Relatively speaking, my love of steak is rather a new one. For years, I declared that I didn’t really like it – I think an insistence on a medium-to-well-done piece of meat (blood squicks me out) and too many experiences with poorly cooked or poor quality beef put paid to the idea that I was the kind of person who ate steak. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to try the whole steak business again, tentatively at first, and now voraciously; as it turns out, I do rather like it. Love it. Adore it. A medium rare fillet steak is my idea of heaven. So when I was invited to try out the steak at Miller & Carter, I was a giddy little kipper. I’ve peered in the window a couple of times on my way along the Headrow, but never made it inside – until now!
The decor of the place feels a bit like a fancy hotel – well-spaced tables, dark wood, soft but ample lighting. And pictures and statues of bulls *everywhere*, just in case you forget what you came here for! Whilst it may not be the tipping point that persuades you to try a restaurant, rest assured that the bathrooms were entirely exquisite – perhaps the best I’ve ever been to in a restaurant before. From the get-go the service was similarly well-polished – attentive and polite, fast but not so much that you felt rushed. I kept a bit of an eye on the other tables as well, and it definitely wasn’t the case that we were getting special treatment either.
This is not a place, however, to take your vegetarian friends – although there are a couple of things to cater for veggies on the menu, the variety for non-meat-eaters is a little sparse. But who takes a vegetarian to a steakhouse?! This place is all about the steak – and the other parts of the menu (chicken, burgers, pasta and the like) pale in significance compared to the large section inviting you to pick out your favourite steak and all the accompaniments. Like I said, I’m a fillet steak girl and I wasn’t about to change the habit of a
lifetime year so I opted for a fillet whilst Paul chose the ribeye.
There was just one thing which confused me about the whole experience – and that was the salad wedge. If you order a steak, you’re presented with a wedge of Iceberg lettuce and your choice of dressing before your meat arrives as a ‘palette cleanser’. Not having has a starter, I wasn’t sure that my palette needed cleansing, and I’ve never experienced this before so it rather baffled me. It wasn’t unpleasant, and the steak arrived soon after (in fact, so soon that I didn’t have a chance to wipe the smear of dressing from me face!), so the lettuce was abandoned. I’d love to hear if any other restaurants do this – it may just be me being a newbie to steak, but it seemed rather redundant – especially so large a portion!
All that being said, however, the steak was phenomenal. Buttery soft, melt in the mouth, perfectly cooked – I’m drooling at the memory. I opted for the five mushroom chasseur sauce as a change from the usual, but I don’t think I would do so again – partly because I don’t think it went brilliantly and disguised some of the gorgeous flavours of the beef, and partly because I would order a vat of the peppercorn sauce instead. I managed to snaffle some of Paul’s and it was the best example of a peppercorn sauce that I have ever tasted. Pure magic – I was so jealous!
Although the portions were generous on the main course, we managed to find some room for pudding – and both, predictably, were brilliant. The brownie in particular was soft and fudgey – a definite must-have if you make your way here. The whole lot, including two large glasses of wine came to around the £65 mark, which isn’t bad considering that we had two rather expensive steaks!
My overall opinion of Miller & Carter is definitely clouded by how good that steak was (and the fact that you could have lobster on the side, if you so wished!). It was excellent, top-notch and all those other positive adjectives. Miller & Carter feels family-friendly, the perfect place for students to persuade their parents to buy them a ‘last meal’ before they go back to living on packet noodles and takeaway. The atmosphere was happy and chatty – not like the dark, sexy atmosphere of Blackhouse – more relaxed and slightly, although not much, cheaper. This is the place to go if you want amazing steak, but you want don’t want to bother with your gladdest of rags – a nice halfway point between fine dining and wipe clean menus, suitable for any occasion. Can you ask any more than that?*Disclaimer: I was gifted the meal at Miller & Carter in exchange for a review, but I wouldn’t lie to you about steak – this one’s a corker*
On Saturday we took a trip to see my family over in Chesire – an absolutely beautiful part of the world, and one which stuns me more every time I go there (especially now I have an appreciation of how much it must cost to live somewhere so idyllic!). I am completely intrigued by the whole concept of ‘family’, and feel it’s something I could ruminate on for hours. I am very proud of my family, and proud to be a part of it, but my favourite thing about ‘family’ is that it so easily opens up and absorbs more people. There are no limits.
The family that I had as a child now looks completely different, although the core characters are still there, and it just keeps going as people partner up, have children, and invite other people in. I am the eldest of my generation – I’m old hat at this thing – and I watch with amazement as I see my siblings and cousins doing this whole life business a whole lot better than I did. My youngest cousin is called Claudia, and she’s just 18 months old, but it won’t be long before she is supplanted and another youngest cousin takes her place in that spot on the family tree. For now, she’s revelling in the attention – well-deserved because she is, quite frankly, adorable. I know I’m biased, but Paul said so, too. It won’t be long either, before the whole family grows tall enough and I am left staring up at family gatherings, destined to forever be the shortest as much as the eldest. Two achievements I didn’t really get much of a say in.
After catching up and entertaining Claudia (as well as encouraging her into bad habits, much to the chagrin of my grandad), we chowed down on some curry before pulling on our boots and jumpers and heading out into the fields with four enthusiastic dogs. I love dogs – I long for a puppy the way I imagine some people long for children, but sadly for now, it is not to be. So it’s rather lovely to borrow someone else’s every now and again, and my aunt’s dogs are gorgeous – lovable, soppy and full of boundless energy, just like a dog should be. Particularly the littlest pup Jose, who literally bounced around all afternoon and still held her own chasing after the big dogs out in the wild. It was all rather picturesque and satisfying – I think this might be what contentment looks like.
For months I’ve been eagerly watching the construction of the Leeds arena. Driving past every day on the way to work, we’ve had a front-row view to the progress of this exciting new addition to the city – and after months of looking like a concrete block, the green dome seemed to shoot up before my very eyes. Along with Trinity opening this year and the plans for work to start on Victoria Gate this is a huge deal for Leeds – and for me, since I can pretty much walk there from my house!
So I was pretty stoked to be invited behind the scenes on Thursday to take a look inside this beast before it opens to the public on July 24th when Bruce Springsteen will take to the stage. It’s very odd being in such a cavernous building when there are very few other people around – it’s absolutely huge, and a little bit eery when empty. But when full, the arena boasts 13,000 seats and the ‘best acoustics in Europe’ – if you’ve managed to bag tickets to one of the shows already announced, you’ve definitely got a treat in store!
All of this star treatment was to announce, in rather dramatic fashion, a new sponsorship deal with Leeds-based bank first direct, after which the arena will now be named. Reactions on Twitter were certainly mixed, with many a bit sore that the word ‘Leeds’ was no longer in the title, perhaps understandably. But the first direct arena now joins the ranks of the O2, the MEN and the LG Arena – it certainly hasn’t been a problem for those venues. This sponsorship deal will help Leeds attract some big names to our doorstep – I for one am holding out for Lady Gaga, and maybe a cheeky bit of Michael Buble (yes, I know my music taste is far from cool) – and as far as commercial partnerships go, it’s one that makes sense, since 2,800 people are employed by first direct right here in Leeds. Either way, it’s an exciting time to be living her in Leeds and I’m thrilled to see what else will pop up as the city puts itself firmly on the national map.
How was your week? I’ve been walking puppies and stressing over choosing a kitten, baking even more banana bread, sipping Pimms in a beer garden and enjoying the sunshine on a run around Roundhay Park. What larks! Plus, there was all this lovely stuff to keep me entertained:
- I love these 100 Rules of Dinner - I can’t pick a favourite, just read and learn them all!
- Salads on a stick – everything is better served on a stick, no?
- Another reason why I should be allowed a cat. That, and the fact that my newly decorated front room has the perfect little cat nook. Damn you rented accommodation!
- The Disapproval Matrix – lovers, haters, frenemies and critics – who is it who’s commenting on you and your work, and should you care?
- Do you live in Leeds and love barbecue food and street food and helping people? Of course you do – otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog! Consider chucking a few quid the way of Crowder Barbecue and help two guys acheive their smokey meaty dreams!
- A simple flow chart to help you navigate the murky waters of dating a friend’s ex.
- A brilliant post on Gwyneth Paltrow’s self confidence by Rachel.
- Another plea for your cash, but an admirable one. My sister’s friend Hazel is raising money for Hospice in the Weald by shaving off her hair – a bold move for a 16 year old. You can sponsor her here.
- I’m a Hermione fan-girl and this just proves that she is the best kick-ass heroine in Hollywood. As an aside, if I ever have a daughter I am calling her Hermione and I don’t care what anyone thinks.
When I announced to my workmates that I was taking an after-work trip to Little Tokyo, there were exclamations of joy and affirmation all round. Everyone it seems, loves this restaurant. Tucked away at the bottom of town, next to Pop Boutique and the fabric shop where there’s a wall of buttons (joy!), you could easily go your whole life in Leeds without discovering this restaurant. Were it not for a meandering right turn, we might not have stumbled across it. However, it seems it might be Leeds worst kept secret, because after enquiring about the restaurant, emblazoned with the sign that it made the ‘Good Food Guide’ back in 2004, it seems everyone but me knew about it, and everybody raved about the food.
Perhaps I might have enjoyed myself more, had Little Tokyo’s reputation not preceded it quite so voraciously. Don’t get me wrong, the food is incredible, just like everyone says it is, but the experience was lacking something for me. A seven out of ten, if you will. When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a bit of a kerfuffle about seating us, despite the restaurant being only half full. The service was perfectly pleasant, but oscillated between being a little slow and inattentive at times, only to be replaced with over-efficiency. One of the couple seated next to us finished their dish and had the plate whipped away straight away – whilst their partner was still eating, leaving her feeling rushed and a bit awkward. And whilst we’re about to sound very un-cultured, when we asked for a fork for the noodles (our dexterity knows its bounds, and it’s bounds are anything more slippery than a gyoza), all that was produced was a small wooden fork a bit less helpful than a chip-shop fork. None of these things are terrible, but it just chipped away at the overall experience for me and meant that whilst I would happily stuff my face with their sushi all day, I wasn’t head over heels in love with this restaurant.
That said, the meal itself was brilliant. Succulent sake-steamed mussels, the largest I’ve ever seen, covered in a deep chilli sauce. Sweet and sticky yaki tori (chicken skewers) that were more of a main than a side dish. Juicy pork gyoza with soft pastry (what is that kind of pastry on a Japanese dumpling?!), a crispy bottom and perfectly seasoned insides. Two pieces of fresh sushi because I couldn’t go to a Japanese restaurant and not have sushi! Flavoursome yaki udon with big slippery noodles and *a lot* of chicken. All brilliantly cooked, and more than two of us could manage.
We had to turn away the rather extensive dessert menu (so many flavours of ice cream!) which is very unlike us. We did, however, opt for a cup of sake to share – a first for both of us, but when in Rome and all that! It’s a rather strange drink isn’t it? Like all alcohol can be, I guess. I loved the warmth of the drink, but the flavour wasn’t to the taste of my sweet tooth – which is probably a good thing because we had to get up and do Park Run the next day, when a hangover would not be productive! All in all the meal came to £45, including alcoholic drinks and more food than you can shake a stick at – which is bloody good value if you ask me.
I want to be super positive about this restaurant, like everyone else seems to be. Maybe I am becoming spoilt from eating out too much, god forbid! The food at Little Tokyo is gorgeous, the decor is unique and charming – highlights include a plethora of fairy lights and candle, and a koi carp pond, obviously – and the service is not unpleasant. But I just wasn’t wow-ed the way I thought I would be. If someone suggested another visit, I would definitely be up for it, and I would look forward to another plate of those gyoza and the chance to stuff myself silly with sushi, but now I’ve crossed it off my list, I won’t be queuing at the door for a while – not least while the dining scene of Leeds has so much to offer.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the whole thing – I will admit to crying in frustration as I make my way through reams of theory that just seems to prove that there is no hope. After throwing myself into the feminist world and feminist activism so strongly, I experienced extreme burn-out and I couldn’t bring myself to be as excited and as angry as I was before. I’m still sort of in that space – whilst I am penning a dissertation on feminist blogging, I have mostly distanced myself from the activism side. I will still speak passionately about feminism, and I will never be quiet on an issue that is important to me – but I don’t actively seek it out as much as I used to.
I want that to change…
I’ve got a guest post over on The Awkward Magazine today – go and check it out (plus all of the other lovely stuff over there!)
The monthly ‘empties’ post is something that you see on a lot of beauty blogs; beauty bloggers show off the lotions and potions that they have finished off that month as a sign that those products are worth purchasing. So, I thought I’d do a foodie version – the cupboard staples that I’ve polished off during the month of March. When it comes to cooking everything from scratch, there are some things that are worth stocking up on, things that I purchase time and again, using up every last drop – they’re not all featured here but I thought this was a fun way of talking about these much loved ingredients.
Dark Soy Sauce
I prefer dark soy sauce to the light stuff, which I find tastes a bit too salty. Our staple meal when we’re hungry and tired is a stir fry – meat, veg, noodles and a splash of soy sauce is all you need for a quick and satisfying dinner. I’ve mostly given up on buying ready-made stir fry sauces (except the occasional teriyaki, which Paul loves) because this is so much simpler and more cost-effective.
Used for the same purpose as the soy sauce – a splash of sesame oil (and a few toasted sesame seeds, if you have them) is the perfect addition to a simple stir fry for a great depth of flavour, and it stops all the noodles sticking together. It’s taken me a long time to get through this little bottle as I’ve used it sparingly – the flavour is strong but not so much that it overpowers the rest of the dish.
An obvious one. We only use olive oil for cooking, as I prefer the taste to other oils – and I’m a bit of a food snob/Jamie Oliver fanatic. I’ve been trialling rapeseed oil after receiving it in my Deluxebite box but the flavour is a bit more intense, and I think it would work better in a salad dressing than just for simple frying or roasting.
Not your most traditional of cooking ingredients, perhaps, but this is one alcohol in our cupboard which only gets used for cooking! Penne alla vodka is my absolute go-to when I’m feeling a bit lazy and want to fill up on carbs. It’s super simple, super delicious and I always have all of the ingredients on hand. I sent the recipe over to Becs for the Meat Free March recipe swap, so head over there if you want to try it for yourself.
I can’t even count how many cans of chopped tomatoes I get through in a month. I get a bit panicky if I don’t have any in the cupboard, because they’re the perfect base for so many easy and delicious meals – I use mine for curries, pasta sauces and stews. I know some people prefer a smoother passata, but I like the lumps.
Not just for drinking – although if we use some in cooking, the rest inevitably gets drunk so I do spend a little bit more. The same isn’t true of red wine, which also gets used for stews and sauces and the like, but usually stays in the cupboard to be used up rather than being drunk, as we’re not big fans of red. This particular white wine made it’s way into a risotto, but I also use white wine to cook salmon, to make a buttery sauce for chicken in proscuitto, and if I’m lucky to get my hands on some clams – a spaghetti vongole. The options are endless, of course – and it’s worth having a bottle in the fridge for a culinary emergency!
This isn’t everything that we’ve got through in one month – but just a few of the key ingredients. There’s plenty more that I can think of, but rustling around in my recycling bin isn’t my idea of fun, and it probably isn’t yours either! What cupboard staples have you used up this month?
What a week, you guys! I had a gorgeous evening out on Friday munching on Japanese food, and then spent the whole day yesterday painting our front room. There’s still a way to go to get it how we want (tell me where to get nice cushions!) but I’m so happy with how the decorating is going. Magnolia is really the worst, am I right? There’s also been a cake party, and I beat my personal best at Park Run. Whew! And I still had time to read all of these bad boys:
- Big Bang Theory and Sexism – not sure I agree with the whole article, but definitely something to think about.
- Emma interviews the inspiring Bangs and A Bun - loved the point that high school hierarchy doesn’t dictate the rest of your life – the popular, pretty girls don’t get to win everything forever, there’s space for everyone in the real world.
- Some awesome non-awesome real-life social media updates from Yes and Yes’s fantastic readers. A someone who has spent a large part of the weekend curled up on an uncomfortable desk chair trying to get through a dissertation, whilst Paul paints the front room – I appreciate the mundane.
- If you don’t read Eat the Damn Cake, you are a damn fool, it’s pure brilliance. I loved this post on ‘the things men say about women in front of other women‘ (You guys, this is totally why I was annoyed about you ‘rating’ female athletes during the Olympics. Take note.)
- I make no secret of my desire to own a cat, but maybe this will finally persuade my landlord that having one is beneficial to my health – 9 exercises you can do with your cat.
- Essential advice for life: 7 ways to look better in photographs
- Fat-shaming is real. A lesson in never straying into the comments. And in how badass Chloe Angyal is.
The humble brownie – so simple, and yet so deliciously moreish and decadent. They’re my go-to baked good when I want to impress, because there is no one who doesn’t like them. Once a month, we hold a ‘Cake Party’, a simple evening gathering where we get together and share sweet and savoury baked goods. This month, I was tasked with bringing something ‘chocolate’ – and faced with the myriad of options in front of me, I turned to Pinterest for a little bit of inspiration.
I came across these Rocky Road Brownies, which looked incredible, but which were made with a packet mix (gasp!). I would be shunned at Cake Party if I turned up with a packet mix creation (although it is a good option if you are pushed for time, and don’t have a foodie-blogger reputation to maintain!) so I set about making them from scratch. I really don’t think it takes all that much longer but the payout taste and texture-wise is phenomenal. As always, these are based on the Hummingbird Bakery brownies, my go-to when I want a soft, fudgey, rich brownie. And would you ever want a different kind of brownie?
When it comes to the topping, it’s really a free-for-all. Rocky Road is traditionally made with biscuits and marshmallows, but I went a bit mad in the baking aisle and came away with honeycomb pieces and white chocolate chips to throw into the mix. Glace cherries, sultanas and crushed walnuts would all be great additions as well – so just go for it and cover these bad boys in a sticky, sweet, crunchy mix of goodies, there are no rules!
- 200g dark chocolate
- 175g unsalted butter
- 325g caster sugar
- 130g plain flour
- 3 eggs
- A variety of toppings (I used 75g marshmallows, about 6 rich tea biscuits, 25g honeycomb pieces and 50g white chocolate chips)
1. Preheat the oven to 170oC and line your tin with baking paper.
2. Break up the chocolate and butter into a bowl. Melt over a pan of boiling water (watch out for steam!)
3. Stir in the sugar, then the flour, then the eggs until everything is deliciously incorporated. Be careful not to over mix – once everything’s together, stop there!
4. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and cover in your yummy toppings. Put melt-y things like chocolate chips and marshmallows on the very top.
6. Bake for another 10 minutes and then leave to cool – all the marshmallows and chocolate should have melted over the biscuits and formed a delicious rocky road top to your brownies.
Paul will tell you that the toppings make these brownies a right pain to cut through when they are cool, so be careful and use a sharp knife when portioning out these bad boys. This mix should make around 12 big brownies, but if you want to spread the love, just cut them smaller (obviously!).
Like all twee lifestyle bloggers, I am a big fan of knitting. I learnt to knit from my grandmother (don’t we all?) and she was incredible at it. Where I would sit, tongue stuck out in concentration and making progress at a glacial pace, she would be able to have a conversation, watch the telly and make a pot roast, all whilst her needles clicked quickly together and created something perfect. Where my knitted items were wonky and holey, hers were neat and perfectly formed.
I like to think that since those days I have improved. I can still only knit things that go in straight lines (blankets and scarves are my forte) but I am quicker and neater every time I give it a go. My aim this year was to complete more creative projects, and since knitting is one of the only creative things I am in any way proficient at, it seemed best to start there. With all of Paul’s friends popping out babies all over the joint, a baby blanket seemed as good a project as any to get my teeth into, so, fired up with inspiration from Elise’s post on the subject, I set to and bought a big pile of wool.
Although the process was pretty simple – one row knit, one row purl until the wool ran out – I actually ended up making two blankets. One was a trial run, which turned out a bit too narrow for what I was hoping for. It was all a bit trial and error the first time around, so I adjusted my ‘pattern’ and went back in with three new balls of wool and the second time was perfect!
I used three balls of Sirdar Supersoft Aran Baby Yarn (Cream, Pretty Pink and Pretty Blue) and a 5mm circular needle (80 cm long). I’d not used a circular needle before, but it was *such* a good idea – it meant that I could knit the whole blanket in one go, without having to stitch anything together. I just cast on 120 stitches, and then knitted and purled until the wool ran out! Nothing more complicated than that. Such an easy and fun project, which made sitting in front of the television every night slight more productive! And it’s new owner seems to like it:
What a cutie pie, am I right? I would love to do take on more knitting projects, perhaps even ones which don’t end up as blankets and scarves, so any suggestions would be much appreciated!