Weekend

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!

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.
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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.

Smashed Avocado on Toast

Smashed Avocado on Toast with Chilli

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

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

Smashed Avocado on Toast with Chilli

Smashed Avocado on Toast with Chilli

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

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

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

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

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

The Blue Cheese, Bacon & Apple Wafflewich

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

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Blue-Cheese-Bacon-Waffle-Sandwiches-4

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

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Blue-Cheese-Bacon-Waffle-Sandwiches-6

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

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

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

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

Preparation and Cook Time: 15-20 minutes all in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blue-Cheese-Bacon-Waffle-Sandwiches-9

A Low-Carb Italian Feast

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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! 

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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.

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Aubergine Lasagne (makes enough for six portions)

1 Large or 2 Small Aubergines

For the ragu:

2 Onions
2 Celery Stalks
1 Large Carrot
2 Cloves of Garlic
65g Pancetta
400g Beef Mince
100ml Milk
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
Fresh Basil

For the Béchamel sauce:

50g Salted Butter
35g Plain Flour
400ml Milk
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Salt
40g Parmesan

This is long – stick with me.

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.

Deep Fried Courgette with Fresh Mint

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.

Deep Fried Courgette with Fresh Mint

Aubergine Lasagne

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.

Where to Eat in Leeds

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

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

Where to Eat in Leeds: Shears Yard

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

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

Where to Eat in Leeds: Zucco

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

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

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen

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

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

Where to Eat in Leeds: The Reliance

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

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

Where to Eat in Leeds: Trinity Kitchen

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

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

What to Eat in February

What to Eat in February

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Eat in February

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

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

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

What to Eat in February

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

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

What to Eat in February

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

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

What to Eat in February

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

Other dishes to eat in February:

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

Tell me, what are you eating this month? 

Sweet Potato Hash with a Fried Egg

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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!

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Ingredients (makes 2 generous portions)

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

2 Eggs
4 Slices of Crusty Bread
Chopped Parsley to Garnish

Method

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

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

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

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

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