Let’s talk about cheese, baby.
Although I am an ardent fan of cheese (who isn’t?), I’ll admit that I don’t actually know all that much about it. Enter Homage to Fromage, a Leeds-based cheese club who run monthly events dedicated to this glorious activity – a place where fellow addicts can get together, gorge themselves on cheese and have a thoroughly spiffing time. I’m surprised it’s take me all of three years to attend, if I’m honest – because what better way to spend an evening?
So whilst the rest of Leeds lined the streets to watch the Tour de France teams make their entrance into our fair city, Katie and I crowded upstairs at the Adelphi for some cheese-eating fun. As a special treat to celebrate Le Grand Départ, there were 11 different cheeses on offer from different nations. It was a ‘blind’ taste test – the only identifying feature for each cheese was a flag from its country of origin, and we were to rate them ‘Eurovision Pong Contest’ style.
We worked our way around the room, piling up our plates with the various treats – big hunks of cheese, of course, but also crackers and a myriad of chutneys as well. It was a little overwhelming to be honest – although that may have been the strong cheesy smell that permeated the room (not one for the faint-hearted!). There were some obvious choices – a French brie and an English cheddar (Brie de Meaux and Montgomery Cheddar, to be precise), but a few which were new to my palate if not to
So after much discussion on the merits of various cheeses, it came time to cast the vote. It was controversial, and like the original contest for which it was named, there was definitely some political voting going on. My personal favourites were the Italian Tallegio – a mild, tangy, creamy cheese that I highly recommend if you’re a fan of brie and the like – and the Swiss Tete de Moine, a hard(ish) cheese which is cut into shavings with a mechanical rotary shaving system. The Tallegio was apparently a favourite amongst Pliny the Elder, Cicero and Cato the Elder, so I’m in good company, it seems.
I was actually also weirdly partial to the Norwegian ‘brown cheese’ (Gjetost) which was unlike anything I’d come across before – it was, as the name suggests, brown in colour, fudgey in texture and almost sweet to the taste and was widely panned in the group but there was something about it that definitely appealed to me!
The resounding winners, however, were the Harrogate Blue (Yorkshire, of course, had it’s own entry) and the German Montagnolo Affine, both of which have won awards. They were also both incredible creamy and the Harrogate Blue in particular had a beautiful depth of flavour. Definitely worthy winners.
It was a thoroughly pleasant evening and definitely taught me a little something about cheese – I’ll definitely be requesting a Taleggio from my cheesemonger in the future. If you want to learn about cheese and share your passion for this pongy past-time, then Homage to Fromage is the place for you!
I am lazy when it comes to my lunch box. Whilst I know that it is healthier, cheaper and often tastier to pack your own, the draw of the ready-made sandwich from the shop downstairs, finished off with a slice of cake and maybe an apple on a good day is often too much to resist. It’s not good. So this week I am trying harder – packing a lunch which is a bit more virtuous than my usual lunch time treats in an effort to fuel my body with the stuff it actually needs, rather than the stuff it just wants (brownies, mostly). Which is where these seeds come in – they’re crunchy and spicy and exactly the kind of thing I should be snacking on during the work day. I roasted a whole batch on Sunday to make my way through the week, but a lot of them got snaffled whilst they were cooling on the side. They’re very more-ish.
As is often the case on this blog, this is more of a suggestion than a recipe. As always, you can adjust the spices and chilli to your own taste – mine were rather fiery so if you prefer something mild then go easy on the heat! Alternatively, why not throw in some cumin or smoked paprika instead? The world is your oyster, as they say.
- 100g sunflower seeds
- 100g pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp. dried chilli flakes
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C
2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together all the ingredients until the seeds are evenly covered.
3. Spread the seeds evenly in one layer the bottom of a roasting tray.
4. Roast for 40 minutes, giving the tray a shake every 10 minutes. If the seeds stick to the bottom of the tray, just use a spatula to move them around.
5. Once the seeds have browned and gone a bit crunchy. Leave to cool and then put into a airtight container. They’ll keep quite a few days, if they last that long!
There are plenty of new drinking establishments popping up all over Leeds at the moment. Whether that’s the influence of Trinity, the slow climb out of the recession or just good luck, it seems that there’s a bit of a trend for bars with decent food offerings developing. Rather than having separate restaurants and bars depending on whether you want to eat or drink, new places have been borrowing from the street food movement and creating substantial, high quality menus which fit into the relaxed, simple vibe of a bar. It makes sense really – it can only be a good idea to intersperse session drinking with some decent grub, it’s cheaper than a full meal at a restaurant and it adds an element of flexibility to your night out. No longer will a handful of crisps shared from a greasy packet do when it comes to bar snacks – now it’s all about gourmet street food-style dishes. The added benefit of which, you can enjoy your street food without having to actually, you know, stand in the street. A definite plus if you’ve ever experienced the Leeds weather.
Enter Bundobust – a new craft beer bar with an Indian street food kitchen, the brain child of a collaboration between Bradford’s The Sparrow and Prashad. You may have seen their bright orange tent at various foodie events around Leeds over the past year, but now they’ve set up shop in a permanent residence on Mill Hill - just off the bustling Boar Lane and close enough to the station that you can drink a swift half and grab a bowl of food before your train home after work. It’s a formula that’s worked well for Friends of Ham and despite Mill Hill being one of the less salubrious areas of the city centre, I think that Bundobust could be the diamond in the rough that this street has been looking for.
The venue is stripped back and unpretentious. Chipboard style benches, walls made of old doors and cushions made of rice sacks – there’s no fancy frills here but it’s welcoming and friendly. There’s an impressive outside space with plenty of seating and a roof – perfect for the changeable weather of Leeds. It’s a little bit quirky – behind the bar are fast-food style screens proclaiming ‘no beef’ – just proving how different this ‘fast food’ is from the junky places that usually have these screens.
I’ll be honest and say that the beers on offer were a little over my head – despite Leeds’ love for craft beer I have yet to find one that doesn’t make me shudder. I am a wine and gin girl, but Paul enjoyed the beers which he sampled from the taps – particularly the unusual Mango & Habanero flavour. This is a place for those serious about their craft beer, and it’s clear that these guys know what they’re doing. The beers have been picked to compliment the food – this collaboration is all about showcasing the best of both.
But what about the food? There were just a couple of dishes on offer at the preview night but there will be around 12-15 when they open. As with all the trendiest places, the menu will be changed regularly to keep things interesting and move with the seasons. Whilst the mung bean curry was very good with plenty of flavour, the ‘bhel puri’ totally blew me away. It was pure perfection in a cup – crunchy turmeric noodles and samosa pastry with puffed rice, fresh tomato and onion and a tamarind chutney. The marriage of flavour and texture was out of this world and I’ll definitely be going back for more. I like that their food is a little bit different from what you usually can get at a bar, and it’s vegetarian which definitely sets it apart from the usual meaty fare which is commonplace at the moment. This place is definitely one to watch, so get yourself down there from Friday 11th to experience it for yourself!
I feel like too many of my Weekend Link Loves start with the words ‘I’ve been to a wedding this week’. Too many? I mean, not enough. I love weddings and yesterday two more of our sweet friends got hitched. Weddings are truly joyful and they make me so happy. I hope everyone enjoys our wedding as much as I have enjoyed theirs. I will be so sad when this part of my life is over and I don’t have as many weddings to go to – I love the dancing and the dressing up and the drinking bubbles. It’s just the best.
I have had a really great week. I went to a cheese club (yes, really), tried a little bit of Bundobust before it opens next Friday (so good – people of Leeds, you’re gonna love it!) and watched a whole lot of Greek. I love that show. I also knitted half a baby blanket for one of the new little people in our life – it’s yellow and it’s my best effort yet. I get so much satisfaction from knitting. Like, I may have just watched a whole box set but I have something to show for it! What have you been up to?
- I really enjoyed this interview with Giles Coren - I like his insouciance.
- Let’s all bake these half and half cookies and have a sleepover where we watch Mamma Mia. It’ll be fun, I promise.
- In honour of Independence Day: A personal declaration of independence from my favourite blogger.
- I love the idea of this minimalist challenge – I’ve been feeling like our home is so cluttered at the moment, I’m dedicating some time to throwing stuff out next weekend.
- What does it mean when we say ‘like a girl‘?
- You’ll lose hours on this game.
- In the summer I never really know how to dress – I’m much more at home in layers and boots than sandals and breezy dresses. But this is how I’d like to look.
- No, I actually don’t have as many hours in the day as Beyonce.
Is there any greater comfort food than chilli cheese fries? When you’re feeling a bit bummed out about life, then a big pile of carbs and cheese is definitely the answer. I am an emotional eater and whilst usually it’s my sweet tooth that’s crying out for attention, when it’s really an emergency then salty, cheesy, carby goodness is what I crave. Add a little bit of spice to the equation and I’m so there. Don’t get me wrong, I know this isn’t the healthiest of habits, but sometimes you just need a little bit of something bad for you. Or a lot of something bad for you. There’s no judgement here, trust me.
These bad boys were inspired by a casual flick through the Joy the Baker cookbook. That first time I chose to make a cake instead – a beautiful brown butter banana and rum cake, which sadly did not net me first place at the Blognix bake off – but the seed was planted. The next time emotional turmoil came a-knocking, chilli cheese fries was all I wanted. The ones I made certainly don’t look as fancy as the one in Joy’s picture, but they tasted darned good – scoffed with no regard to etiquette (although I did use a fork) whilst sat in front of the final episode of Orange is the New Black Season 2. I’m going to need another batch to get over the fact that it’s another year until Season 3. So dramatic.
I love Joy the Baker. I love her blog. I love her podcast. I love her commitment to butter and sugar. She’s my kind of lady. Her cookbook is full of comfort food – for times when you are alone and times when you want to share that comfort with others. So I want to share a little of that with you, my lovely readers – I’m giving away a Joy the Baker cookbook! All you have to do is use this fancy little widget to let me know that you follow my blog – easy peasy. Good luck!
I’m on a bit of a reading quest this year. There are so many books on my shelves which I’ve either not read, or which I’ve read once but don’t really remember. So rather than buying a whole bunch of new books from my Amazon Wish List, I am ‘shopping my shelves’ and trying to get through everything that’s been lingering there too long. I’ll make an exception for the new Caitlin Moran, of course, but otherwise I’m on a book-spending ban. I’m actually really enjoying it – I’ve been tearing through books at a rate of knots and loving discovering some old favourites. My eventual aim is to purge my bookshelf of the books that I don’t really like all that much at the end of all this, but my problem is that I love them all. I’m not sure I’ve ever really read a book that I didn’t enjoy in some way (except maybe Pamela by Samuel Richardson, which may have been the dullest thing ever written). I didn’t want to bore you by describing all these books at length, especially since I’ve reviewed some of them here before, but I like having a little record of what I’ve read, so here’s a compromise: some three line book reviews of recent reads.
Goose by Dawn Porter
Sweetly nostalgic but emotionally challenging. Made me cry. The perfect teenage fiction.
The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The most beautiful prose ever written (especially the opening chapter). Evocative and witty. A true classic.
Smut by Alan Bennett
Beautifully observed and gently funny. Two perfect little stories with surprising endings. Genius (as always, when it comes to Bennett).
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Wonderful prose combined with a wonderful plot. The most perfect ending of any book ever. His greatest work, in my eyes.
What have you been reading?
One thing I have learnt in my years living in Leeds is that if you want to go to a restaurant, you have to go soon. Don’t delay – because blink and you’ll miss it. Not all restaurants – even ones you think of as Leeds institutions – are here to stay, so go and try it out before it’s too late. I should know, it’s happened to me a couple of times. I’m still a bit upset that I didn’t get to try Create before it closed (although I know they still operate in other ways). I’ll admit that I was a little surprised when we drove past The Electric Press to see that Casa Mia had closed down, and in its place now stood a teppanyaki restaurant, but in this instance I was more excited than disappointed. The one time we dined at that Casa Mia I found it a little overpriced and whilst we enjoyed our food it wasn’t anything to write home about. So when I was offered the chance to try Teppan260, which now stands in its place, I jumped at the chance.
It was a gloriously sunny day when we dined, and we were lucky enough to grab a table outside, looking onto Millennium Square. This isn’t necessarily the type of cuisine that you would usually associate with al fresco dining, but when the sun is shining it’s definitely an added bonus to be able to sit outside. The interior of the restaurant is sleek and modern; it’s a surprisingly large restaurant and although it was fairly deserted when we arrived it was almost full by the time we left – pretty impressive for a new venture.
The menu is incredibly simple – we skipped the starters and went straight for the main. You pick which dish you’d like – beef, chicken, prawns, vegetables and tofu are all on offer – and then you pick your sauce and the type of rice or noodles you want. Although the menu seems fairly limited, there must be hundreds of different combinations – and I am always happy to see rice noodles on a menu (why are they so few and far between in supermarkets?!). For me, ordering was a bit of a no-brainer – I went for the Gamba prawns, Thai penaeng sauce and vermicelli rice noodles whilst Emma chose the chicken Tonkatsu with rice.
There’s that saying that goes ‘didn’t your mother ever teach you not to play with your food’ but in this case, the playful elements of teppanyaki definitely make the experience! Your food is brought out on a sizzling hot plate with a warning sticker around it and you are invited to stir it around and wait until it’s cooked exactly to your liking. We were a bit concerned that it was raw and would therefore need quite a lot of cooking (especially the chicken) but were reassured that this is just to finish it off to your exact tastes. Pouring over the sauce cools it down ready for eating, at which point you dig in! My prawns were absolute beasts, and absolutely delicious! The sauce was just the right amount of spicy although I think I left it a little too long before I added it, as I’d rather singed my onions! I think there might be an art to this teppanyaki business, which I’ve not quite mastered but it’s definitely one I’d like to have more practice at.
That being said, the stand out moment for me was when I saw Portuguese Egg Tarts on the dessert menu. They seemed a little out of place with the rest of the cuisine, but I’m not complaining because they’re my absolute favourite. These were particularly good ones, light pastry with a sweet custardy centre. If nothing else, I am heeding my own warning and going back for these soon!
June totally kicked my ass. I’m just looking at my diary for June and there’s something on nearly every day – it was busy for sure. It feels like everyone came out of hibernation and suddenly there are so many things to do and people to see. I am trying to embrace all the busy-ness right now and fill my life up to the brim, because I don’t want to miss out on the invites and opportunities. I have massive FOMO, so a slight lack of sleep is totally worth it – especially because it means I get to do fun things and spend time with the people I love. Which meant that my goal to be present in June was perfect – I think I managed it pretty well. My phone stayed in my bag and I committed to really enjoying the time I spend with everyone. It was lovely.
My running though? I got nowhere near my goal of 45k total distance – weeks packed with social events gave me the perfect excuse not to get out there and actually do the running. When I did go though? I really enjoyed it. More than I thought I would. I’ve found my running rhythm; I go in the evening when it’s still warm but not unbearable, after dinner so I have the energy to run at a reasonable pace and I stick on a good podcast to distract me from the boredom. It’s working for me. I’ve found a route that I like – it’s just under 5k so my goal is to go on that run 12 times in July. That’s not that many times. I’m making it a priority – I’m going to book it into my calendar now so I can’t get out of it. This is happening.
What are your goals for July?
Wearing flat shoes all the time. Heels are too much effort right now.
Reading old favourites again.
Wanting a free weekend.
Embracing the busy-ness for now.
Needing to tidy the house. It’s clean, but messy.
Enjoying eating al fresco.
Shopping for bridemaids dresses. Two down, four to go.
Learning so much at Blognix.
Planning so much for this blog.
Drinking my Dad’s home-made elderflower champagne and alcoholic ginger beer.
Binging on Orange is the New Black. When does Season 3 start?
Baking too much banana bread. As always.
Celebrating the birthdays of two of my favourite men.
Getting a Jury Summons. Eep!
Loving how much our little cat is becoming affectionate.
Writing all about weddings over at The High Tea Cast.
Feeling so lucky every day. How did things get this good? I hope they stay this way.
How about you?