Those lazy, hazy, scone-y days

Urban dictionary defines a frenemy as; an enemy disguised as a friend.
We’ve all got them. The friend that likes to point out just how many terrible decisions we’ve made after one too many tequilas. The friend who loves to top all of your stories, the best ones, the slightly mediocre ones, even the stupid ones. If you’ve done it, they’ve done it better, or more spectacularly or even made a bigger mess of it. Insert eye roll here.

For me it’s scones. Scones are my frenemy. They lull you into this false sense of security with their golden crispy outsides and fluffy warm middles. They’re liars. Horrible tiny baked liars.
I watched Mother make scones as I was growing up, she has these weirdly cold hands that work perfectly for making scones, she made it look so simple, barely touched them and they became these utterly gorgeous addictive cakes, even for a person who hates cake I adored these. When I started baking more I never really thought about baking scones as there were so many more exciting things to test, however recently I found myself craving Mother Lawlors scones and so dutifully she sent the recipe over to me, I gave it a go and it was an unqualified disaster. I wailed in melancholy as I opened the oven door and stared at biscuits, not scones. Ground my teeth in rage as I tried a second batch that turned out the same and threw a toddler like tantrum when no matter how hard I tried (which involved such hilarious things as sticking my hands in the freezer for around ten minutes) to re-create scones they just never quite worked. So, when a recent edition of Good Food appeared and I saw not only one of the strangest recipes I’ve ever seen but definitely the strangest scone recipe I’d ever seen I decided it was time to tackle my frenemy one more time. Now, warning time. This recipe makes probably the most incredible and most unhealthy scones in the entire world.

In the magazine there are two methods of making this, there is

  • The quick method
  • The very quick ‘I can’t find my scales method’

and because I could find my scales (for once) I used the first one.

The quick method

icevream

 

Supposedly serves 2, which is a lie. It serves one. You will eat them all

1 pint vanilla or strawberry ice cream, melted 
Yes. Yes you read that right. A whole freaking pint of melted ice cream

75g self-raising flour, plus 2 tsp of baking powder

cream

 

  1. Heat oven to 200C. Mix all the ingredients with a
    punch of sea salt (if you’re feeling adventurous you can add a handful of sultanas), then pour the batter into a buttered muffin tin so that each hole is three quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes.

    I’m still reeling from what a whole pint of melted ice cream looks like. It’s a sight to behold.
    Surely that can’t be it. It can’t just be as simple as this, normally there’s kneading and blitzing and stress. I’m convinced that Emma Freud has lost her mind and created some demon recipe that will never work

  2. Cool on a wire rack. Whilst still warm split in two and add jam and whipped cream (in that order)
    Holy mother of god this actually works. These are ridiculous. It tastes so so good. They come out looking like some instagram perfect tiny cake designed to impress even your frenemies

 

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To conclude dear reader, with some love even a frenemy can become your best friend. Except for the part where you eat 8,000 of them and your arteries become lined with all the fat and badness. Dear lord these are good though.

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Panic stations are go

It landed with a thud on my floor. A weighty thud that with it held a warning, I could almost smell it coming but each year it gets earlier and earlier and I am always slightly shocked. How is it here already!? How are we already talking about it? With these questions the sweats, shakes and nerves start, why haven’t I started planning? Why haven’t I already bought anything and WHY OH WHY haven’t I got my sprouts on yet? I’m talking about Christmas.
The thud was my Christmas editions of ‘Good Food’ and ‘Delicious’ magazines. It’s here. Ground control to Major Tom. Panic stations are go. Oy with the poodles already.  


Christmas. We all love it, well no, that’s a lie, I love it. I love the glittery, the sparkly, the huggy warmth that is Christmas but Christmas as a foodie comes with a certain level of expectation, a level of decadence and class that normal people could never understand. So this year I’m getting ahead of the game and doing my research, what can I do this year that will set me apart and let me tell you it’s hard diving into the murky world of food trends. Once you’ve waded through the piles of chia seeds no-one wants and batted away the fanatics who tell you that you should be used cold pressed avocado oil for everything you start to actually get somewhere, so here’s a list of the things you can expect to see on supermarket shelves and in restaurants this Christmas, buckle up it’s not all smooth sailing

  • The 70’s are back Oh yes, i’m talking prawn cocktails, things that aren’t pineapple un-necessarily shaped into being a pineapple and everything stuffed. However, the main 70’s thing we’ve decided to bring back (for reasons best to know to no-one) is the Black Forest Gateau. Who knows why but this chocolatey, cherry, creamy mess is back with a vengeance, expect to see it murdered by chefs everywhere, lining the shelves in Tesco’s in January and turned into a panettone by Heston for Waitrose.

  • The forgotten meal returns I’m not being funny but literally no-one cares about breakfast on Christmas day. It’s the thing that gets in the way of opening Christmas presents on Christmas morning right? Apparently this year that’s wrong. Brunch is big this year (as if you didn’t know, have you been sleeping under a rock) and Christmas appears to be no exception. Supermarkets have jumped on the trend by creating brunch to go staples for us all to take home so we don’t have to stress about perfectly poaching an egg whilst balancing keeping Granny’s sherry topped up and starting to peel the carrots

  • There’s a new root in town A couple of years ago it was Kale, last year it was Beetroot, this year Celeriac is having it’s day in the sun. It’s in soups, rostis, roasts and just about everything else on restaurant menus everywhere this year. Long live the celeriac unless it’s cooked badly because then it’s bloody awful

     

  • The rise of the vegan We’ve gone meat free mad this year, 2017 has definitely been a turning point for the non carnivores amongst us. Vegan options are cropping up just about everywhere. Including Christmas, Seitan (or wheat meat as it’s sometimes called. Yes you read that right, wheat meat) turkey galore this year, restaurants and supermarkets alike have noticed this though so don’t worry when a surprise vegan knocks on the door then you should be covered

 

Things that are on the outs this year include:

  •  ‘Hygge’ which has been replaced by it’s equally ridiculous cousins ‘Lagom‘ and ‘Ikigai’

  • Upside down Christmas trees but who isn’t glad that they’re gone right? They were terrible
  • Completely brining our Turkeys Another one I’m not sad to see the back of

 

A return to coffee shop challenges

Two months.

Sixty days.

Eighty seven thousand six hundred minutes since I last posted on this blog.

The blog that has pretty much defined who I am for the last nearly two years. I pride myself on writing about food, being honest about my overwhelming love of cheese, the fact that I screw up very regularly in the kitchen and I have a completely irrational loathing of all things coconut.
The reason that it’s taken me so long to sit and actually pen (well more like type) my feelings is the huge career decision I made two months ago. I left my loving, wonderful, magazine family and dove back in, head first, to the world of hospitality. I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about being back in a restaurant or cafe for months and knew that I wasn’t completely involved in the job I was doing. I needed to be surrounded by the world that I was writing about, I needed to be involved in creating, making and developing food. Whilst I don’t regret my decision the main reason that I’ve struggled to write about this journey is because whilst those who know me best congratulated me, a piece of feedback that just kept cropping up was:
“Well……don’t you think that’s just a bit of a step backwards”

There’s a self deprecating story I now like to tell, normally after a glass of wine, in which I was once told on a date; that was I aware I was “assertive….bordering on bolshy” to which I had very similar feelings. Namely, I wanted to scream and shout “how the heck am I supposed to react to that?!” Do you want me to say “No. No I’m not aware of my nuisances and this one very blunt comment will make me change my entire perspective on myself. Thank you.” Or am I supposed to stand my ground and say “Screw you. I’m happy to be bossy and yes most horrifyingly of all, I’m happy to serve you your croissant and coffee every morning”. In reality neither on those things happened but trust me, I wish it could have been the second one.
When I first sat down to write this blog I wanted to write all about the hilarious things that I’ve learnt since going back into hospitality (Which trust me are many). I stared at the screen for days, sometimes driving myself insane till 4am trying to sound funny and witty, but I couldn’t make light of this transition until I’d expressed this annoyance, and I couldn’t not address the ease of which people told me this was a horrible decision and the judgement of the service industry in general. I guess in their eyes I had it all, I was working with one of the most well reputed, fun, cool companies. I had a “real job”.
The reality is I’ve never been ashamed to be a waitress, or a server, or Front of House or whatever you’d like to label it. I wear my badge of working in hospitality with pride. My job means I get to see customers at their best, their most excited, engaged and most importantly at their worst, at their saddest, most vulnerable and I feel privileged that I get to bring that person a cup of tea or a loaf of bread and see their day brighten. No matter what language you speak, country you come from or up bringing you’ve had I have yet to meet someone who can resist talking about food they love or have a day improved by being given something amazing to eat or drink. 

So, I’m using this platform that I’ve spent two years working on, building up somewhat of a reputation for to ask you, implore you, to remember that your waitress, barmen, manager, baker, butcher and cocktail maker are a human being just like you. We have pride and some of us (Shock- horror) have chosen to make this industry our career. Take the time to remember that whilst you’re spending your hard earned money with us, we’re also putting our heart and soul into your ethically sourced, hand-reared, single origin flat white and yes we do read your trip-advisor reviews and yes they are taken seriously. Some of the strongest people I’ve met have been in the service industry, the first women I worked for and worked with as a waitress is still a constant inspiration to me, it takes true grit and skill to run a successful cafe or restaurant. Ask us our opinion on what you should order, engage with us like we’re people and trust me you’ll get great service and remember we’ve probably been here and been on our feet for many hours, working, just like you. 

I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who love me and I can come home to and scream out my frustrations at, the ones who didn’t roll their eyes at me when they found out I’d got “another job” or taken my massive “bolt back to safety” but the main thing I’ve learnt since returning to hospitality is please remember that you’re not being served by a robot, that person handing you your coffee is a person. 

Oh, and please don’t order a half caff-soy-mocha. That isn’t a thing.

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not……

 Dating is hard. Like, really hard. If you’re the one in a million that managed to marry your high-school sweetheart and has never had to date, then in the most polite way possible; Sod off. This blog is not for you.

 For the rest of us poor unfortunate souls, even those of you who are now sat in marital/co-habitual bliss, there’s a feeling we all know well. The stomach churning fear of not being liked. For both men and women alike there’s the pressure of feeling like you have to be hilariously funny, intelligent but not intimidatingly so and let’s not forget jaw dropping-ly good looking. It’s almost like if the other person see’s even one tiny flaw then they’ll run screaming in the other direction never to be seen again. No matter how hard we try to mask the crazy, we’ve all heard those stories of dates going horrifyingly wrong, some of us, lucky as we are, have even lived through them. A personal highlight of mine being that recently someone rounded off a date with asking me”Are you aware that you’re assertive boarding on, you know, bolshy?” For the record, yes I am thanks.

So why oh why do we make this experience even worse for ourselves by adding in the pressure of eating. David Attenborough is always saying on Planet Earth that creatures both great and small are at their most vulnerable whilst eating and I can sympathise with this feeling. I’m certainly not at my most gracious or sleek whilst covered in pizza or whilst gorging myself on cheese. Am I the only one who finds it nigh on impossible to be at maximum level of whit whilst elegantly consuming food!? Especially as I physically can’t chew and talk. My mother would know and would still tell me off, even now.

There’s all sorts of nightmarish etiquette to consider, for example, I had a very awkward recent interaction where I made a joke about the fact that I always eat pizza with a knife and fork, to which the poor man I was sat with then assumed I was judging him for eating to sharing board we were digging into with his hands. It was most definitely finger food, I’m just weird. Cue much awkward conversation and me downing my glass of wine. You never end up ordering what you actually want, you make a snap decision because you’re worrying that the other person will find you boring or you’re taking too long to pick or you don’t actually like the cuisine of the pan-asian-thai-mexican fusion place you stupidly chose because you’re pretending to be “adventurous”. You could cook together but that will lead to the other person immediately having to see your house and the fact that you’re actually secretly a control freak who micro manages other people cooking (*cough cough*). Don’t even get me started on the amount of times I’ve nervously and recklessly declared I love camping because conversation was running dry. Which, for the record, I don’t. I hate it.

It’s a minefield out there people.

I opened the debate up to the many and asked all those who’d listen whether they thought eating on the first date was a good idea, some reeled away in shock and horror citing hatred of the sound of others chewing, or that they would eat but would always pick a “healthier” option than what they would normally go for. Things such as spaghetti, seafood and garlic were all big no nos for obvious reasons. So was cooking for someone on the first date, mainly due to the amount of stories I heard of people mutilating themselves and ending up with their first date in A&E. Not ideal really is it? Meeting for coffee seemed to be a nice middle ground but who goes for coffee after 5pm which is when most dates happen?

Rather reassuringly though most people said that they would be OK with eating on the first date because at the end of the day, we all gotta eat and why should we be ashamed of how we do it? So let us all be inspired by those of us brave enough to order seafood linguine with extra garlic bread, supposedly finding the right person means they’ll like you no matter what you eat……right?

How do you measure a year?

 

“Five-hundred, twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. How do you measure – measure a year?

In daylights (365)? In sunsets (same)? In midnight’s (see before)? In cups of coffee (too many to count)?”

The opening lyrics to one of my favourite songs struck me as an apt opening on my reflection of the year this blog has now been alive. Rent puts it perfectly, how do you measure a year? Should I measure it in successes? That actually, when I write them down are bigger than I ever thought they could be, or is it more accurate to work in failures? Which were also many and some, may argue, more spectacular. There were times I cried too much over silly things, rushed into even sillier decisions and there was an unfortunate incident with a window. Please don’t ask.

Whilst, I like to think, I am a positive person, it is actually very easy to get wrapped up in the loss’s we suffer every day; I’ve drifted apart from friends whom I thought I would always be close, I’ve not been to the gym anywhere near as often as I wrote in my aims for the year and even though I promised myself I’d be more sensible in 2016/17 still made some spectacularly stupid choices. I’ve loved, lost, celebrated and mourned all throughout this year, however, one thing that has always kept me focused was this blog. It sounds ridiculous because I probably don’t post on it anywhere near as often as I should, or, more importantly, so much as I’d like. Loving food and writing about food has defined my year and defined me. I have thrown myself off of heights that used to scare me…….literally, I jumped out of a plane, which, incidentally was funded by a foodie adventure. I’ve reviewed places I used to revere and have cooked things harder than I thought I could achieve. I whipped my first real meringue, hosted my own supper club for 35 very loved one’s, made a dessert worthy of MasterChef Australia and for the first time focused in on what I’d like to do with my life. Be around food.

I’ve managed to involve food in all areas of my being, I’ve hosted friends and family, catered for work events, cooked for charity and baked recipes I knew would fail just so that I could be real in my writing. I started this originally as a channel to discuss my love of food but it’s become so much more. It’s become something that has given me confidence in really low times and brought me back down to earth when I was probably becoming too lofty, and, whilst it sounds about as sickening as eating three sticky toffee puddings in a row it’s also very true.

I could wax lyrical about how much this blog has meant to me, but I should probably focus on the food and write about my foodie highs and lows this year:

Lows

Start with the bad news eh?

  • Everyone’s obsession with coconut: Especially in 2016, coconut was freaking everywhere. In puddings, savouries, in oils and butters. Frankly, I want it no-where so if we could move onto another ‘health food’ craze that would be grand
  • Chia Seeds: See above
  • Being deemed a snob: I’ve loved writing about food but it does now seem to have given me a label of ‘food snob’. I think the term you’re looking for is; ‘has taste’18871429_10154779643851849_1716247826_n
  • Brexit: Well that just ruined everything didn’t it
  • Cheese Soufflé: Imagine going to your dream restaurant, you’ve thought about this day for years, you practically wet yourself you’re that excited. You sit down, someone is literally employed to pull your chair out for you. The first course is the restaurants signature dish. They’ve served it since the dark ages of when Michelin first existed, it’s renowned across the world as a delicacy and…………. you HATE it. Not just don’t like it, but literally can’t stand it, think it tastes, looks, smells hideous. You begin to question your palate, who you are, what you think you know and why on earth you’re being allowed in a restaurant with not only 1 or 2 but 3 Michelin stars. You’ve loved the chef since you can remember and yet you hate his signature dish? Is there anything more disappointing? It’s ok though because the rest of the menu makes up for it. Panic over.  

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  • Eating at my first Michelin starred restaurant: I was actually nervous walking in,what if they realised I “didn’t belong”, made even worse by hating the first course and jumping out my skin when someone was there to push my chair in. I had to be banned by my Mother from taking photos but it was bloody amazing. Sadly since 18834751_10154779650491849_1794121632_nwe went it’s come out he doesn’t pay his staff minimum wage. Shame on you.
  • The Wick at both ends: This was probably my first real invited review and again I was so nervous, I loved every second of it, took some of the best photos I’ve ever taken and felt so privileged. The food was pretty decent too
  • Running my own supper club: Spurred on by friends, loved ones and unlucky boyfriend of the time I was encouraged into running a supper club for 35. It was extremely stressful but wonderful and an experience I’ll never forget and can’t wait to repeat
  • The first time somebody asked my advice on a recipe: “Oh you know about these things” Hoping that no-one realises I learn most of my stuff from MasterChef Australia

Thank you to everyone who’s helped me. Those that I see every day and those that I don’t. Thank you for putting up with me and I can’t wait for my next foodie adventure.

A story of salmon….

It’s a Sunday night, I’m sat in my dining room, glass of wine in hand, staring at the wasteland that used to be my kitchen. The top of a food processor is discarded on the floor, knives strewn all over, half chopped bunches of coriander and parsley looking sad on top of the cooker and a singular, mangled & lonely lemon. The utter devastation of my kitchen is all down to one man, one man whose face is grinning at me frustratingly from the front cover of the book I got this weeks dreaded recipe from. Jamie Oliver. I say his name with narrowed eyes and a hiss in my voice due to my current state stress.

The reason I’m in desperate need of yet another glass of wine (this would be my third large, so sorry Mother) is that I challenged myself to do one of Jamie’s 30 minute meals and actually try and make it in 30 minutes. I knew this probably wasn’t going to be possible but I didn’t realise quite how infuriating and anxiety inducing it would be.

I took my time carefully going through the book and picking which recipe I was going to wage war on. After discussion with one of the housemates we settled on ‘Crispy Salmon, Jazzed-up rice, baby courgette salad, gorgeous guacamole, berry spritzer’.

My first annoyance with this recipe is that it has over 20 ingredients. OVER 20 JAMIE. This is supposed to be a mid week meal, now some of these are staple ingredients that you probably have in your your cupboard but on the other hand how many people, on average, have fennel seeds just lying around? As usual I will go through the recipe step by step below but I’m just going to put it out there this recipe took nearly 50 minutes. Which is not 30. It also takes 8000 different pans, chopping boards, food processor etc. Oh, and finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back was serving rice on a chopping board, this is not normal or productive. In any way.

Ingredients:

SALMON
2 long peppers, red & yellow
A bunch of spring onions
2 fresh red chillies
1 x 1kg fillet of salmon, skin on, scaled and pin-boned
1 lemon
Fennel seeds

SALAD                                                                                                 RICE
1 lemon                                                                                                1 mug of basmati rice
A couple of sprigs of fresh mint                                                     1/2 a 450g jar of red peppers
1-2 red chillies                                                                                    A few sprigs of fresh basil
400g baby courgettes                                                                        Balsamic vinegar

GUACAMOLE                                                                                     EXTRAS
4 spring onions                                                                                  1 pack of tortilla wraps
A small bunch of fresh coriander                                                  1 tub of soured cream
1 fresh red chilli
1 clove of garlic
2 limes
2-3 small ripe avocados
1 handful of cherry tomatoes

SPRITZER
1 punnet of blueberries blackberries, or strawberries
Ice cubes
A few sprigs of fresh mint
A bottle of sparkling water

DISCLAIMER – So, to be honest with you reader; I did not use baby courgettes, shocking and appalling I know but my local morrisons only had full sized courgettes. Plus I hate fennel. I loathe it in all it’s ani-seedy forms and so I didn’t use the fennel seeds on top of the salmon. Also shocking. Finally, Morrisons let me down again and refused to sell me 1kg of salmon and so I had to settle for salmon fillets.

TO START – Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Fill and boil the kettle. Turn the grill up full whack. Put a saucepan on a medium heat. Put the standard blade in the food processor

Let the panic begin. Does this count in the 30 minutes or do I actually have to be cooking for it to take 30 minutes!? My grill is awful it’s going to take 30 bloody minutes to heat up

SALMON – Pour a couple of lugs of olive oil into a large roasting tray. Halve and deseed the red pepper. Slice the pepper and the bunch of spring onions into 2 cm pieces. Roughly chop the chillies. Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the salmon, season and finely grate over some lemon zest. Rub these flavours all over the salmon, then wash your hands. If necessary, halve the salmon so it fits in the roasting tray, then lay skin side up and arrange the slices vegetables around it. Whack under the grill on the middle shelf and set the timer for 14 minutes.

I’m sorry, since when was a ‘lug’ a form of measurement!? Last time I checked if I was lugging something, I was punching it. What do you mean wash my hands Jamie I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR WASHING

RICE – Put the rice into a medium saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover by 1.5cm with boiling water. Put the lid on, then turn the heat right up and leave to cook for 7 minutes. Once cooked, take off the heat and leave to steam for 7 minutes, still covered with the lid.

My mother drilled the Delia Smith recipe for cooking rice into me from a young age, old friends, housemates and even ex boyfriends have begged me for the recipe and the secret to cooking rice. I feel like i’m betraying St Delia by cooking rice differently! 7 minutes!? What madness is this!? But i’ll behave and follow the recipe

SALAD – Squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon into a large serving bowl and add a couple of lugs of extra virgin olive oil and a good pinch of salt & pepper. Finely chop the mint leaves and ½ a chilli and add to the bowl. Speed-peel as much of the baby courgettes as you can over the dressing and put whatever is left behind on a large wooden chopping board. Take the bowl of salad to the table but don’t toss until right before you are ready to serve.

Speed-peel my courgettes and half my fingers at the same time as I realise that I’ve already used a good whack of my time17622816_10154605410801849_311581703_o

RICE – Roughly chop and mix the jarred peppers and mint leaves on the chopping board with the remaining courgette. Add a pinch of salt & pepper, a good lug of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

I’m sorry. Did you just tell me to pour liquid on a chopping board………this feels like madne….oh yep….look what happened……..

SPRITZER – Blitz the berries to a puree in the food processor. Half fill a large jug with ice cubes and rip the leaves from a few sprigs of mint. Put a sieve on top of the jug and quickly push the blitzed berries through, using the back of a spoon. Discard whatever is left behind, then top the jug up with sparkling water, stir and take to the table. Quickly rinse out the processor

This spritzer is utterly pointless and a massive waste of your precious minutes in this challenge. By sieving the puree you take out ALL THE FLAVOUR and so it becomes pointless and just a jug of sparkling water.

SALMON – When the 14 minutes are up, take the tray out of the oven. Using a knife and your fingers carefully peel the skin away from the flesh and flip it over. Add a pinch of salt and the fennel seeds. Turn the peppers over, then put the tray back under the grill and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the skin is really crispy.

Whilst severely burning your fingers

GUACAMOLE – Trim the spring onions and put then into the processor with most of the coriander, the chilli, a peeled clove of garlic, the juice of one of your limes and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Whiz up while you stone the avocados and quarter the tomatoes. Stop whizzing, and squeeze the avocado flesh out of its skin into the processor. Add the tomatoes and pulse until chunky. Put into a bowl and add more seasoning or lime juice to taste if needed. Take to the table with a few wedges of lime for squeezing over.

I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WASH ALL THE BLOOMING TINY STRAWBERRY SEEDS OUT OF THE FREAKING PROCESSOR. Really starting to feel the stress here as oh look it’s been 30 minutes, there’s stuff everywhere and nope I’m no where near done

RICE – Quickly fluff up the rice with a fork, then tip over the board of chopped veg and gently mix together. Take to the table. Put a griddle pan on a high heat

Whilst getting rice everywhere. Also I don’t know why my rice can’t be mixed with all these ingredients in a nice bowl, like a normal person, why does it need to be flat surface that means stuff goes everywhere!?!?!?!?!

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SALMON
– Use tongs to carefully turn the crispy salmon skin back over. Season with salt & pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes

I feel like you told me earlier to cook the skin until crispy. This salmon is getting a lot of cooking time and the skin is no longer nicely crispy, it’s bordering on burnt

EXTRAS – Warm the tortillas one at a time in the griddle pan for a few seconds on each side. Tip the soured cream into a bowl, drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and take to the table.

As if I have time for this rubbish

TO SERVE Take the salmon straight to the table and serve with the lovely salad

Lovely, stress inducing salad.
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As I said above, this entire process takes longer than 30 minutes. However, whilst I’ve be-moaned most of this the recipe itself in principle is actually great. Apart from the stupid spritzer, don’t waste your time or money (let’s face it, berries aren’t cheap). I’ve never used balsamic vinegar with rice but it’s amazing and I’ve never achieved crispy salmon skin before so know how to do it now. Rice goes in a bowl though Jamie. A bowl.

Mixing it up: The Wick At Both Ends

Small plates are so in right now. They’re so in and cool that after eating some small plates last week I hit peak relevance on Monday night at 6 pm and the rest of a week was a write off after that.
I have to admit I am completely guilty of jumping on the bandwagon of teeny tiny plates of food, I’m not sure if it’s because it makes me feel as if I can eat four times as many because they’re small (that makes sense…right?) or because I’m a habitual food sharer and get ratty if people don’t want to give me some of whatever they’re eating. Sharing is caring people.

Myself and the perpetually patient housemates were lucky enough to be invited to the Wick At Both Ends to try out their latest new menu and we ate them out of house and home. Shockingly.

They’re new menu is catchily called Wick ‘n’ Mix, it’s stuffed full of dishes and price depends on how many you want. We obviously went for seven small dishes (the most they offer in a group deal) for £22 and then because we were scared this wasn’t enough we added another three for £12….and chips….just in case.

We went for:

Venison shepherd’s pie

Why not start with one of the best eh? Rich and meaty this was a dish of pure delight. Topped with perfectly creamy mash this was a stand out dish for us, pretty much faultless

Potted ham with burnt apple and sourdoughwick10

Potted things are always a funny one aren’t they? A bit like a fancy pate really. This one was one a pretty good potted thing, it matched well with the burnt apple puree and was a light and slightly more refreshing option than our others

wick2Tempura cauliflower

The best dish. By a mile. Perfectly crispy and tasty there’s not a right lot else to say about this, except next time I’m going to order four, for me. In fact, please deliver me some, right now. Please.


Red pepper hummus with wick4focaccia

Roll your eyes if you’d like, hummus is just hummus I hear you cry. No, no, dear friend. Hummus can be terribly bland or terribly good, this one was terribly good for example. Ever so slightly spicy the texture was en pointe, kudos, and I could have eaten a loaf of the foccacia.

wick3Garlic prawns

I love getting my hands dirty when it comes to food so serving prawns whole like this is always a winner.

 

 

Pork belly with wild rice and almonds

I forgot about this dish. Sorry, I was too busy drooling over the cauliflower

Celeriac with horseradishwick5

I’m not going to lie I feel slightly betrayed by this dish. When deciding upon our marathon amounts of food I defended celeriac. I pushed for it to be included in our gargantuan line up. Waxed lyrical about how tender and tasty it could be given the chance. However, this celeriac wasn’t great. The horseradish we were promised wasn’t apparent in the sauce and it was under cooked. Needless to say I got questioned on why we didn’t just order more cauliflower

Duck nuggets with rhubarb ketchupwick9

Probably one of my most favourite phrases to say. Go on. Say it out loud. Duuuuuck Nuuugget. Also one of my most favourite things to eat it would appear. Who knew deep friend duck tastes so good.

Musselswick11

Another slight let down here on the mussel front. The housemates LOVE mussels, go nuts for them and these were slightly underwhelming, it’s fine I just wafted the duck nuggets under their noses

Curried monkfish with sweetcorn

Now, I’m probably not the best person to comment on this as I loathe sweetcorn, but the actual monkfish itself was amazing, meaty and slightly spicy, can I have a plate of just the monkfish?

 

wick8

Whilst there were definitely a few slips in the dishes, I’m still a little bitter about the celeriac, overall the food was pretty damn good. They managed to bring out all ten plates of food to us at the same time, all hot and very obviously just cooked so I’m impressed. If I was that chef I probably would have been cursing us. It’s also worth mentioning that our waitress was so lovely it looked like the management had stolen her right out of a Disney film.
To conclude; please make the shepherds pie into a massive sharing dish rather than a small plate, it’s too good to just have a couple of spoonfuls and next time I’ll just have to order more duck nuggets and did I mention the cauliflower?

Getting my veg on

I must admit I have been feeling guilty. Now, feeling guilty is sadly nothing new for me, in fact, it’s how I’ve spent vast swathes of my life feeling over the years. Guilty that I wasn’t doing well enough at school, that I wasn’t a good enough friend/girlfriend/worker/writer, that someone misunderstood what I meant, that the relationship hadn’t worked because I just hadn’t tried hard enough etc. All of this negative guilt has lead to some interesting behavioural choices over the years and a tendency to message my housemates on a regular basis and ask them if in fact my nightmare of them no longer wanting to be friends with me because I am so annoying is coming true. It never is FYI. However, whilst all of this sounds self-pitying, self-serving even, my over-heightened sense of guilt does do me some favours every now and again.
I feel particularly guilty if I buy a £3 chicken from Morrisons, and whilst I can’t always afford organic, hand-fed, hand-plucked, cuddled by farmers chickens, I should probably be more thoughtful about where my food has come from and the life that it’s lead to get to my plate. It has been proven time and time again that the amount of meat we are eating is having a direct impact on our environment and everyone’s seen the hideous documentaries about chickens living in cages. So, one of my new year’s resolutions is to be more conscious of what I eat.

I tried to be veggie for a while last year and failed so miserably that I ended up sat in my room at 2am drunkenly crooning softly to a box of KFC. However, this year I’m trying again, not  because I think meat is unhealthy or that I need to restrict myself but because it makes me a more conscious eater. If I’m specifically avoiding an ingredient then I will think much more carefully and sustainably about the others involved. Currently I’m a week in, which is better than I did last year, and I’m feeling much more positive about it. I’m eating more fresh vegetables and am aiming to be much more adventurous in the ways I cook them. Just don’t ask me to walk past the rotisserie chickens in Morrisons, they smell so gosh darn good.

Every Sunday we eat together as a house, it’s become a bit of a thing for us, we call it family dinner and it’s something we’ve managed to stick to even when things are tough and life is trying. This week for Sunday dinner I’m creating something new, it’s easy to do my usual chicken (Can you tell I like chicken by the way) but as meat isn’t an option right now it’s time to think outside the box. After trawling through the internet and considering many options I’ve gone for a mushroom wellington. Pastry solves a myriad of ‘crappy week’ problems and is always a favourite in the house. We also all adore mushrooms and, for good measure, I’m sure I can find a way to sneak cheese in there somewhere.


Mushroom Wellington:

Ingredients, serves 3:

  • 3 large Portobello Mushrooms
  • Spinach
    Depends how spinachy you want it, but remember spinach is hideously annoying in the fact it shrinks like the wicked witch of the west when faced with water
  • Enough puff pastry to surround said large mushrooms, around 2 sheets of pre rolled puff pastry
    Don’t pretend you make your own puff pastry
  • 4 or five button/closed cup/chestnut mushrooms
  • Half a white or red onion
    Some people have a preference
  • Cheese of your choice
    Now yes, I realise this is horrifyingly vague, but some people wouldn’t appreciate me dictating that this recipe needs intensely strong blue cheese (which is great) some people would prefer the meltier quality of brie or the tang of a cheddar. So yes, cheese of your choice. The quantity is also dependent on how much you like of said cheese.
  • Butter
    Because what doesn’t need butter
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper
    Obviously

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees and line a tray with either non stick tinfoil or baking paper
    This WILL stick, don’t be tempted to not use anything, you’ll end up crying over losing the pastry bottom, sad.

  2. In a large frying pan put a generous pat of butter, salt, pepper and turn onto a medium heat to melt butter
    Who says butter pat!? Surely it’s knob…..oh wait….probably shouldn’t say that

  3. Once butter is melted place each of the portobello mushrooms face down in the pan, flip after a couple of minutes to that all surfaces are browned slightly
    Don’t over fry at this stage, this would be a disaster as it’s going to spend 40 minutes in the oven soon

  4. Move pan off the heat once the portobello mushrooms are cooked, chop closed cup mushrooms, onion and garlic as finely as possible. Add more butter to pan and fry all of these together
    Notice a theme in this recipe? Butter. This is NOT a dieting recipe. I repeat, abandon hope all ye who diet here

  5. Once mushrooms, onion and garlic are all browned add in around a tablespoon of oregano and then stir spinach in until wilted
    Always use more spinach that you think as it shrinks into absolutely nothing

  6. Put mushroom, spinach and onion mixture aside to cool. Light dust a surface with flour and lay out sheet of puff pastry
    Inevitably spill flour and cover the surface, yourself, the floor, ceiling, windows, neighbour’s house in flour in the process15995369_10154379735231849_1321945653_n

  7. Spoon three evenly distributed portions of spinach mixture onto the pastry with large gaps in between, place a slice of favoured cheese on top, lay mushroom flat side down over cheese and layer another slice of cheese. Repeat on all three spinach piles
    Don’t be tempted by putting toooo much cheese, remember this stuff melts and will go everywhere

  8. 15995657_10154379735406849_410709532_nLay second layer of pastry over all three piles and cut so three evenly sized parcels are formed. Fork the edges of each parcel and brush with egg. Pierce a hole in the top of each parcel to finish
    No egg wash = no golden brown = sad. Don’t forget the egg wash

  9. Place parcels in the pre-heated oven for around 40 minutes until golden brown and enjoy!
    GOOEY CHEESE JOY

15996291_10154379735701849_2132369624_n

Please feel free to email any feedback on this recipe or your favourite veggie recipes to erin_lawlor@hotmail.co.uk

 

O come oh ye faithful…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Supposedly.
Now, don’t worry this isn’t a disparaging piece about the terrible consumerist nature of Christmas because, whilst I know I should care. I don’t. I love Christmas, I love it in all it’s glittery, tinsel covered tackiness. As soon as December the 1st rolls round I am the person to stand on my chair and start singing Deck the Halls as loudly as I physically can and religiously start buying everyone around me a tiny Christmas trees for their desks or rooms, just because.

However, there is one thing that instills an ever so slight feeling of dread in me. What on earth am I going to make for my annual Christmas do?
Our house is a wonderful hub of people and as we always love a good reason to celebrate and so naturally we set ourselves the task of hosting a Christmas party. One housemate will be bullied into making a mound of sausages wrapped in bacon (Her signature dish and somehow manages to make them taste even better than normal pigs in blankets) and other lovely housemate has a bit of a thing for cocktail sticks so will inevitably spend hours in the kitchen painstakingly threading anything that stands still long enough onto cocktail sticks.

Whilst these are two amazing options we need a whole smorgasbord of treats. Is everyone totally over Turkey? Crackers about cranberries? What are the Christmas trends this year!? Am I supposed to salt brine-deepfatfry-claybake my turkey this year, must all of my veggie-troubles be heritage, sourced from farms that only reap what they sew at midnight every third blue moon. 2016 was the year we all went mad for fermentation, dear lord am I going to end up staying awake till 3am the night before my Christmas do staring into a pot of kimchi getting high off the fumes and wondering how I can make it Christmassy?

I put a call out to my usual Facebook audience to ask for advice on what they like at Christmas. The resounding answer was: sausages wrapped in bacon, everywhere. As long as there were sausages in bacon they didn’t care what else there was. Some people even went a step further and demanded the addition of cheese to the already tasty treat. Now, everyone knows how I love cheese. If you’ve known me longer than 30 seconds I’ve probably already waxed lyrical about how much I love cheese in all it’s glory. However, and just hear me out here, I’m not sure it belongs on a sausage wrapped in bacon. One of the joys of eating pigs in blankets is that you can eat tonnes of them, with the addition and cheese would they become too intense and then limit the number I’d be able to eat?
There were cries for all things pastry, from flakey sausage rolls to filo filled with cranberry and brie. Tiny steak filled delights and homemade cheese straws were all demanded.

As always there was the inevitable debate between goose and turkey, personally I’m team turkey, cooking goose leads to everything being covered in a fine film of fat, the tray, the oven, you, the cat, everything. Lines were drawn over parsnips were wrong or right and please don’t get me started on the war I started and friendships I lost over posting saying that the only place bread sauce belonged was in the bin. Which, by the way I stand by.

To conclude this experiment lead me to believe that I am over complicating my choices for the Christmas do and that everyone will be completely happy as long as there’s food and tonnes of it. The more the better, but, there better be sausages wrapped in bacon or there will be anarchy.

Silversmiths Review: The battle of the roasts

What makes a great Sunday lunch great? Is it drowning the entire plate in gravy? The delight of slicing into that first crispy fluffy potato? Is it the meat that gets your juices flowing? Or is the only way Yorkshire? As in…pudding.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t enjoy a roast dinner done well. I never actually had roast dinner on a Sunday when I was growing up (I was a deprived child), it was one of the big things when moving out that I attempted to integrate into my life. That and 60p vodka mixers.  Curious about what I should be doing with my roast to keep it ‘en trend’ I’ve posed the question to the masses about what makes a good roast many times and yet whilst we all have very different opinions about what should and shouldn’t be there (cauliflower cheese seems to be a point of contention, plus chicken or beef) it seems to be a resounding fact that nothing beats Mum’s roast. No restaurant can even come close. So, when a wonderful friend of mine put a call of action out on Facebook for a gang of us to join her in trying the new Sunday roast offering from Silversmiths I jumped at the idea that I could see for myself if the homemade roast was the only way.

Silversmiths is one of Sheffield’s more fancy offerings. It’s the type of place that I’d make my parents take me or an anniversary dinner (for those of you who have those anniversary things, currently my longest anniversary is with Taylor Swift songs, ten years Swifty, ten years). So we met at 1 pm on Sunday and gave it a run for it’s money.

I must admit I was hugely curious as I walked in, due to the fact that I knew Silversmiths had undergone a huge face lift that they’d managed to turn around in an inordinately short amount of time. 5 days kind of short. Insanity.
The entire restaurant now looks like a completely different venue in a really great way. It’s light, open and friendly whilst still feeling upmarket and classy. The dark red has been replaced with white and the new table layout is a winner. It doesn’t matter that there are relatively speaking a lot of tables in quite a small area it doesn’t feel horrendously overcrowded and you still have enough room to breathe. It’s now the type of place I can imagine fancy businessmen having important lunch meetings or ladies who lunch meeting for fizz and fancy food.

We were greeted by a lovely server, I think birds may actually dress this girl in a morning she was so lovely and we immediately got down to the hard work of picking a drink. As Silversmiths prides itself on sourcing things locally I had to go for a Yorkshire tea gin (had too, right!? Right). The drinks took a while to arrive but when they did the gin lived up to expectations and was drank far, far far too quickly.

We all decided to go for mains and desserts (not my normal way round, give me a starter any day) but I was desperate to get on with the roast and had spotted a Yorkshire Parkin that seemed right up my street for dessert.
There was a range of styles of roast, from price topping Venison, to pork belly, chicken, beef, veggie, if you wanted a protein as your showstopper Silversmiths probably have it on their menu.
We all ordered, five beef, chicken and a pork. Disney princess waitress (seriously, she was that nice) had to come back and inform us that they only had three beef left (impressive to say that they’d only been open for around an hour) so grudgingly I swapped to chicken (stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes) and our host swapped to pork. It’s selfless acts like this that will guarantee me a seat in heaven. The food wait was I’m not going to lie, pretty long, the man sat next to me started to look pretty tasty, but the food arrived piping hot and there was definitely enough of it. So whilst the wait is forgivable, sadly there were a few things that are harder to forgive. One member of our table had to send the roast beef back, which, to give them their due was handled impressively by owner Justin and was replaced with a lovely looking rolled lamb. The other thing that I am having trouble dealing with is the lack of roast potatoes. Now, I don’t know if this is just personal taste and while I love all forms of potatoes, i’m a bit like all teachers in this regard. I have a favourite. Whether I should or not, I do and it’s roasties. The duchess potato thing was delightful and buttery and the new potatoes were….slightly misplaced and at the end of the day, a new potato, Silversmiths oh Silversmiths I craved a crispy, fluffy roastie to mop up mi’ gravy.

On a lighter note, my chicken was delicious, loved the sun-dried tomatoes and they had managed to get a good caramelisation on the outside. The stuffing was also great, more please. The veg were pleasantly al dente without being raw and the Yorkshires were great in all their Yorkshirey goodness. There was also a good amount of veggies between two which is something I’ve noticed a lot of places skimp out on.silversmiths4

Whilst my main was great, if lacking in roasties (but hey this might be personal taste) it is not a cheap meal by any stretch of the imagination. I do understand paying for quality and for the most part Silversmiths do deliver, but if you’re looking for a place to become a regular for Sunday dinner this may not be it. If the rents are up and you’re looking for some slightly posher grub then go for it! I’m still a fan of cauliflower cheese on my roast though so it’s still in debate if home cooked is the way forward…..