This last week has been lovely – and possibly the last chance to relax before we get fully stuck into autumn and all that it brings. We took a little jaunt over to Scarborough and strolled along the seafront, hosted my brother and his girlfriend for a rainy couple of days, visited friends and stuffed our faces with burgers. All in all, a pretty good time. I’m ready to go ‘back to school’ now – I’ve got a long ‘to do’ list that I’m raring to get stuck into. This summer has been crazy good, but I’m looking forward to a few quiet weekends to catch up on stuff. I think my main aim this autumn is to get into baking bread – I’ve been meaning to for forever, so now is the time. What have you got planned for the next few months?
- Ten of the Most ‘Out There’ Literary Diaries - local girl Anne Lister was certainly a character, I’d love to read her diary!
- Mistakes every blogger makes. Yes, even you. Yes, even me.
- Your guide to literature’s most basic bitches. Daisy Buchanan has always annoyed me…
- This wedding dress is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Might need to win the lottery first…
- We’re all Girl Bosses Now. If you spend any time on the Internet, you’ll know how true this is.
- I want to live in this house so bad. One day…
- Let’s drink coconut gin & tonics and mourn the loss of summer, shall we?
- Amy Poehler is the queen of everything.
- Some new careers for creatives…
- If, like me, your friends seem to be having babies left, right and centre then this list of gifts for new babies is super useful (and stylish).
[Photo by Dan Ruswick]
Hanging new artwork on the walls.
Remembering how much I love Friends.
Living vicariously through a friend who’s taking a big American Road Trip.
Feeling excited about my job. It’s pretty ace to love what you do.
Eating risotto as often as possible.
Hosting my brother and his girlfriend for a few days.
Showing them the sights of Leeds.
Running wild in IKEA.
Making plans for my Hen Do.
Watching the baby meerkats at Tropical World with our sweet niece.
Playing catch in the garden.
Enjoying a staycation (and many, many lie-ins.)
Reading The Bling Ring, and needing to watch the movie again.
Discovering The Sarah R. Bagley Podcast.
Anticipating all the wonders of Autumn.
Wearing my big tartan scarf, already.
Knitting a snood. The first of many.
How about you?
There are a lot of things I like about living in England. The NHS. Pimms. Blackberry picking. But one of my favourite things is that everywhere you go is steeped in history. People have been living on these green and pleasant lands for centuries, which means that everywhere has its little stories to tell and secrets to reveal. Not all of our history is good, although it is often grand, but there are so many little tales to be told on top of all of that – weird, quirky, and downright odd tales. I’m also very lucky, living in Leeds, that it’s so quick and easy to get out into the surrounding towns and villages where these tales are just waiting to be discovered. Leeds has its own history, but sometimes its nice to step out of your every day and go exploring.
Which is exactly what we did when we took a little day trip to Knaresborough a few weeks ago with Joe and Cheryl. It’s a lovely, quaint place with old buildings, cosy pubs and plenty of history. It’s also currently decked out in all the Tour de France finery from the festivities in July – there was bunting galore which put such a smile on my face. There is something about that community spirit that you lose a little bit in the big bad city.
We spent the day wandering around, discovering the not-so-secrets of Knaresborough. The ancient, crumbling castle overlooking one of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen. The House in the Rock, now hidden from public view (most of the time). Antiques shops stuffed with ancient books. Mother Shipton’s Caves where you can make a wish and find out more about the life of this soothsayer (it’s a little creepy, I’ll tell you…). Perhaps most fantastically, you can take a look at the Petrifying Well – a waterfall-like structure where the water gives objects hung there a stony exterior.
All in all, a wonderful day out – and a lesson in how much has happened before us. And how freaky nature can be…
Okay, let’s talk about risotto. I have been having intense risotto cravings ever since I first tasted Lil’s courgette risotto and realised that actually, risotto is a perfect summer food. Have I said the word risotto too many times? It’s starting to sound weird… Either way, risotto can be surprisingly light whilst still being its comfortable self that we’ve learnt to lean on during cold snaps.
This recipe is a bit of a mix of the aforementioned courgette risotto and Nigella’s crab risotto from Nigellissima – it’s basically a mix of my favourite things. This isn’t a super fast dinner option, but the process is as comforting as the final product and ever since I bought my Le Creuset saucepans, I’ve wanted to spend as much time with them as possible (just kidding…. kind of). This dish would be perfect to impress a fancy friend or five (the recipe is easily multiplied) but I just like it with a glass of wine when I want to treat myself and I think you should do the same. You’re worth the effort.
I usually like my risottos with a crazy amount of mushrooms and heaps of Parmesan, but I actually think this recipe tops that a million times over. It’s light, it’s fresh, it’s creamy and it’s full of my favourite summer flavours. Make it now, before we have to dig out our winter jumpers and begin hibernation…
- 750ml chicken stock (the best you can afford)
- Splash of olive oil
- Knob of butter
- 2 Echalion shallots (or 4-5 regular shallots), finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
- 200g risotto rice
- Glass of dry white wine
- 200g white crab meat, flaked
- 1/2 courgette, coarsely grated
- Big handful of rocket
- Zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Parmesan to serve (optional, but tasty)
- Make up your stock and leave to one side
- Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan and add the shallots. Cook until very soft, but don't allow to brown too much.
- Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute.
- Turn up the heat and add your rice. Stir around until coated in oil and onions.
- After a minute or so, the rice should turn a little bit translucent around the edges; that's when you should pour in your wine. Allow this to bubble until it's been absorbed into the rice. Give your risotto a good stir.
- Turn the heat down and add a ladleful of stock (around 100ml). Allow this to be absorbed into the rice as well - you can tell that it's been absorbed fully and is ready for some more stock when it holds its shape slightly when you stir).
- Continue to add the stock a ladleful at a time until the risotto is cooked through - repeating the above process. You want it to be a little al dente so you may not use all the stock - after the first few rounds you'll want to try a little spoonful so you know where you're at.
- Turn the heat down even further stir in the courgette, crab, rocket, lemon zest and juice. Stir until fully combined and heated through. The rocket should have wilted and the courgette gone a little softer.
- Season to taste and serve with lashings of grated parmesan and a little extra squeeze of lemon juice.
[Photo by Glen Carrie]
This weekend marks the start of my holiday and I could not be more pleased. We’re having a staycation this year but we’ve already filled every day with something exciting – including a stay over in Scarborough, so fingers crossed for good weather. My brother and his girlfriend are coming to stay for a few nights (in fact, they’re on their way now…) and I’m going to use this time to convince them that they really should move to Leeds. So we’re going to play games in Roundhay Park, eat at some tasty restaurants and maybe pay a visit to the carnival on Monday. So fun.
In other news, I had a driving lesson on the mean streets of Leeds this weekend – I’ve somehow acquired a car from Paul’s Mum so I really need to have a refresh. It’s been five years since I last drove and it’s safe to say that I’m not very good… I’d say that I’d stick to baking but I also made a questionable blueberry pie yesterday so all in all, not the most successful week! Onwards and upwards though, as always.
- A timeline of my life in embarrassing Brazilian waxes. This made me laugh (and wince).
- This is very important: How to be a good friend to someone with depression or anxiety. (Also relevant: if you are really worried about someone, you can ring The Samaritans and ask them to call your friend on your behalf if you don’t feel able to do it).
- 50 Excellent Novels by Female Writers Under 50 – I’ve added a few of these to my Goodreads list. It’s definitely my aim to step up my reading and I’m always looking for recommendations!
- How wonderful are these secret libraries of London?
- To complete a trio of literary links: The 27 Greatest Book Dedications You Will Ever Read. Who would you dedicate your book to?
- Darkly, darkly funny: Things you only know when your parents are dead.
- I want to drink this Vodka Grapefruit Rosemary Fizz. Time to make all the sugar syrups? I think so.
- Why not admit we didn’t wake up like this? I know I sure didn’t.
- These etched bottles and jars are so gorgeous and would make excellent presents for the people who have everything. People of Leeds, you can buy them at Blackbird Vintage.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
A much-loved book as a teenager, which I don’t think I really ‘got’ until now. In fact, I know I didn’t. Confession time: Rob was my dream man for quite a while. Reading it back now, that is totally laughable! (Sorry Rob…) I have a massive nerd crush on Nick Hornby and this book is the main reason why – it is perfectly formed, kind of depressive, totally real and darkly funny. If you’ve not read it, do it now.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Okay, if you don’t love Mindy Kaling after reading this book then you have a heart of stone. It’s got her own unique voice which is funny, smart and totally adorable. There are some laugh out loud moments, a few heart-wrenching parts, lots of nodding-in-agreement and a wonderful anecdote about Amy Poehler which is the best thing ever. A lovely, light read – if you like The Mindy Project, or just awesome women, then this is definitely one for you!
Cat by Freya North
I actually re-read this book because of the Tour de France. The fervour about Le Tour in Leeds this year reminded me of this book, which is where all of my Tour de France knowledge comes from. I loved Freya North books as a teenager but reading this back now just shows me how much my tastes have changed. This was a little too ‘chick lit’ for me now – the characters were a little implausible and I found myself getting a bit annoyed at the protagonist. That said, it does really capture an excitement about Le Tour which is interesting to read and I like Freya North’s writing style.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
This is one of the only times when I’ve seen the movie before reading the book, but it was so long ago that it didn’t spoil it for me. The book felt darker than the movie somehow, and more evocative. I spent a lot of the time reading it my eyes pricked with tears – it was an emotional read and the ending wasn’t quite the closure I was hoping for. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequels – I loved the touch of magical realism, the wonderful characters and, of course, all the descriptions of food.
What have you been reading recently?
[Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel]
A Sunday well spent brings a week of content. That’s what they say, don’t they? My Sunday is mostly going to be spent baking, blogging, prepping lunches for the rest of the week and chain-watching Ugly Betty, which I’ve just realised is on Netflix. I think that counts as well spent. This week has been a little crazy, in a good way. I’m gearing up for a week off at the end of August which makes things super busy – but I’m excited to spend some time doing *nothing*. Well, almost nothing. I’m no good at actually doing nothing. How are you spending your Sunday?
- How fast do food trends spread?
- I love this sweet letter: Lessons for a 21st Century Girl.
- Are you a bad feminist? Spoiler alert: We all are.
- Literature nerds like me will love this article on the economics of Jane Austen.
- I think Linguine con le Vongole is one of my favourite dishes ever – I’m going to have to hunt down some clams this week.
- This series on parenting around the world is really eye-opening (and makes me want to move to Berlin…)
- This is how I’m justifying my guilty pleasure: 10 reasons watching Made in Chelsea is good for your soul.
- Thought-provoking: I have no idea what it feels like to be skinny.
- Tavi Gevinson continues to amaze me – whatever will she do next?
- I’m pretty good at knitting now – so I think it’s time to turn my attention to crochet!
- You need to read this real talk about blogging.
I am new to the world of Le Creuset – I have known about it, of course, for years but it is only recently that I have experienced the true joy of cast iron cooking. It was Lil who persuaded me that it was worth the investment, and since picking up a set of five red Le Creuset saucepans I have been completely converted. I know that this is the start of a life-long love affair and I already have my eye on the next pieces I want to add to my collection.
Which is why I was completely over the moon to be invited to the Le Creuset shop in the Victoria Quarter on Yorkshire Day of all days, to find out a little bit more about the brand, perv over some delicious cookware and be treated to a cookery demonstration by my enabler herself, Lil from Whip Until Fluffy. Her blog will convince you that this girl know what she’s doing, but I was totally blown away by the Yorkshire-inspired menu that she cooked up – so much so that I tried to recreate it for myself the very next day! The shop was also impressive – a haven of rainbow-coloured cookware in a light and bright setting.
We’re very lucky to have some wonderful Yorkshire produce to play with, especially at this time of year. I was surprised to find that Yorkshire-produced wine is as good as any I’ve had – and I’ll definitely be taking myself to Latitude Wines to get myself another bottle at some point. Lil cooked up a courgette risotte with said white wine, Ribblesdale goat cheese and a lovely drizzle of Lemon Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil. It was incredibly moreish and cooked to perfection – I’ll let her share the recipe with you, but suffice to say this is one I’ll be adding into my weekly rotation.
As well as this, she made a Spanish-inspired chicken casserole with Yorkshire Chorizo (made at The Reliance, and possessing a delicious meaty flavour and chunky texture that supermarket chorizo just cannot replicate) and green beans. Whilst the dish itself was delicious, I was definitely most taken with the gorgeous yellow shallow casserole dish she made it in – so much so that I almost bought it right there and then. It was perfect for frying off the ingredients and then for placing straight into the oven, as well as for serving straight to the table. With a lifetime guarantee as well, it’s a bargain right? Right? I walked away without it, but I’m regretting that decision massively right now…
To finish off the evening, Lil made us a Yorkshire Tea ice cream with a piquant rhubarb pickle – an unusual pudding and perhaps a little strange sounding, but it was delightful; soft, creamy ice cream with a hint of tea flavour and sharp rhubarb to cut through. Keep an eye out on her blog for the recipe for that one.
All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend an evening and just proved how wonderful our local food is – I’m definitely going to try and source even more of our food from around these parts (first stop: that chorizo) and try to highlight these delicacies on my blog. It also proved how a little money spent on cookware can really make a difference; yellow dish, you will be mine!
So, without further ado – my Great British Blogger Bake off comes to a close. There were significantly less innuendos than the real deal, but lots of delicious bakes!
I was totally obsessing over Danielle’s Rosemary & Balsamic Strawberry Scones, which sound right up my street and I am definitely giving them a go! Char’s inspired me to look at other stand mixers other than my beloved KitchenAid – and her coffee/chocolate combo is drool-worthy. You all know how I love a brownie and I love a Raspberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie even more. Paul’s Pear & Ginger Upside Down Cake looks sophisticated and grown-up as well as yummy.
But the star baker is… Peaches & Green! Whilst usually I love me some gluten, Laura’s Banana Coconut Cream Pie with Macadamia Nut Crust looks totally delicious and her post is laugh-out-loud funny. So congratulations Laura!
Happy Baking everyone :)
The combination of white chocolate and limoncello together is like crack for me. Something about the sweetness, the slight tartness, the creaminess is just addictive. It’s my go to when I want to make something fancy. These little tarts are just perfection, even if I do say so myself.
The recipe is from John Whaite Bakes, which is a great book. You might remember John winning Great British Bake Off a couple of years ago, and this book is a testament to the fact that the right man won (although my money was on James Morton, who also has a fab book about bread baking). The recipes are comforting and relatively easy to make, and most of them are things that you’ll actually eat on a regular basis – no fancy, swirly cakes only fit for special occasions, just sweet and savoury goodies that will feed your heart as well as your stomach.
I usually wouldn’t make pastry myself – I’m lazy that way – but this sweet shortcrust is so simple and since it’s not something you can easily get your hands on in the shops (a simple shortcrust just won’t do) it’s worth a little bit of extra effort.
For the pastry, you’ll need:
- 1 egg
- 125g golden caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 250g plain flour
- 125g salted butter, cut into 1cm cubes
For the filling, you’ll need:
- 150g white chocolate, chopped
- 60ml double cream
- Zest of one lemon
- 2 tbsp. Limoncello
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar and vanilla for a minute until fully combined.
2. Sift the flour into the mixture and stir together using a wooden spoon. The resulting mixture should look like small crumbs.
3. Add in the cubed butter and ‘cut in’ to the mixture using a butter knife or pastry cutter. I sometimes find using a fork as well speeds the process along.
4. Once the mixture has come together into a dough, tip onto a clean chopping board and knead gently for 30 seconds. Wrap in baking paper and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If you leave it in for much longer than that, it may need to sit out for 5 minutes before you can roll it – mine was rock solid after 5 hours in there!
5. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry to around 4-5mm thickness. Cut out 12 circles with a 3-inch cookie cutter.
6. Grease a cupcake tray and place the pastry circles into it. Prick the bottom of each tart with a fork. Line with baking paper and fill with baking beans (or rice if you don’t have any) and bake for 12 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and take out the paper and baking beans. Bake for a further 5 minutes and then leave to cool completely.
8. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it’s just too hot to touch. It shouldn’t boil or simmer. Stir in the zest and limoncello.
9. Place the chocolate into a heatproof bowl or jug (I find a jug easier because you can pour the filling more easily). Pour the cream over the chocolate and mix until smooth.
10. Pour into the pastry cases and leave to chill in the fridge until set. Top with extra lemon zest or a sprinkle of dark chocolate if you’re feeling fancy.