Another week is over. How can that be? Every time I sit down to write one of these posts it feels like just seconds have elapsed between them. If you can’t tell, I’m feeling kind of philosophical at the moment. More than New Year, autumn feels like a time for reflection, for planning, for making goals. Only, I have so many goals, some of them conflicting, that it feels almost impossible to choose which ones to go after. For now, I am focusing on getting this blog done and knitting a bunch of snoods. There are worse things to accomplish.
This week has felt a bit all over the place, but looking back on it, that’s probably because I packed in a lot. Like coming joint 3rd in a Friends-themed pub quiz. Watching the final of The Great British Bake Off (what did you think to the winner?). Baking a HUGE batch of salted caramel and Nutella cookies. Eating my weight in cheese at The Pit on Friday night. People watching with Paul during our date night. Making a whole bunch of cocktails (recipes to come!). Finishing three books. Finding my wedding dress. It’s been pretty intense.
A particular highlight was trying some of the new menu dishes at Roast & Conch on Tuesday, which felt very indulgent indeed. We got to have a little chat with the head chef as well, which was a real treat – it’s so fascinating to hear from the people who make it happen. The mac’n’cheese pie with a cocoa nib pastry was truly delicious, and I think the Cocoa Gin Martini (which I’ve tried before) is still one of my favourite cocktails in Leeds. It’s worth the trip for that alone, although I will be heading back there for a proper meal in the not-too-distant future, which I’ll be sure to tell you all about.
What have you been up to this week?
- Could you wear just one colour all the time?
- This is something I need to work on: How to become a more eco-conscious consumer.
- I’m desperate to see the Gone Girl movie, even though I didn’t love the book. This is relevant: I tried to be the ‘Cool Girl’ and it wrecked my life.
- I cried a little at Gem’s post. We spend so much of our lives trying *not* to get pregnant, that we don’t imagine it will be difficult for us. Until it is.
- How to be a solo female traveller. I think I would hate to travel alone, but I have infinite respect for people who do.
- I loved this interview with Izy from Top with Cinnamon. I added a whole bunch of new food blogs to my reader after I finished that.
- Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownie Cake. Need I say more?
- These little portraits would make such a sweet gift.
- 10 words you need to know when buying white wine. I usually just look for reduced Pinot Grigio, so I need to up my game. (via Rachel)
- I’m excited to sign up for the Food Photography School on payday. Another area where I need to up my game.
- If you need a little bit of daily inspiration, here’s 50 inspirational women to follow on Twitter.
With the drop in temperature and the onset of darkness in the early evening has come a reduction in my social calendar. In the summer I was inundated with invitations; no one wanted to stay inside, they wanted to go out and play in the sunshine. For the first time in forever, I wasn’t juggling a mix of studying and working – I was free in the evenings and weekends for all sorts of high jinks and it was glorious to make the most of it. This could be the most carefree time of my life and it’s worth holding on to that for as long as possible.
Next year I will be a married woman and working towards being a homeowner. The thought is both thrilling and humbling. Life seems to move at such a fast pace, especially during those heady summer months. Before next year, however, I have some respite. A time for hibernation and recuperation. A chance to charge my batteries and get stuck in to all of those creative projects that have been on the back burner whilst this grasshopper played all summer.
My weekends are gloriously empty, with only a few key dates peppered here and there, which means that it’s time to spend some serious time in the kitchen. This year has definitely highlighted that whilst I am a good cook, I am certainly not great and there are a lot of things I have never even tried to turn my hand to. I am excited to start, armed with my books and my wooden spoon. Here’s a little list of the books I’ll be cooking from this autumn, and a few that I have saved up on my wish list ready for when I run out of recipes. Can that ever happen? It’s best to be prepared, just in case.
Top with Cinnamon by Izy Hosack
If you’ve not read Izy’s incredible blog, then you are seriously missing out. This girl has so much talent for both creating incredible dishes & bakes and for photographing them. It sickens me slightly that she is so accomplished and still six years younger than me but, petty jealousy aside, her book is glorious. Savoury and sweet, all photographed beautifully. It’s a piece of art as much as it is a cookbook, and although I have already tried my hand at the Swedish Chocolate Cake and am a convert to Courgetti as a side dish, there’s still so much more. This is the one, you guys.
Crumb by Ruby Tandoh
With the Bake Off sadly drawing to a close, I have a renewed excitement for all things kneaded and proved. I loved Ruby’s bakes on last year’s Bake Off and have since enjoyed her column on the Guardian, so I was very excited to snap up her new book when it was released this month. It’s only just appeared at my door and I’ve only had a cursory glance through, but this weekend I plan to curl up and read it properly with a notebook so I can choose exactly what to bake first.
Homemade Decadence by Joy the Baker
Joy the Baker is my food blogging idol. She is pretty incredible, and her podcast is one of my favourites. Her first book was so much fun to bake from – easy, indulgent, impressive food that didn’t take itself too seriously and provided a serious sugar hit. I’m excited for her second book, which is released on the 16th October. The tagline is ‘Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats’. Yep. I definitely need this book in my life.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Is it any surprise that a lot of this list comprises the work of food bloggers? Smitten Kitchen is one of the original and best food bloggers, and I have been a fan of her blog for years. It’s simple enough to encourage even the most novice of chefs and yet offers some great inspiration and new dishes that I have never tried before. Despite that, I’ve never owned her book (although I have given it as a gift) and I’d love to get my hands on it before she releases her next one!
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
I am always completely intrigued by Julia Child. What a fascinating woman she was, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking is truly her masterpiece. I love French food (who doesn’t) but I suspect my skills are a little lacking for it so I’d love to absorb this wildly-acclaimed book and get to grip with some techniques that will help me improve. French food is often incredibly rich and decadent, wonderfully so, which makes it a perfect project for the wintery months. I’ll let you know how I get on…
The Recipe Wheel by Rosie Ramsden
I first read about this book on Rachel‘s blog and was immediately taken with the concept – one, simple core recipe at the heart of its own ‘wheel’ with a number of variations to choose from depending on the occasion. I love the idea, and I think it might be helpful for using up leftovers as well. I hate getting stuck in a rut when it comes to our weekly meal plan, so this kind of book is perfect for me – I’m usually much better at coming up with occasional recipes than I am the regular, everyday stuff which actually makes up the core of what we eat. I’m definitely putting this one on my Christmas list, if I don’t splurge beforehand!
Which cookbooks are you reading this autumn?
Whenever I make muffins, I always get the 30 Rock ‘Muffin Top’ song stuck in my head for days. So, naturally I’ve been singing it to myself since Sunday, which is the perfect muffin-making day. I have been setting aside time to bake and cook on Sunday afternoons and it definitely puts me in the best mood. A Sunday well spent brings a week of content, and all that. These muffins are very simple to whip up on a lazy afternoon, and are particularly good eaten slightly warm with a good brew.
- 230g self-raising flour
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 110g unsalted butter, melted
- 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 spoons Nutella (approx.)
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- In one bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt).
- In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (butter, bananas, eggs and vanilla).
- Tip the wet ingredients into the dry, and gently fold together until fully combined. The mixture will still be lumpy but don't panic!
- Spoon the mixture into 12 muffin cases.
- In a small saucepan, warm the Nutella gently until it's slightly runny (but not too liquid).
- Using a teaspoon, put a small amount of Nutella on the top of each muffin. Using the end of a spoon or a skewer, gently swirl the Nutella into the muffins.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
So the nights are drawing in and the central heating is firmly on, which means its time to start rustling up warming stews and decadent roasts. Yorkshire puddings. That sort of thing. I have already posted a recipe for chilli on the blog before, but now that Bonfire Night is coming back around, it’s back on my mind. I love chilli con carne – it’s one of my favourite meals – covered in cheese, sour cream and piled on top of a fluffy baked potato. I could eat it all year round, but it’s particularly good on cold nights when slippers and snuggly jumpers are a must.
This particular chilli takes a little time, but the investment is worthwhile. The meaty brisket just falls apart, and brings a tonne of flavour to the mix. Make it the night before if you’re throwing a fireworks shindig and reheat for your guests – it can take it. I don’t tend to put peppers in my chilli due to personal preference, but they’re traditional so feel free to throw some in. Carrots wouldn’t go amiss either if you want to bulk the dish up. Pile it up high with your favourite toppings, and be sure to wear gloves if you’re using sparklers on the night…
- 500g beef brisket
- salt & pepper
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 300ml red wine
- 300ml beef stock
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 can kidney beans, drained
- 200g mushrooms, chopped
- 1 tbsp. dried chilli flakes (or more or less to taste!)
- Pre-heat the oven to 150C
- Cut the brisket into large chunks and season with salt and pepper.
- Gently fry the brisket and onion until the onion has softened and the brisket is browned. Add the garlic for the last minute of cooking.
- Place everything in an oven-proof casserole dish and cover with the wine and stock. Season with more salt and pepper and cover with a lid.
- Cook for 4 hours until beef is tender.
- Remove from the oven and using two forks, gently pull apart some of the larger chunks of meat.
- Stir in the tomatoes, chilli flakes, kidney beans and mushrooms.
- Turn up the heat on the oven to 180C and cook the dish uncovered for a further hour or so, until the sauce has thickened and everything is cooked through.
- Serve with baked potatoes and your choice of toppings.
It seems like autumn is well and truly here – I’m sitting under a fuzzy blanket dosed up on painkillers thanks to my first cold of the season. No fun. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; is it ever? This week has been slow-paced and much-needed. I baked some salted caramel cookies and some banana muffins. I watched Buffy. I cuddled the cat. I ordered some sparkly dresses to (maybe) wear as a wedding dress. It’s been good for me. How was your week?
- This is important: A journalist photographed me topless without my permission and sold the picture to the Daily Mail.
- 5 Questions to Ask Yourself when Decluttering (via Elise)
- I am definitely making these char siu buns. How good do they look?
- I’ll also be whipping up some of these cinnamon sugar popovers. Yum.
- I keep seeing adverts for Borrow my Doggy, which seems perfect for proody (puppy-broody) people like me – it’s good to know a little inside perspective.
- This will make you giggle: Texts from your Ex.
- Related: Niche dating sites that need to exist. I’d definitely be up for a Harry Potter-themed dating site if I was single.
- With the election coming up, it’s definitely worth thinking about this: 5 reasons I’m not politically engaged and how that can change.
- Now that the seasons are changing, why not try these different spice pairings?
- The top 10 things I learned in culinary school (via Tracy)
- An interview between Lena Dunham & Roxane Gay? Yes please.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Let’s just say that pastry is not one of my strengths… I have never been particularly confident with pastry – it feels tricky, fiddly and time-consuming. So, for the most part, I have always stuck to shop-bought and, for the most part, it has sufficed.
However, when I got the idea for this treacle tart in my head, I knew that ready-made, ready-rolled pastry wasn’t going to cut it. They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone, well, so do decent baked goods. So I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in – kneading, rolling, blind baking, the whole shebang.
And… it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was pretty darn good for a pastry novice like myself. The pastry was flaky and flecked with the savoury taste of rosemary; although it was a little uneven in places, I avoided the dreaded soggy bottom. I like to think the crinkled edges give it a rustic effect.
There’s a lesson in all of this about not being afraid of failure, pastry-wise. The worst that can happen is it can end up in the bin. The best that can happen is that you get a delicious treacle tart, with an unusual but very welcome hit of rosemary and lemon. Sticky, sweet and best served warm with a big, fat dollop of cream.
- 225g plain flour
- 110g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
- 1 large egg
- 1-2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
- 450g golden syrup
- 100g fresh breadcrumbs
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Thick double cream, clotted cream or ice cream (you choose!)
- 1. In a bowl, rub together the butter and flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- 2. Mix in the egg using a knife. Throw in the rosemary.
- 3. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and bring the dough together. Knead for a few minutes to form a smooth dough.
- 4. Roll the dough to your required thickness (around 5mm) and use to line a pie dish. Don't worry if there's some overhang around the edge - we'll trim that off later! Prick the base all over with a fork.
- 5. Leave the pastry to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- 6. Preheat the oven to 190C
- 7. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beans (not baked beans!) or rice. Blind bake for 15 minutes before removing the beans/rice and returning to the oven for around 5 minutes more until the pastry is golden brown.
- 8. Trim any excess pastry from the rim of the dish.
- 9. Mix together the golden syrup, lemon zest, lemon juice and breadcrumbs. Tip into the pastry case.
- 10. Pop back in the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes.
- 11. Serve warm with your chosen accompaniment.
This weekend, Leeds played host to one of the most exciting foodie events in the UK: the British Street Food Awards, a three-day extravaganza of food and drink bringing the best of the best to our fair city. It’s not surprise really, Leeds has been championing street food for months (if not years) and some of the most celebrated street food vendors hail from here. Unsurprisingly, I snapped up a ticket almost straight away and eagerly checked the listings to see what culinary delights were on offer.
It was a food-lover’s paradise, with some incredibly exciting menus tempting you from all angles. Sadly, we couldn’t have one of everything – funds and stomach capacity are limiting things – so it was paramount to choose wisely. After much deliberation I got stuck into a soft-shell crab burger from The Crabbieshack, topped with sweetcorn salsa and lobster mayonnaise and some pork & black pudding dumplings from Dorshi (which I’ve been craving ever since they left Trinity Kitchen). The dumplings were just as good as I remembered, if not better, and although the crab burger was incredibly messy to eat it was also incredibly good.
Between us, we managed to try quite a few things – a black bean and chocolate soup, some avocado toast, a brisket burger with the hottest sauce known to man, a chapasty and yet more dumplings – but sadly we weren’t quick enough on the draw so by the time it came for round two, a lot of places had run out of the most popular items. Which meant that I didn’t get to try the ox cheek bun from eventual winners Fu-Schnickens but thankfully they hang around this neck of the woods so I’m hoping to stumble across them again.
However, that little niggle aside, it was a lovely night with some lovely people and some lovely food, and you can’t say fairer than that. Events like this give me the warm fuzzies for Leeds and its fantastic food scene, which is only going from strength to strength. Next time, I’ll be there on day one so I don’t miss a bite of anything!
You can see all the winners on the British Street Food awards website – be sure to check them out if you see them around town!
Watching lots of Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Eating takeaway sushi as much as possible.
Visiting Universities with my baby sister. How is she old enough?
Tasting wines at Cornucopia. I’d like to learn more.
Trying to decide on a wedding dress.
Driving solo, for the first time in years.
Knitting yet more snoods.
Reading Jane Eyre on the bus. It’s so much better the second time.
Toasting engagements and 30th birthdays.
Working my socks off. Can I have another bank holiday?
Cooking belly pork and lamb shoulder.
Wearing boots again. My favourite.
Planning a foodie podcast. Watch this space…
How about you?
Now that summer is over, everything feels like it’s slowed down. There is less spontaneity, fewer plans and more nights spent on the sofa underneath a fleecy blanket. I am okay with this. It was time. It means I have time to tidy my house, do a proper food shop and slow cook lamb for dinner. Which is very boring and domesticated, I know, but it’s definitely good for my peace of mind. That’s not to say that that nothing has been going on. I’ve been practising my driving (which is going well – the parking, not so much), I ran my fastest ever 6k and I spent last night at Millennium Square trying the best street food the country has to offer. I’ll be writing more about that in due course, but safe to say it was incredible! What have you been up to this week?
- Everyone needs to read this article: My year as an abortion doula. (Although small word of warning, there are a couple of graphic descriptions so if you’re squeamish like me, be prepared!)
- I want to be the person who runs Barbie’s Instagram. So good.
- Unsurprisingly, Lena Dunham gives great advice. I’m very excited about her book release.
- The most popular food on Twitter in every state. I wonder what the UK’s most talked about food would be? I’m guessing burgers.
- What does a recipe editor do? Related: I think I want to be a recipe editor. (via Rachel)
- These Harry Potter snapchat puns are the funniest thing I’ve seen all year. Witches be crazy!
- I need to eat this date & walnut banana bread with home-made salted caramel.
- 6 cafés turned literary landmarks. How fun! I wonder if we can think of any more? (via Paper/Plates)
- Dear Lost 20-Something. It’s all going to be okay.
A lot of people come to this blog looking for restaurant recommendations in Leeds. Although I have written about a fair few of my favourite places, I haven’t covered it all – some of the places I go to the most never get a mention, probably because I’m too busy having a good time there to get out my phone and take a snap.
So I’ve rounded up my favourite haunts in Leeds to eat, drink and shop for those people looking for somewhere new to try. These are all places that I have been, most of them more than once, which means that there are a few glaring omissions which get rave reviews from other Leeds foodies but I have yet to visit. Kendells Bistro, The Greedy Pig. and The Reliance are just a few that spring to mind. I’m sure that these will make their way onto the map in due course.
Everyone has different taste, of course, so these are just my personal favourites – the places I find myself visiting regularly or dreaming of going back. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!