Seasonal

Day to Day

Day by Day September

Woah, long time no speak pals! Sorry for the near three week silence, I’ve been busy. The babies are getting more demanding by the day – chatting, squeaking, rolling and ~trying~ to crawl, so come 6.30pm every night, I’m well and truly knackered. I’ve also started picking up a bit more work again, so my days are fuller than ever. Here’s what’s been going on:

Reading: The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman. I’m finding that my Kindle means I’m reading things I’d never usually pick up. This is a weepy, and I’m surprised to say I’m actually really enjoying it so far. Hoping to finish it by the time the film hits the cinema.

Watching: Wallander. Is there anything better than a Scandi noir? I’m a sucker for a crime drama and those Northern Europeans just do it so well. These are feature length so make for good evening viewing. Kurt is my hero.

Waiting: and waiting and waiting for Autumn. It’s been so damn hot and I hate it. Watching those leaves slowly turn to orange and brown is a great comfort to me and I’m counting the days until the nights draw in and I’m in my PJs before 7. 

Eating: A whole lot of kebabs from I Am Doner. Like most new parents, our takeaway intake has seriously increased since having the twins. It’s an easy rut to fall into and it can result in some seriously podgy waistlines, but luckily we have Deliveroo which increases our options tenfold. I love the Large Halloumi from I Am Doner and think it’s pretty reasonably priced too.

Pacing: The park during nap time each day. It keeps my step count up, and it gets me out of the house for a little longer. It’s also a great place to meet other mums and get chatting! Plus, during those challenging teething times, rolling the buggy here, there and everywhere is a surefire way to get the babies to sleep.

Planning: I’ve recently become a fully fledged #plannergirl with my new ban.do planner. Ok, so it’s not the coolest pastime in the world (Matt rips me endlessly), but it makes me feel so organised now that I have less spare time and there’s something strangely therapeutic about watching hours of YouTube footage of perfectly manicured fingers sticking stickers into books.

Booking: A short stay at Rudding Park Hotel in a few months time. It’ll be the first time we’re away from the girls for any length of time but I can’t pretend I’m not looking forward to it. A huge, cloud-like bed and a couple of uninterrupted nights sleep should put me right, plus I’m having a massage and dinner at their pop-up Horto too! Will report back.

What have you been up to?

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Farfalle (bow tie) pasta with grated cheese, strawberries, cucumber

Last week the girls turned a whopping six months old. So, naturally, it was time for them to start exploring food. I’d been interested in taking the baby-led weaning (BLW) route for a while, and after I’d read up a bit I decided it was definitely the best choice for us.

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Pitta, avocado, banana

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Dry toast, apple, cucumber

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Baby corn, strawberries, dry toast

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Cucumber, strawberries, avocado

Baby Led Weaning: Our First Week

Farafelle (bow tie) pasta with a simple sauce of onion, celery, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and thyme

In the simplest terms, BLW is when a child is given the opportunity to feed themselves right from the start of the weaning experience. Babies can basically eat everything – as long as there’s minimal added salt and sugar, no allergens (nuts, shellfish, honey etc) and not too much spice. They’re given options to choose from, and they’re encouraged to pick up and try whatever they feel like, and importantly, however much of it they’d like, instead of being spoon-fed purees.

Food before one is just for fun is a key principle of BLW and something I really like the idea of – the babies are still getting all their nourishment from milk at this stage anyway. Mealtime is encouraged to be a positive experience, a time to play and explore, if food isn’t actually swallowed for a few months, that’s cool. Positivity around food is important to us as a family – Matt and I get so much pleasure from eating that there’s no room for stress at our dinner table. The idea that the girls might dread mealtime and be forced to eat things they don’t want to, or too much of them, really doesn’t sit well with me.

There are loads of proven benefits of BLW which is why it’s recommended by the NHS and it’s actually been around for years, despite appearing to be a newish philosophy. These include a lower rate of obesity in children who wean themselves and supposedly less pickiness when eating later in life, but I’ll leave it to Sophia and The Wednesday Chef to share their experiences – both fab posts.

This first week I chose simple foods that I already had in (i.e., things Matt and I were eating ourselves – another benefit of the BLW way), some fruit and veg that are seasonal – I like the idea of the girls learning what foods are best when, and stuff that’s easy to prepare. We ate one meal out, where the girls tried some lettuce, peas and a few chips. For their last meal of the week I went with pasta in a simple sauce, instead of giving them separate items, and it went down pretty well. They had the last of the strawberries for afters.

So far, everything seems to be going down pretty well. The girls both love avocado and find the longer strips easy to hold and get in their mouths. Both enjoy cucumber straight from the fridge – probably because it eases their teething gums. I’m looking forward to trying more variety as we move into autumn.

Any thoughts on BLW? How did you wean your little ones? I’ll be back next week with more updates! 

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

Killer_avo_on_toast__houseofkoko__new_to_Chapel_A._Packed_full_of_chilli__Gorgeous_shop_and_dreamy_soundtrack_too____

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!

Hitting the Reset Button

Lunch at my desk

Lunch at my desk: homemade falafel and hummus, salad leaves, cucumber and mint salad, cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn, olives and feta topped with sumac, seeds & Sriracha

We talked a little towards the end of last year about my need for some lifestyle changes. Well, it’s finally time for an update! After a good start, early 2015 brought Leeds Indie Food and all that entailed with it, and from January to May I had far less time and quite a lot more stress. You know, my eight hour days turned into 12 or 14 hour days and all that stuff.  Naturally, my health took second string, I indulged to the max and, man, was it was glorious. Burgers for lunch, gins every evening, plus some of the most exciting food I’ve ever eaten during the festival itself.

So, with my health goals still in mind, it’s no surprise that June had to bring a shift in what I ate and how I ate it. All that indulgence meant I was feeling pretty run down, tired all the time and I still had a way to go if I was gonna get on top of my diabetes and get myself to baby-ready status. We all know that my life revolves completely about what I eat, but it was time to reset, knuckle down and fine-tune. I decided to go all-in.

My aims (explained in more detail over here):

  • Nourish my body, give it everything it needs to function properly and happily 
  • Reduce any stress, inflammation and pain my body is experiencing and make it a healthy, happy place for a little person to live
  • Keep my blood sugars as level as humanly possible with a faulty pancreas
  • Work less, exercise more and sleep more
  • Maybe get stronger, healthier, more luxurious looking nails and hair in the meantime? Maybe lose a few pounds too?

HittingtheResetButton2

What with the diabetes and the general interest, my food knowledge is pretty good. I know my carbs from my proteins, my zinc from my beta-carotene. However, even with that back-up, the world of nutrition is a flippin’ minefield. So fat is good for you? Fruit is bad? But, hang on, what about cholesterol? -__- I’ve always adopted an “everything in moderation” philosophy before (even if I haven’t stuck to it) but it’s become clear that in this situation that just ain’t gonna cut it. So what do I do? Go paleo? That seems alright. What about Whole 30? Someone told me charcoal is really good for you? *rolls eyes/bangs head against wall*

One fail-safe way to start is with processed foods, kick them to the curb and you can get back on track. That, along with a few small changes, meant I could easily get on top of things, especially when eating at home. I cut down on high carb, high sugar foods straight away (heck, I know I’ll never kick that burger habit completely, and honestly who would want that? Not me) and it’s been pretty easy for me to make everything from scratch.

One area I’ve struggled with over the years, as supportive as Matt and my friends are, is that personally I need something more than that to keep me on track and answer the myriad of questions that pop up. On my own it just feels more difficult. Spinach versus kale? Peanut butter versus almond? Fuck it, I’ll have a brownie. You know the stuff. So I started talking to Laura. She’s a nutritionist. She first came on my radar when her then-blog, Peaches and Greens, was nominated with mine in the Blog North awards last year. She’s plant-based, which – as I understand it – is basically vegan without the stigma attached. I started talking to her and she cleared a lot of things up for me. I’ve been meeting with her every few weeks, keeping a food diary when I remember and packing as much veg into my meals as humanly possible. To be quite honest, it’s helped massively in keeping me on track.

HittingtheResetButton1

Now, I’m only a month or so in, but I’m already seeing a difference. I’ve ditched simple carbs for the most part and quite a lot of meat and dairy – around 70% of my meals every week have been meat-free – and that’s lead to a decrease in my daily insulin of around 30% so far. Oh, and I’ve given up booze, fish and caffeine. That’s not totally necessary, but it helps with the whole conception/pregnancy thing. I also feel quite a lot more energetic, I don’t get that afternoon slump at my desk, I’ve lost the post-meal discomfort I used to get during the evenings and my skin looks better than it has in ages. I’m hoping I can maintain the way I’m eating at the moment (peppered with one or two cheat-style meals a week, naturally) and that’ll get me to where I want to be (mum to a healthy, normal sized bambino). 

If you’re interested, here are my starting tips for eating better for health and wellness reasons aka not weight-loss:

  • You can’t do it all at once When I first committed to making a change, I was like “Yes. This is it. I’m in this. All kale all of the time”. Turns out, that’s probably not a helpful attitude. Six days in, I looked up from my plate of fish and chips and thought “Oh bugger, I’ve failed”. It’s great to get excited, but if you’re anything like me you’ll need to reign that in to keep things up. If your diet currently consists of quite a lot of everything, the way mine did, deal with one thing at a time. Burn out will sneak up on you, and there’s no point in beating yourself up. Just take things easy and don’t expect results in seconds.
  • Increase the good stuff before you cut out the bad When Laura helped me work out what I was aiming for, she put it in a really interesting way. I was aiming to reduce the amount of “anti-nutrients” in my diet and replace them with nutrient-rich foods instead. I thought about this kind of how I think about skincare. I don’t just want to clean my skin at the end of the day, right? I want to nourish it. So don’t just stop eating things, silly! Just make them better things. Nowadays I’m filling up on grains, nuts and seeds. I’m not fixated on calories, that’s not what this is about after all, I’m all about the nutritional value and taste (cashew butter, I’m looking at you). 
  • You honestly won’t be hungry As above. My tendency to view this as a “diet” has quickly disappeared. My plates are always full and I’m never hungry after I eat. That’s what I’ve always feared about “low carb” and it just isn’t true – for me, it’s all about variety. Give me a plate of leaves and I’m miserable – gimme a selection of loads of stuff, however healthy, and I’m into it.
  • Eat the rainbow Plates that look prettier are the ones you’ll want to eat, trust me. I try to make my meals as colourful as possible – red peppers, sweetcorn, beetroot, loads of greens etc to keep my enthusiasm up. No one wants to eat a plate of muddy-green and beige.
  • Vegans have good treats When I’m on the run, I generally try to look for vegan snacks, just because it’s easier to understand the ingredients list – there are generally fewer of them – and a lot the time they’re also refined sugar and gluten free too (bonus!). I’m totally into Bounce Balls @bounceballsUK and Ombars @OmbarChocolate, as well as the coconut mylks by @Rebel_Kitchen

HittingtheResetButton3

One of the things I was super quick to realise, is that food that’s good for you actually does taste quite nice. You can also get food that’s good for you when you’re out and about (!!) you just have to know the best places to go. If you live in Leeds, check out Laura’s Feel Good Guide for tips and discounts. I think I kind of already knew that, because I’m lucky to like a lot of different foods, so with lots of variation and a little expertise in the kitchen I’ve been making meals which I’m pretty into without any trouble at all. Last night’s tea (and today’s lunch) for example:

Homemade Falafel with Cucumber & Mint Salad
Serves 4
Warming, spicy bites that are quick, veggie, packed with protein and basically guilt free.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
For the falafel
  1. 4 small onions
  2. 8 garlic cloves
  3. 2 tins chickpeas
  4. 1 handful fresh parsley
  5. 2 handfuls fresh coriander
  6. 2 tsp sea salt
  7. 1 tsp mild chili powder
  8. 3 tsp cumin seeds
  9. 2 tsp baking powder
  10. ½ cup gluten-free wholemeal flour
  11. 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
For the cucumber salad
  1. ½ cucumber
  2. 1 handful fresh mint
  3. 1 green rocket chilli
  4. ½ tsp sea salt
  5. Squeeze of half a lemon
  6. 2 tsp white wine vinegar
Instructions
  1. Skin and halve the onions and garlic cloves and pop them in your food processor. Pulse them until they're roughly chopped.
  2. Add the oil to a large, heavy bottomed pan and heat it over a medium heat.
  3. Add the rest of the falafel ingredients to the processor and pulse to the consistency you like - I like mine pretty smooth but if chunky's your thing - work it.
  4. When the oil is hot enough (see notes), use an ice-cream scoop to drop balls of the mix into the pan. You'll hear sizzles when it hits the pan. Don't crowd the pan - I fried no more than four at a time - it's time consuming, but worth it.
  5. Leave the falafel to fry for 3 minutes or until a nice, golden brown crust has formed, but keep busy - while the pan is sizzling, dice your cucumber into 1cm-ish pieces and chop your chilli. Transfer to a bowl and add your fresh mint, roughly chopped.
  6. It's probably time to flip your falafel! This should be easy, Use a spatula or slotted spoon to turn those babies over. Fry for another two minutes, until golden brown, and then transfer to a tea towel or kitchen paper to drain. Wait a few seconds for the oil to come back up to temp, and crack on with the next lot!
  7. The next break you get add the salt, lemon juice and vinegar to the cucumber salad. Mix well. To plate, sprinkle that stuff on a bed of hummus and top with delicious, warm falafel. Serve with pitta or salad for ultimate satisfaction.
Notes
  1. To test my oil temperature I use a wooden chopstick. When you think the oil might be hot enough, dip the tip of your chopstick into the pan. If tiny bubbles form around the outside, you're on the money!
Adapted from Just a Taste
Adapted from Just a Taste
whip until fluffy http://whipuntilfluffy.com/
 These falafels are seriously delicious and they make for such a filling, satisfying tea that weirdly feels very naughty even though it’s basically all good for you. Try ’em, you won’t regret it.

So that’s where I am right now. No doubt it’s easier to eat better in the summer, especially with all this uncharacteristic weather we’re having, but I’m hoping that with planning, research and a little effort I’ll be able to slide on through to Autumn without much trouble. I’m going to try to post here more often, not just about this, but with a variety of recipes, reviews and much more besides. If you’re interested in following my journey a little more closely, you can follow me on Twitter over @whipuntilfluffy and on Pinterest too, where I basically spend all my time these days.

Happy weekend!

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake

The thing about me and baking is that I don’t really like cake. Sure, every now and again I could go for a slice, and there’s a couple of flavour combos I can get behind, but generally… not my thing. I guess it starts with the absence of much of a sweet tooth, then it develops into a texture thing… too soft, too dense. Where’s the crunch, cake? How about the chew? Why u so fluffy, cake? Anyway, occasionally I get the urge to  dust off the cooling rack and plug in my mixer. Today was one of those days.

It’s been my first Saturday off in quite a few, and after a lie in, eggs on toast for breakfast and a coffee al fresco at my local shop, I felt the urge to fasten my apron and reach for my whisk. I wanted something a little different from the usual suspects, the sunshine meant I wanted light and fluffy, tart and fresh, so I set to work adapting a few recipes I’d collected over the years and viola…! Made in the gentle sunlight of my kitchen, to the sound of Rafa Nadal in the French Open, here comes the Coconut Cake. 

Coconut Cake
Serves 8
The lightest, softest sponge with a hint of tropical flavour - perfect for summertime.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
For the Cake
  1. 350g Plain Flour
  2. 1 tbsp Baking Powder
  3. ½ tsp Table Salt
  4. 300g Golden Caster Sugar
  5. 155g Unsalted Butter
  6. 60ml Vegetable Oil
  7. 300ml Coconut Milk (well mixed)
  8. 2 Egg Yolks
  9. 6 Egg Whites
  10. 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  11. ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
  12. ⅛ tsp Cream of Tartar
For the Icing
  1. 150g Unsalted Butter
  2. 360g (2 Packets) Cream Cheese
  3. 400g Icing Sugar
  4. ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
  5. 75g Desiccated Coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C and line the bottoms of two round, deep cake tins with parchment paper. I used a loose bottomed tin by Delia Smith for Lakeland. Butter the parchment paper and set aside for later.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vegetable oil until smooth. I used my KitchenAid mixer with a paddle attachment to make short work of this, but it's possible by hand too.
  4. Mix in the lemon juice and vanilla extract, and then add the egg yolks one by one until combined.
  5. With the mixer on a medium setting, add one third of the flour mixture followed by half of the coconut milk. Once combined, add a second third of the flour and the last half of the coconut milk. Finally, add the last third of the flour mixture and beat until the batter is smooth.
  6. In a clean bowl, whisk your six egg whites and cream of tartar until they stiffen and form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter mixture half at a time, until just combined - be careful, overmixing will deflate them.
  7. Spoon your mix into your two tins until each one holds about 2 inches of mixture. Shake your tin to flatten the top and place both tins on the middle shelf of your oven. Close the door and set the timer for 24 minutes. Do not open the door until the timer beeps.
  8. Test your cakes with a skewer or fork - if it comes out clean, remove the cakes from the oven and leave them to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before running a knife around the outside edge and turning them out onto a wire cooling rack. If the skewer doesn't come out clean, put them back into the oven for five minutes at a time, checking with the skewer after each five minutes passes.
  9. While the cakes are cooling, beat together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract and sugar for the icing. Refrigerate the icing until the cakes are at room temperature.
  10. Using a palette knife, spread icing on top of one of your cakes, then place the other cake on top to make a sandwich. Ice the top of the sandwich in whatever fashion you like - I take the rustic approach and just smear it on - then shake over the desiccated coconut to finish.
Notes
  1. Oven temperatures vary so if your cake doesn't bake as fast as mine did, the important thing is not to panic. Take your time and keep testing it with the skewer - it'll be worth the wait.
whip until fluffy http://whipuntilfluffy.com/
Baking a cake always brings a mix of emotions for me. It starts off therapeutic: the whir of the machine, the crack of eggs, the splash of milk. But very quickly it gets stressful. The cake mix goes in, the timer goes off and suddenly my patience is no where to be seen and no matter how many hours I have to while away, I’m slathering too thin icing onto too hot cake simply because I can’t find it in me to Just. Wait. I’m trying though, honestly, today I really tried.

So, with the benefit of hindsight readers, I urge you to take your time with this one. Give it some love and care and attention. The Coconut Cake is a simple being, but done right, it’s a thing of beauty.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

So now Halloween is over, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas right? I know, I know… eye roll. It’s weird for me to get festive anytime pre-December 1st, but a few weeks ago I was invited to spend a bright but crisp Sunday afternoon with Katie Laura Flowers in Harrogate, to discuss wreath making and Christmas decorations. My first thought? Oh god, not yet. But it turns out I really rather enjoyed myself. Plus, it pays to get ahead with these things. After a few hours I had well and truly slipped into the festive spirit, and picked up a few new skills too.

I must say, wreath making has always somewhat appealed to me. I love the way they look, whatever they’re made from, and I even bought a foam ring from Hobbycraft last year, to put some of my artistic ideas to canvas, so to speak. It never actually happened, and the ring stayed starkers all winter long, giving me a slight pang of guilt every time it caught my eye.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura FlowersWreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

After my workshop with Katie, I honestly think I’ll make a wreath of my own every year. The whole process was surprisingly easy and, like with most arts and crafts, I found it extremely therapeutic. I zoned out of my busy brain and sipped on tea for a few hours, chatting away to my blogger friends. I left Katie’s gorgeous studio feeling significantly calmer and with something pretty awesome to carry home in my (extremely grubby) hands.

We started with a wire frame. Katie recommended this, and always works with them herself, because they weigh less than the other options. Better for hanging, see. We wrapped flexible floristry wire all the way around the frame in a zigzag pattern. This provides a good framework for your foliage, preventing fall out, keeping everything solid even when your wreath is upright. Ever the perfectionist, I wove mine pretty tight, though I was told this wasn’t necessary and I took at least ten minutes longer than than anyone else. I felt pretty proud though.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

After winding the wire, we kept it attached and began gathering greenery. We clipped off larger strands and bunched a few together to create a little posy. Katie taught us lot of clever tricks, like putting bushier plants towards the back to make others stand forward, giving your wreath a voluminous shape. We attached each posy with a few more loops of floristry wire to secure it. We kept adding small posies, working in a clockwise motion around the ring, each new posy on top of the next. Tips here include making sure you cover the width of the frame, working outwards – the wider the leaves reach outside of the loop the better, really. What you’re after is something really full and bountiful, and not necessarily perfect symmetry either.

After the green base layer was complete, we dotted in flashes of colour. This is when an artistic side really comes in helpful. The urge to place bundles of colour at regular intervals around the ring is strong, and taking a more relaxed, and (dare I say it) random, approach is key. I played around with mine for a while, and though there was loads on offer, I chose to keep it pretty simple with skimmia and a little statice, along with that Christmas staple – berries!

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

What was really great about the workshop is that we used a lot of materials that can be found in your garden or local area. Be sure to check up on the rules for wild flower picking in your area, but if you look in the right spots, there’s no need to spend any cash apart from the minimal costs of the ring and wire. If in doubt, you can always head to your local florist. They should have all the basics, even if it’s not out on display, so make sure you ask!

We used a mix of fresh and dried foliage, and the glorious thing is that everything fresh will dry well too. That means you can hand your wreath for months if you like, without it starting to look a bit dodgy. It might even look better. If you keep it inside, just mist it every now and again to keep it fresh.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

If you live anywhere near Harrogate, I’d really recommend Katie’s workshops. There are currently two options on offer. The wreath making workshop lasts a few hours, and like me, you’ll craft and leave with your own Christmas wreath. This would be awesome for a pre-Crimbo treat for mums and daughters (or fathers and sons!), a fun activity with friends or even a festive hen-do. Katie has a huge breadth of knowledge – from facts about the type of plants to use, to showing you how to wire-in delicate succulents to make your wreath that little bit different. This workshop costs £55, but mention me when you book and you’ll receive a 10% discount, taking it down to a bargain-tastic £49.50. Each class last three hours, includes fresh materials, coffee, tea and nibbles. They take place on 29th November and 7th December. You can also attend a simple step-by-step demo. These will set you back £20, include tea, coffee and nibbles, and are happening on the 18th and 30th November, and 2nd December.

This class suited me down to the ground. I’ve always fancied a bit of floristry and this really whet my whistle to try some more at home. I nearly always have a fresh bunch of flowers on my kitchen island, but I tend to buy cheap. Intricate arrangements and displays seem so out of my price range, but this workshop really convinced me that I can try some myself, without spending a ton of cash (hey, we can’t all be Elton John, ok?)

Have you ever tried your hand at flower arranging or floral crafts? Got anything exciting planned for the festive season?

Disclaimer: I attended a workshop at Katie Laura Flowers free of charge, thanks to an invitation from Emma. This hasn’t affected my opinion at all, I loved my experience of wreath making. 

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

So, I deviated from my meal plan. I’m sorry but I had to. You know how on Wednesday I was planning to make raspberry ripple ice cream? Well I saw some delicious looking last-of-the-season peaches and I had to snap them up. I figured I’d adapt my recipe and make vanilla ice cream – something that despite having quite a varied ice cream repertoire, I can’t remember ever making before. I topped it off with said peaches rolled in brown sugar and flambéed in bourbon. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it was pretty top. What can beat a delicious, boozy ice cream sundae to send off summer? Made for eating on a patio wrapped in a waffle knit blanket as the sun ducks down behind the trees. Because it’s autumn now, you know.

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

My peaches were pretty wrinkly by time of consumption. Personally, I think that’s ok, as we’re cooking them down a little so they lose a bit of firmness anyhow. You could use tinned peaches for this too, in a pinch. I kinda like tinned peaches. I don’t mind leaving the skins on mine, mainly because it’s a faff to take them off, but if you’re a texture stickler, feel free to free those guys from their jackets.

For the ice cream, I used the same method that I used for my Yorkshire Tea Ice Cream recipe, but obviously skipped the part where we infused the tea. I was watching The Mind of a Chef (season one) the other night and that told me that this is a traditional “creme anglais” base, which I guess makes sense. It’s basically equal parts milk and cream, and then a shit-tonne of egg yolks. It’s very rich and kinda eggy – but that suits me down to the ground. I don’t have much of an inclination towards volume when it comes to ice cream, usually it’s just a scoop or two, so I need it to be super satisfying.

When it comes to vanilla, as with a lot of ingredients, you get out what you put in. Essence is a hell no, it’s the cheap, synthetic stuff that contains little actual vanilla. Extract is good, even better is vanilla bean paste or an actual vanilla pod, if you could get your hands on that. Trust me, if you have the money, spend it. A bottle of extract or paste lasts for a long time in your cupboard and you can use it in countless recipes – paying for quality will pay off in your baking. Plus, you get the satisfaction of seeing the little vanilla seeds in whatever you make. I’m easily pleased like that.

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

I’m relatively confident when it comes to cooking with alcohol in savoury dishes, but I’m a bit hazy on sweet stuff. I guessed the amount of alcohol to cook the peaches in, and it seemed to work well, they were neither too strong or too bland. You can, of course, tailor the alcohol level to suit your tastes. I used a slug of my old favourite from back in my student days, Jim Beam. I love that guy. He’s always there.

You can use something fancier if you like, you could also try rum or brandy, or even a bit of Cointreau if you’re feeling frisky. The process is short, which nicely balances the long slog of the ice cream preparation. Eat them all or save some in a sterilised jar. As time goes by the texture will breakdown a bit more and it’ll turn into a lovely boozy compote.

You can be as posh as you like with it. Layer the ice cream and peaches in a tall glass for that ice cream sundae look, or just dump ’em in a bowl and tuck in. Now that I’ve tried it out, I might revive it next summer with an added layer of damson or raspberry jam and a few crushed and salted pecans.

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Serves 4
A creamy, boozy treat to send off summer. Perfect for a big kid.
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Prep Time
16 hr
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
16 hr
Cook Time
20 min
For the ice cream
  1. 1 Cup of Whole Milk
  2. 2 Cups of Double Cream
  3. ⅔ Cup of Golden Caster Sugar
  4. 5 Egg Yolks
  5. 1 Vanilla Pod (Or 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract)
For the peaches
  1. 4 Ripe Peaches
  2. 1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  3. ½ Cup of Light Brown Sugar
  4. 2 Shots of Jim Beam Bourbon
Instructions
  1. The day before you want to eat your ice cream, heat your milk and cream in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Whisk in the sugar. When the milk is steaming (don't let it boil), take the pan off the heat and scrape in the contents of your vanilla pod and stir through.
  2. Leave the mixture off the heat while you separate your eggs. Whisk the yolks in a medium bowl. Spoon a little of the milk into 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.
  3. 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, 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.
  4. When it's reached the right consistency, 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. I prefer to leave it overnight and churn the next morning.
  5. Churn and freeze the mix 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.
  6. When you're ready to make your peaches, remove the ice cream from the freezer. It'll take 15-20 minutes to melt enough to scoop cleanly. Chop each peach into eight segments and roll them in the brown sugar.
  7. Heat the butter in a large frying pan until it's frothy. Throw in your peach segments and cook for 4-5 minutes until the sugar starts to caramelise and the peaches turn golden. Pour in the bourbon and toss. The liquid will start to reduce and turn into a stickier consistency. When it's reduced by half, turn off the heat.
  8. Time to plate up! I scooped some ice cream into the bottom of a tall glass, followed it with 4 or 5 peach segments and a little sauce. Next, more ice cream, more peaches and a dusting of brown sugar. Take your spot on the patio and enjoy!
Notes
  1. nb. If you taste your custard before you churn it, 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.
whip until fluffy http://whipuntilfluffy.com/
Bourbon Peaches with Classic Vanilla Ice Cream

How are you sending off summer? Let me know whether the turn of the season has you clinging on to summer with white knuckles, or if you’re embracing the colder, darker nights already. I think I’m a little of both!

Tweet me @whipuntilfluffy or catch me over on Instagram @whipuntilfluffy

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

Yogurt Saffron Flatbreads & Lamb Meatballs with Harissa for the Yogurt Council

Yogurt Saffron Flatbreads & Lamb Meatballs with Harissa

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. 

Read the full recipe over on the Love Yogurt UK Blog…

Yogurt Saffron Flatbreads & Lamb Meatballs with Harissa

Does anyone else think this ball of dough looks like a baby dinosaur’s head? Or am I just extra weird today?

Yogurt Saffron Flatbreads & Lamb Meatballs with Harissa

Roll those babies out

Yogurt Saffron Flatbreads & Lamb Meatballs with Harissa

Yogurt Saffron Flatbreads & Lamb Meatballs with Harissa

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.

I’ll be back over the weekend with some meal planning ideas, some link love and THAT mac n cheese. See you soon! Remember in the meantime, you can find me on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and over on Facebook too.

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

Mixed Berry Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches for the Yogurt Council

Mixed Berry Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches

This week, my first recipe for the Yogurt Council went live. Frozen yogurt is having a bit of a moment right now, so for my August recipe I wanted to focus on that, as well as adding a little bit of extra sparkle to make it stand out. I think an ice-cream sandwich is one of those things which instantly conjures an image. It’s a bit of whimsy, the food that dreams are made of. For me that image is America: jean shorts and baseball jerseys, the hazy heat of summer vacation with hotdogs at the diner followed by coke floats and an ice-cream sandwich on the walk home. Sticky fingers and a full tummy. It’s a memory I’ve created, romantic and wholly unrealistic, something I’ve picked up from films and books. But it seems overwhelmingly perfect.

Of course, ice-cream sandwiches (like most good things) are terrible for your health. At least 600 calories in one sitting, that stuff is reserved for days when you’re determined to shake that halo right off. Frozen yogurt though? That’s positively good for you, right? Right! While I’m not boasting that this is a low-carb or low-sugar recipe, it is certaining a little more virtuous than it’s heavy weight big brother. The yogurt needs sweetening because freezing dulls flavour – so for that I used honey. For the cookies, I used oats and wholemeal flour to keep the sins down. There’s still butter and brown sugar a-plenty, but hey, you gotta get your kicks somewhere.

Read the full recipe over on the Love Yogurt UK Blog…

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Ingredients for the oat cookies: there’s wholemeal flour, rolled oats AND oat bran in there…

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Scooping makes portioning easy!

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Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

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Things might get a little messy: a bowl and spoon help!

Have you ever experimented with frozen yogurt? I’m dying to try out some more flavours. I’m thinking next time I’m going for a greek yogurt, honey and banana mix.  For a naughtier take, I’d make mini sandwiches from chocolate yogurt and Ritz crackers for a little bit of salt and sweet together. Roll these out at barbecues and picnics, or wrap them in cling film and freeze them for a sneaky mid-week pudding.

I’ll be back here on the weekend, and my next recipe for the Yogurt Council will go live next week – not long to wait!

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 first in the series, the second 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