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?

 

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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?

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Getting my veg on

I must admit I have been feeling guilty. Now, feeling guilty is sadly nothing new for me, in fact, it’s how I’ve spent vast swathes of my life feeling over the years. Guilty that I wasn’t doing well enough at school, that I wasn’t a good enough friend/girlfriend/worker/writer, that someone misunderstood what I meant, that the relationship hadn’t worked because I just hadn’t tried hard enough etc. All of this negative guilt has lead to some interesting behavioural choices over the years and a tendency to message my housemates on a regular basis and ask them if in fact my nightmare of them no longer wanting to be friends with me because I am so annoying is coming true. It never is FYI. However, whilst all of this sounds self-pitying, self-serving even, my over-heightened sense of guilt does do me some favours every now and again.
I feel particularly guilty if I buy a £3 chicken from Morrisons, and whilst I can’t always afford organic, hand-fed, hand-plucked, cuddled by farmers chickens, I should probably be more thoughtful about where my food has come from and the life that it’s lead to get to my plate. It has been proven time and time again that the amount of meat we are eating is having a direct impact on our environment and everyone’s seen the hideous documentaries about chickens living in cages. So, one of my new year’s resolutions is to be more conscious of what I eat.

I tried to be veggie for a while last year and failed so miserably that I ended up sat in my room at 2am drunkenly crooning softly to a box of KFC. However, this year I’m trying again, not  because I think meat is unhealthy or that I need to restrict myself but because it makes me a more conscious eater. If I’m specifically avoiding an ingredient then I will think much more carefully and sustainably about the others involved. Currently I’m a week in, which is better than I did last year, and I’m feeling much more positive about it. I’m eating more fresh vegetables and am aiming to be much more adventurous in the ways I cook them. Just don’t ask me to walk past the rotisserie chickens in Morrisons, they smell so gosh darn good.

Every Sunday we eat together as a house, it’s become a bit of a thing for us, we call it family dinner and it’s something we’ve managed to stick to even when things are tough and life is trying. This week for Sunday dinner I’m creating something new, it’s easy to do my usual chicken (Can you tell I like chicken by the way) but as meat isn’t an option right now it’s time to think outside the box. After trawling through the internet and considering many options I’ve gone for a mushroom wellington. Pastry solves a myriad of ‘crappy week’ problems and is always a favourite in the house. We also all adore mushrooms and, for good measure, I’m sure I can find a way to sneak cheese in there somewhere.


Mushroom Wellington:

Ingredients, serves 3:

  • 3 large Portobello Mushrooms
  • Spinach
    Depends how spinachy you want it, but remember spinach is hideously annoying in the fact it shrinks like the wicked witch of the west when faced with water
  • Enough puff pastry to surround said large mushrooms, around 2 sheets of pre rolled puff pastry
    Don’t pretend you make your own puff pastry
  • 4 or five button/closed cup/chestnut mushrooms
  • Half a white or red onion
    Some people have a preference
  • Cheese of your choice
    Now yes, I realise this is horrifyingly vague, but some people wouldn’t appreciate me dictating that this recipe needs intensely strong blue cheese (which is great) some people would prefer the meltier quality of brie or the tang of a cheddar. So yes, cheese of your choice. The quantity is also dependent on how much you like of said cheese.
  • Butter
    Because what doesn’t need butter
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper
    Obviously

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees and line a tray with either non stick tinfoil or baking paper
    This WILL stick, don’t be tempted to not use anything, you’ll end up crying over losing the pastry bottom, sad.

  2. In a large frying pan put a generous pat of butter, salt, pepper and turn onto a medium heat to melt butter
    Who says butter pat!? Surely it’s knob…..oh wait….probably shouldn’t say that

  3. Once butter is melted place each of the portobello mushrooms face down in the pan, flip after a couple of minutes to that all surfaces are browned slightly
    Don’t over fry at this stage, this would be a disaster as it’s going to spend 40 minutes in the oven soon

  4. Move pan off the heat once the portobello mushrooms are cooked, chop closed cup mushrooms, onion and garlic as finely as possible. Add more butter to pan and fry all of these together
    Notice a theme in this recipe? Butter. This is NOT a dieting recipe. I repeat, abandon hope all ye who diet here

  5. Once mushrooms, onion and garlic are all browned add in around a tablespoon of oregano and then stir spinach in until wilted
    Always use more spinach that you think as it shrinks into absolutely nothing

  6. Put mushroom, spinach and onion mixture aside to cool. Light dust a surface with flour and lay out sheet of puff pastry
    Inevitably spill flour and cover the surface, yourself, the floor, ceiling, windows, neighbour’s house in flour in the process15995369_10154379735231849_1321945653_n

  7. Spoon three evenly distributed portions of spinach mixture onto the pastry with large gaps in between, place a slice of favoured cheese on top, lay mushroom flat side down over cheese and layer another slice of cheese. Repeat on all three spinach piles
    Don’t be tempted by putting toooo much cheese, remember this stuff melts and will go everywhere

  8. 15995657_10154379735406849_410709532_nLay second layer of pastry over all three piles and cut so three evenly sized parcels are formed. Fork the edges of each parcel and brush with egg. Pierce a hole in the top of each parcel to finish
    No egg wash = no golden brown = sad. Don’t forget the egg wash

  9. Place parcels in the pre-heated oven for around 40 minutes until golden brown and enjoy!
    GOOEY CHEESE JOY

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Please feel free to email any feedback on this recipe or your favourite veggie recipes to erin_lawlor@hotmail.co.uk

 

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:

gin3gin1

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.

gin5

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.

gin9

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.

gin11

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!
gin12

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!

Carnivores Anonymous

Things that I’m not fantastic at

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1:

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

Day 2:

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

Day 3:

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

Day 4:

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

Day 5:

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

Day 6:

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

 

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