Hot potato. Hot potato

There is nothing more disappointing in life than a soggy, flaccid potato. Yes I just used the word flaccid. Whether it be chip or roastie, parmentier or croquette.

We want our potatoes crispy and we want them now.

I, as usual, put out the question out to the great unwashed about how to make potatoes crispy and some of the answers were surprising. Everyone immediately went into a discussion of roasties rather than anything else so for the rest of this blog we’re talking about how to make roast potatoes crispy.

Mother would have been appalled at the answer as no-one said lard and in the Lawlor household our Christmas roasties are done in lard, after which we all lie on the sofa wanting to die for the next fourteen hours.

There were a couple of themes throughout the discussion, firstly, let them dry.

A true crispy potatoes take time, and love, but mainly time. They need to be lovingly parboiled (someone tried to tell me it was part-boiled the other day. WRONG) then left to steam dry before being tossed in some form of fat. This drying technique is something Delia has always told me to do, but, shockingly I have always ignored due to normally being so impatient to get on with making the roast, but as per usual St Delia is correct. Let them steam dry.

Then, the main debate is and I guess always has been, what fat do we roast the roasties in? Is it oil? If so, WHICH KIND? Is it goose fat, beet fat, duck fat, some other gout inducing fat? Or is it controversially as one friend suggested, butter. The guy who sharpens Sheffield’s best knives swears by duck fat, Jay Rayner whom I trust in all things uses vegetable oil (which I was mildly surprised by) my chef friend gave me a scientific breakdown including how long to peel them before you want to cook them but was torn between goose fat and duck fat.  


I was entranced by the idea of roasting my potatoes in butter, I will find an excuse to use butter in anything, and I mean, anything. I love butter, anyone who’s been in the same room as me for more than 3 seconds will know I love butter, on in everything, in everything and so when someone put forward the fact that she does hers in butter I jumped at the chance. Let me tell you they were glorious. Housemate was horrified that I’d managed to find yet another way to use butter. They were wonderfully coloured, wonderfully crispy BUT they didn’t taste like the roast potatoes of days gone by.

I also take issue with goose fat, whilst they taste amazing they also feel greasy. When I use goose fat everything gets covered in a thin layer of fat that won’t go away; the tray, the oven, the sides, the cat. Lard is similar but I also feel like my vital organs are covered in that layer of fat. To me either roasting them in the juices of meat or good old olive oil is the way to go.

The definitive top three roastie tips seemed to be:

  • Let them be dry: If I took away one thing from my questioning was that the potatoes must be dry when they go in the oven. As said above this is something I’ve not done before but I WILL be doing from now on

  • To oil or not to oil: The fat almost seems to be irrelevant, the thing to learn is make it hot, really hot. Super hot. Smoking hot. The cool potato hitting the hot fat is what seems to matter

  • Fluff it up, fluff it up: I read an article the other day that said it doesn’t matter whether you give your spuds a good shake or not. The public disagree. Pretty much every person polled said that you should tap, shake, fluff our spuds before they are put into roast

 

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.

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!

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