honey

So, can I complain about the weather for a minute? I’m not into it. I liked June, when it was warm enough to go without a coat and sit outside but not so warm that I can’t function. It doesn’t help that I pulled out my summer clothes and none of them fit me any more. Probably because it’s been around three years since we had a decent summer/I went on a sunny holiday – so they’re not new purchases! So I’m torn between wearing something I feel comfortable in weather-wise (seriously, my office is like a sauna) and something that I feel comfortable in body-image-wise. Not a fun choice. Tell me I’m not the only one with a crisis of confidence over shorts and tiny dresses?

Other than that though, this week has been pretty rad. I went to a sushi-making class with some people from work, which was fun but I quickly learnt that whilst I am a pro at eating sushi, I am certainly not a natural at making it. I also celebrated my sweet friend Eloise’s birthday with a feast of Mexican food at Cielo Blanco and prosecco on Angelica’s beautiful terrace. Leeds, you may not have the prettiest skyline but I will never be bored of looking at you.

I’ve also got some of my wonderful Uni friends coming up this weekend. I’m writing this ahead of time, so I’ll have to share our adventures at a later date! It’s their first time in Leeds so I’m hoping to show them the best our city has to offer so they want to come back again and again! My plans are Belgrave roof garden, Mustardstock and dinner at Pinche Pinche. I think that should tempt them back.

How was your week, friends?

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vase

Hey everyone! Today I’m borrowing a blog post idea from Allie Lehman (you should totally check her out!) because I want to know a bit about you! I am so thankful that you read this blog – I’m pretty proud of it, if you don’t mind me saying and it makes me happy that you might find something helpful, delicious or interesting in these pages. I would love us to be friends – so let’s chat!

1. Are you a dog or a cat person? 

2. What’s your signature drink?

3. You have an evening all to yourself – what do you do? 

4. If you could only eat one nationality of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

5. What are you reading right now? Would you recommend it? 

My answers: 

1. A bit of both. I know you’re supposed to be one or the other, but I can totally see the appeal of both cats and dogs. Even though she hates me, I love Tuna Fey so much and having her around has definitely made our house a home. But if I had to choose? I would have a dog. They’re just so much a part of the team and they give back the love you show them in spades. It’s not a reality for us right now, but I would love us one day to have a little beagle puppy.

2. This is a bit of a Cosmo-ish question, I apologise. I don’t think that your ‘signature’ drink says much about you other than your tastebuds really, if that helps. If you’re going to the bar and I don’t fancy anything in particular, my default is a glass of Pinot Grigio or a Hendricks & Tonic (although I’ll take a different gin, in a pinch).

3. If we had a bath, I would take a bath. Instead I am stuck with just a shower and that is certainly no fun. If I’m home alone, I usually make myself a big bowl of pasta and catch up on all the TV that Paul hates. Sometimes I knit or blog. I usually go to bed early. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that.

4. It’s a toss up between Mexican and Italian. I think I’d have to go with Mexican, although I’m glad it’s not a real life question because I couldn’t live without pasta.

5. Right now I am reading Lolita by Vladimir Nobakov. I have read the first half so many times but never got to the end for some reason, so I am persevering. The prose is beautiful despite the haunting subject matter, but it is slow going because it’s quite dense. I would recommend it if you’re the kind of person who, like me, cares as much (if not more) about the language and the way the story is told than about the storyline. It’s not a light beach read, but it is glorious.

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sarah and ste 1

I spend a lot of my life at weddings. It’s one of the benefits of being so popular(!). Having a big family helps. So far this year we’ve been to four, with two more to come and one we can’t attend due to it being all the way in the US of A. It’s been so wonderful to watch some of our closest friends tie the knot and last Friday was no exception. Sarah and Ste are some of the loveliest, warmest, funnest people that we know. They are excellent party guests but also fantastic friends and just brilliant people. It turns out that Ste is also a very good speech maker, and he had us all in tears. We’re going to have to start working on our speeches now…

sarah and ste 7

sarah and ste 4

The whole day was totally joyful – from singing ‘I’m a Believer’ at the ceremony right through to finishing the night to ‘Africa’ by Toto (a bit of an anthem in the group, for some reason). I got to talk and dance and spend time with some of my favourite people in the whole world and I really can’t wait until it’s our turn. I’m a sentimental drunk, as I’ve said before, and I always get a bit overwhelmed at weddings as a result. Something about the fact that everyone has so much love to share and give is astounding to me. It makes us human and it makes our lives meaningful, and weddings just epitomise that. It’s not just about the love that two people share – that’s just one part of a much bigger web of family and friends. How amazing is that?

sarah and ste 8 sarah and ste 10

sarah and ste 5 sarah and ste 2

ste and sarah 3

sarah and ste 9

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the woods 8

(Photo Credit: The Woods)

I love that I can call Chapel Allerton home. In my humble opinion, it’s definitely the best part of Leeds and it has everything I could possibly want – from a butchers, green grocers and cheesemongers right through to perfect pub gardens, friendly bars and delicious restaurants. However, despite a bustling social scene and plenty of punters, there’s one building right slap bang in the middle that hasn’t had much luck. Previously Angel’s Share and The Hummingbird Kitchen & Bar, it’s stood empty for a long while. That is, until The Woods moved in.

The Woods, Leeds

We were invited down to try out what The Woods has to offer – and although it’s only been a week since the opening, there are already big plans afoot. Set over three floors – bar, restaurant and canopy – they already have a packed programme of events. As well as the food and drink on offer, there’s also a 4k cinema screen which will be showing classic films for kids and adults alike, space for live music and even some exercise classes which you can get involved in. The decor is stripped back and clearly Scandi-inspired – I love the bright yellow bar downstairs and the log-burning fire. It’s bright and airy, with big windows looking out over Chapel A – and of course, the outside terrace, which, judging by the amount of people there on a Wednesday night, has sorely been missed this summer.

Strawberry & Basil Cocktail at The Woods, Leeds

Lumberjack Cocktail and The Woods, Leeds

There’s an impressive range of drinks on offer – Paul was particularly taken with the Brooklyn Summer Ale – and the cocktail list includes both the classics you would expect and a few unusual creations inspired by ‘The Woods’ theme. They’ve carried the theme through to the menu as well – the food is wood-fired and the main courses are hearty, which is perhaps a little at odds with the lightness of the venue (or maybe just because we visited on one of those really close, sticky days we’ve been having). I was impressed with the wood-fired pizzas – always a winner in my books. There was a range of unusual toppings on the menu, and you can mix and match your own if you can’t find exactly what you want. I opted for garlic mushrooms, artichoke, lemon and pecorino which was a really lovely flavour combination – both light and filling at the same time, if that makes sense. You’ll have to try it and see what I mean.

Pizza at The Woods, Leeds

Pizza at The Woods, Leeds

However, I’ll be honest and say that some of the other things we tried were a little average. Not bad but certainly not blow you away good. Paul had the Yorkshire lamb shoulder, which although flavoured well with garlic and rosemary was nothing particularly special. I’ve heard similar feedback from friends who’ve visited so my advice would be to stick to the pizzas if you visit. Whilst I’m here, it’s also worth mentioning that the service was friendly but slow – both in the restaurant and at the bar – but having only been open a week I wouldn’t worry about it. They’ll find their feet no doubt.

Lamb Shoulder at The Woods, Leeds

Cured Meat Board at The Woods, Leeds

Other places are doing meat well, but I’m sure I’ll be back for some of those pizzas – at around £8 they’re a good accompaniment for some post-work drinks or a Saturday lunchtime tipple. I’m also keen to try out their brunch menu – my commitment to brunch is very real and their brunch menu definitely has some interesting dishes to try. There’s also a pile of fresh croissants and cakes by the bar which are very tempting indeed.

It’s a lovely spot, right in the centre of the action and I’m very glad to see this bar open again. If you can grab yourself a seat outside, you could easily while away a summer evening nibbling on pizza and sipping on cocktails. Isn’t life grand?

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Chopping Board

I am so glad it is Sunday. Sunday is such a good day. On Sundays I blog and write and plan and cook a leisurely dinner, whilst Paul cleans and watches films and naps. We’ve got a good thing going on, for sure. It’s a much needed respite from a busy but wonderful week. This week I have been dining out on some delicious fare, crying and cheering at Caitlin Moran’s show at the Town Hall (it was so, so brilliant), and celebrating the wedding of two of the best people I know. I go to weddings so often, but they never lose their magic for me – I blubbed through the speeches, danced until my feet hurt and hugged everyone in sight. There were shots of neon Apple Sourz (why?), drinking games during the speeches (of course) and a much needed recovery period at the pub the next day. How was your week?

 

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blondies 5

I think I might be the last person on the Internet to discover brown butter, which frankly, is a travesty. To be fair, I’ve eaten it before, I just didn’t know it was a ‘thing’. My best friend (and maid of honour) has a house in France (or rather, her family does), which we used to visit once a month or so for years. I was very lucky that her brother wasn’t interested in family holidays – and I very much was. In the mornings we would eat crepes, cooked in a frying pan with butter and by the second or third, the butter would have browned a little, giving a delicious nutty flavour. I’m not sure why I never thought to recreate that flavour – until now.

Browning butter sounds like a more complicated process than it is – all you need to do is gently bubble the butter in a saucepan until it turns brown. It’s really as simple as that. The butter gives a deeper, nuttier flavour than you usually find in a blondie, and makes them really fudgey. Blondies can sometimes be a little dry and cakey, but not these bad boys. You can add chopped pecans instead of the white chocolate if you prefer a bit of bite, or go for both if you’re really feeling adventurous. One bite of these little beauties and all your problems will melt away, and if you choose to share them then you’ll be very popular indeed.

blondies 1

You’ll need:

  • 160g unsalted butter
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla bean extract
  • 175g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)

blondies 2

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C

2. Cut the butter into chunks and place in a small saucepan. Melt over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Keep the butter gently bubbling for around 5 minutes until the butter has browned.

3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir in the butter.

4. Add the sugar and stir until well incorporated.

5. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.

6. Sift the flour and salt into the mixture. Fold the dry ingredients in gently until well-mixed.

7. Finally, fold in the chocolate chunks. Pour into a prepared brownie tin.

8. Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly browned on top.

9. Cut into chunks and leave to cool – if you can wait!

blondies 3

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Bird and Beast Leeds

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Paul actually took me to Nando’s on our first date. And our second date. Yes, I am still marrying him. I was a poor student at the time, and I was certainly not as discerning in my choice of restaurants as I am now, and Paul was the fussiest eater known to man. So it suited both of our purposes, although if someone pulled that on me nowadays I’m sure I wouldn’t be so forgiving.

Because nowadays, Bird & Beast exists, giving chicken lovers everywhere a refuge for a classier date location that will impress rather than distress. Specialising in delicious, rotisserie chicken, Bird & Beast is like Nando’s classier older sister – their chicken is locally sourced (they’ll tell you where from, if you ask nicely), treated with care and respect and served up in a light, airy and sophisticated restaurant. We were invited to dine for free but it’s a similar price point, and they even have Nando’s sauce. So you see, there really would be no excuse, even for a fussy eater like Paul.

Bird and Beast Leeds

If you do go to Bird & Beast, be sure to enter from the Central Road side – you’ll go up some sweeping steps and straight into a warm welcome at the entrance. The other side – the Central Arcade side – is slightly less glamorous – although my thoughts on that arcade and why it hasn’t got the same makeover treatment as Trinity is a post for another time. There’s a bar where you can perch on comfy looking turquoise stools and watch your chickens being cooked on spit, although we opted for a table in the corner near the sauces! It was a little quiet, although it was early on a Wednesday evening – but the music was good, the staff were friendly and the sun was shining in. You can’t ask for much more.

Chicken at Bird and Beast

The menu is very simple – but all the better for it. A whole, half or quarter chicken and sides of your choice. For vegetarians there are an array of salads, which sounds like a cop-out but these are more interesting than your regular caesar and are due to be changed regularly to suit the flavours of the season. They also serve as a side for two, if you’d rather go for a light option. The whole chicken is designed to share, and although we opted for two sides we should have shared one of those as well – a whole chicken is filling! It’s cut up perfectly ready for delectation – don’t worry, it’s not just plonked on your plate whole – and the skin may be the best I’ve ever seen. Paul thinks I’m odd for liking the crispy chicken skin but when it’s cooked like this, then there is nothing better. The birds are double marinated and cooked over cherry wood chips and charcoal for a unique flavour and delicious tenderness. This stuff is addictive.

Sweet Potato Wedges at Bird and Beast Leeds

I mentioned earlier the table of sauces – around the restaurant are strategically placed little tables brimming with bottles of sauce to flavour your chicken. Paul opted for the hottest sauce possible, of course, whilst I went for a garlick-y number but I abandoned it after the first dip for a squeeze of fresh lemon and a little dunk of mayo for my chips. The chicken was just too good to slather in sauce, although apparently I’m one of the only ones who thinks so! Sauce it seems, is serious business.

Table of sauces at Bird and Beast Leeds

Although we were bursting at the seams by the time that the dessert menu came around, I couldn’t resist the Crème Catalana – one of my favourite puddings of all time. Designed to be a little light relief after you’ve gorged yourself on the main attraction, it was exactly what I needed. The zestiness of the orange was delicious after all that chicken, although the creamy sweetness of the dessert eventually defeated me – another thing I should have shared. There’s a lesson here, I think. Paul’s warm brownie was perfectly fudgey and demolished within minutes – although I did manage to pinch a tiny bit for ‘review purposes’. 

Creme Catalana at Bird and Beast Leeds

As we waddled out, we vowed to return for more chicken-y goodness. It’s already gone down a storm with our friends (it’s great for group dining) so no doubt we’ll find ourselves back sooner rather than later. And I suspect that going to a different chicken restaurant now might feel rather disappointing…

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Spicy Sausage Rolls

Sausage rolls. That bastion of the birthday party buffet. Although they invoke a lot of nostalgia, I think we can all admit that the sausage rolls that come out of packets are kind of sad and anaemic looking. It’s not the best state of affairs.

These sausage rolls are the exact opposite. Golden, flaky pastry, juicy nuggets of sausage meat with a bit of a kick. These are grown-up sausage rolls, and they make the perfect addition to any party.

They don’t take too long to make – unless you’re fancy and make your own pastry – but they are kind of messy. You do have to get your hands dirty – but the end product is totally worth it and the effort expended is minimal for the amount of praise you will receive. They also pack well in lunch boxes and for picnics.

Pro-Tip: Don’t leave your pastry unattended if you have a cat, or you might some rogue paw prints. (Don’t worry, we went out and bought some more!)

How to Make Spicy Sausage Rolls

You’ll need:

  • 500g sausage meat
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely grated
  • 2 tsp chilli sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. chilli flakes (or more, if you’re adventurous)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 pack of ready-rolled puff pastry (around 320g)

1. Put the sausage meat into a medium sized bowl. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, chilli sauce, chilli flakes and 1 egg.

2. Using your hands, mix together the ingredients until fully combined.

3. Lay your pastry flat on a chopping board. Cut in half length-wise.

4. Working with one half of the pastry at a time, lay a sausage of the meat mixture down the centre. It should take up just over a third of the pastry.

5. Beat the second egg and, using a pastry brush. paint along the side of the pastry furthest from you until it’s covered in a thin layer of egg wash.

6. Pick up the edge of the pastry closest to you and fold over the sausage meat in the middle, keeping it tucked in.

7. Bring up the other (egg-washed) side of pastry over the top and lightly pinch together so that you end up with a fully sealed tube.

8. Repeat with the second half.

9. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper and pre-heat the oven to 200°C. 

How to Make Spicy Sausage Rolls

10. Using a sharp knife, gently cut each roll into around 10-15 pieces (depending on how thick you want each sausage roll – I made mine pretty thin but you might like them chunky!). Go slowly to avoid pushing the sausage meat out of each end – I found it was easier to use a ‘sawing’ motion rather than a simple push to avoid this.

11. Place on the baking trays with a couple of centimetres between them. Give them all a thin coat of egg wash.

12. Bake for around 25-35 minutes (depending on thickness – mine were definitely ready at 25 minutes) until the pastry is golden and the sausage meat is cooked through.

13. Leave to cool on a wire rack and serve with a smug smile!

How to Make Spicy Sausage Rolls

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sunset at the beach

Hey friends! How are you? I’m currently in the middle of a very lazy day, ignoring my chores and chain-watching Friends. It’s much needed, to be honest. This week we ate out at Byron and Bird & Beast, treated ourselves to a cheeky takeaway from Arti, visited our sweet friends and their kids, melted from the warm weather and I finished knitting a blanket. So it’s been pretty productive! So now we’re recharging our batteries ready for another big week. Oh, and I bought a whole bunch of beautiful Le Creuset saucepans. That was definitely the highlight.

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Byron Burger, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

2014 is the year of the burger in Leeds. We’re a little behind London and Manchester, but many of their most popular burger joints are making their way to our city this year – Almost Famous has just announced their arrival whilst Meat Liquor is set to open next month. But our most recent addition to open its doors is Byron, who have set up shop on Lands Lane serving up their wares to the burger-hungry people of Leeds. Which, luckily, includes me.

Byron Burger, Leeds // Amy ElizabethI have actually been to Byron once before, in Islington, but I wasn’t very well on my visit. Not due to the burgers, I hasten to add – I had a double ear infection and a nasty cold, which doesn’t lend itself to an appetising story or an enjoyable visit. So I was very excited to try again in full health, and on my own turf.

Byron Burger, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

Leeds locals might remember this building as La Senza, before their fated financial trouble and the move into Trinity, but to say that it’s had a transformation is an understatement. I was so impressed with the look of the restaurant – it’s got that ‘lived in’ look, with worn wooden floors and aged leather booths, which is impressive for somewhere that’s just opened. The front window lets in so much light, and the walls are stripped back to brick. With an open kitchen and a second floor (the stairs have numbers on them, which brings me an odd amount of joy), it feels spacious but still friendly. It was also, given that it was Monday evening at 6.30pm and the first week of opening, incredibly busy. People were turned away for tables – so if you do want to give it a go yourself, then be sure to book!

Byron Burger, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

Byron Burger, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

And you should definitely give it a go yourself. Come for the decor, stay for the burgers. Unlike some other burger places (ones I frequent and enjoy, don’t get me wrong), Byron is committed to keeping it simple. Rather than trying to outdo other places with outrageous toppings, this is all about the simple beef patty. They tell you that it’s cooked medium when you  order – and they mean it, although you can request it well-done if you’re squeamish. The extras are kept to a minimum – I just had Emmenthal whilst Paul had American cheese and green chillies. It was incredibly juicy, although the brioche bun maintained integrity. I’m no connoisseur, but this was a good burger. It appears these guys really know what they’re doing.

Byron Burger, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

When it comes to sides, their courgette fries are legendary but I don’t get on with courgettes so we plumped for some french fries and home made skin-on chips. I was going to make a disparaging comment about having to pay extra for sides when chips are usually standard, but actually the portions were enough on their own and next time I might miss out fries altogether – or maybe share. Paul also wanted me to give a shout-out to the beers as well – Byron have their own branded lager and pale ale, brewed by the Camden Town Brewery, both of which came with a proper frosted glass. He enjoyed them both – so if that’s your sort of thing then give them a try!

Byron Burger, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

We didn’t get a chance to sample the puddings – there was just no room – but there’s always next time. And there will be a next time – we’re definitely going to go back (maybe before we go and see Caitlin Moran next week…squee!).

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