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…..

Gin, marvelous gin

When I came to Uni at the tender age of 19 I remember walking into my first proper city club. I goggled in awe at the sticky floor, the hoards of drunk lust filled teenagers and most importantly the fact that I could legitimately buy a Vodka mixer for 60p. 60 people. Now, this “Vodka” in question was undoubtedly paint stripper and I’m pretty sure has massively reduced my levels of intelligence but it seemed like the epitome of a good night out at such a young age. Having grown up in a tiny town that had only one also tiny club this was a whole new world for me.

Now, luckily, for both me and my liver, my tastes have become more refined. I haven’t been inside the hallowed halls of that fateful club in around four years and have done my time of sitting outside on the curb waiting for taxis with my box of cheesy chips and gravy.
These days I grace much more reputable establishments and stick to a diet of dry white wine, prosecco and of course gin. I love gin. I’m not ashamed to say it. I used to only associate gin with an elderly relative of mine but as I’ve grown so has my love for “Mother’s ruin”. Luckily I live with two other women who share a love of gin as well (something I don’t think our mothers are actually too happy about), so when I was invited to a gin and food pairing I nearly cried with joy and rang said two wonderful women and demanded they come with me.
The other amazing aspect of this supper club was that it was created and executed by a MasterChef contestant. Anyone who’s been in a room for longer than a millisecond will know that I have an overwhelming and completely unhealthy obsession with MasterChef. Both Australian and British, so I nearly fell off my chair when the lovely Chris Hale from this years MasterChef sent me an invite.


We donned our glad rags and had a wonderful evening, there were four wonderful courses and more gin than I care to talk about. We left giddy and very, very tipsy.
The evening started with:

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Canapes

gin7As every good evening should it started with canapes and yes of course, gin. We were greeted with a play on a Tom Collins, which was sharp, sour and wonderfully moreish. There was thyme and a very silly paper straw (which, honestly, does anyone really use these!?) and it was completely delicious. gin8
The canapes were a black pepper tuille and potted chicken which was everything you want
a chicken mayo sandwich to be and I ate about twelve of them. Then there was a crispy bruschetta topped with tomato, mozzarella and basil, another favourite of mine, again too many were consumed and finally a fig, polenta and goats cheese bite. Which, if I’m completely honest, I didn’t eat one of due to my utter loathing of goats cheese. Sorry Chris.

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Starter

The starter was delicious. Completely, utterly delicious. There wasn’t enough of it. Why are starters always so small, WE WANT MORE STARTER!!!! It was a cured salmon with a slick of tarragon mayo, something horseraishy and gin and tonic jelly (which should be a thing that there is more of in the world). The salmon was melt in the mouth amazing and the various different kinds of mayo were the perfect accompaniment. I didn’t eat the edible flower, they are as useful as a paper straw to me. More salmon please.

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Main

Now usually, I have a slight problem with eating cute animals (go ahead, tut at me, for if I eat meat I shouldn’t mind eating cute things. Well I do) but Chris Hale could make me change my mind and have me out hunting for Bambi’s mum myself. The main was a Venison Bourguignon with pomme puree, pickled blackberries and celeriac crisps. More Chris. We demand more. More pomme puree goodness, more venison (yes I’m crying for more) and definitely more celeriac thingies. This course came with a mahoosive shot of Sloe Gin, which is actually my least favourite kind of gin but paired perfectly with the Bourguignon. More Chris. More.

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Dessert

Now by this stage in the evening we were incredibly giggly and had far, far, far too much gin. Dessert was essentially a very large gin and tonic which whilst needed some crunch or maybe some cake to soak up even a tiny bit of the gin we’d drank it was a very tasty Gin and Tonic sorbet!
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Overall the evening was a complete success, Chris was a wonderful chef and host and I think I proposed twice to the bar manager who kept plying us with Gin. We love you.
So thank you to Pop Up North for a great evening and I can’t wait to see more from you guys!

How to make the perfect….

Perfect is a funny word isn’t it? It’s the epitome of success, if something is ‘perfect’ it is without flaw, not a stain to it’s name, there is no higher accolade than perfect. It’s a surprisingly tricky job to not find a flaw in something though and so often it comes down to personal taste. The term perfect is even more tricky when applied to food. Is there such thing as a perfect avocado? I’ve never found one and I’ve been eating avocados waaaay before people started mashing them on toast. Is there a food without flaw? I don’t think so.
However, Felicity Cloake, the wonderful, amusing, talented Felicity Cloake writes one of my favourite columns for The Guardian online (go on, tut at me for reading The Guardian. I don’t care), “How to cook the perfect….”  I enjoy the reading of it, she breaks all the things she makes down into smaller bite sized nuggets of how to make it, does her research into how different people make said delectable treat and comes to a conclusion. Everything always looks brilliant but I’ve never really tried to make one. Until now *insert dramatic music here*.

Now, I love Indian food. I love northern Indian thick saucy curries to southern Indian fishy delights, I love Paneer in all it’s glory and could eat bhajis for days. Above all though, above everything I love naan. Naan bread for me is comfort food in the extreme: fluffy, slightly doughy but crispy in places with the gorgeous oniony tang of nigella seeds (no, no, not Nigella wearing lacy underwear kind of nigella).
However, I’ve watched enough documentaries about Indian cuisine to know that it ‘aint easy to make naan, it’s something that requires a recipe passed down through the generations, full of secrets and magic and most importantly: a tandoor oven. A magical contraption that you stick the naans to the wall of and you fish them out with a long stick. Firstly, I don’t have one of these and secondly I should definitely never be trusted with a large stick. I would cause way too much damage. So when the hero that is Felicity Cloake wrote a recipe for how to create the ‘Perfect Naan Bread’ I was intrigued. How would she weave such wizardry without a tandoor oven. The answer: She doesn’t.

Read about my adventures below:

Ingredients:

1.5 tsp fast-action yeast

1 tsp sugar

150ml warm water

300g strong white bread flour, plus extra to dust

1 tsp salt

5 tbsp natural yoghurt

2 tbsp melted ghee or butter, plus extra to brush

A little vegetable oil, to grease

1 tsp nigella (black onion), sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

  1. naan1Put the yeast, sugar and two tablespoons of warm water in a bowl and stir well. Leave until it begins to froth.
    Now this seems relatively simple. Unless your brain is on about 12 other things and you do it wrong. Three times. When you don’t notice the fact it says 2 tablespoons of water and you only notice the 150ml of warm water. Why isn’t my yeast frothing and activating like it should!?!?!? Oh yea. Idiot
  2. Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combinenaan2.
    Whisk Felicity? Really. Does whisking flour seem like a good idea to you? Let me tell you. It’s not

  3. Stir the yoghurt into the yeast mixture
    You sir, are disgusting

  4. naan3Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour it in, plus the melted ghee. Mix, then gradually stir in the water to make a soft, sticky mixture that is just firm enough to call a dough, but not at all dry.
    Whoa, whoa, whoa Felicity. We didn’t specify it had to be ghee!!! I only have butter. Am I already setting myself up for an unsatisfactory product?
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  5. Tip out on a lightly floured surface and knead for about five minutes until smooth and a little less sticky, then put in a large, lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover and leave in a draught-free place (the airing cupboard, or an unlit oven) until doubled in size: roughly 90–120 minutes.
    I blame Mother for not teaching me how to knead properly. I’ve never really done it. Neither of us have warm hands (we have warm hearts you see) so I’ve never had a need to knead! Is this less sticky!? It’s no longer coating my hands in dough so I’m going to vote yes
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  6. naan7Tip the dough back out onto the lightly floured surface and knock the air out, then divide into eight balls
    This is assuming you have a giant surface to be able to pour said dough back out onto. You can barely swing a cat in my kitchen (i’ve never understood why you’d want to do this anyway) so involved an insane amount of cleaning as you go. Annoying

  7. Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan over a very high heat for five minutes and put the oven on low. Prepare the melted ghee and any seeds to garnish.
    Crap. Forgot to melt more butter

  8. Flatten one of the balls and prod or roll it into a flat circle, slightly thicker around the edge. Pick it up by the top to stretch it slightly into a teardrop shape, then put it in the hot pan. When it starts to bubble, turn it over and cook until the other side is browned in patches. Turn it back over and cook until there are no doughy bits remaining.
    Prodding anything will never make it into a circle. I can’t remember the last time I stared at anything this intently, don’t burn, please don’t burn
    These are the tiniest naans I’ve ever seen

  9. Brush with melted ghee and sprinkle with seeds, if using, and put in the oven to keep warm while you make the other breads
    YOU SAID IT COULD BE BUTTER FELICITY. How much butter is too much butter? I’m not good at portion control when it comes to butter. Having to explain to housemate that nigella seeds aren’t actually named after Nigella Lawson is amusing.

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All in all whilst these naan breads tasted a lot better than I thought they would do which is great, however, were they the most perfect naan breads I’ve ever eaten, no. No Felicity they weren’t, however, I will still read your column at every opportunity possible.

Follow the crumble path

“I don’t mean to be a pain but I can’t eat that because….”

The words that 99% of home cooks dread to hear. Oh. God. Now I’m going to have to adapt. I’m going to have to work out how to use all these different complicated flour/dairy/nut/soy/meat/seafood/mollusc/animal/vegetable/mineral alternatives. The list is endless, with new allergens being discovered every single day. Having grown up with a brother who had a different allergic reaction each week (sand, people, the boy was allergic to sand) I realise that allergies are real. They are not just things that people make up and should be taken incredibly seriously. However, that also doesn’t mean that I don’t have beef with people who are like oh yea I don’t eat gluten for “health” reasons. 99% of these people are horribly misinformed and end up boring the rest of us with their tales of how quinoa porridge has like so totally changed their life. Go do some research of what is involved in a balanced diet and then come back to me.
When you don’t have money to burn and maybe don’t have a wealth of knowledge on such ‘alternatives’ it can be tricky. As a cook I love inclusive eating, I hate having to cook something different for the veggie or the celiac at the party, it feels alienating and silly. We live in a world FULL of amazing ingredients and I always attempt to think of having to change my cooking plan as a challenge rather than a kerfuffle.
So, we had housemates lovely celiac boyfriend over and I was determined to start practicing the dessert that I will be making for my supper club coming up in a couple of weeks. This dessert involved the full Masterchef Australia special of something frozen, something crumby, something fresh and some silly plating that involves it being off centre. I wasn’t planning on making my dessert gluten free but after having tasted it I may keep it this way. Here’s my recipe for honey semifreddo, cinnamon rice flour crumb and fresh strawberries:

Honey Semifreddo (disclaimer, this is based on Nigellas recipe, with a couple of alterations):

1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
150 grams runny honey (Nigella says 100g which I don’t think is sweet enough and she doesn’t specify what type of honey, I think runny works best personally!)
300 millilitres double cream

Rice Flour Crumb:
Right, so my recipe for this crumb is pretty darn unhelpful. A wise woman once taught be how to make crumble topping by if you can feel all of the ingredients in perfect harmony then it was a good crumble topping. I make crumbs in the same vein, it also depends on how crumbly you want to make this dessert, whether you want tonnes of crumb or whether you only want a sprinkling. So here’s the ingredients, be as wild or as restrained as you wish:

Rice Flour
Cinnamon
Demerara Sugar
Softened butter
Pecans/Dessicated coconut (optional, I’d obviously never use coconut because it’s gross but I can understand why people would think it belongs here)

To decorate:
Fresh strawberries (I used three on each plate, 2 whole and 1 chopped into four segments)
Fresh mint

Method:
Line a normal sized loaf tin with clingfilm
And panic because it is inevitably impossible to get the cling film wrinkle free

Beat the egg and egg yolks with the honey in a bowl, over a saucepan of gently simmering water, until the mixture is pale and thick
More panic because WHAT CONSTITUTES THICK!?!?!?! What’s thick to me might not be thick to you, ok it’s kinda got a ribbony texture

Whip the double cream until thick, and then gently fold in the egg and honey mixture
Damn you thickness, and why does cream always take longer to thicken that I think. DON’T SPLIT. DON’T SPLI….ok it’s ok. Should I leave the honey mixture to cool!?!?! Not sure, I’ll whack it in anyway, curse you Nigella and your amazing but vague recipes

Pour into tin, clingfilm over and leave to set in the freezer for between 2-3 hours
And realise that unlike masterchef you don’t just have empty freezers waiting for today’s semifreddo, no, no you will have to completely re arrange, drop half a bag of peas everywhere and end up with everything slightly melted to make a flat surface for this tin to sit

When semifreddo is nearly ready, heat oven to 180 C, put all the ingredients for crumb in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until combined
Never use more than your fingertips or everything will end up slightly manky as the butter will start to melt. Plus take off rings, every time I forget and the I swear violently at getting my rings covered

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, tip out crumb onto tray and bake for around 15 minutes or until golden and crunchy, make sure to ruffle the crumb at least once
Isn’t ‘ruffle the crumb’ such a great turn of phrase

Take semifreddo out of freezer, serve with a generous crumb trail and the fresh strawberries and mint
Pretend you’re on masterchef but make sure you instagram quickly as the semifreddo WILL MELT
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A confession of a habit most strange

It’s all our parents fault. It is. They taught us these strange, strange habits as we were growing up, or, they at least didn’t chastise us enough saying “No child! That’s a terribly odd thing to do. What on earth would make you think of such a terrifying and disgusting creation”. OR. They deprived us so heavily of the things that we craved so furiously that as soon as we got a sweet taste of freedom we clung onto it, embraced it and dived into a whole sea of weird. So yes, it’s our parents fault.

I vividly remember in my first week of Uni feeling young, vulnerable and exhilarated all at once. I’d eaten pizza three nights in a row and couldn’t tell you the last time I saw, let alone consumed a vegetable. I was a rebel without a cause, a whole array of foods open to me that Mother had told me (correctly) would be bad for me. Screw that, I’d eat all the Ricicles I want god dammit! However, I was craving a slice of home, a bit of comfort on my fourth day of determinedly destroying my liver like every good fresher does. So I grabbed one of the teacakes (not bread rolls anyone from Sheffield, as in actual teacakes. With raisins in) my mother had sent me off with, toasted it and grated some cheese onto it. Put it together like a sandwich, ate it…..and realised all my housemates were staring at me like I was a creature from Mars
“You just put…. cheese… on a teacake” one of them stammered
“Yea. Don’t you?” It was then I realised. I’m weird. I’m really really weird and all the food things I thought were normal were lies. For years I’d pronounced hummus wrong, put cheese on teacakes and not eaten a roast on a Sunday and thought this was perfectly normal.

As the years have gone on I’ve learnt to somehow forgive my parents for leading me so astray and developed new food quirks. For example, I have an overwhelming fear of orange pith, eat peanut butter and marmite on the same slice of toast and think hummus on crumpets is a banging idea.
So, I opened it up to the great and good of Facebook to share with me their quirks and by gum they didn’t let me down. Weirdos everywhere stuck their flag in the sand and shared their quirks. One foodie friend bared his soul for all to see in sharing his overwhelming hatred of cucumber and one bloke friend threw his wife under the bus by revealing her rather strange habit of eating frozen peas. Yes love that is a strange thing to do. Sorry.
Here’s a few of the top out-there treats:

  1. Sausage tartar – Who doesn’t love munching on raw pork

  2. The pastry rules – Volovants are totally ok, however samosa pastry is a no no. Choux is also allowed however don’t put a pie in front of this lovely lady, the pastry WILL be left

  3. Choc ‘n’ Cheese – Chocolate milkshake. Check. Chunk of cheddar. Check. Interchange bites of both to complete all your dairy dreams

  4. Crunchy Treat – Who doesn’t love a good bowl of al dente pasta. Infact, why even bother cooking it at all!? Snack away

  5. Cheese gate – I was taught a new way to eat nachos yesterday but one gorgeous girlie. With a knife and fork!!! Who wants to touch all that nasty cheese anyway

  6. Skin on – A standing ovation for the man who openly admits he the skin of a kiwi. Who stayed strong when all around him called him insane and gross and vile and crazy. Keep eating that kiwi skin I say

  7. Banana Bonanza – Bananas are great. Bacon is great. Why not combine the two!? Finishing it off with some sweet chilli sauce. Perfect, right?

Fear X Loathing: A burger redemption

I am not one for food trends. Definitely not. Silly phrases and normally poorly thought through concepts. Chia seeds, bad. Ice cream stuffed macaroons, bad. Glooping Sriracha on anything that stays still long enough, bad, bad, bad.

With this disdain of having to be ‘on trend’ in mind I must admit I went into Fear X Loathing on West Street with a hint of trepidation. Fear X Loathing specialises in burgers and huge stacked burgers at that. They all rather oddly have the name Juicy in the title and I have to admit I’m not a massive burger fan. It also has the slight added disadvantage of being away from the Division Street Massive and their independent counterparts.

However. I can accept when I am wrong and this is one of those occasions, I have been wrong about burgers. The incredibly friendly staff were quick to recommend me a burger that whilst sounded like my worst mutant trendy nightmare was actually completely delicious.
They also persuaded me into halloumi bites and as I am a complete cheese fiend (as if fearxloathing4anyone didn’t know that yet) I snaffled them before you could say “what does cheese say to itself when it looks in the mirror”. Deep fried halloumi is always, always going to be a huge success in my book and this was particularly good. They have a range of in house made sauces that come in varying degrees of blow your brains out spicy. The chilli mayo one is so good that I could have licked the pot that they gave me. Crispy, slightly spicy, the halloumi was a win.

Moving on, the main event was…..are you ready for this…….a bacon frazzle burger. Yes. Yes, you read that right dear reader. A chicken patty topped with spinach and sun dried tomato and garlic sauce and yes most importantly bacon frazzles. As in the 90’s retro crisps that taste sod all to do with bacon and a lot to do with E numbers. Who cares though because they taste freaking amazing on a burger. The herb Crème fraîche was gorgeously creamy and it came with sweet potato fries. Fit. They were crispy, crunchy and yet creamy on the inside. The whole thing was absolutely massive so definitely worth the £12.50 price tag. Stop tutting it’s not that much.fearxloathing3

Even better Fear X Loathing do some cracking cocktails. On a high after my frazzletastic lunch I promised I’d be back that evening with Lovely Boy in tow and drink my own weight in cocktails.

Now. Reader. Forgive me. I can’t exactly remember what these cocktails were called due to the number consumed, however, I know I had a zingy lovely gin number which definitely fearxloathing1added to my one glass of wine glow. Lovely Boy had a chilli cocktail (pictured) which was perfectly balanced and had just the right kick you were looking for to keep you awake for a long Friday night.

We both really enjoyed it and it’s always great to have a bartender who knows what he’s talking about. Plus I had the always added advantage of making Lovely Boy jealous due to my frazzlmazing burger.

Must think of some frazzle puns……..

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Fear X Loathing
101 West St, Sheffield S1 4EQ

The Beer Engine. An ode to hummus

We all have that one friend. That one friend who has it together. They have a great job, fantastic house and generally seem quite good at adulting.

I meet my successful adulting friend probably once a month, he laughs at my silly twenty ish year old problems such as: what am I going to do with my life, he despairs when I inform him that my latest date was covered in tattoos and lives in his warehouse and comforts me big brother style when inevitably said romance falls to pieces around my ears. Where as I mercilessly tease him about his latest no carb diet, roll my eyes and lecture him about the environment as he talks about his corporate job and constantly inform him that he is overly middle class and refer to him simply as public school boy.

As he had a rather significant birthday recently (I won’t disclose which as he had the biggest strop about it all in the first place) I decided that I’d return the favour he’d done for me many times and take him out for dinner. He informed me that he was on a no carb diet (cue much gaffawing from me) and so I picked tapas. Who doesn’t love tapas!? Tiny bits of everything and normally many things involving cheese. My tapas place of choice was The Beer Engine. My local from work the Beer Engine is a light an airy pub serving up a great range of craft beer and a weekly changing menu of tapas

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We obviously tried one of everything going, which involved:

Hummus with toasted pitta

Right. Confession time, I’m terrible and I mean TERRIBLE at making hummus. Also at spelling it but that’s beside the point. This may genuinely have been some of the best hummus I’ve ever had, served sprinkled with nigella seeds which added a smokeyness and gorgeous warm pitta I don’t think I stopped eating it. My favourite thing by a mile.

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Spanish sharing plate: mixed olives, marinated anchovies, manchego cheese and membrillo, cured meats

Still got no idea what membrillo is. Don’t care either. Olives – yum, cheese – yum, cured meats – yum but the standout on this plate was the anchovies. They were incredible, especially when

mixed with the hummus and pitta bread

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Sausage, new potato, fennel, watercress and fried egg

I hate fennel. HATE IT. I’m not convinced that there is actually any fennel in this dish as it was delicious and everything is improved with a fried egg. Went fantastically with a dollop of hummus.Beerengine3

South by South West salad: Salad, sweetcorn, beans, cherry tomatoes, spring onion and feta

Slightly confused as to the origins of this salad however can imagine it fitting in super well at a BBQ. Have I mentioned the hummus yet?

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Pork ribs in a mango and tequila sauce

Public school boy attempted to convince me that mango is a carb. Shut up. Whilst I’m not overly keen on ribs the sauce was incredible. Sweet, sticky, smoky and slightly spicy it’s everything that you want from a BBQ sauce without being overly thick and gelatinous. Still not hummus though.

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Macaroni Cheese Balls

Deep fried Mac ‘n Cheese, that’s all that needs to be said about that. Probably the only thing I didn’t cover in hummus.Beerengine6

Calamari with lime and coriander mayonnaise

I would like a vat of that sauce, and the hummus, the batter was light and fluffy as all good batter is, calamari doesn’t go fantastically with hummus though

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Chef’s potato salad

Not hummus but still really good. Slightly spicy which I appreciated and topped with coriander which is always a win in my book

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So overall the food is good with great value for money as the portions are definitely not tapas size, they’re like…..actual people size.

Please give me the hummus recipe?????

Battle of the BBQ

Reader, I have a confession. I am a competitive person. It’s something that’s taken me years to accept about myself. I spent so long saying “No, no, don’t be silly I’m not a competitive person”. The word competitive for me had connotations of playing monopoly with my family and it ending in earth shattering arguments due to both Father and Brother being overtly determined to win.

However, since I’ve grown older and supposedly wiser I’ve accepted that a bit of competitiveness is no bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be throwing the tiny monopoly dog at my fellow players anytime soon but a healthy level of wanting to be good can be useful.

So. Lovely Boy made his first mistake this week. He challenged me to a BBQ off. Silly, silly boy. I told friends that he was attempting to do this and all of their faces crumpled in a mixture of pity and fear for him, nearly always followed by a “Ooooooo that’s a mistake”.  However, he’d sparked the competitive streak in me and even though I knew his lovely blue eyes would be staring at me forlornly when I won and there was a distinct possibility that due to me being a bossy madam I was about to ruin something that had only just begun. I didn’t care.

It’s a truth universally known that it isn’t Christmas in the Lawlor household without a BBQ’d Turkey. It’s become the stuff of legend. Our family regularly reminisce about that first fateful Christmas my Father threw his toys out of the pram and decided our RAF oven was just too small so was going to BBQ it, Mother retreated to the kitchen, bottle of Verve Clique in hand, Uncles gathered round in awe to watch man light fire and cook, both of the Granny’s were proclaiming to the heavens that they’d never get fed. They did. We’ve never looked back since. Therefore, I have no fear of BBQ’s, I know that meat, fish and veg can all be treated to the BBQ way and taste great.
We drew our lines in the sand and took each other on in an epic battle of a who’s who of BBQ’s. I chose a garam masala chicken and a coriander lemon mackerel and he chose a marinated rosemary lamb.

Friends bought so much food that our table was groaning underneath the load (a highlight being the Venezuelan Arepas) and I’ve been eating BBQ leftovers for the last week.

Here’s a few of my favourite BBQ related recipes.

Oh, and who won the battle of the BBQ? I think we can safely say we drew and he didn’t run for the hills when he saw my competitive face. Next time though…..

Garam Masala Chicken:

12 chicken drumsticks- skin on

3/4 pot of natural yoghurt

3 tablespoons of garam masala

Large bunch of coriander, torn, stalks and leaves

2 tablespoons of dried mint

2 table spoons of paprika

1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper

1 table spoon of chilli flakes (optional, depends if you can handle the heat)

Salt

Pepper

  1. Grab a massive metal bowl
    I mean massive. Big enough to fit all your chicken in and maybe the kitchen sink
  2. Tip yoghurt into bowl, add garam masala, mint, paprika, salt and pepper, stir until all incorporated and goes a lovely orangey colour
  3. Add in dried mint and coriander
  4. Place chicken in bowl and using your hands smoosh everything all together
    Aren’t you glad you followed my tip and used a massive metal bowl
  5. Cover with cling film and leave overnight to infuse
    Try not to wrap yourself in cling film at the same time. Happens worryingly often to me
  6. Uncover in time for BBQ, wipe off some of the excess yoghurt from the drumsticks (not all of it, but enough so that it’s not completely soaked in yoghurt or it’ll burn and that’s proper annoying to clean), sprinkle with cayenne pepper, some more salt, pepper and chilli flakes if you like it extra spicy and BBQ until cooked through
    Or this is what I normally do. However, Lovely Boy decided to take my chicken out and BBQ it without consulting me. Mistake.
  7. Serve with raita and some more coriander sprinkled on top.

Coriander Mackerel:

2 whole mackerel, gutted but still with skin, head, eyes and all

Large bunch of coriander

2 garlic cloves

1 whole lemon

Glug of olive oil

Salt flakes
Pepper

  1. Chop large bunch of coriander finely, stalks and all
    The stalks actually have the best flavour
  2. Chop garlic cloves finely (or if you can’t be bothered Very Lazy Garlic is pretty darn good)
    I can very rarely be bothered
  3. In a medium bowl mix coriander, garlic, olive oil, some of the salt flakes and pepper
  4. Slice lemon into rings then chop rings in half
  5. Take mackerel and stuff in the centre with the coriander mixture and the half rings of lemon
    Scare all your guests by wiggling then mackerel at them. People love it when fish still have heads
  6. Wrap tightly in kitchen foil
    Don’t let a guest who’s had one too many beers help. It will not be tight enough
  7. Place directly into slightly cooled coals, it shouldn’t take long at all. You’ll know it’s ready as the fish with flake away easily from the bone
  8. Serve with some sea salt flakes sprinkled over and some more fresh chopped coriander
    If it makes it that far

Marinated Lamb

8 Lamb Cutlets

Olive Oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 bunch of mint

4 springs of rosemary, leaves finely chopping

Walt and Pepper to season (Yes I know it’s spelt wrong, however I’m just repeating the exact recipe on the channel 4   website)

  1. Simply chop the mint and place all ingredients in a dish to leave to marinade over night
    I’m not being funny right but my recipes are way harder, therefore I should have won
  2. BBQ for around 5 minutes on each side and leave to rest before eating
    Or just eat straight off the BBQ because you can’t wait

 

Yorkshire Blue Potato Salad:

Bag of Jersey Royal Potatoes

Mayonnaise (Personally I use Hellmanns)
White wine vinegar

Olive Oil (extra virgin if you have it)

Fresh chives

Bulb of Smoked Garlic

Yorkshire Blue Cheese

1 red onion

  1. Pre heat oven to 200. Boil Kettle. Chop Jersey Royals into halves or quarters (depends how chunky you like your salad) and part boil for around 5-8 minutes
  2. Drain off potato cubes and tip into a roasting tin, section off the smoked garlic into cloves and scatter over roasting tin, skin still on. Cover everything in the tin with a healthy glug of oil, season and roast until potatoes are slightly crispy and the garlic is squishy
    Don’t eat all the potatoes however tempting they look
  3. Leave the potatoes to cool until room temp. De skin garlic, place in a food blender and blend until a smooth garlic paste is formed
  4. In a large bowl whisk mayo, white wine vinegar and oil. Measurements for this is tricky as it’s all down to personal taste, if you prefer it more vinegary or mayo-y. At first it will look like the mixture has split and you’ll think I’m insane however just keep whisking and maybe add a tiny bit more mayo and it will form a silky sauce
    Vinegary-Mayo-y I’m so technical I know

  5. Chop red onion incredibly finely
    Have an argument with sous chef about what ‘finely’ means
  6. Snip fresh chives into the mayo mixture and add red onion, stir until combined
  7. Add in roasted potatoes, stir gently so as not to break the potatoes and to finish crumble Yorkshire Blue Cheese over the top
    If you haven’t eaten all the blue cheese already

Carnivores Anonymous

Things that I’m not fantastic at

  • Whistling – Never been able to. Been an annoyance since school
  • Maths – due to a series of horrible and traumatising maths teachers from my school days
  • Hiding my emotions – Full stop

The first two have never proved an overwhelming problem for me: I’ve never been lost in the woods needing to attract attention so my lack of ability to whistle has never been a big deal and no-one ever asks me to do Pythagoras theorem anymore (how useful is it now Mrs. Neil?!) so my daily usage of Maths manages to remain comfortably low. However, dear friends, dear, dear friends. The last point is my absolute downfall.

I met someone new recently and obviously when you meet someone you go through the stages of getting to know them ,the way  your heart flutters when you find out you have a weirdly similar adoration of documentaries, when he makes your housemate do that hilarious uncontrolled laughter, affectionately nicknamed Llama laugh , being overly disappointed when you discover they don’t like cheese as much as you etc. Clever egg that he is he horrifyingly quickly picked up on the fact that I don’t just ‘like’ things. I LOVE them or I HATE them. There is very little middle ground with me. For example: I love cheese so much I tear up whenever someone presents me with a tasty morsel, I whimper with joy when Australian Masterchef comes on each year and I cackle with glee every time I see a photo of an otter. On the other end of the spectrum I feel viscerally angry whenever I smell coconut, lose it when people pronounce ‘jalapenos’ wrong and really really don’t like people who can’t queue properly. THERE’S A LINE FOR A REASON.

One of the main ways that these extreme emotions show themselves is by languishing over my face.  My face acts  pretty much like that of an over excited cartoon character. One particular topic that has been making my countenance shrivel with disdain is that for the past couple of years I have constantly faced the assumption that I am a vegetarian. Whilst I have absolutely nothing against those who chose the vegetarian lifestyle (you have more will power than I do) I do not chose this lifestyle and the assumption that I am hits on another major pet peeve of mine. Stereotypes. “You have a veggie vibe” I’m sorry. What now!?!?!?! What does a veggie look like!? I didn’t realise they all had a particular style that meant we could pick them out in a crowd to tut at their stereotypical ‘vegi-isms’

So, I’ve decided to be veggie for a couple of weeks. Partly to whinge about how much I miss chicken, mainly to see if I’m actually a closet veggie in denial and have no right to be so quick to anger with those who assume I am.

I don’t have give up cheese though so it’s ok:

Day 1:

Totally chilled. Not feeling a problem at all until the evening rolls round. I really really fancy a curry which is great. I love veggie curry. Yes. But I also love chicken and especially fish curries and oh wait those are both banned. Disaster. So I settle for a larger portion of saag paneer with mushroom rice and naan bread. Yum.

Day 2:

This is really actually fine. I can totally survive two weeks without meat.

Day 3:

I’m feeling pretty drained  and tired, probably got more to do with my hectic schedule more than anything else. We have an amazing jacket potato place just round the corner from work which is helping a lot

Day 4:

The day times are fine. It’s the evenings that I’m starting to struggle with. Housemates are both meat eaters and when they start cooking chicken, it’s wrong I know but I genuinely start to salivate. I should be stronger than this. I should have more self will, this is pretty shameful

Day 5:

Starting to become very sick of plain jacket potato with cheese. I WANT TUNA. GIVE ME THE GOSH DARN TUNA

Day 6:

It’s Friday, and reader. I’m drunk. I’ve also failed. Miserably. I ate chicken nuggets, cooked at like 2am when I got home. I managed a pitiful six days, then cooked nuggets and snaffled them smothered with mayo and shame

 

So I like chicken. A lot it would appear. It’s amusing though as I know I do go days and days without eating meat in a normal week. Yet for some reason as soon as I denied myself meat all I could dream about was lasagne and other meaty based delights.
I’d have loved for this blog to become a homage to sourcing sustainable options and being conscious about where meat comes from. However, I was defeated by chicken nuggets, which lets face it, probably wouldn’t know what a chicken was if they fell over it.