Risotto is my new favourite food. It can be light and fresh like my crab & courgette risotto or creamy, cheesy and comforting like this dish. Whilst it’s best eaten straight away, I actually don’t mind it reheated for lunch at work the next day – it’s stickier but still satisfying when the wind is lashing at the windows and there are still hours of proposals to write.
Risotto can be time-consuming. Although I enjoy the time spent over the saucepan, methodically stirring and seasoning, I know that not everyone has the time or inclination for such things. This recipe is for busy people who still want to sit down to a heart-warming bowl of risotto at the end of the day. There’s a little bit of effort required at the beginning – chopping, frying and the like – but then you bung it in the oven and leave it to its own devices whilst you get on with life. You can’t say fairer than that, risotto-wise.
- knob of butter
- splash of olive oil
- 4-5 echalion shallots, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely grated or crushed
- 125g button mushrooms, sliced
- 125g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- 125g artichoke hearts, sliced
- 250g arborio rice
- 100ml dry white wine
- 300ml vegetable stock
- zest of 1 lemon
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 100g parmesan, finely grated
- handful of pine nuts (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C
- In a large saucepan, heat the butter & oil over a medium heat before adding the shallots and garlic. Fry gently for around 5 minutes, until just starting to brown.
- Add the mushrooms and artichoke and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have softened.
- Pour in the rice and stir until coated in oil and starting to go translucent around the edges.
- Add the wine and turn up the heat. Simmer until the wine has reduced almost completely.
- Stir in the vegetable stock, lemon zest, salt & pepper and parmesan. Transfer to a oven-proof baking dish.
- Bake for 20 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is firm but not crunchy.
- In a frying pan, dry fry the pine nuts gently until toasted. Be careful, because they can catch easily!
- Serve the risotto with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and more parmesan.
Marvelling at how quickly this month has flown by.
Planning our wedding, step-by-step. We need to get things sorted.
Crossing so much of my to-do list (but is it ever enough?)
Reading as much as possible.
Winning a Friends Pub Quiz (well, coming third…)
Making my very own wreath, and hanging it in my kitchen.
Spending time with blogging friends. It’s good for the soul.
Eating far too much Toblerone. It’s my kryptonite.
Heading down South. I need to go more often.
Feeling a little under the weather.
Running further than I ever have before.
Listening to the Pitch Perfect soundtrack on my runs. So fun.
Digging out my winter wardrobe (and then donating most of it…)
Wearing my giant scarf as much as possible.
Dressing up for Halloween.
How about you?
Brownies are my signature bake. I whip up a batch on an almost weekly basis and am always looking for different ways to keep them interesting. They’re just so simple – you mix them in one bowl, you bake them in one tray and it’s almost impossible to get them wrong. If you’re a novice baker but you’re looking to impress, then a big pile of brownies will win you friends and compliments. Toblerone brownies have been part of my repertoire for a while – they were one of the first recipes on this blog – but I knew that they could be improved upon with the addition of some dark chocolate Toblerone. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a bar for months, but it wasn’t until I lingered in the Christmas section at my local supermarket that I finally managed to get my hands on some. These are double-Toblerone flavoured, making them all the better than my previous version, but, best of all, they don’t use up the whole bar so you can happily snack on Toblerone for days afterwards. Or make two batches. It’s just a win-win all round.
P.S. Find some more brownie recipes here. You’re welcome.
- 200g dark Toblerone, roughly chopped
- 175g unsalted butter, cubed
- 325g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 130g plain flour
- 100g milk Toblerone, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 170C
- Line a square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
- Place the butter and dark Toblerone in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, followed by the eggs.
- Fold in the flour until just combined - be careful not to over-mix as it will make your brownies less fudgey.
- Fold the milk Toblerone gently into the mixture.
- Pour the brownie batter into the baking tin and bake for 25 minutes.
- Leave to cool and then cut into squares.
Today is a lazy day, for catching up on TV shows and snuggling up in sweaters. For roast dinners and afternoon naps. It’s much needed, after a hectic few days travelling across the country for weddings and catch-ups with good friends. The wedding was lovely, as they always are, with fairy lights adorning the ceiling and plenty of dancing. It’s the last one we’re attending before ours, which is both exciting and a little daunting.
Yesterday I spent the day in London with one of my favourite friends – we bustled our way through Borough Market before walking along the South Bank for lunch at Wahaca and then made our way through the streets of London for wine and goodbyes at Kings Cross. It was a beautifully crisp autumn day and I didn’t even need to wear my jacket thanks to the sunshine, which made it all the more perfect.
So today is for recovery and for getting ready for the week ahead, which is jam-packed with good times to come. I need to make a Halloween costume and bake a pie. How about you?
- I buy my harissa from the supermarket (shock horror) but I would love to make my own homemade harissa.
- It’s the season for all things apple-flavoured, so it’s good to learn how to select apples for cooking and baking.
- I loved this piece on finding your tribe.
- Is brunch for jerks? I hope not.
- When I get a few days free, I want to work my way through The Kitchn’s cooking school lessons. There’s a lot for me to learn.
- If you like to be spooked, then try the 50 Scariest Short Stories of All Time.
- There’s been a doughnut pan sitting in my Amazon wish list for a few weeks; I ‘m going to have to take the plunge so I can make Rachel’s mini doughnuts with a limoncello glaze. So pretty.
- What do we mean when we say the term ‘a man’s woman’ and ‘a woman’s woman’. There’s something suspicious about the whole thing.
- I have been obsessing over the sweet treats on The Sugar Hit this week. Such a fun blog with some great recipes.
- “Joy, enthusiasm, excitement—those are sort of my chief attributes.” – I think Taylor Swift is my spirit animal.
- This is interesting: Here’s how differently a couple texts before and after getting married.
- If you’re a blogger, you might want to swot up on the copyright basics.
I am a hot chocolate aficionado. I don’t drink coffee or tea, so it’s my hot drink of choice; necessary on bitter mornings when even gloves won’t stop the chill and delightful on lazy afternoons spent chatting about everything and nothing. It upsets me when people make hot chocolate from that powder mix – you can’t possibly get a rich, creamy taste when your drink is mostly made from water. This hot chocolate take almost no extra time but feels luxurious – a proper treat. You can leave the booze out if you fancy, but it’s better with a slight kick to cut through the creaminess. Top with all the trimmings – whipped cream, marshmallows, a dash of cocoa powder. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.
- 40g white chocolate, chopped
- 125ml milk (I used semi-skimmed, but use whatever you prefer)
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- Zest of 1/4 orange
- 1 shot dark rum (optional)
- In a small saucepan, add all of the ingredients except the rum and place on a low heat.
- Whisk gently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is warmed through. Don't allow it to boil.
- Remove from the heat and add the rum, if using. Whisk vigorously until slightly frothy and pour into a mug, ready to enjoy!
Now that the nights are drawing in, I find myself wanting to curl up with a good book more and more. My bookshelves are stacked high but I keep finding new books to add to my list, must-reads that must wait for now. I’ve already planned a reading spree for the Christmas break and am eagerly adding titles to my Goodreads list in anticipation. There are so many books published every week that it feels like I might never get to the end, but as of yet there are very few books I’ve not enjoyed (and most of those were read at school) so it seems like a perfect way to spend my life, trying to get to the end of that list.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
I will admit to not enjoying this classic love story the first time I read it; a case of an English degree spoiling reading for me. However, I am glad I read it that first time – albeit very rushed, without taking it in – because it meant that this time I could read it slowly, absorb it better. It’s a long book, and there are some slow passages that felt superfluous but overall I found myself finally falling in love with this book just as so many others have done before me. Although the characters can be infuriating at time (why so mean, Mr Rochester?) they feel incredibly real and the slow burn of the story just makes the ending all the more delicious. I appreciated this book a lot more this time around, both for itself and for its position in our literary history and it makes me want to go back and read some of the other books that I dismissed during my schooling (particularly Jane Austen…). It’s a gorgeous autumnal read, with plenty of brooding skies and dark moments – stick with it, it will be worth it.
Tampa by Alissa Nutting
I love a controversial book, and when I read some reviews of this one, which tells the tale of a female teacher who seduces her students, I was intrigued. So many were dismissive of it and I wanted to find out more. I tore through this book, it’s incredibly easy to read (although, to warn you, it’s also *incredibly* graphic) and I did enjoy some of the questions it poses. It made me question some of my own assumptions, which I think is exactly what it’s designed to do. That being said, I actually didn’t think all that much of it overall – whilst the main character is designed to be completely unlikeable, which I don’t mind in a book, she also felt unrealistic – as did the students who she seduces. I couldn’t help but compare it to Lolita – the similarity in theme makes it almost impossible not to – which for me is a much more nuanced look at a taboo topic, with much more complex characters (not to mention, the most beautiful prose I think I’ve ever read). I’d love to know what you thought of this book if you’ve read it – it’s definitely stuck with me.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I could talk about this book for hours on end; I have read it so many times now that I feel like I know it inside-out whilst knowing that there is still more depth than I can get at right now. Every time I read it, I cry; it’s incredibly moving and beautiful and it touches on so many issues and ideas that it would be impossible for me to do it justice. I take something new away from it each time, and I recommend it to everyone I know – if you’ve not read it, you definitely should.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
There’s so much I could say about Lena Dunham’s book that it deserves a separate blog post (which it still might get) but it’s safe to say that like so many other twenty-something women out there, I have devoured her words and felt comforted by her honesty and forthright attitude. She covers off a lot of topics in this book, and at times it feels a bit jumbled – the timeline isn’t clear and it bucks traditional narrative structure – but the raw emotions and the story she is trying to tell is clear. It prompted me to do a lot of thinking about my own life, and also about the lives of my friends and family (hence why another blog post is probably needed…) but it also made me laugh at loud at points. It’s worth reading, if only so you can discuss it when the topic inevitably comes up, but also to absorb some of Lena’s unique perspective. I know there’s more to come from her, and I’m excited to see it.
I’m not usually one for getting into the Christmas spirit during October; with exception of snacking on the giant Toblerones which line the shelves at this time of year, I like to wait until Bonfire Night is out of the way before pulling out the Christmas jumpers and supping on mulled wine. However, there are some festive activities which even I can’t resist when the invitation comes my way, and Christmas wreath making is one of those.
Whilst I may be competent in the kitchen, my home-making skills pretty much end there. I am certainly no domestic goddess, and my crafting efforts in particular are usually thwarted by my clumsy hands. So the opportunity to be guided through such a gloriously festive craft by the ever-so-talented florist Katie couldn’t be missed, and even I managed to make a beautiful autumnal wreath by the end of the session.
Katie’s workshop is absolutely delightful, and everyone who walked through the door commented on the gorgeous smell of the flowers and plants laid out in front of us. Piles of spruce, rosemary and other assorted foliage (which I couldn’t name for the life of me…) were set out to make the base, with boxes of berries, dried hydrangeas and other pretty sprigs ready to add the finishing touches. Katie patiently answered our questions (of which there were many) and explained how to forage and find the various materials if we ever wanted to try our hand at wreath-making again.
After consuming the obligatory Christmas chocolates we set to work – trying to copy Katie’s skilled demonstration to the best of our abilities, with mixed success. The first step is to wind wire around the frame to create a base, before affixing bunches of greenery around the circumference with yet more wire before tucking in the final bits of decoration. It’s safe to say that everyone had a different style – from the neat and delicate to the quirky and haphazard; I’ll leave you to guess which end of the spectrum I was on… I liked the ‘no rules’ aspect of the craft, and how quickly it seemed to come together; despite no eye for floristry whatsoever (I can’t keep flowers in the house because Tuna eats them…) it was easy to create a natural, rustic wreath thanks to Katie’s expert tuition (even if she did have to take matters into her own hands a couple of times…). In fact, my wreath is hanging proudly in my kitchen as we speak – a little reminder than maybe I’m not so bad at this crafting lark after all.
It took us a few hours to create our wreaths, but it was wonderful to chat as we worked, stopping occasionally for cake breaks along the way and wandering around to admire each other’s handiwork. As I said, Katie’s studio is absolutely delightful and it was an incredibly cosy place to while away a few hours on a crisp autumn afternoon.
If you’re a local, I can’t recommend Katie’s workshops enough as a pre-Christmas treat. I couldn’t possibly do justice in this blog post to Katie’s breadth of knowledge and the tips & tricks she shares – I felt like a veritable pro by the end of it, even if I couldn’t remember the name of any of the flowers…
Lovely readers of this blog can get a 10% discount on this year’s workshops, making them just £49.50 (which includes all the materials to make your wreath) – just mention it when you book, and be sure to send me a photo of your finished wreath!Disclaimer: I attended this workshop for free with some of my blogger friends, but I had an absolute blast. I’m not usually a crafty person but this was genuinely so much fun and I wouldn’t recommend it to you if it wasn’t! Plus, I get to show off my hand-made wreath to everyone who visits, which makes me feel smug – and I’m pretty sure you’d feel the same with a wreath this good on your door… Oh, and we totally went to Yorkshire Meatball Company afterwards, which was an excellent idea and comes highly recommended from me!
This week has been mostly spent making to-do lists. I am full of ideas for this blog right now but, as with all things, time is in short supply so I’m scribbling notes to myself left, right and centre so I don’t forget anything. It’s not just for this blog, though, it’s been a productive week all round – sorting out the house and finally digging out my winter wardrobe, starting and finishing books I’ve been meaning to read for weeks, going on as many runs as the weather will allow… It still never feels like enough, though. I’m a perfectionist Type A to a ‘T’ – I don’t think I’ve ever sat down at the end of the week and been satisfied with how much I’ve achieved – there’s always more to do. As evidenced by those mammoth to-do lists.
As well as beavering away on a hundred different things this week, I’ve also stuffed myself silly with Canadian food, courtesy of my expat friend Cheryl who’s just been granted a visa to live here (hooray!), reminisced about 90s TV theme tunes, celebrated the 1st birthday of Trinity Kitchen, baked Izy‘s Swedish Chocolate Cake (again) and dug out all of my winter scarves. How about you?
- I wrote a little guide on my favourite places to eat, stay and shop in Leeds over on The Loveliest Food. If you’re looking for more recommendations, take a look at my Leeds Food Map.
- These iconic photographs had me crying at my desk, even if they were pretty US-centric. It’s amazing to think how much we have already lived through and how much is yet to come. (via Tracy)
- What’s it really like to write a cookbook? There seems to be a lot of washing up involved…
- I am still obsessed with reading about Gone Girl (although I still haven’t seen it). This one was particularly interesting: What ‘Gone Girl’ is Really About.
- I think we’ve all wondered how to make friends as an adult.
- On the subject of friendship, this piece is completely beautiful.
- Along with pretty much all twenty-something women, I’ve been reading Lena Dunham’s ‘Not that Kind of Girl’ this week. I loved Emma’s thoughts on how it made her feel.
- How Instagram made me a better person.
- I want this in my mouth: apple cardamom oat crumble. Perfect.
I *loved* reading your answers last time I did an Ice Breakers post. It’s so easy to forget when you’re writing a blog that there are real people out there reading it. I am endlessly fascinated by other people and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’ll happily chat away for hours. All of which to say, I want to know more about you! So, tell me…
1. What film could you watch over and over?
2. What’s your middle name(s)?
3. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
4. What are you most excited about right now?
5. What’s the sweet treat that you just can’t resist?
1. My favourite film is The History Boys and I do regularly re-watch it, but it can be a bit of a bummer if you don’t space out your viewings. I think I could watch Mean Girls and Pitch Perfect over and over and never be bored. I love me a sassy teen flick.
2. This one’s obvious for me! Elizabeth. Which meant that my family has recited the phrase ‘Amy Elizabeth Ermintrude Annie, went to the country to visit her granny’ for my whole life. I’ve actually just looked it up and there’s a whole poem to go with it, but I’ve only ever heard those two lines.
3. As cheesy as it sounds, I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere other than Leeds right now. However, if I was forced to pick somewhere else, I think that Copenhagen would be a fantastic place to live (plus, it’s polled as the happiest place in the world, which can’t be a bad thing).
4. Right now, I am excited for next weekend. I’m going to a wedding (as always) and then heading to London for the day to hang out with one of my favourite people. It’s definitely a fun thing to look forward to.
5. Sticky Toffee Pudding. So sweet. So spongy. So good.
It’s a cliché to love brunch, isn’t it? Everyone loves brunch. There’s a reason for that, of course. Brunch is absolutely brilliant. Brunch is for days off and weekends, when there’s nothing else to do but to indulge in piles of pancakes and gloriously dippy eggs. Plus, you can drink at brunch, and what’s not to love about that?
This is one of my favourite recipes to whip up for guests on mornings after nights before – it’s slightly fiery and the wonderful combination of runny yolk with melted cheese and rich tomato sauce is very restorative. It’s incredibly simple, and therefore perfect if you’re feeling a little fragile, so when Inghams Italy asked me to contribute an Italian recipe to their blogger cookbook, this was the first thing on my mind.
I first made this dish after watching Nigella’s Italian-inspired show ‘Nigellissima’, cobbling together the ingredients the very next day and trying to remember the method. It’s pretty close to the original, so I obviously have a better memory than I thought, although she poaches her eggs in the sauce rather than baking them in the oven. If you want to save on washing up, you can do the same, although I find it’s easier to get a perfect yolk in the oven – especially if you’re feeding a crowd. This particular recipe is just enough for one person but, as is often the case, you can double and triple to get the required amount for your brunch party. Serve with ciabatta, obviously, although any crusty bread will do in a pinch.
P.S. Find more brunch inspiration over on my Breakfast & Brunch Pinterest board.
- Olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely grated
- 200g chopped tomatoes
- 1 squeeze tomato paste
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 1/4 tsp. chilli flakes
- 1 egg
- Parmesan, grated
- Ciabatta, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- In a small saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat and add the garlic. Fry gently for a minute or two, but don't allow the garlic to brown.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir together.
- Season with the salt, pepper and chilli flakes.
- Simmer for 3-5 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.
- Pour into an oven-proof dish and crack the egg onto the top. Grate some parmesan over the top until there's a light covering over the whole dish.
- Bake for 8-12 minutes (depending on how runny you like your eggs!).
- Grate over some more parmesan and serve with slices of ciabatta.