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 withJen, 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.
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 andNoisette 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. If you love the coffee the smart choice for protecting coffee from flavor-zapping light, moisture and oxygen. These stainless steel coffee canister lock in flavor and vent away damaging co2 that coffee naturally produces. 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.
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
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
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
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
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.
This week, my second official recipe for the Yogurt Council went live. This time, I attempted to tackle savoury, and while yogurt marinated meat is always a hit (chicken marinated in yogurt, for example, makes for the tenderest bird EVAH), I wanted to think outside of the box and produce something there wasn’t a million recipes on the internet for already.
The flavours of North Africa are among my favourites. An easy go-to dinner for me is pretty much anything with couscous and a sprinkling of paprika, maybe a dollop of harissa, some sumac or pomegranate jewels. Yogurt goes had in hand with all this stuff, a no-fuss way to cool the spice. These meatballs pack a lot of warmth, so I created a yogurt and cucumber dressing as well as using yogurt to create soft, pillowy flatbreads. Sweet peppers, shallots and kalamata olives balance this dish and make it a very satisfying treat for lunch or tea.
Does anyone else think this ball of dough looks like a baby dinosaur’s head? Or am I just extra weird today?
Roll those babies out
I’ve made these flatbreads in various forms a lot over the past year or so. They don’t need much kneading, time to prove or work – just mix up, roll out and dry fry in a pan. For these, I used half white flour, half wholemeal, but plain white works well too, alongside dough studded with cumin seeds and raisins too. You can also skip the Moroccan feel and eat these without the spices, stuffed with asian glazed pork meatballs as a kind of cross between a kebab and a bao. These flatbreads, and soda bread, are my go-to quick bakes if I want a carby hit with tea but potatoes and rice don’t fit.
Disclaimer: As part of my #YogurtStylist win back in June, I was asked to work with the Yogurt Council from Love Yogurt UK to provide three recipes showing off how versatile and practical yogurt can be as an ingredient. This is the second in the series, the third if you include the recipe I won with. Read about my win and what I received here: Courgette & Yogurt Loaves: A Recipe for the Yogurt Council
I’ve had a bit of a challenging time at work lately. Over the May bank holiday, I launched my freelance website, CopyStorm. I’ve been busy anyway, working all sorts of hours (and a lot of weekends!) to keep up, but with the new site on top of that, things got a little crazy. Matt was away a few weekends ago, frying up a storm with Fish& on Liverpool Dock, so I was alone in the evenings. During the day I had to work and clearly Saturdays are not the ideal time to be slaving over your laptop, especially when the sun is out. As the afternoon rumbled on I became convinced that I owed it to myself to get a takeaway as a reward. I’d worked so hard after all. You deserve it, said the voice in my head. You need a treat for the weekend. And I nearly did it.
Thing is, sometimes, you deserve a takeaway, if that’s your thing. I am a firm believer that if sweet & sour pork or a battered sausage and chips is the way you give yourself a pat on the back,that’s fine. As a diabetic though, sometimes that’s stupid. Not always. But sometimes. So on this particular weekend, and for no apparent reason, my blood sugars were running the highest they’ve been in a while and despite treatment, they just didn’t want to come down and stay there. I gave myself a stern talking to and I went to the Co-op instead of the chip shop. I bought a courgette and an aubergine, some tomatoes, and I set some minced beef from the freezer to defrost. At first, I was miserable about it, but by the time I served up, I felt pretty smug. Just call me Saint Lil. Careful of my halo now!
So, Italian food. It’s not exactly a carb counter’s dream. It’s rich, it’s delicious, and by golly is it mostly made of flour. I had a hankering for bolognese, so I started with that. Matt and I have worked together on what we think is the perfect beefy ragu for almost the entire time we’ve been together. I think, after about four years, we now have it down to a fine art. It needs a bit of time. Eight hours if you have it. If not, four’ll do. It’s a long wait, but it’s worth it. It’s a delight: the perfect, methodical thing to do when you’re stressed, or if you just want to time-out for a while. Prep, throw everything in, and leave it to bubble away. At the finish line you’ll be left with a dark, silky sauce fit for kings. And your house will smell heavenly.
So this recipe is low-carb. To keep my blood sugar levels from unexpected spikes, I decided to skip the pasta. I’d just like to clarify that I don’t find this kind of thing easy. For reference, I’m not on board with “squashetti” or “courgetti”. Cauliflower “rice”? No thank you. With all the respect in the world, ain’t nobody got time for that. Well, at least, I haven’t got time for that. Aubergine slices in place of your carb, though? That’s legit. And it’s easy! The only form of carbohydrate in this dish comes with the béchamel sauce, and if you’re really feeling angelic, you can replace the plain flour with an alternative thickener, and use soya or almond milk in place of your regular cow juice. For me though, one heaped tablespoon of flour and 400ml of semi-skimmed split between six portions is good enough to slip through the net.
Aubergine Lasagne (makes enough for six portions)
1 Large or 2 Small Aubergines
For the ragu:
2 Celery Stalks
1 Large Carrot
2 Cloves of Garlic
400g Beef Mince
250ml Red Wine
400ml Beef Stock
1 Punnet of Plum Tomatoes (between 250 & 400g)
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp Nutmeg
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1. Approximately 8 hours before you plan on serving, dice the onions, celery and carrot. Place a heavy-bottomed casserole pot on a low heat and add some oil (about 2tbsp if you’re the measuring kind). There’s no need to wait for it to heat up, so just chuck in your onion and cook for around 5 minutes – until it starts to turn translucent. Throw in your celery, then 3 minutes after that, your carrots. Add your garlic too – you can crush it if you fancy, but I can never be bothered to wash up the grinder – so a rough chop will do.
2. After your veg has softened (around 5 minutes), turn your heat up to medium, clear a space in the middle of the pan and add your diced pancetta. The only reason I like to get pan-bottom-on-pancetta-action is that you get a nice golden crust on the edges of the meat. Let the pancetta crisp up and when it’s nearly done, stir it through the veg.
3. Next up is mince, repeat the process – trying to get a bit of surface area contact – until all the pinkness has disappeared. Pour 100ml of milk over your meat – this may seem weird, but it’s one of the secrets to such a rich and unctuous sauce. Let it bubble away with the heat on high until there’s barely anything left. Stir in the bay leaf, nutmeg , salt and pepper.
4. Add your tomatoes, sliced lengthways into 2 halves. Cover with red wine. Repeat the same process you went through with the milk, letting it bubble and reduce by two thirds. It’ll take 5-10 minutes depending on the heat from your hob, gas versus electric etc. If you can’t get fresh tomatoes, add one tin of chopped tomatoes instead. There’s no problem with that, but I think the fresh ones just elevate your sauce slightly – ramping the sweetness up a notch. Put the kettle on.
5. Give the mix a stir while you wait for the kettle to boil. When it’s ready, pour 400ml of water over a beef stock cube in a jug or bowl and whisk quickly to dissolve it. Pour in the stock. Turn the heat as low as it will go and set the lid on your pot at a jaunty angle, leaving a small gap for the steam to escape. Step away and let your bolognese do its thing. Check on it every now and then and give it a stir. Top up with a bit of water if it looks a little dry around the 6 hour mark.
6. When you ragu is done, preheat your oven to 180ºc. Then, melt 50g butter in a saucepan. Add in the 35g flour and stir, to make a roux. The mixture should form a thick, beige paste. Keep it moving over a low heat for a minute or two, and bit by bit pour the milk over. Do this slowly and your sauce should thicken as you stir, leaving you with a consistency that should easily coat the back of a spoon. As the sauce bubbles on the stove top on the lowest heat possible, grate your block of parmesan. Take approximately 75% of it and fold it through your sauce. Stir in the nutmeg and salt (don’t be tempted to add more, parmesan itself has a high salt content) before removing it from the heat and setting aside.
7. Slice the aubergine in approximately 0.5cm rounds. Move quickly so it doesn’t colour. Begin to layer the lasagne, starting with bolognese on the bottom, then a thin layer of béchamel, followed by aubergine slices. Repeat the ragu, béchamel, aubergine layering until you fill your dish. Make sure the top layer is béchamel, and then scatter over the remaining parmesan.
8. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top. Garnish with torn basil leaves.
While you’re playing the long game, listening to that beauty bubbling on the stove, you’re going to need something to tide you over. I’ve talked on the blog before about my love for Zucco, a restaurant not far from where I live which serves Italian small plates. One of my three regular orders there is the Deep Fried Zucchini with Mint. I thought I’d have a crack at replicating it at home. I’m having a bit of a courgette moment right now. It’s near on my favourite vegetable at this time of year. I can’t get enough!
Deep fried courgette slices with fresh mint (makes enough for two sharing)
nb. there’s an egg in these pics. I started making this recipe, breading the slices with flour, then egg, then flour. It was a little too claggy and thick for me, so I dropped the egg. After I’d made this, I went back to Zucco – they’d seen my tweet about this recipe and told me the secret is to use milk and flour instead – next time!
1 Large Courgette
80g Plain Flour
1 tsp Rock Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper
½ tsp Nutmeg
6 Fresh Mint Leaves
1. In a shallow bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
2. Slice your courgette. I stuck to approximately the thickness of a 20p piece, you need a little bite or you’ll end up with crisps. Chop each round in half so you have semi-circles.
3. Roll your courgette slices, a handful at a time, in the flour mixture. While you’re doing this, heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed, deep frying pan.
4. When your oil is up to temperature (stick a wooden utensil in – the handle of a wooden spoon, maybe – the oil should bubble gently around the handle) drop in your courgette slices. Be careful not to overcrowd your pan.
5. It should take around 5 minutes for your slices to start browning around the edges. When they’re nicely coloured, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and set them on a couple of pieces of kitchen paper. Repeat with the next batch.
6. Dress your slices with a sprinkle of rock salt, pepper and a slug of olive oil. Chop your mint and throw it in. Toss them around for an even covering. Serve warm.
It’s a big meal – but when it comes to carbs, it’s pretty virtuous. I’ll be making this time and again in the future. Happy feasting!
Got any tips and tricks to share about lasagne making, carb-swapping or courgettes? Share them with me in the comments or over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy.
Last week, friends, I ate three burgers in six days. Let me tell you about it.
Original Fry Up Material turned up at the December changeover of Trinity Kitchen. They’re currently mid-way through a double stint, which means they’re here until February 23rd. Obviously, their main shtick is breakfast. In their own words “ace all-day and on-the-go breakfasts inspired by our respect for the great British fry up with a little soul and celebration of brunch culture from across the pond” (KERB). I’ll tell you now, I’m yet to taste the AM offerings. But I do have a date lined up next week, so don’t panic. I’ll report back.
So OFM also serve burgers. There are four on offer. The Cheesy and The Veggie come in at £6. The Sweetsmoke and The Bacon Blue, more specialist if you will, come in a little pricier at £7.50. I’ve had a Sweetsmoke, and the Bacon Blue…twice. I’m a devil for that blue, let me tell ya. Late last year, I touched on my criteria for a winning burger in my review of RARE. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Both the texture and taste of the Bacon Blue were eye-rollingly, heart-singingly perfect. I am genuinely salivating just thinking about it. I don’t take perfection lightly – burgers are some srs bznz, after all, and everyone is different. I have friends, for example, who turn a bit pale at the idea of a burger being pink in the middle. Some folk may look for a bit more structure. Some prefer a crustier bun. You get my point. That’s cool. But for me… man. This is it.
Everything is buttery soft, with gloriously caramalised edges to add a bit of chew without having to do any real work. The bun is a pillowy brioche with a gleaming, glazed dome that collapses in your hands as you chomp. The meat is packed loosely and it’s juicy. Pink, but not in a scary way. So juicy, in fact, that it’s hard to get through the whole burger without it disintegrating in your hands. On our first visit, my friend ate the second half of hers with a damascus chef knife and fork. She is quite a classy lady, but still, this was necessity not choice. Juice ran down our chins, melted cheese dripped down our fingers, we all shut up.
I love this burger. So much. I thought it might be a fluke, so I went back. You know, just to test. IT WAS THE SAME, GUYS.
I think the Bacon Blue is the best burger I have ever eaten. The Sweetsmoke is good, but a little sickly for me. Still 10x better than 90% of the other burgers I’ve eaten, though. The title of my best burger is perhaps contested by a small joint in Seattle called Lil’ Woody’s. Classic burgers, served on their lonesome without meal deals and pointless garnishes, just wrapped in wax coated paper and served in a red plastic basket. One of the best single mouthfuls I ate during our 3 week long gastronomic adventure across the Atlantic last September. OFM’s offering is not dissimilar in attitude. The only side on the menu is chips. As much as I love onion rings, fried pickles and all that jazz (and trust me, I really do) that simple choice signifies that they have their priorities where they should be, with the burgers. I’ve heard complaints that the chips are too salty. For me they’re just fine, delicious in fact, but I’m a chronic over-seasoner. If you’re touchy about your salt, ask them to go easy. It’s also worth noting that the produce used to make everything on OFM’s menu while they’re in Leeds is 100% self-sourced from Yorkshire. There’s also an OFM “FryPA” on offer for all those after a craft beer, made in partnership with The Great Yorkshire Brewery. What more could you ask for? Well… the staff dress like quirky butchers. Just sayin’.
Now, coming in at a similar price to local competitors Reds True Barbecue and Nation of Shopkeepers, I do think OFM is a little expensive. £10 for a burger with chips is a restaurant price for a meal in a place which is no doubt cool, but still undeniably a food court. Having said that, I understand that something is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. And I am definitely willing to pay for it. I spent £22.50 on burgers last week alone, which is retrospectively maybe a little bonkers. It does prove though that I think they’re worth the buck. There are ways to cut corners, chips are £2.50 but the portion is huge. My friends and I fell into the trap on our first visit of buying a portion each but you can happily share.
In short, get your wallets out and grab ’em quick. These burgers are only here for another month and if, like me, you plan to get at least five in before they go, you’re going to have to get a move on.
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!
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)
4 Slices of Crusty Bread
Chopped Parsley to Garnish
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.
Lil | Leeds | Big Eater
Hey, I'm Lil. I'm a freelance food and drink consultant living in Leeds, West Yorkshire. My life revolves around my next meal, and this is where I come to talk about it.
Whip Until Fluffy is also where I share my recipes and practice my styling & photography skills. I'm a new mum to twin girls Nina and Ada, so there'll be a bit of parenting chat, plus a good ol' ramble about things I like and places I visit.
For now, take a look around, but if you fancy a chat you can find more of me via the channels below.