Panic stations are go

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


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

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

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

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

     

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

 

Things that are on the outs this year include:

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

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

 

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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.  

Highs18816171_10154779647211849_1029948589_n

  • 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!

Carroting Around

Everything has a day, these days, doesn’t it!? There’s a day for mothers, for fathers, for sisters, for brothers, for hugs, for penguins, for doughnuts and even a day dedicated to wiggling your toes. Whilst some of these may seem a tad over the top I’m always up for a good bit of celebration and positivity. When I found out that April 4th was International Carrot Day I jumped at the chance at hero-ing one of my favourite veg.

Carrots are great aren’t they? Completely versatile they go with everything. You can boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew (yes I know that’s potatoes). One of my favourite things to do with a carrot is roast them whole. My brother taught me this trick, just a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and let the carrot work it’s carroty goodness.

 When I thought about how to champion the carrot though I couldn’t stop thinking about something I’d recently tried when in Malaga. We were in this gorgeous sun filled café that did some of the most incredible eggs. They also had a cabinet filled with gorgeous looking cakes, including, a carrot cake cookie. I was intrigued, tried it and was immediately determined that I could re-create and maybe even cheekily improve it. So here we go, my very own carrot cake cookie recipe:

Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich with Orange Cream Cheese Filling.
Makes enough for 6 cookie sandwiches.

Cookie ingredients:

  • 110g soft brown sugar
  • 85 g self raising flour
  • 110g wholemeal flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ish of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ish of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ish of cinnamon
  • 55g sultanas
  • 170 g of peeled and grated carrot
  • 1 dessert apple peeled, cored and grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 pint of vegetable or other plain light oil
  • 2 tblsps apple juice

Filling ingredients:

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 125 g cream cheese
  • 1/2 an orange zested

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees (Gas Mark 4). Set up two medium sized trays with baking paper.
    Mother Lawlor always taught me to get my trays set up first. Super useful. Medium is a tad vague I know, I used two pizza trays as I am hugely lacking in trays at home

  2. In a large bowl beat sugar and eggs together till thick and frothy. Gradually beat in oil.
    Don’t question how much liquid is in this cake. It’ll feel like a lot but it works

  3. In a separate bowl sift both flours, spices, baking powder and bicarb.
    Always check that baking powder, bicarb etc are in date. If they’re not your cakes won’t rise = sad cakes. If you’re anything like me you’ll always forget this and have to scramble around the cupboard

  4. Tip flour mixture into liquid mixture, along with carrot, apple and sultanas. Mix well then finally add in apple juice and stir until all incorporated.
    See why I said large bowl?
  5. Take large dessert spoon fulls of the mixture and place on baking tray, flatten until all level. Each tray should fit 6 cookies on. Place in pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes depending on oven.
    I tried various sizes of these cookies. Too small and they’re overwhelmed by icing, too big you’re overwhelmed by cookie. They should be a tad squishy and soft, they’ll firm up as they cool

  6. Leave to cool for around ten minutes and them move to a wire cooling rack to cool completely
    Sounds obviously but seriously. Never. Ever. Ever ice anything when it’s even vaguely warm. Wait even longer than you think you should. Make them the day before and store in an air tight container even. THEY  NEED TO BE COLD OK!?

  7. Whilst waiting to cool make the cream cheese filling. In a free standing mixer (if you’re fancy), with an electric whisk (most of us) or using a hand whisk (good luck) place the icing sugar in a bowl and combine with butter until all incorporated.
    Inevitably curse yourself for turning on said mixer or electric whisk too violently and ending up covered head to toe in sodding icing sugar

     

  8. Add in cream cheese all in one and mix until glossy and completely smooth. Add in your orange zest and mix using a spatula.
    Stop eating the icing. It’s for the cookies

  9. To assemble your cookie sandwiches take a cookie, smother it liberally in the icing then place second cookie on top and dust lightly with icing sugar
    Eat all of them and immediately regret it

    carrotcakecookies