Kitchen

10 Minute Lunches: Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

I’m having a Sriracha moment. Or maybe it’s a Sriracha life. I put the stuff on anything and everything, and it’s bloody delicious. I had some rice left over from cooking Cashew Chicken the other night, and what with a hot dinner being far superior to a lowly sandwich or salad, I took it upon myself to spice it up. 

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

I’m often in a rush at lunch time. If I’m lucky, the twins will be napping, but more often than not I’m trying to grab a few minutes between feeds and nappy changes, all while keeping a keen eye on the bouncer and the Jumperoo. Ten minutes is often all I have, so I try to be resourceful. This recipe can use any leftover rice you have, along with any stray vegetables sitting woefully in the crisper drawer. Today, I had half an onion, a few wrinkly chillies, a can of sweetcorn and a couple of limp spring onions. You can throw anything in there – some grated carrot, a bell pepper or a handful of mushrooms if you have them lying around. 

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

It takes no time at all, it’s crunchy, spicy, sweet and satisfying, and it only uses a wok – or if you haven’t got one, a large frying pan will do it.

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice
A quick and delicious lunch dish, perfect for those in search of something spicy and warming to fuel their afternoon.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups of leftover rice
  2. ½ an onion
  3. 1 small can of sweetcorn
  4. 2 red chillies
  5. 2 spring onions
  6. Sprinkling of parsley
  7. 2 eggs
  8. Sriracha
  9. Light soy sauce
Instructions
  1. Chop your veg. I recommend slicing your half an onion into nice, thick wedges - the heat of the wok means it chars around the edges and cooks super quickly while still keeping a bit of its bite.
  2. Heat your wok until it smokes, then add about 3 tbsp of a flavourless oil - I used veg. Once the oil is hot, throw in your onion.
  3. Leave the onion to char, only moving it after a few minutes have passed. Once it starts to brown and soften, add the chopped chilli and sweetcorn and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Dump in the cold rice and stir. Leave it to cook on full heat without moving it around in the pan - that way you'll get brown, crispy bits as well as soft, plump grains.
  5. After another 2 minutes, add around 3 tbsp of soy sauce and the same again of Sriracha. Mix in well and try it, add more to taste.
  6. Beat the eggs. Tilt the wok towards you and clear a space to pour your eggs. Once you add them, the edges should start to solidify quickly. Leave for 30 seconds to make sure the bottom is cooked, then gently fold it in on itself, as if you were scrambling eggs.
  7. Once the outsides are cooked through, break up the egg. Level your wok again and fold the egg through the rice mixture. Stand the wok on the heat and stir for another 1-2 minutes to combine.
  8. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with chopped parsley (or coriander if you prefer) and sliced spring onions.
  9. Add to bowls and zigzag with more Sriracha. Serve and enjoy.
whip until fluffy https://whipuntilfluffy.com/
It’s really important to use cooked and cooled rice for this – for some reason it just doesn’t work if you cook the rice fresh (and that kinda defeats the point, anyhow). If you have it in the fridge you could shred and add cooked chicken, sliced sausage or even strips of beef to this if you wanted. Plump little pink shrimps would work too, or squid rings if you’re fancy. I prefer the ease of this veggie version and I love that it basically clears my kitchen out any sorry looking leftovers.

Sriracha Egg Fried Rice

I’ll be back with more of these 10 minute lunches in the future, partly cuz I’ve bet myself I can go a whole month without resorting to a sad sandwich. Standing at the stove with the sunlight flooding in through the side window, it feels like there’s no better way than this to prep for the afternoon ahead. What do you eat for lunch?

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Weirdly, I’ve started doing a bit more baking lately. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a particularly competent baker. I don’t really have the patience needed for really great results, but I spend a lot of time at home these days and it’s a nice thing to do to pass the time.

Now that the newborn fog has finally cleared and I’m feeling a little bit more “me” again, we’ve been trying to get back on track with meal planning and cooking. This is mainly on my part, Matt loves it and needs no motivation, but I find it hard to think of something new and exciting to make everyday without a bit of forward planning. Buying ingredients for one bake a week with our regular shop means we’ve always got a sweet treat to hand if we want one, and it’s also a great time filler for a dreary afternoon.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Baking is actually a really fun activity for the girls too – I usually sit them in their bumbo seat or lie them on the kitchen table facing me, giving them a little of each ingredient as I go. They just pat their hands in it, get to know the texture and maybe give it a taste (no raw eggs, obvs). It’s fun for them, and educational, and as parents I guess we have a pretty laid back attitude towards weaning anyway so we don’t mind if they give any of it a little try. We’re planning to start Baby Lead Weaning in a few weeks when the girls hit six months, and I think it’s important to get them feeling enthusiastic about food as early as possible.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Tray bakes are always a good option for me because there’s little to no pressure (minimal rising, very few fancy techniques to master, just mix it all up and shove it in the oven etc). Over the past few months I’ve made rocky road, my Fail Safe Blondies and flapjacks. Yesterday was the turn of the Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake. They’re a nice sweet and salty treat and you can cut the pieces as big or as small as you like. Plus the recipe is customisable so you can add all your favourite extras! I’d like to try it with bigger chunks of chocolate and maybe some mini marshmallows for a s’mores-esque vibe.

I basically only use Le Creuset bakeware these days *hair flip*. Because I’m no aficionado, I find I only use a few tins anyway, so I’d rather spend money and get quality in return. So far I’ve got my excellent 9×9″ Square Cake Tin (£20) which I used for these, and I have my Kugelhopf (£30) for cakes, as well as mousses and jellies. Next I think I’ll replace my simple round Sandwich/Sponge Tins, then my loaf tin and my muffin tin and I’ll be pretty much set. The Afternoon Tea Set (£78.40 down from £112) is actually really good value and currently on sale, so that’s worth checking out. I love the Le Creuset bakeware because it’s thick and sturdy, plus it’s really easy to clean. I promise they’re not sponsoring this, as always I just love them!

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake
Yields 16
A sweet and salty treat, perfect for a rainy day.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 250g Plain Flour
  2. 220g Unsalted Butter, melted
  3. 150g Dark Muscovado Sugar
  4. 110g Caster Sugar
  5. 2 Large Eggs
  6. 1 Vanilla Pod
  7. 1 tsp Table Salt
  8. 175g Dark Chocolate Chips, split into one 100g and one 75g portion
  9. 100g White Chocolate Chips
  10. 60g Salted Pretzels, in 2 x 30g portions (I used Penn State Pretzels - deelish!)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 180ºc or if you're using Fan, go for 160.
  2. Grease a square baking tray (mine's 9x9") and line it with greaseproof paper ready for the filling.
  3. Pour your melted butter into a medium sized bowl (or a mixer, if you have one) and stir in the Muscovado and caster sugar until combined.
  4. Next, add the eggs one at a time, then split the vanilla pod and scrape out its insides. Add it to the bowl and mix in.
  5. Now it's time for the dry ingredients. Stir in the flour, followed by the salt until it's just combined. Don't over-mix.
  6. Follow that with any extras you might like - I used 100g each of dark and white chocolate chips, along with the first 30g of salted pretzels, which I snapped into smaller pieces. Mix well until they're well distributed.
  7. Scrape the batter into the tin (it'll be super thick - almost like caramel!), smooth it and press the remaining 30g of pretzels into the surface. Bake for 25 minutes or until a knife poked into the middle comes out clean.
  8. While it cools, melt the remaining 75g of chocolate chips over a bain marie or in the microwave until smooth. When the bake is completely cool, drizzle over the melted chocolate with a spoon.
  9. Wait for the chocolate to set and cut into 16 squares (or however many you fancy!). Store in a tin for up to 5 days.
Adapted from Just a Taste
Adapted from Just a Taste
whip until fluffy https://whipuntilfluffy.com/

I waited until nap time and tucked into two of these with a steaming cup of tea and Lunch Lady – it’s an awesome blog and print magazine all about food and family. It’s packed with fab photography and great recipes, I love it. In Leeds, I buy my copy from Colours May Vary.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Tray Bake

Giving these a go? Let me know how it goes! You can reach me easily down in the comments, or over on Twitter or Instagram at @whiptuntilfluffy. Happy baking!

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 https://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!

Stocking a Store Cupboard [+ Free Download]

Store-Cupboard-Essentials

Today is a day for making lists. For standing in front of your freezer and taking inventory. For opening the fridge door to observe your leftovers. It’s a day for browsing cook books – for inspiration not instruction – for thinking forwards and getting your affairs in order. Because tomorrow everything starts again, and it’ll be a good few days before you get the chance to step back and take stock again. 

I seem to have made somewhat of a transformation over the past few months. I think I’ve finally become one of those things I thought I’d never be: an adult. Weekends have become a time for being at home, for catching up with each other and the house. My Sundays so far this year have been restorative, an exercise in boosting morale and getting excited about being organised, as sad as that may be. Yesterday we cleared out our box room. I now have a dedicated space for my food props and styling stuff, and the idea is to slowly turn it into a Utility Room/Pantry – a plan I couldn’t be more pleased with. This plan will free up space, find a place for those things that float around the house without a designated home, and it gives me somewhere with shelves and boxes, to be calm and quiet.

These days, I find planning a treat. As I mentioned in 5 Steps to a Happier Kitchen Life, I’ve stocked my cupboards and I have everything I need to make the basis of delicious meals all week – without having to spend loads of cash on a weekly shop. Honestly, a well-stocked store cupboard can really sort you out. The cost of every single meal you prepare at home will start to go down, and paired with a fit-to-bust freezer, soon all you’ll need is a few fresh ingredients to serve up a banquet. It encourages you to cook seasonally and allows those one or two fresh ingredients you have to really shine. A well-stocked store cupboard saves money and it gives you free reign to get creative.

Give it a quick Google and you’ll find there are hundreds of “Store Cupboard Essentials” lists on the internet. Everyone from Jamie Oliver to Mumsnet has their recommendations, and honestly, I think it’s a very personal thing. Each household uses ingredients differently, so I don’t see how one list can fit all. As you cook, you’ll start to gain an idea of what your own personal taste is. If you cook a lot of North African dishes, you’ll need more couscous and sumac, if Asian’s your thing you’ll need to stock up on egg noodles, Szechuan peppercorns and anise. You’ll fashion your own list for must-haves, and that’s what we’re aiming for. For now, this is just a starting point to help you on your way. 

Whip Until Fluffy Store Cupboard List
(click image to download pdf version)

A few notes:

– Spices and Herbs Dried Bay is the only green herb you’ll find in my cupboard. I keep small plants on the kitchen windowsill which provide me with coriander, parsley and basil, and I have rosemary in the garden too. I know that isn’t possible for everyone, so while supermarket packets aren’t the most cost-effective or sustainable things in the world, a pack each of rosemary and thyme will serve you well and their woody nature means they have a longer shelf life than most. Freeze your leftovers.

– Olive Oil Buy the most expensive olive oil you can, but use it sparingly. I use vegetable oil or butter for most of my cooking, reserving olive for pasta dishes, salad dressings and roasting vegetables. It should taste so good that it feels like a treat, and it should really make the difference to your dishes.

– Rice Vinegar A lot of lists will have white wine vinegar in place of rice vinegar. Ideally we’d all have both, but if you have to choose, I think rice vinegar is a more versatile investment. Great in Asian dishes, for dipping sauces and pickling liquor, it does the job of white wine vinegar and much more besides. The same can’t be said in reverse. 

– Beans This is just down to taste. Tinned beans can be anything from Borlotti to Chickpeas, and you’ll work out your own favourites. In my household we use a lot of Cannellini and Black Eyed Beans. They go a long way and they’re extremely cheap.

– Anchovies, Capers & Redcurrant Jelly These last items on my list are great for packing in flavour and are worth a look even if they don’t seem necessary. They seem costly upfront but they last for ages. Lots of people think they hate anchovies, but chopped and added to dressings and sauces, they add a layer of umami that’s hard to find elsewhere, plus they’ll make a whole meal simply by lying them on top of garlic-rubbed toast. This works similarly for capers in salads and pasta sauces. Redcurrant jelly is perfect to stir into gravy or to glaze meat with.

Further reading on this subject:

For a general philosophy of eating what you have, and making use of seasonal ingredients – try Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. For example, on this day in his book he ate pork chops with chard, topped with a herb butter he made from fridge-dwelling odds and ends. Well worth a look, and if you’re anything like me – a game-changer.

A few years ago I was given Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace. I’m currently rereading chapters like “How to Boil Water” and “How to Have Balance” with added interest. You’ll look at your kitchen, ingredients and equipment differently after reading this.

I hope this list helps. These ingredients have come to be the ones I live by and rely on, and they haven’t let me down yet. Here’s to a tastier 2015! Any thoughts or questions? Leave them down in the comments or catch me over on Twitter @WhipUntilFluffy.

 

5 Steps to a Happier Kitchen Life

5-Steps-to-a-Happier-Kitchen

I spoke a bit last year about how to learn “the basics”. Both online and in real life, I seem to be asked often about how I cook, well, and on a regular basis. But what do I need? You ask. What are your staples? Basically, most of you (and my offline friends) want to know how to do the simple stuff. 

At the start of last year, I talked you through my philosophy of how to eat well. Today, I want to talk to you not so much about cooking, as preparation. Tools, tricks, habits to garner better results from your life in the kitchen. These are some simple tips I’ve picked up over the years. This post has been sitting in my drafts for about 8 months, and I’ve been adding bits and pieces as I go, trying to share only the really valuable tips. Some of them may seem like common sense, but it’s alarming how many people tend to ignore something so obvious – myself included of course. I hope these ideas help, after all – the way I see it, I’ve learnt the hard way so that you don’t have to.

1. Cook in a clean kitchen

Now I understand that this might not always be an option. You might get home late from work, tired and grouchy, see the dishes piled up in the sink and think no thanks, I’ll have an oven pizza. The last thing you’ll want to do is wipe down the surfaces, sharpen your knife and fasten your pinny at the back. But, where possible, it’s a great idea to take a few minutes out to prepare your space before you cook. A grubby, cluttered kitchen will stress you out, throw off your timings and put you at risk of burning yourself or damaging your crockery if you’re fighting for space. Grab a cloth and spend just five minutes decluttering your prep area and, trust me, your experience will improve tenfold. You might even enjoy yourself.

Of course, this’ll work even better if you clean as you go, and spend ten minutes after dinner every night doing dishes and wiping down the hob. But after a couple of hours slaving over a hot stove and a belly full of good food, that’s not always realistic. Cleaning as you go is beyond valuable if you have an open plan kitchen like mine. No one wants to arrive to see their hostess whisking furiously in a cloud of icing sugar with dirty pots covering every surface, and there’s no door to hide behind. Simple adjustments like using a mixing bowl as a make-shift bin to keep your surfaces clean as you prep can make a world of difference. It’s a space saver and it’ll fence in the amount of mess you can make. I’ve done my best to get into these habits after renovating my kitchen and it’s really improved the time I spend cooking and baking.

2. Build up that store cupboard

This is more about cost than anything else. Without doubt, you’re less inclined to play around in the kitchen if each recipe you attempt costs £15 minimum. Experimenting can be expensive – and in January, money is tight. If you do have the cash, just one big shopping trip will sort you out – spend a morning wherever you usually buy your groceries stocking up on dried goods and herbs. Follow that with a trip to your local Asian supermarket for cheap sauces and spices in bulk packs. Health food stores are also great for large bags of pulses and grains – if you’re in Leeds, try Millie’s for things like couscous, pearl barley, corn kernels and lentils. It can be a big outlay at first, but it means you only need fresh ingredients to create an awesome meal.

If your budget doesn’t stretch, add bits and pieces in small amounts to your weekly shops. Things will soon build up, and with a full store cupboard you can get creative anytime. Use my list as a starting point. You’ll also start to learn a lot more about marrying flavours and what tastes good with what. Over the last year or so, I’ve come to rely on the fact that I can raid my cupboard and freezer anytime and be set for a day or two if needs be. Speaking of which… 

3. Use your freezer (and not just for chicken nuggets)

For years my freezer was the place where unidentifiable liquids and pieces of meat went to die. In our old flat, the freezer drawers were all but frosted closed: loose spinach leaves lying brittle and sorry for themselves, old chicken breasts shrivelled with freezer-burn. These days, I run a tight ship. Number one, my new freezer is frost-less and it’s BRILLIANT. It’s also full height so it’s easy to keep track of what’s in it, much less chance of something slipping by, unnoticed for months. Number two, I am very organised about it. I have regular sort outs and I keep an inventory stuck to the door. When I use or add things, I delete or add them to the list accordingly. It’s sounds a bit obsessive, but trust me, it’s a good system. I love a system.

Knowing what you’ve got in the freezer makes you more inclined to base your meals around what you already have, instead of buying new. This is great because it cuts down on waste, and it saves you money. Outside of pizzas, peas and ice cream, there are a great many things you can put in your freezer. Some of my favourites are berries, pastry, cookie dough, bread, spinach, herbs and chicken bones. Take a look at this Lifehacker infographic about shelf-life for a bit more info. For example: Matt and I never get through a whole loaf, but we love having sourdough bread around. When we buy it, I slice half straight away and put it straight in the freezer, and toast it straight from frozen in the mornings. Also, when do you ever use a whole packet of fresh rosemary or coriander? Chop herbs, add water and freeze in ice-cube moulds to add to stocks and sauces. Save your chicken carcasses and freeze them until you have four or five to make a stock from. Pinterest is a breeding ground for freezer talk, have a look on there for inspiration – make sure you follow my boards while you’re there!

At the supermarket I always check the reduced section for cuts of meat or fish – usually their used-by dates are fast approaching and that’s why they’re discounted, but I just take them home and whack them straight in the freezer to call upon when needed. You can make massive savings this way and get some really lovely cuts. Taking advantage of offers on meat is also a really cost effective way to fill your freezer. Finally, I’m really into freezing leftovers after I cook too much, which happens a lot, instead of living off them for days at a time. I’m rubbish at eating the same meal twice so freezing works well for me – I just make sure I label everything clearly with names and dates, and add it to my list so I don’t forget it’s there.

4. Cook from scratch

Over the last two or three years I’ve managed to cut out almost 100% of processed foods from my kitchen. The weird thing? It was kinda easy. It started small, I wanted to learn a few basic recipes – things like how to make an easy pasta sauce, a Béarnaise to eat with steak or a simple custard for an apple crumble. I wanted to learn basic skills, like how to fry safely and cleanly at home, how to steam and chargrill and all that stuff. Gradually, I started to realise that my new recipes weren’t all the effort and money I’d expected. Once I had them down after a few goes, they were really quick, they tasted better and they actually cost less than something prepackaged.

I also found it really easy to get my five a day all of a sudden. Knowing what goes into your food doesn’t guarantee a healthy diet, of course, but it does help you learn a lot about how your body reacts to things and factors like seasonality stop being a mystery and start to define how you pick your meals. It also ups your enthusiasm for high quality, basic ingredients. Since then I’ve learnt that you can eat like a prince on cheap, common ingredients like lentils or chopped tomatoes, and even from someone who relies on at least one burger a week – the amount of sugar and additives in a lot of shop-bought dishes makes me turn my nose up. Cutting out processed foods sent me on a real path to finding my way in the kitchen. Sure, I liked to cook before that, but this level of enthusiasm was all new. Skills are easily picked up and transferable, so making one dish could lead to five more – opening the door to a whole new culinary repertoire. 

5. Create in bulk

Sometimes, inspiration just isn’t there. And you can’t force it. Other days, however, the kitchen is the only place I want to be. On a quiet, rainy day, with a sunbeam or two peaking through the window, I can stand at the hob for hours on end making stock, flavouring oils or roasting veg. It took me a while to realise, but those days don’t have to be wasted on making cupcakes for the sake of it, or a massive lavish dinner for your other half – although sometimes it’s nice to do that. Those days can be spent stocking your cupboards, fridge and freezer for the days ahead. One of my favourite things to do is caramelise onions. Pretty sad, right? I know, but there’s something about it – watching those chunky, sharp slices turn from white to translucent, all the way through to brown – picking up a sickly sweetness on its way that’ll add oomph to any gravy or sauce you chuck them into. I do this in bulk sometimes, at the start of the week, and keep a box in the fridge.

I also love to roast sweet peppers, sprinkled with rosemary and garlic and left to sizzle in a hot oven. Keep them in the fridge, or in a jar of oil to preserve them for longer, and add them to sandwiches or serve with roasted sausages and slices of halloumi for an easy mid-week meal. I’ll also buy olive oil on offer and stuff the bottles with garlic, peppercorns and rosemary, or hot birdseye chillis – shove them to the back of a shelf and let them infuse for a few months. You can also make a batch of your favourite cookie dough, roll it into balls and pop each portion in a ziplock bag. Pull them out one at a time and cook on a baking tray in a 200º oven straight from the freezer – satisfaction in minutes! Stocks, soups and ragus can bubble away on the stove all afternoon and then be portioned out into tubs or bags for the freezer, too – then when you hit a busy patch, or you’re stumped for cash, you have an easy, stress-free solution. 

So there you have it. That’s what I’ve learnt. I hope these ideas help, and I hope I can share more with you as I pick up more skills. Do you have your own tips for staying chirpy in the kitchen? If so, tweet them at me @whipuntilfluffy or share them down in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Sick Days: An Ode to a Spanish Omelette

Sick Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing the Love

Sharing the Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

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

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

What have you been up to recently?

Meal Planning: W/C 01/09/14

Meal Planning 01/09/14

This self-employment malarky is confusing. One month you’re eating like royalty, bouncing around town at all of the cool spots. What’s that? You can’t be bothered to cook? Let’s go out! Another round of drinks? I’ll get these! Tasting menu? Don’t mind if I do. Then the next month rolls in and suddenly you’re gazing at your bank balance in some sort of a daze, thinking “Where did all the money go?” Prince to Pauper in the extreme. 

Alright, so some of that is down to my poor household and financial management, but after three long years of going it alone, I still can’t manage to get into that swing of saving when I’m busy so I don’t need to scrimp when I’m not. Hence the meal planning. August has been my summer holiday month. I didn’t go anywhere exotic, but I took a week off and did a bit of hopping around the country visiting various friends and relatives. Thing is, when you pay yourself and you don’t do any work, well… there’s no payday. Still getting my head around that one.

So this week I’m trying to keep the costs down. I’ve had my jollies, checked out the new openings, but now it’s time to sit back and cozy up for Autumn. I don’t mind staying at home when the weather’s bad. I’ve got £50 this week to feed Matt and I, which may sound lavish to some, but trust me, we can spend a lot more than that. Hey – food is our hobby. I haven’t budgeted for breakfast because generally Matt doesn’t eat it and I have the same thing, of which I have plenty in stock. We’re not big on desserts, either, so you won’t see many of them. This is my plan: 

Monday: Because he works in street food, Matt’s weekends generally fall on a Monday and a Tuesday. Sometimes we go out, but this week I’ll be cooking at home so he can put his feet up. Lunch is soup and bread, which I’ll hopefully homemake on Sunday. I have everything needed for bread in the cupboards. Soup will be made from whatever leftover veg we have from the week. Tea will be a courgette risotto – it’s the end of the courgette season and you gotta get those babies while you can. This needs fresh courgettes, goats cheese and a bottle of wine – I have the rest. £10.

Tuesday: For lunch, it’s sliced minute steak from the freezer folded through couscous with harissa, roasted onions and pine nuts. Time to replenish those pine nuts, they’re seeing a lot of use lately. Tea tonight will most likely be cooked by Matt. It’ll probably be that bit of pork belly we’ve got in the freezer if I know him at all, maybe with borlotti beans (cupboard) and cider. I’ll give him a budget of £8 to spend just in case, he’s pretty good at coming up with impressive meals on limited funds. £11.

Wednesday: For lunch today, I’m taking more of the soup I made on Sunday to work. I’ll heat it up in the microwave at lunch time and eat it with bread – homemade if it’s not stale yet, but otherwise I’ll pick up a fresh roll from Co-op on my way in.  Left over risotto means one thing only – arancini. Tonight’s tea is light on the spend, heavy on the prep. I’m thinking Italian Small Plates. Arancini, deep fried courgette with mint, homemade garlic bread and aubergine parmigiana. Raspberry ripple ice cream (homemade) to finish.  I need an aubergine, a new bulb of garlic and a packet of mint. Eggs and cream for the ice cream. £6.50

Thursday: I’m styling and shooting for a client during the day, so don’t need to plan lunch. For tea? Matt’s working so it’ll be simple pasta for me, linguine from the cupboard, plus pine nuts, diced bacon and peas from the freezer, lemon and a splash of cream leftover from Wednesday’s ice cream. £2.50.

Friday: Another morning full of styling and shooting, this time I’m collaborating on a recipe for Food&. I’ll scrounge what I can from what’s left. In the afternoon I’m finishing off the copy for a client’s website and then shooting out to dinner with friends. No grocery spend today.

Saturday: Realistically, I’ll be out and about during the day on Saturday. I might meet friends for a coffee, Mrs Athas most likely, and pick up lunch while I’m there. Or maybe at Trinity Kitchen. For dinner I’m on my own again, I’m cooking honey sesame chicken with egg fried rice – I’ll make a double portion so Matt can have some when he gets in. The chicken comes out of the freezer, two thighs left over from another meal. I need to replace my honey and buy spring onions. Luckily I have sesame seeds and rice already in store, plus eggs leftover from the ice cream. Will treat myself to a bottle of slimline tonic so I can have a gin or two – it’s the weekend after all. £4.

Sunday: If it’s not a roast on a Sunday afternoon, it’s most likely a bolognese on Sunday evening. I’m alone, so I’ll have a late brunch and a few coffees at my local shop, then pootle home to get the stove fired up. Brunch will be waffles with syrup, for which I’ll use the last two eggs I bought earlier in the week. I’ll make too many waffles and freeze the rest for easy breakfasts – you can reheat them in the toaster. For the bolognese I’ll get mince out of the freezer (Matt picked up five packs for £1.49 each in the reduced section a few weeks ago), I have onions, milk, tinned chopped tomatoes and stock in already, and I can use the rest of the bacon I defrosted on Thursday night. I need to pick up a bottle of red wine, celery, a carrot, basil (our plant died) and gnocchi from the shop. £12. 

Total: £46 – wahey, £4 left over for snacks – maybe a few pieces of fruit and a packet of biscuits.

If you like these kinds of posts, take a look at Nelly’s and Tracy’s blogs. Those girls have it down. Me? Must. Try. Harder.

You can probably tell from reading this that my freezer, cupboards and spice rack are extremely well stocked. The spices and herbs have taken a long time to build up – but we tend to buy in bulk from the local Asian supermarket and keep everything in clean, sealed jam jars. When it comes to freezing, we buy the majority of our meat from the butcher but also use supermarket reduced shelves to grab things while they’re cheap. The extra cost at the time will pay you back in spades and if you have a lean month, your stress will be halved. Meat packs from your butcher or market really help too, and also encourage you to experiment with cuts you wouldn’t usually buy. Grains and dried goods can be stocked up on every few months with an online shop, but I love Millie’s for big bags of rice, couscous, pearl barley and lentils, along with large bottles of vinegar and oil. Having these things readily available makes for easy meal planning. 

Do you plan ahead for cooking in the week? Are there any tools you use to make life easier?  

Take a Breath

CatchUp3

I’m not a very organised blogger. I like to take photos, but it feels like things are rarely complete. I currently have 17 drafts in my posts folder. The pressure, self-inflicted of course, to produce well-rounded posts with a beginning, a middle and an end, has increased tenfold over the past few years and a thousandfold since I started blogging for the first time in 2001. But I’m trying to shake that off. Forget about it. Have fun. This isn’t my job, after all. I’m making like this is the mid-noughties, and for this post I’m taking a breath. This is a round-up of what I’ve been up to, where I’ve been going and what I’ve been eating (naturally).

Up top there is a picture of my tea on Wednesday night. An impromptu dinner at The Reliance, there was rabbit loin, chorizo and peas. I also shared pig cheeks with pomme puree and it was glorious, with the sunshine blazing in through the huge windows. Add Moules Marinere for a main, with a lake of silky, garlicky sauce and chips to dip in and I could’ve been in a cafe with gingham table cloths, on the back of a beach somewhere. True seasonal grub. I left full and dizzy with love for the summer.

CatchUp5

A few weekends ago I got to spend some time at L’Eroica Britannia, in the Peak District. I was there in a Street Food Wife capacity, sampling all the delights and snapping pictures – but, weirdly, it filled me with a huge enthusiasm for bikes. The vintage outfits, buzzing atmosphere and the lady who had come all the way from Canada in a full 80s power suit to take part in the 30km ride on a Pashley, were all extremely lovely and made me feel like I wanted to be part of their vintage cycling club. Instead, I ate my weight in street food and watched everyone else burn calories. It was fun! You can tell we were in Derbyshire, they served their bacon in “cobs”. It’s a breadcake where I come from, love.

(No it’s not, I’m a southerner… please don’t tell anyone).

CatchUp4

The guys over at @BodegaOlives sent me a few boxes to try this week. I’m going to be making Gin Martinis and antipasti platters for the foreseeable future. The Alfonsos are my favourite.

Other action from this week – I’ve been getting to grips with my new camera lens. The change has made me keener to use my DSLR on manual, so I’ve been reading up on aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and looking at some of my favourite blogs for inspiration. Working with a 50mm is different, and it’s hard to be lazy. The whole “zoom with your feet” thing is starting to sink in and I’m looking for opportunities to shoot everywhere I go. The slightly more compact lens also means I’m more inclined to carry my camera in my bag, so hopefully I’ll be taking pictures a lot more regularly. I’m having a lot of fun playing around with the f-stop, which has produced a lot of out of focus, super ugly pictures, but I think I’m learning. The photo below was taken the day I got my lens, sitting outside the Corn Exchange with a tray of ribs from Reds.

CatchUp2

Oh yeah, there was a big cycling race too. The Tour de France came to town, and it was pretty fun. Most of Yorkshire turned out and apparently there were over 200,000 people lining the streets of our fair city. I was lucky enough to watch Le Grand Depart from up high, out of first floor windows at The Light, so I saw the whole thing – giant Fruit Shoot and all. After I saw the start I headed over to Ilkley on the train for the day for more street food and street parties. For about 20 minutes I thought I might invest in a road bike. #cyclefever.

CatchUp1

I also got to treat myself to some excellent cookware this week, thanks to my prize money. I added a 30cm Le Creuset Casserole to my kitchen collection, a set of measuring spoons, a KitchenAid ice cream maker and a waffle iron! So tomorrow I’m treating myself to a rare Sunday off to test a few recipes. Watch this space!

In the meantime, let me know what you’re up to down in the comments section or come and chat to me over on Twitter @WhipUntilFluffy. Remember you can keep up with me over on Facebook, too. See you soon!

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

As new store launches go, Le Creuset is pretty much as good as it gets for me. Before last month, you could have asked me what shops I thought Leeds was missing and I would’ve reeled off a short but painstakingly compiled list of three: Le Creuset, Kitchenaid & Lakeland. Yeah… my tastes are quite niche. When I saw the sign go up as I walked through the Victoria Quarter one lunchtime on my way back to work, I was pretty excited, to say the least.

Le Creuset and I go waaay back. We’re best pals. We’ve seen each other at our best (chocolate panettone bread and butter puddings – ramekins) and our worst (curdled, gloopy bernaise sauce – gravy boat). As I whizzed around the bright, gleaming VQ store on opening day (I was very kindly invited down for a preview, about an hour before doors opened) I was racking up parallel lists of gots and wants as quickly as a junior school kid with a packet of Panini football stickers.

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

The Le Creuset brand was born in 1925. Sure, it’s a premium, quality range – but it ain’t snobby. What I love best about it, is that the prices aren’t high to attract the “right” kind of customer. Le Creuset don’t have pretensions like that. As Katherine Tranter, Head of Retail in the UK, said herself – the brand’s customers are “passionate home cooks, food lovers and style hunters alike”. Ding ding ding. That’s me! Le Creuset’s prices are high, of course, but that’s because each piece of cookware is a lifetime investment. Each item is built to last, and it’s not a flash in the pan (ho-ho, a cooking metaphor!) endorsed by Michellin starred chefs as *the* kitchen essential. Le Creuset is a brand for the home cook. We’re talking huge, heavy casseroles, marked by years worth of gravy, and seasoned cast-iron griddles that have seen more than their fair share of Sunday brunches. It’s cookware that’s built to be passed down, and around.

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le-Creuset-Store-12

Our story is long and varied. I started collecting in my early 20s, and now my kitchen is filled with items which have come  to me through many different channels. Some were bargains, sitting solo and sad on TK Maxx shelves. Some pieces were presents – box fresh and shiny. And some were eBay or jumble sale finds – including a fondue set from the 70s, a little sooty around the edges, and privy to many candid conversations and suspect dance moves in the last year alone – never mind the previous 40. The point is, my Le Creuset collection is big, and the jewel in its crown is our 30cm shallow casserole, given to Matt and I by my parents when we got engaged, used for everything from one pot chicken dishes to macaroni cheese (spoiler alert: it’s in my upcoming Top 5 Kitchen Essentials post).

I’m aware that it might seem that I’m going a little over the top. But seriously, I love this stuff. It’s classic, and it’s colourful – which in a world full of pastel silicone, throwaway “vintage” and cupcake mania, feels overwhelmingly genuine to me. I’m proud to have this stuff on my shelves, in my oven, on my table, and I have every faith that’s a lasting feeling.

It’s surprising too, there’s more on offer than you would think. There’s a whole World Cuisine range, with tangines, balti pans and condiment pots, amongst many more pieces for your kitchen arsenal that you may not expect Le Creuset to stock. There are also Wine Accessories. #justsayin.

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

Le Creuset, Victoria Quarter Leeds

If you can’t tell, I’m very excited to welcome this brand to Leeds. With two floors of gorgeous products, plus a demo kitchen, I’m really looking forward to becoming a regular. You know, like one of those people on that Liberty of London programme, where the shop assistants have my number on speed dial for when new ranges come into stock, and I scream “OMG, gimme 12!” down my mobile in the middle of the office. Well… maybe not. But you know what I mean, right? I LOVE THIS SHOP. Get down there.

Le Creuset Victoria Quarter Leeds LS1 6AZ | @LeCreusetUK @VQLeeds

Disclaimer: I was invited down to the new store to have a little look around before it opened its doors to the public. I received no payment or goods in exchange for this write up.

A sidenote:  I’ve been pretty strict about taking meals and endorsing brands on Whip Until Fluffy, and I set out to only ever work with brands I could talk your ear off about if I met you IRL. If you know me offline, you’ll know my kitchen is filled with this stuff. So please, this won’t be a regular thing and I’m not selling out… I just can’t get enough of that ol’ volcanic stoneware.