Book Club

book club

I hate to say it, but I’m behind with my reading challenge. Goodreads is reminding me daily that I’m two books behind schedule in order to reach 100 by the end of the year. This month has been light on the reading-front. I spent about two weeks battling through Helter Skelter, which was so much longer than I expected (although very interesting, which kind of made up for it). The thing is, when it’s sunny outside, it’s so tempting to just drop everything and head to the pub garden rather than battening down the hatches with a book. Still, I set myself a goal and I’m intending to see it through – so binge-watching Orange is the New Black will have to wait for me to catch up with myself. 

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi 

I am endlessly fascinated with cults, and serial killers. They are both so out of my realms of understanding, and I am desperate to wrap my head around their motivations and experiences. So the story of Charles Manson and The Family, who infamously committed a string of murders in California in the 1970s is, as you can imagine, the perfect marriage of two of the most bizarre and interesting, not to mention horrifying, parts of existence. This non-fiction book, written by the prosecutor who tried Manson and his co-defendants, is a bit of a slog and includes a LOT of detail. If you want to know the real ins and outs, then this is the book for you. Although I found the book interesting, there wasn’t enough depth into the characters and motivations for my liking; perhaps, because it is impossible to know why these women would kill on Manson’s command, and how he came to have that sort of power. Oddly enough, there was one moment where I actually sympathised with Manson – a brief, but surprising feeling given who he is and what he’s done. This is the first true-crime book I’ve read, but I don’t think it will be the last. 

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 

Oh, this book is heart-wrenching. Truly, truly heart-wrenching. I’m sure you know it, but if not then The Lovely Bones tells the of the aftermath of the murder of a teenage girl and how her family and friends come to terms with her death, with a surprising twist: Susie herself is telling the story from heaven, and has to come to terms with things herself. I choked up so many times, particularly when her Dad was struggling. It’s the worst thing you can ever imagine, but then life still has to go on. This book is beautiful, and it will make you cry. 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This book is in hot contention for the best book I’ve read this year. I’ll be thinking about it for a long, long time. It tells the story of Rosemary and her unusual family; at the beginning you think that she’s just your average slightly-spoiled, rebellious college girl, but quickly you realise that there is SO much more behind the scenes. This book was really unusual, and had me totally hooked. I loved how Fowler wove in some pretty serious, meaty issues but with such a human touch – it didn’t feel preachy but at the same time you felt like you’d learnt a lesson when you put it down. Definitely give this a go if you’re looking for a new book. 

Black Iris by Leah Raeder 

I keep finding myself drawn to these kinds of Young Adult fiction books this year; they’re easy, they’re escapism and they’re a little bit thrilling. This dark, sexy tale, however, is one of the better ones, with some fantastic writing to boot. I loved the language throughout, and the level of suspense. I got a bit tied up in the plot by the end, which felt a little bit convoluted, and I would question the motives of some of the characters, but I was hooked until the end. Want a decent beach read that isn’t just fluff? This is it. 

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Self Care vs. Self Comfort

Stressed is Desserts Backwards

I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘self-care’ recently. In the broadest sense, self-care is simply looking after yourself, but in the world of the Internet it has come to mean more than that. It means listening to yourself and your body, responding to your needs and putting yourself first. It’s not beating yourself up for mistakes (real or perceived) and treating yourself like you would your best friend. 

However, I’ve been wondering whether my default ‘self-care’ is actually more ‘self-comfort’. Heading for cake or wine when I’m feeling down. Buying myself a treat if I’m feeling stressed. Going straight for pyjamas and an early night. Although it sounds like those are caring things to do for myself, they are not actually the care I need. Sometimes, rather than a pile of mac’n’cheese, what I actually NEED is a healthy salad to help me feel rejuvenated. Rather than a night spent in front of Netflix, what I NEED is a walk or run to get my heart pumping and release all those endorphins everyone’s always banging on about. Rather than snacks and self-pity, what I NEED is to cross things off my to-do list. Rather than hiding away under a duvet, what I NEED is time spent with friends and family. 

Everyone’s needs are different, of course, but I am a goal-focused extrovert, which means that so much of that tempting self-comfort goes against what I actually need to feel my best. Whilst it’s easier to gorge on ice cream and Orange is the New Black, ignoring the outside world, I am better with a tidy house (and therefore a tidy mind), a finished to-do list and some time spent amongst other people. It takes effort, but it’s worth it, for sure. Self-care, for me, needs to be more about knowing myself rather than following that simpler path that’s mapped out in endless chick flicks and Internet think-pieces. 

There are times, of course, when comfort is the self-care you need. Whether it’s a pampering bubble bath, a cool glass of wine or an early night with a book, recognising when you need comforting is important for keeping your balance in life. But I’m going to be thinking twice before heading straight to the sofa. 

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My Current Favourite Places in Leeds

I have written about a lot of places on this blog, and tweeted about even more. Although my list of restaurants and bars to try in Leeds never goes down, I’ve made my way through a lot of them. Some I love immediately. Others I grow to love. Some I love for a while and then abandon when something shiny and new comes along. But there are some that are recurring favourites, revisited time and again – whether that’s for convenience (the fact that some are very close to my house is not a coincidence…) or simply because they’re just too good to ignore (Pinche Pinche satisfies both of these criteria). That’s not to say that I don’t love and wouldn’t recommend those places which haven’t made this list, but these are the ones I find myself going back to time and time again. 

1. Café 164

This cafe is located very conveniently right underneath my office and I am ever glad that it is! Everyone who works there is absolutely lovely, and they do a very good sandwich if you’ve forgotten your packed lunch. Plus, you can pick up an art print in the attached gallery, which is just a fun bonus. 

pinche pinche 2

2. Pinche Pinche 

My forever favourite restaurant in Leeds. Get the fish tacos. And the maragaritas. And the ceviche. And the lamb quesadilla. And the sweet potato fries. And the churros. And the tequila. And basically everything on the menu because it is JUST SO GOOD. 

3. The Pit, Chapel Allerton 

For quick after work drinks and hungover recovery. It’s a staple of our social life, and one of my favourite places for burgers in Leeds. Except I never get the burgers – I always have the Philly Fries because those things are like crack. 

Bunting at The Mustard Pot

4. The Mustard Pot 

The best beer garden in the city, and the perfect place to spend basically the entire summer. Pimms, bunting and every other English summer cliche, all in a very gorgeous pub that does a decent Sunday dinner and a good pub quiz. So happy to live around the corner from this beauty. 

5. Pintura

This tapas restaurant only opened a couple of months ago, but I’ve already been more times than old-standing favourites. It’s just addictive. Beautiful interiors, an extensive gin menu and delicious & surprising tapas. Not the cheapest, but definitely a good shout for girl’s night or a nice date. 

cielo blanco 2

6. Cielo Blanco 

Can you tell that I like Mexican food? This is a great option for a mid-week dinner – get the ‘street food’ option and order a whole bunch of dishes between you so you can try as much as possible. I love the fish tacos and the sweet potato fries. The caiprinha are pretty tasty, too. 

7. Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen

Going for a drink in town? This is always the first place I think of. It’s achingly cool, you can grab a slice of Dough Boys pizza with your drink, and the roof terrace is the perfect place to hang out. There’s usually something fun going on there at the weekend, too, so we find ourselves returning all the time. 

wine at seven arts

8. Seven Arts 

Another local bar, and a non-profit one at that. Seven is super relaxed and a lovely place to grab lunch if you’re hanging out in Chapel Allerton. In the summer they open up the windows so it becomes an inside-outside sort of space, which is lush. 

9. The Hungry Bear

A new one for me, but one I’ve been back to a couple of times recently – if only for their short ribs, which are totally more-ish. They serve hearty meals and beers they brew on site. This restaurant definitely deserves more recognition! 

10. Wasabi 

Not a cool hipster independent, but somewhere I eat at least once a week. Their sushi is good, and perfect for a lunch time treat. I could eat sushi every day, and I’m very glad that Wasabi has made it to Leeds! 

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Vanilla Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

bundt cake 1

Sometimes simple is best, and I never crave simplicity in food as much as I do in summer. When the sun is shining and you’re itching to get outside and pour yourself a glass of Pimms, it’s best to stick to the simple things – which is easy to do, because summer produce is so delicious. Don’t get me wrong, I love a hearty winter stew as much as the next girl, but the reams of fresh produce to choose from in summer is so much more inspiring than the paltry winter vegetables that grow in the colder months. I get a bit giddy in the greengrocers, piling my basket high with berries, peaches, radishes, asparagus, courgettes, rhubarb and spring greens. The options seem endless, but the most important thing is keeping things simple and letting the flavours come through. 

bundt cake 2

Which makes this the perfect cake to enjoy in the summer. Baking is not a particularly summery activity; it fills your kitchen with unnecessary heat and keeps you inside. But this cake is as quick and easy as they come, so if you are craving something sweet then this is the one for you. The cream cheese makes the sponge moist, the crumb is just beautiful, and the vanilla is a perfect partner to all of that summer fruit. The bundt cake shape makes it seem that bit more excited than your standard loaf or layer cake, but without any extra effort. It really is a win-win sort of situation. 

I served my cake with a drizzle of white chocolate on top and some fresh strawberries & raspberries. It’s a classic combination, and one that doesn’t need thinking about, but this cake will go with any summer fruit, really. Perhaps a bit of cream or ice cream on the side. Or maybe a dusting of icing sugar. There’s no pressure. We’re keeping this simple. 

bundt cake 3

bundt cake 4

Vanilla Cream-Cheese Bundt Cake
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  1. 250g plain flour
  2. 1&1/2 tsp. baking powder
  3. 1 tsp. salt
  4. 200g cream cheese
  5. 325g caster sugar
  6. 185g unsalted butter
  7. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  8. 4 large eggs
  1. Grease a bundt cake tin well and set to one side. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer set to a low-medium speed, mix the cream cheese until soft. Add in the butter and sugar and beat for another 3 minutes until well-combined and fluffy.
  4. Pour in the vanilla and stir until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for a minute or so each time.
  5. Turn the mixer down to low and add in the flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated and then turn off the mixer. Stir gently by hand to finish the job.
  6. Pour batter into the bundt cake tin and place in the oven. Cook for 50 minutes - 1 hour until a skewer or knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Check about halfway through that it's cooking evenly, and rotate if necessary (the front part of my oven always cooks things quicker!).
  7. Leave to cool for 15 minutes or so after removing from the oven, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  8. Serve with fresh summer fruit and, preferably, a glass of Pimms!
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook
Amy Elizabeth

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Our Copenhagen Trip

copenhagen grafitti

After the wedding, we took a little trip to Copenhagen for a few days. I’d heard so much about the city, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It was a hipster’s paradise with bikes, beards and craft beer everywhere – like Leeds on a much bigger, better scale! 

copenhagen park

We stayed in a gorgeous airbnb apartment on the edge of Vesterbrø, and spent our days hopping from cafe to restaurant to bar and back again. It was exactly what we wanted and needed. I won’t bore you with a detailed itinerary of our trip, but if you are planning on heading to the city and are feeling a bit lost, these are the best things we did whilst there: 

Torvehallerne 1

Torvehallerne – half-filled with market stalls of fresh produce, half-filled with stalls and vans with street food ready to munch on right there, it’s a great place to while away a few hours and try something a bit different! 

copenhagen street food

Copenhagen Street Food – the coolest place I’ve probably ever been. Right on the water, this warehouse is crammed full of different street food vans and bars serving up beer and cocktails. We sat in the sunshine outside in deck chairs, munched on massive burgers and drank G&Ts. Oh, and we got to play with a pug that belonged to the people sat next to us. Amazing.  

copenhagen street food sign

Sticks’n’Sushi – our fanciest treat of the week. This restaurant is at the top of the Tivoli Hotel, with fantastic views, and serves up absolutely fantastic sushi. Definitely worth splurging on, if only so you can sit on their swings and watch the sun set after your meal. 

little mermaid

The Little Mermaid – she looks a little bit sad, but as one of the main tourist attractions, you have to at least pay her a visit! 

Kødbyen – okay, maybe this is the coolest place I’ve ever been! Copenhagen’s meat-packing district transforms at night to a total hipster paradise, with uber-cool restaurants, bars and clubs full of the young, beautiful and bearded. We stopped at War Pigs where they serve up craft beers from taps in the wall, and piles of barbecue food on trays, but Mother is also supposed to be amazing. Definitely not one to miss if you’re in the city over the weekend. 

Mikkeller – more craft beer, if that’s a surprise! This cute little bar is tucked away below street level and serves up a selection of their own brews. It’s a bit rough around the edges, with wooden tables and little decoration, but if you’re a beer aficionado then you’ll love it! 

hot dog

Foderbrættet – right on the main street in Vesterbrø, this bar serves up delicious hot dogs and glasses of champagne, and not a lot else. It’s an unusual combination – the fanciest drink with one of the least-fancy foodstuffs – but it works. This was our first stop once we’d settled into our apartment, and that first glass of champagne was very welcome! 

tivoli gardens

Tivoli Gardens – you can’t come to Copenhagen and not go to Tivoli Gardens. A delightful little theme park in the centre of the city, full of magical nooks and crannies housing unusual plants, wildlife (we saw peacocks!) as well as cotton candy stalls and restaurants for bigger meals. It’s wonderful to walk around, and I’m sure even better if you like rides! Definitely worth a visit at least once. 

tivoli gardens 2

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Weekend Link Love


(Photo by Luis Llerena)

Hey friends! Another bumper round of links for you this week. I really need to get more organised, that is for sure. Today I am having a catch up day – lots of baking, blogging and Orange is the New Black. (Anyone else crazy excited for the new series  this week?!). It’s a bit of a downer, because the sunshine is so beautiful, but I know that having everything sorted will make the week so much simpler and easier, so a little sacrifice is necessary. 

It’s not like I’ve not been doing loads of fun stuff recently, anyway. Last weekend was for barbecues in the garden and Sunday roasts with Paul’s family. It’s neat how being in a couple nets you a whole extra bunch of people to call family. This weekend was for walking the Meanwood Valley Trail, which was a bit of adventure. We encountered some goats and a tiny puppy and an ice cream van on our way, although not the crayfish or lizards promised in the brochure. And  then last night we ate our fill of tacos and drank margaritas at our favourite restaurant in Leeds, Pinche Pinche. So all in all, a total beaut of a weekend. Much needed, because work has been crazy busy recently. Plus, I’ve decided to take on a bunch of personal projects which are filling up time – including crocheting a cushion and baking everything from Joy the Baker’s first book. My cookbook collection often gets neglected, so it’s time to start actually using it! 

What have you been up to? 

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Easy Pork & Chilli Gyoza

Easy Pork Gyoza

Do you know when you get an idea in your head, and you can’t rest until you see it through? These gyozas were one of those ideas, for me. I love gyozas of all flavours, but they always seemed like they would be tricky to make from scratch so I’d relegated them to a restaurant-only dish. However, after reading Lil’s post on them, I got it into my head that I needed to try it for myself and, after a trip to the Asian supermarket for wrappers (they were in the frozen section!) and a read of this recipe, I was armed and ready to go. And, you know what? They were easier than I thought. Almost therapeutic to make: a little like origami. 

Ever since, I’ve been making big batches of these, and freezing them for mid-week dinners. I serve them with a steaming hot bowl of noodles and stir-fried veg, with some sesame oil and soy sauce. A few sesame seeds never did any harm, either. They’re so satisfying and, after the initial time outlay, so quick and easy. It’s something a little bit different and, although my dumplings will never be as good as Dorshi’s, they’re pretty darn tasty, too. 

Easy Pork Gyoza

A word of warning: these will stick to the steamer! I used my standard metal steamer (the one I use for veggies), and the first time I had a bit of a disaster, with the wrappers all ripping open, leaving everything a bit of a mess. The next time I greased the steam with a little bit of olive oil before putting in the gyoza, and there were no problems! I’m sure there are more technical ways of doing it, or equipment you can buy (one of those bamboo ones, perhaps?!) but I was working with what I had!

Oh, you can also stick the steamed gyoza in a frying pan if you want a slightly crispier finish, but I like them just steamed. 

Easy Pork Gyoza

Easy Pork & Chilli Gyozas
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  1. 1 pack of gyoza wrappers (around 50)
  2. 500g pork mince
  3. 1 chilli, finely chopped
  4. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  5. 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  6. 1 tsp. grated ginger
  7. 1 tsp. fish sauce
  8. 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  9. water
  1. Mix together the mince, chilli, garlic, spring onions, ginger, fish sauce and soy sauce until well incorporated. You want an even mix of all the ingredients and flavours in each dumpling!
  2. Place around a tablespoon in the centre of each wrapper. Wet the edges and fold over until sealed.
  3. Wet the sealed edge and pleat gently all the way along.
  4. Set on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Try not to place them too close together, as they'll stick together!
  5. Repeat until all the mixture or all the wrappers are used up.
  6. Steam for 12-14 minutes until the centres are piping hot.
  1. You can freeze the gyozas by placing the baking tray(s) in the freezer - make sure the gyozas aren't touching as they'll stick together and potentially rip when cooked. Once they're frozen, you can transfer to bags or tupperware. You can cook the gyoza from frozen - just steam for 15-17 minutes and make sure the insides are hot before eating.
Adapted from Persephone H
Adapted from Persephone H
Amy Elizabeth

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Pieminister Comes To Leeds

pieminister leeds 1

Sometimes restaurants just hit the nail on the head, giving the people exactly what they want. In Leeds, Reds True BBQ capitalised on a desire for barbecue which first arose a few years ago, and there were queues around the block. Trinity Kitchen fulfilled our love of street food and sitting indoors, and has been busy ever since. And now we have Pieminister, proving that all Yorkshire people really want is a good pie, some decent mash and plenty of gravy and they’ll be happy as Larry. It’s been heaving since opening a couple of weeks ago; partly due, no doubt, to the excellent opening deal they’ve been running, but also because the arrival of a pie restaurant was bound to cause a stir in the land of proper grub. 

pieminister leeds 2

Pieminister have built up quite the reputation, taking their pies to farmers markets, festivals and pubs across the land. And now they’ve brought their flagship restaurant to Leeds, rejuvenating a tired corner of the city centre with a fresh idea. Burger restaurants have become ten a penny, but this really is something new. 

pieminister leeds 3

The restaurant has that slight industrial feel that’s so in right now, with light-up signs, old school chairs and plenty of dark wood. It’s becoming a cliche, for sure, but if it works, it works, right? My only comment would be that some of the tables were a little close together – we were a little too near to the couple enjoying their pies next to us, which feels a bit awkward. It was rammed to the rafters though, what with the new opening and it being a Friday night, so that might not always be such a problem. 

pieminister leeds 5

For a restaurant that is all about the pies, the menu is actually pretty extensive. You can view it online, so I won’t list everything out here, but there are so many options to customise your pie dinner that it’s a little mind-boggling. We had to send the over-eager waiter away a couple of times because we still hadn’t chosen! Suffice to say, the fact that all pies come with gravy included is a definitely welcome addition – and the gravy itself was plenty for one pie. There’s nothing worse than a stingy portion of gravy. 

pieminister leeds 6

The pies themselves were exactly what you’d expect – delicious pastry, generous fillings and so filling you’ll need a nap afterwards. My choice of chicken, ham, leek and thyme was very tasty, whilst Paul was extra impressed with his beef and Brewdog beer number. I opted out of mash and went for a slightly avant-garde choice of mac’n’cheese on the side of my pie. The extra carbs definitely weren’t needed, but it had an interesting garlicky taste alongside the cheesiness, which I enjoyed. 

pieminister leeds 4

You could certainly stuff yourself silly here, and at a very reasonable price. The pies themselves hit around the five pound mark, and even if you pile on the sides you’re looking at a feast for less than £15. I would skip the cocktails (there are far better places to have them in Leeds, and they felt a bit like an afterthought) and go for one of the many different beers instead, and get stuck into a hearty meal fit for a Yorkshireman (or woman!). Everyone I’ve told about Pieminister since our visit has been dead jealous – and I can tell this is going to be a welcome addition to the Leeds scene! 

Disclaimer: We received a discount off our meal from the lovely people at Pieminister, but a review on my blog wasn’t stipulated in exchange – I just wanted to tell you all about these pies! Just be warned: wear stretchy trousers! 

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wedding dance

[Photo by Jenna Woodward Photography

Marrying my favourite person in the whole world. 

Appreciating everyone’s generosity, well-wishes and slut-drops at the wedding. 

Feeling very lucky for all our friends and family. They are excellent. 

Exploring Copenhagen and already wanting to go back. 

Savouring the post-wedding glow. 

Eating everything at Leeds Indie Food Festival

Loving Chef and listening to the soundtrack ever since we watched it. 

Decluttering our entire house. It feels so good. Eight bags gone! 

Prancing in my new jumpsuit – so much fun to wear! 

Looking forward to so many trips and weekends away. 

Pairing coffee and cheese at Opposite. It’s a new thing. I’m into it. 

Drinking tequila with Emma on a Thursday night. The chaser was necessary. 

Painting Nick & Helena’s spare room in return for epic pulled pork. 

Loving life (and this city) at Leeds Feast. Did you go? 

Soaking it all up at Stu’s annual barbecue. My favourite day of the year, for sure. 

Reading the same book for weeks. It’s long and hard-going, but fascinating. 

Finishing my first crochet project and starting a new one immediately! 

Knowing that even though it’s been the greatest month ever, the best is yet to come. 

How about you?

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The Best Ever Salad

Spring Salad

I am a recent salad convert. The salads of my past were sad, uninspiring things, and as such I avoided them. Particularly in restaurants. Who orders a salad in a restaurant?! A fool, that’s who. Something has switched for me, though – and I think this salad might be the culprit. Far from forcing it down in the name of health, this salad makes me want to devour it daily. No limp lettuce or too-crunchy croutons. Now I’m craving salad regularly – the fresh flavours, the delicious dressings and, a little bit, the feeling of smug satisfaction.

Spring Salad

This salad is good for you. Boy, is it good for you. Body and soul. Using the very best of British springtime produce, there are plenty of crunchy green veggies in there, complimented by the saltiness of the parma ham, the slight punch of mustard and the zing of lemon. It’s all in the textures, too. Really crisp radishes, slightly charred tenderstem broccoli, creamy mozzarella. If this is starting to sound like a love letter, I guess that’s because it kind of is. I love this salad. I love it for lunch. I love it served on a giant platter as a starter for four. I love it for dinner, with crusty bread to mop up the dressing. I love it when I’m eating it, and I love it when I’m not. I want it everyday. This really is the best ever salad. 

Spring Salad

The Best Ever Salad
Serves 2
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  1. 1 ball of mozzarella
  2. 250g purple-sprouting or tenderstem broccoli, trimmed
  3. 1 small soft-leaved lettuce, washed & leaves removed
  4. 5-10 radishes, sliced
  5. 6-8 slices parma ham
  6. olive oil
  7. zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
  8. 1 big squidge honey
  9. 1 tsp. wholegrain mustard
  10. seasoning
  1. Drain the mozzarella and leave to come to room temperature.
  2. Toss the broccoli with some olive oil and seasoning until lightly coated. Heat a large frying pan and gently fry the broccoli until warm and cooked through, but with a little bite - around 4-5 minutes.
  3. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a plate or platter and cover with the broccoli. Scatter over the slices radishes and tear over the mozzarella and parma ham.
  4. Mix together the lemon zest, juice, honey and mustard. Whisk in around 50ml of olive oil and season to taste - it should be sweet and sharp. If it gets too oily, add more lemon juice and mustard.
  1. Serve with crusty bread. There should be enough for 2 for a light meal, or 4 as a starter or snack.
Adapted from Delicious Magazine
Amy Elizabeth

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