December. The supermarket confuses me. Everything is available all the time – and there’s a trade-off for that. Taste.  

That’s what I love about having The Fruit Stall so close to home. They stock what’s fresh. It’s out of the ground that morning, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Come September, those peaches are no where to be found and you just have to live with it until next June. Thing is though, there’s a silver lining: in return, you get plums. Modern day convenience, maybe not – but the taste comes back. Things are ripe, juicy. Shiny and green. You get what’s there at its very best, and I’m really into that.

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Way back in January I wrote about my philosophy on How to Eat Well. In that post, I explained that the way I operate is to buy little and often, what’s fresh and looks good. A little of what I fancy when I fancy it, if you will. It’s a very Nigel Slater way to be and it suits us in the Dix household. Annoyingly, it’s not the cheapest way to do things, and in some way it contradicts some of what we spoke about last week in Meal Planning. Buying day to day can be more expensive than planning ahead, but buying from independents can help keep that cost down. While a lot of local products are charged at a premium, what they sell at The Fruit Stall is amazing value for money. I rarely spend more than £3 a pop, and I still seem to have fresh fruit, veg and flowers at home for days. Packaged produce at the supermarket may have a longer shelf life, but the stuff grown around the corner is often bigger, rounder, brighter. All together, much more appealing.

I guess the purpose of this post is much the same as the purpose of my post on The Greedy Pig from a few weeks ago. I’m surrounded by a lot of people who have no qualms waxing lyrical about the sad state of local economy, but it’s those same people I see walking home with flame-orange Sainsbury’s bags every night. I’m not trying to vilify anyone, I don’t want to preach – after all, we all do it. I’m just here to slowly prod you, slowly coax you into visiting your local butcher, greengrocer, coffee shop, cafe, family-run restaurant. My generation is one of the first to become truly consumer driven – favouring cheap prices and bright, white warehouses over small spaces shrouded in passion, effort and history. Thankfully, there’s started to be a little backlash. If we make it a part of our routine to keep good, quality establishments in business, if we shake off that need to be anonymous as we browse but instead say hello as we hand over the cash, it should start to feel like second nature. Don’t you think?

/rant.  What do you think? Do you shop locally or do you see it as out of your price range right now?

The Fruit Stall 138 Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 4NZ | @TheFruitStall

Sharing the Love

Sharing the Love

 1. Food stylin’ in France 2. New comics 3. Dumplings in Birmingham 4. A weekend with at my sister & brother in law’s 5. Fried halloumi at Bill’s in Bristol 6. Frozen yogurt 7. Currently reading 8. He helps with my emails 9. PIE! 10. A mega mac n cheese last week 11. Cubanos at The Greedy Pig 12. Experimenting with pulled pork

Let’s talk about what’s been going on lately. Basically… work. I’ve been busy doing the boring bit of my life (writing skip hire websites and formatting spreadsheets) so that this week I can do more of the exciting stuff! I had an exciting styling job today and have another lined up for tomorrow, so I’m beavering away editing and planning for all that. I’m attempting to flesh out my portfolio a little so I can try and pitch for more food clients from now on, and it’s very nice to have those kind of prospects on the horizon.

France was awesome, by the way. It was amazing to spend some time with Karen from Lavender and Lovage and learn how she maintains such an inspiring blog which has become such a resource to aspiring cooks. She’s a real inspiration! I have LOADS of photos from that weekend and it’s taking me a little while to wade through them, but bear with me, there will be a post coming up soon sharing my experience. So much glorious food!

I’ve been working weekends and evenings for the last few weeks, so I’m looking forward to a break. My plans consist of reading The Goldfinch – I’ve started but haven’t been able to dedicate much time, so I’m only 50 pages in, finishing Top of the Lake – I’m currently on episode three and completely enthralled, and visiting Leeds Beer Festival this weekend. I don’t actually drink beer, but I’m looking forward to the food on offer, as always.

In other news, I’ve come up with a little redesign for Whip Until Fluffy, with help from the guys at Guide, so I’m getting pretty excited about launching that within the next week or so. There will only be a few simple changes, but hopefully it’ll make the blog a bit more pleasing to the eye. A few people have brought up problems with the font size before, so if you have any comments on the way you’d like the layout to change, I’d really appreciate reading them down in the comments.

Last night I ended up at the @MEATLiquorLDS launch party and by golly was it fun. I drank quite a lot of rum punch and munched on Tobacco Onions, deep fried pickles and really juicy burgers. I’ve visited the London restaurant a few times so I’ve been really looking forward to the launch, and the intro didn’t let me down. I’ll be back next week to try it out for real. 

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

Global Grasshopper shares her 10 Tips for Picture Perfect Travel Photography
The Content Marketer in me loved What 8th Graders Taught Me About Social Strategy by Victor Pineiro
My Life as a Magnolia Bakery Cupcake Bouncer was a fascinating read
THIS IS AMAZING. One of my favourite food blogs, Top with Cinnamon, has a BOOK. She’s 18!!!
I had a little cry at this: Ricky Gervais broke my heart.
I know I’ve scorned Courgetti (it’s not pasta, guys) but this simple recipe tempted me
Eggs Benedict Cumberbatch, need I say more?
Forget all of the drama, remember this stuff: I’ve been blogging for 8 freaking years
Jen shared her story of Getting a Tattoo Aged 28 – our tattooist Rebecca is awesome
Bridget shares this recipe for gluten free Corn & Chilli Biscuits. And hey, I love corn.
Some of us liked Chris Pratt before it was cool. This. So much this.
Lets all talk about how awesome JLaw is: 21 Photos of Jennifer Lawrence You Should Look at Instead
Cous Cous Bang Bang’s review of the Almost Famous on Great George Street had me LOLLING
Dine x Design has been my favourite blog for a few months now, and I love this post from cocktail pro Nathan Hazard
After a visit last weekend, it’s lovely to read Lyzi’s post on Bristol’s Best Bits – my hometown is a beaut
French Toast with Pear Chutney and Mascarpone. No words.
Rachel’s stay at citizenM Hotel in London made me seriously envious – must book in
I love what Tracy has done with the photos hanging around on her computer – inspirational!

I’ve got a couple of recipes coming up this week, plus a “day in the life” style post too. I have to apologise for keeping you waiting on that mac n cheese recipe, I’ve been struggling with the light in my house and wasn’t happy with the photographs. I’m going to remake the dish and shoot it again. It’s worth the wait, I promise! I’ve got a dessert coming up for you over the weekend.

What have you been up to recently?

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

Yorkshire Day with Le Creuset: Yorkshire Tea Ice Cream with Rhubarb Pickle

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle

Welcome to the weekend, everyone! I’m back with the final instalment of my Le Creuset Yorkshire Day menu, and it’s the perfect thing for you to rustle up while you’ve got a few days off: the devilish combo of a sweet Yorkshire Tea ice cream topped with a tart rhubarb pickle to cut through all that creaminess.

There are two local elements to this dish. Number one, that old faithful, Yorkshire Tea. Without a doubt, the best cuppa in the world. When I was brainstorming ideas for this menu and it came to the dessert course, it was really the only thing that kept popping into my head. But I wasn’t sure how to use it. I thought about cakes, biscuits, even panna cottas, but it wasn’t until I went down to the Le Creuset store to talk through my menu that the manager, Nick, suggested ice cream. “Wahey!” I said, “I’ve just bought a new ice cream maker!” and that was that.

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 2

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 3

The other ingredient I wanted to include was rhubarb, because up here in West Yorkshire we’ve got the Yorkshire Triangle, a 9 mile space between WakefieldMorley and Rothwell which once produced 90% of the world’s rhubarb through winter forcing sheds. Err… or something like that anyway, you can read more about that over on Wikipedia. Basically, there’s a lot of rhubarb around up here. Matt and I mess around with pickles quite a lot at home. They’re surprisingly easy to make and they add a different flavour dimension to a dish. Usually it’s cucumber or carrots for Vietnamese sandwiches, or red onions for cold meats. I wanted to do a pickle for this recipe because at the time of my demo we were right in the midst of the summer, it was warm and a hot, steaming pudding straight from the oven wasn’t really appealing to me. Something sharp and zingy to cut through all the richness of the ice cream is something that can split opinion, but I figured it was my last dish – go big or go home.

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 4

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 6

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 7

I want to post more about pickling and preserving here on Whip Until Fluffy. It’s something I’ve been slowly getting into since around last Christmas, after my husband bought me a crate of quilted Ball jars and an instruction manual called Canning for a New Generation. But the basics are: the longer you leave things to steep, the better, and if you’re intending to keep stuff longer than a day or two, sterilise your jars. I do this but putting the jar (and the lid) in a hot dishwasher cycle just before I plan to use them, but you can do it with boiling water or even a microwave.

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 9

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 8

This ice cream is a standard custard base which you need to cook through on the hob before churning and freezing. When it comes to ice cream, personally I don’t think you can’t really get by without a maker. You can make sorbets and granitas, anything with an icier consistency, but a machine is 100% necessary to achieve the velvety smooth texture you want from an ice cream. I recently bought a KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment, which is a little pricey and makes two quarts instead of the standard one, but I survived for a few years with this Kenwood £24.99 jobby.

Ready to roll? Let’s go!

Yorkshire Tea Ice Cream with Rhubarb Pickle (makes 6-8 portions)

nb. the reason I use golden caster sugar instead of regular is simply because I prefer the flavour – especially in the ice cream. It adds a deeper, caramelised flavour to the final product, but this recipe will work just as well with normal caster or even granulated sugar.

For the Pickle:

1 Stem of Rhubarb, chopped into rough cubes
½ Cup of Water
½ Cup of White Wine Vinegar
½ Cup of Balsamic Vinegar
½ Cup of Golden Caster Sugar
1 tsp Black Pepper Corns
½ tsp Whole Cloves

For the Ice Cream:

1 Cup of Whole Milk
2 Cups of Double Cream
⅔ Cup of Golden Caster Sugar
6 Yorkshire Gold Tea Bags
5 Egg Yolks
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1. In a medium sized pan, heat the water for the pickle over a low heat. When it’s steaming but not quite boiling, add the vinegars and then dump in the sugar. Whisk it a little to distribute the sugar into to the water and help it dissolve. Throw in the peppercorns and cloves and bring to the boil. Let the mix boil for around a minute, then take the pan off the heat.

2. Throw in the chopped rhubarb and let sit for 30 seconds. Use a spoon to transfer the rhubarb to a sterilised jar, then top up with the pickling liquid. Seal and set aside for later.

3. Clean your medium pan and put it back on the hob, add the milk and cream for the ice cream. Next, whisk in the sugar. Use a low heat and keep an eye on it, never letting it boil. When the milk is steaming, take the pan off the heat and add the teabags to the milk. Leave to steep for 20 minutes.

4. When the milk mix is strong enough (it’ll be a light caramel colour), remove the teabags and place it back over a low heat to warm. Separate your eggs and whisk the yolks together in the bowl with the vanilla extract. When the milk is steaming again, add two tbsp of the milk to your egg mix, whisking quickly to incorporate. Add a little more of the milk mix, a few spoonfuls at a time until about half is mixed through. Add the rest and give it a good whisk.

5. Transfer to the pan and place back on the heat. You need to stay with it, stirring constantly over a medium heat, scraping the sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens into a custard and coats the back of a spoon – if in doubt, stick with it, it may take 10-15 minutes, but you’ll know when it starts to thicken properly.

nb. If you taste your custard at this point, it’s going to be very sweet, very creamy and very eggy. Don’t let this worry you. The freezer dulls its flavour, so think about how sweet you want it to be as a finished product, and turn it up by half again.

6. Strain the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps and place in the fridge to cool. It needs at least 4-6 hours to get to the right temperature.

7. Churn and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions – I churned once and transferred to a clip top tupperware container. Place it back into the freezer for 2-3 hours to firm up. At this point, take your rhubarb pickle and taste it. Adjust with a little more sugar, vinegar or spice to suit.

8. Remove from the fridge 10-15 minutes before serving for the perfect consistency. Serve a single scoop of Yorkshire Tea ice cream in a small bowl with a tbsp of rhubarb pickle drizzled over the top.

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 10

Le Creuset Yorkshire Day Yorkshire Tea and Rhubarb Pickle 11

I served single scoops of this stuff in Le Creuset Ramekins. I have some myself at home and they’re a good size for individual dessert portions, and anything like dips or sauces – a little deeper than your standard ramekin. They’re completely oven proof up to 260ºc so they’re perfect for little chocolate fondants, bread and butter puddings and baked cheesecakes. You can buy them in sets of two for £16.

So that concludes my Yorkshire Day menu. Thanks for sticking with me! I was so pleased with how the cookery demo went, and I’ve had news since that they may be having me back around Christmas time. If so, I’ll be sure to let you guys know so you can get on the guest list. On a bit of a self-reflective note, I really surprised myself with my organisational and public speaking skills and I learned a lot about what I’m capable of. I’d love to do more of this kind of thing in the future. I just want to say a quick thank you to Le Creuset themselves, especially Nick, Mark and Sam from the Leeds store, the Victoria Quarter who helped set up this lovely event, as well as all the ladies who attended and the wonderful Jen for taking my photos for me. Please click through to some of the posts below to see what other people thought!

Lorna: Yorkshire Day with Le Creuset
Kathryn: Cooking with Le Creuset
Amy Liz: Yorkshire Day with Le Creuset

Disclaimer: I’m working as Le Creuset Leeds’ blogger ambassador. As laid out in this post, I adore the brand and have plunged much of my hard earned cash into building my collection, long before Whip Until Fluffy was even a twinkle in my eye. In exchange for cooking for some bloggers on Yorkshire Day, the brand offered me a handsome discount on future purchases (and a fantastic experience!) – but no gifts or payments were exchanged for this, or any other, post.

Yorkshire Day with Le Creuset: Spanish Spiced Chicken with Yorkshire Salami

Yorkshire Day Spanish Spiced Chicken

Hello again! Today I’m back with the main course from my Yorkshire Day menu, served up for my cookery demonstration at the Le Creuset store in the Victoria Quarter. For the starter recipe, check out Monday’s post: Courgette Risotto.

The thinking behind this dish, is that I wanted to again show the versatility of my Le Creuset 30cm casserole dish. I’ve spoken so much about this dish since I bought it, and it really is such a useful item to have in your kitchen. It’ll go from the hob, into the oven and, from there, straight to the table. And it’s roomy enough to cook for a whole family. One pot chicken dishes are two a penny in our house, they’re an easy tea option for either a weeknight, or to feed friends. The same basic recipe can be adapted with loads of different spices and extras to keep things different. In February, I made a similar thing with One Pot Spiced Chicken with Smashed Squash, Sweet Potato and Charred Cauliflower.

Yorkshire Day Spanish Spiced Chicken Yorkshire Day Spanish Spiced Chicken

This time, as I was cooking on show and I had a limited timescale, I chose the simple spice combination of cumin seeds and paprika. These spices lend themselves well to a slow, warming heat but nothing too eye-watering. They give the dish character without blowing anyone’ s head off. This type of dish will pretty much take as many ingredients as you fancy. You can pack it with all different types of veg and carbs. It works well with jerk seasoning, or cajun spices, rice and black eyed peas – Caribbean style, or with sausage, cider and butter beans for something more mild.

The local element of this dish (although I bought the veg locally also), is the salami. It turns out Yorkshire is somewhat of a hotspot for cured meats. While you can get official Yorkshire Chorizo, made on Church End Farm in Skipton, which I’ve used before, I went for a salami cured at The Reliance – a pub on the outskirts of Leeds town centre which I mentioned in my Where to Eat in Leeds post. Dried and cured on site, they offer two flavours: Fennel and Chilli & Black Pepper. I referred to this as chorizo throughout my demonstration, which it isn’t (whoops), but the salami works in very much the same way – with the same texture, just less spice. Salami lets out oil, much in the same way as chorizo does, but a little less, and with a much meatier flavour. If I were making this dish with supermarket ingredients, I’d use chorizo and use slightly less paprika in my spice mix, as supermarket chorizo contains more fat and therefore lets out much more spiced oil.

Yorkshire Day Spanish Spiced Chicken Yorkshire Day Spanish Spiced Chicken

The biggest thing to be aware of when you’re cooking this dish is texture. Each element needs a bit of special treatment to keep the textures as they should be. For the chicken, crispy skin is a must. For the salami, the outside needs caramelising to save things getting too chewy. Potatoes must be cooked through and the green beans must be crunchy. That’s why, the browning process, though it seems time consuming, is important. Be patient, it doesn’t add much time on and the dish will taste so much better.

Spanish Spiced Chicken with Yorkshire Salami (makes enough for 4 sharing)

5 Shallots or 1 Large/2 Small Onions
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Sprigs of Thyme
2 tbsp Smoked Paprika
2 tbsp Cumin Seeds, crushed
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
1 Whole Chicken, jointed or 4 thighs & 4 legs skin-on
300g Salami or Chorizo
2 Large Handfuls of Jersey Royal Potatoes
250g Trimmed Green Beans
500g Chicken Stock

1. Chop the salami into chunks and put it into a dry pan. Place on a medium heat and leave for five minutes, flipping the pieces over once to get a nice caramelisation on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Add your chicken pieces, skin side down into the pan with the oil from the salami. Again, leave for five minutes to brown. Only the skin side needs to be browned. Don’t worry about the chicken being pink on the inside, we’re just colouring it, not cooking it through. When the skin turns a golden brown, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

3. For this kind of dish, I like to chop my onions a little chunkier than usual. Thicker onion slices will add another texture element to the dish. Chop or slice your onions roughly and place them in the pan (now complete with salami and chicken juices) on a low heat. Sweat them down for five minutes until they are just starting to soften and add finely chopped garlic and thyme leaves. Cook for another five minutes.

4. In a small bowl, mix the paprika, cumin seeds (crush or finely chop these before), salt and pepper together and add your olive oil. Mix to turn it into a paste. Transfer this paste to the pan and combine with onions. When the spices are mixed in and the onions are simmering, pour in the white wine vinegar. This bit of liquid serves to deglaze the pan. Scrape your spatula along the bottom to make sure you catch all those delicious brown parts, adding flavour to what will become the sauce and reducing it down into a concentrated liquor. You can do this with booze too, a glass of white wine would do, or staying with the Spanish theme, a sherry. At a push, you can use a little splash of stock to do this.

5. When most of the liquid has disappeared, slice your new potatoes lengthways and place them flesh side down into your pan, making sure they make contact with the bottom. Direct contact with the surface of the pan will build up a bit of a crust, and cutting the potatoes lengthways means they’ll cook through quicker – meaning there’s no need to par-boil them.

6. Begin to layer up the browned salami and then the chicken on top of that, making sure the skin is facing up. Pour stock into the pan so it covers the potatoes. Stop there, as any liquid covering the chicken will prevent it from browning and going crispy in the heat of the oven. Let it simmer on the hob for five minutes.

7. Place into a oven preheated to 180ºc on the middle shelf. Place the lid on but slightly cocked, to let a little bit of steam out. Prep your beans and after 30 minutes, remove the lid and scatter the beans over. Cook for a further 25-30 minutes and transfer straight to the table. Serve out of the pan, family style.

With this type of recipe, you don’t need to worry too much about over or under cooking the chicken. After around 40 mins the chicken will be moist and perfectly cooked through. A little extra time won’t make the meat lose its tenderness because of the liquid in the pot. Don’t be scared, it’ll be delicious – in life, there are plenty of things to be precise about, but this dish isn’t one of them!

Yorkshire Day Spanish Spiced Chicken Yorkshire Day Spanish Spiced Chicken

Because the only pan and dish needed for this recipe is the 30cm casserole, I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about some of the other Le Creuset items I used during my cooking demo – things you wouldn’t necessarily think of when it comes to Le Creuset. First up, the Cool Tools. I have a few of these in my kitchen and I can’t tell you how useful they are. They’re pretty straight forward really, a heat proof mat that will protect your work surfaces and dining table even if your pot comes straight from a scorching oven. They’re reliable, they look goo and they don’t retain heat, so you won’t burn yourself. The Round Cool Tool is just £7 and the perfect companion for the 30cm Casserole, plus you can coordinate them with your cookware!

Next up, the Chef’s Apron (£30) and Double Oven Gloves (£19). Now, I know that these aren’t the kind of things that normally make you excited to spend your money, but make an investment in them and they’ll become a solid part of your kitchen kit. Thick, reliable and good quality, spending the extra cash beats buying multiples in the supermarket and burning your hands when they start to wear out. I don’t own either of these yet, but I plan on buying both soon. The apron is comfortable to wear, despite it’s thick material, the double waistbands are flattering and there are four (FOUR!) pockets, for you know, storing stuff. Available in Cerise, Cassis, Cream, Black, Coastal Blue and Nutmeg.

Yorkshire Day Spanish Spiced Chicken

On Friday, I’m back with the final course of my Yorkshire Day menu. It’s a staple recipe you can adapt to suit your needs, perfect for summer, with little unusual extra too: Yorkshire Tea Ice Cream with Rhubarb Pickle. See you soon!

Disclaimer: I’m working as Le Creuset Leeds’ blogger ambassador. As laid out in this post, I adore the brand and have plunged much of my hard earned cash into building my collection, long before Whip Until Fluffy was even a twinkle in my eye. In exchange for cooking for some bloggers on Yorkshire Day, the brand offered me a handsome discount on future purchases (and a fantastic experience!) – but no gifts or payments were exchanged for this, or any other, post.

Yorkshire Day with Le Creuset: Courgette Risotto

Courgette Risotto

A few weeks back, I designed and cooked a Yorkshire Day menu for a demonstration at the Le Creuset store in Leeds Victoria Quarter. Today, I’m sharing the recipe for the starter: Courgette Risotto! This was the first cookery demonstration I’ve done, and I was lucky enough to have the plush surroundings of the luxury French cookware brand we all know I’m obsessed with. It was nerve racking, and not something I’d ever seen myself doing, but could I turn down such a great opportunity? No way. Le Creuset coached me every step of the way, and luckily, there were a lovely bunch of ladies in attendance. In fact, I couldn’t have asked for a better audience – and I actually enjoyed it, having previously thought I’d burn at least 10 tea towels, all of my fingers and, just possibly, the whole place down. Turns out I’m one step closer to basically being Rachel Khoo (no?… ok maybe not).

Let’s talk about the food. I’m one of those people who finds cooking therapeutic. Which I guess is obvious, otherwise I wouldn’t do it so much. Risotto, however, is probably the most therapeutic dish to make, with a slow bubble and methodical stir that will calm worries and soothe stress. It’s also great to make for a group – one pot means little washing up and it can bubble away while you stand by with your spatula looking pretty. It can be served as a starter or, in larger portions, as a main. It’s versatile, innit. That’s part of the reason I chose it as my first dish to make in front of a room of people. And I’m glad I did – it went down pretty well, and I somehow managed to channel a bit of its laid back Italian charm.

Yorkshire Courgette Risotto

It’s natural to think of risotto as a winter dish. But personally, I see it as the perfect vehicle for the fresh, zingy flavours of summer. Served in small portions, a risotto really doesn’t have to be heavy, which is why I chose it as a starter for my Yorkshire Day menu. Forget the traditional pairings of meaty mushrooms and chunky root veg – just stick with the seasonal veg and herbs of the warmer months and you’ll be reet. Another thing I don’t agree with: that risotto is a labour of love. That phrase is so loaded. Yes, it needs your attention, but it doesn’t have to take hours. In fact, using the 30cm shallow casserole I’m so prone to banging on about, it takes little over half an hour. The method is easy once you know how, and pretty soon you’ll be whipping these bad boys up like it’s second nature.

CourgetteRisotto1

As with everything great, it starts with onions. You can use small onions, or even shallots. Shallots will give you a slightly sweeter flavour that will work well with the more delicate citrus notes in this recipe. Onions and shallots, like risotto, need some lovin’.  Dice them small and soften them over a low heat with a little oil and a little butter, for anything up to 30 minutes. They’ll be sweet, soft and translucent. Add garlic and thyme and you have a perfect base. Next up is the rice. It’s deceiving. Just a cup of the dried stuff will feed six people starter sized portions and probably leave you some left-overs. So many times I’ve just poured Arborio rice into the pan willy-nilly, but be warned: that stuff expands. Add a cup of your rice to the pan and move it around. You want to coat each grain in the oil, get it all up in those juicy onions. Cook it out for around five minutes, stirring continually, and you’ll notice it starts to go translucent around the edges. At that point, you’re ready to add your wine.

CourgetteRisotto3

The wine I used for the Yorkshire Day risotto was a bit special. Made in Leventhorpe, the dry white is ideal for this dish because the acidity is a great balancing flavour paired with the creaminess of the rice and cheese. Starting with a large glass and reducing it down until almost gone, it’ll deglaze the pan, soak up all the flavour from the onions and the taste of the wine lingers on the rice while the alcohol cooks off. The wine, along with the courgettes and lemon, really go a long way to keeping this dish light and summery, despite the robust base. If you don’t want to use alcohol in your cooking then you can deglaze the pan with white wine vinegar, which will also add some acidity. In a pinch, you can even use stock.

Alongside the wine, the real star of the show here is the Ribblesdale Goats Cheese. Usually a risotto is made with Parmesan, a hard Italian cheese I’m sure we’re all familiar with. I wanted to see if, in the spirit of Yorkshire Day, I could get a local cheese in there instead. As always, when I’ve got a cheese-based query (and trust me, they crop up a lot) I head straight to my local cheesemonger, the lovely George & Joseph I’m Chapel Allerton. They were more than happy to help me and when I requested a Yorkshire equivalent to Parmesan, they suggested Ribblesdale Goats Cheese. A hard cheese, it still has a rich, creamy texture, but it grated perfectly into the risotto, not overpowering the way a softer cheese might be, but leaving behind a residual flavour and saltiness slightly more interesting than your typical Parmesan.

CourgetteRisotto2

When plating up I topped each portion with ribbons of fresh courgette and crushed, toasted pine nuts. Not only does it make for a very pretty finish, but it also adds a touch of freshness and a much needed bit of crunch to an otherwise soft, rich dish.

Yorkshire Day Courgette Risotto with Leventhorpe Wine & Ribblesdale Goats Cheese
(makes enough for six starter portions or three mains)

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes

5 shallots or 1 large/2 small onion
2 garlic cloves
3 sprigs of thyme
Approx 130g Arborio Rice
1 large glass of dry white wine
750ml of chicken stock (the best quality you can afford)
2 large/4 small courgettes
Approx 150g (a large handful) of Ribblesdale Goats Cheese, grated
2 heaped tbsps of pine nuts
½ a fresh lemon

1. Dice your shallots and soften over a low heat with a small nob of butter and a splash of oil. After ten minutes, add crushed garlic and thyme leaves, roughly chopped. Soften for another five minutes until translucent. In another frying pan, pour in the pine nuts. Set over a high heat and keep an eye on them.

2. Add your rice to the pan and stir well to coat each grain with oil. Leave to cook for 3-4 minutes – when ready, the grains will turn translucent around the edges. At the same time, take the pine nuts off the heat and set aside.

3. Turn up the heat and immediately pour in the white wine. Leave to simmer and reduce by more than half, leaving just a tablespoon or two of liquid in the pan.

4. Add your first ladle of stock. Try to resist the urge to keep stirring. A little movement is fine, but messing with your rice constantly will make it more starchy, leaving it with a gloopier texture. When the risotto is ready, you’ll start to see bubbles forming on the surface of the rice. When you move the rice around in the pan, it should stay in the same place, not spreading to the drier parts of the pan.

5. Repeat this process, tasting the rice after each ladle of stock. Use a y-peeler to create ribbons for the top of dish, five to eight should be about right. Grate the rest of your courgette. The rice should take around five ladles worth of stock – you want it to be soft on the outside with a slight bite left at the centre. Tasting after each ladleful will help you get used to how your risotto should be, so you don’t miss that vital point when it’s at its most perfect.

6. After the final ladle, your risotto should be able to stand on its own. If you piled it up, it shouldn’t start to spread to the sides of your plate, but maintain its form. If it’s too wet, keep it on the heat for a bit longer. Chuck in your courgette and turn the heat down to low. Add the grated cheese and stir through. Turn off the heat and let it melt for a few minutes in the pan.

7. It’s unlikely you’ll need to add salt to the risotto because the cheese, especially if you’re using Parmesan in place of goats cheese, has a high salt content as well as the stock. Serve up, top with courgette ribbons and toasted pine nuts. To finish, I drizzled over a little Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil with Lemon, but if that’s not within your reach, try a squeeze of fresh lemon juice instead – mmm zingy! Enjoy!

CourgetteRisotto6

CourgetteRisotto7

I served up my portions of risotto to the girls in the Le Creuset Tapas Dishes, part of the World Cuisine collection. I love these babies and they’re probably going to end up as my next purchase. Perfect for sharing style dishes stretching across all cuisines. Available in Volcanic (pictured), Cerise and Satin Black for £14 each.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with the simple chicken dish I made for the main on Yorkshire Day, but in the mean time, check out posts from some of the lovely attendees: Kat Got the Cream and Life by LDE – gorgeous ladies who just may have caught the Le Creuset bug.

Disclaimer: I’m working as Le Creuset Leeds’ blogger ambassador. As laid out in this post, I adore the brand and have plunged much of my hard earned cash into building my collection, long before Whip Until Fluffy was even a twinkle in my eye. In exchange for cooking for some bloggers on Yorkshire Day, the brand offered me a handsome discount on future purchases (and a fantastic experience!) – but no gifts or payments were exchanged for this, or any other, post.