Did you know it’s Christmas time again?

“Do you remember the year that Nigella told us all to brine our turkeys?”

“No Erin. Normal people don’t remember that”

Because I’m me, I do remember. I vividly remember the year that Nigella told the nation to dunk our turkeys in vats of salt water to let them become succulent and moist. That year, sales of plastic tubs soared in November as people used them to test run their turkey soaking, only to realise turkeys are massive and don’t fit in tubs. Then the public looked balefully at their baths wondering if that was the best way to make sure their turkeys were completed submerged in their salty, salty soak.

Every year we all feel a slight impending sense of doom around Christmas food, how are we going to impress this year? Are canapes still in? Have we catered for all the allergens around the table? What if people don’t actually like apricot and pistachio stuffing!?

So what should we expect this year when diving into December, what madness has Heston created for Waitrose this year?

Once more unto the breach  

“Austerity is over”

Philip Hammond said the words and apparently Christmas food has heard him, and whilst I am undeniably dubious about the reality of his words out in the real world it would appear that we’re not in for a very healthy Christmas. Luxury is back baby. We want rich, decadent stuffed joints of meat, giant sausages wrapped in bacon because bite sized is done and desserts with molten, glittery saucy centres and we want it now.

Desserts

The focus this year is on all things sweet, sticky, caramelly (yes people, salted caramel is officially here to stay) and decadent. M & S is doing some ridiculous chocolate pine cone covered in glitter spray, Good Food magazine is giving our recipes for show stopping Christmas cakes and Waitrose have decided hiding oranges in the middle of their puddings is “festive”

Wreaths are everywhere

And I mean everywhere, puddings are shaped into wreaths, stuffing is shaped into wreaths, turkey is being reconstituted into wreath shapes and it’s all very odd. I get that wreaths are lovely and festive but wreaths are for hanging on my front door not for eating.
In terms of plant wreaths, they are also everywhere, but only half naked wreaths, we’ve taken the traditional and, of course, made it hipster by exposing half of the twisted wood or wire.

Extra fancy stuffing

Stick fruit, nuts and the kitchen sink in it. Heston has apparently been inspired by wassailing this year so wassail we will, especially in stuffing. So think apples people, apples are everywhere. It will also be shaped weirdly, be it in wreath or bundt the lowly stuffing ball is no more.

& butter……

I’ve been thinking a lot about butter recently. Not that I’m not always thinking about butter, because, I am. I love butter. I’m a butter purist, this is a margarine free zone thank you very much. Feck off flora, carry on clover, yes I can believe it’s not butter thank you. A horrifying amount of my daily food involves butter, I love baking with it, slathering it lavishly on toast, making sauces glossy with it and just generally making life better with it.

The reason, however, I’ve been thinking more and more about butter though is because sadly, my grandma is not doing so well. This woman is a force of nature, a true matriarch and the woman that taught me to love butter. It’s stuff of family legend that June spreads her butter so thick on toast you can see teeth marks in it and I can totally relate. So it seemed like a cruel joke when I was sat in the doctor’s office being told that due to acute stress (it’s been an intense few weeks) I was suffering with IBS. Cut out dairy especially and anything inflammatory for a couple of weeks, take these nice pills and see how you go.

“I’m sorry. Did you just say cut out dairy?”

“Yes, just for a couple of weeks, you are lactose intolerant, it says so on your records. Probably best to ditch it for a couple of weeks till things calm down”

Now, the fact that I’m lactose intolerant (MILDLY. I say MILDLY lactose intolerant) is something I very regularly ignore. Infact. Always ignore. I love dairy, it’s my favourite. A meal isn’t a meal without cheese, butter, sour cream, creme fraiche *insert other dairy related product here* but here I was being told that for my upset stomach to calm down this was a good idea. I was devastated, lost, confused, hurt beyond all natural cause and reason and then, I saw the challenge. It’s been months since I’ve written, days since I’ve tried to cook something new and as yet again my life is about to drastically change I have always sought solace in experimenting with new food. This is just the universe telling me to get my cooking head on again try something new and write about it. So, here I am, three days in, haven’t killed anyone yet. Yet being the operative word. I’m going to do a series of blogs throughout this couple of weeks around my journey of going dairy free, i’m nervous and excited, there’ll be terrible baking exploits, an exploration of dairy free cheese in its many forms, a dalliance with Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines which naturally involve less cheese. So please send your dairy free ideas and recipes my way.

 

Let’s see how this goes and no I’m not counting mayo as dairy.

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.

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?
    naan4
  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
    naan5
  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