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

 

Panic stations are go

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


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

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

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

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

     

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

 

Things that are on the outs this year include:

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

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

 

A return to coffee shop challenges

Two months.

Sixty days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A story of salmon….

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whilst severely burning your fingers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As if I have time for this rubbish

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

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

Mixing it up: The Wick At Both Ends

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

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

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

We went for:

Venison shepherd’s pie

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

Potted ham with burnt apple and sourdoughwick10

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

wick2Tempura cauliflower

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


Red pepper hummus with wick4focaccia

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

wick3Garlic prawns

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

 

 

Pork belly with wild rice and almonds

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

Celeriac with horseradishwick5

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

Duck nuggets with rhubarb ketchupwick9

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

Musselswick11

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

Curried monkfish with sweetcorn

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

 

wick8

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

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!

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?