Wednesday, 20 April 2016

TWTWTW: Catch up, Cat, Carriages


Woe

Oooh, all went a bit quiet there, didn't it?  Not to worry, chaps, I didn't decide to run off to the Good Food Show like Nellie the Elephant packing her bags for the circus.  But I have been busy working towards an exam.  And by working towards, of course I mean panicking a lot and shuffling all my bits of paper into piles rather than doing any proper revision.

If anyone out there has some good revision tips then PLEASE share.  I seem to lack the ability to do it properly and just floof about.  Meanwhile, the cat delights in positioning herself in the most awkward place possible.



Joy

The Good Food show itself was great fun.  It was so heartening to see the number of fantastic local suppliers who turned out and plied us with goodies.  Among my take-home haul were several bottles of gin by exciting new distillers and a Yorkshire halloumi cheese which stares at me every time I open the fridge and begs to be fried up until both crispy and squeaky.  I'd like to write up a more detailed post at some point...but time's winged chariot and all that...

More Joy

April 14th was the 12th anniversary of the date on which D and I first met so we went for a belated celebratory dinner at an old favourite: Carriages in Knaresborough.  It's a cute little wine bar-cum-bistro which serves well cooked, decent food and boasts a far better wine list than you'd expect in such a modest establishment.  It's never going to blow your mind but it's the kind of food that most people like to eat, done very well.  I must admit, I ordered scallops and goats' cheese out of curiosity, assuming that it would not quite work, but a delicate touch with the soft, salty cheese mousse actually enhanced the sweetness of the scallops, and showed a real ability to balance ingredients.  They don't have a website but they do have a Facebook page that you can view here for further info.


More Woe

D is continuing to follow the Dukan diet, albeit with a weekend break, and his results continue to be impressive.  My Weight Watching has fallen apart a little bit this week, but I should squeak an STS, having lost a further 0.6 lbs last week.  3.6 lbs in three weeks may not be incredible going, but it's not bad considering that my heart has not really been in it.

Home cooking is a little joyless at the moment; most nights D tucks in to his pile of protein and I add a side of vegetables and whingeing.  We are already looking to recover our cooking mojo in the month of May, and hopefully, I'll get some recipes posted up to the blog - they've been sadly lacking recently.

The next couple of weeks will probably continue to be quiet on the WWF front but I will, at least, try and have another good crack at the Smart Points in the coming week and report back on any progress.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Good Food Spring Show - final reminder!

Forget my grumps, forget the fact that the weather is horrible and that Spring appears to have Sprung off - this weekend the Good Food Spring Show hits Harrogate! 

See how excited the Minx is!


I'll be there, sniffing around like an overfed truffle pig, but, more importantly, a plethora of fantastic local Yorkshire producers will also be there selling their wares.  AND there will be sleb chefs to amaze with their cooking prowess. 

If you do decide to indulge in some tickets, be sure to use the code BL20 for a cheeky discount (20% off Adult / Over 65s ticket only.  Not valid on VIP or with any other offer.)

For further details check out the website, and I hope to see you there.  Well, you won't know that it is me and I won't know that it is you, but I shall smile inanely at anyone who catches my eye - and that's a promise.

Expect pictures of the spoils next week...

Smart points review: one week in

One week of smart pointing and the scales rewarded me with...(drum roll please)...a 3lb loss.

Which is good.  It's fine.  It's actually probably a little bit better than good.  But I would be lying if I said that I was pleased this morning.  If anything, I was a little deflated.  This past week has felt like really hard going, and for hard going I wanted better than good.  Even if it was just an inflated first week loss to bolster me up for the coming weeks.

I ended the week having had all my dailies and most of my weekly points - so pretty much where I was supposed to be.  But, as I have already said in my previous posts, I felt like I was on a diet ALL WEEK.

I'm going to persevere, because at the moment, I don't know what the alternative is.  And, there was a lot of positive feedback from members of the WW message boards who have been following the plan for a while, so I may just need a bit longer to get my head firmly out of Pro Points and into the Smart Points game.  I'll do a further update after the first month and see where I am then (for sake of comparison - the last time I started Pro Points, this blog records that I lost a stone in the first four weeks - it will be interesting to see how the results compare).

A note on Dukan

As I mentioned in an earlier post, D has been doing the Dukan Attack phase this week - which has basically meant eating nothing but lean meat, fish, low fat dairy and a couple of eggs a day.  He reports that he has not been hungry, just intensely bored.  He was well rewarded, though, having lost a whopping 9lbs in 7 days - a big boost was exactly what he needed to keep him going.  It will be interesting to see what happens as he comes out of Attack and on to Cruise phase (where he can introduce vegetables).  I have everything crossed that he continues to see those good results.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Meal planning Monday - and a blog giveaway!

After yesterday's grumpy post, today I will try to be slightly more cheerful.  After all, it's a brand new week.  And, excitingly, on Friday I will be paying a visit to the Spring Good Food Show over in Harrogate.

If anyone out there is in the vague vicinity of Harrogate this weekend and wants to come along then I have the power to make that happen!  The very kind people at the show have offered readers of this blog a pair of complimentary tickets for either Friday 8th or Sunday 10th April.

I thought about doing one of those Rafflecopter thingies that makes everyone follow me on Twitter and post a comment and generally be nice to me.  Which would be pleasant, but I suspect my technological skills are simply not up to it.  So if you fancy coming along just drop me an email at thewwfoodie@email.com and let me know your name and the day on which you would like to go by noon on Thursday.  If I get more than one email I shall be incredibly excited and shall draw a name from a hat.  Or get Minx to decide.

On to the more mundane business of meal planning, and D is still Dukan-ing so protein features pretty heavily in the early part of the week.  Then on Friday, we're off to the show followed by a curry with my in-laws to celebrate Pa-in-law's 70th birthday.  Saturday I'm keeping free as hopefully I will have oodles of show produce to scoff.  In very small, WW friendly, amounts of course.

Monday - Dukan friendly meatloaf (with salad and cheese for me)
Tuesday - Gammon and fried eggs (him) / roast potatoes (me)
Wednesday - Dukan friendly meatloaf (part deux) (with mash and creamy mushrooms for me)
Thursday - Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs
Friday - out
Saturday - post show spoils
Sunday - Sort of Sunday roast: chicken, carrot and swede mash, creamy leeks, garlic roasted broccoli

Have a good week, folks!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Smart points review - the first weekend

Previously, on WW Foodie:

The review of my first day on Smart Points can be found here.

And now, the first weekend...

I am writing this on Sunday afternoon.  I am currently at my desk, in between bouts of studying international tax issues.  Plus, it is my special lady time and I have the crampiest stomach known to mankind.  I am not in the best of moods as you can imagine, so be sure and take all this with a pinch of salt.

No doubt that, come Thursday, if I have a really good first week's weight loss I shall be full of the joys of Smart Points but, for now, I have to say I am still very firmly on the fence.

Perhaps a lot of it comes down to whether or not you feel a "diet" (ugh, I hate that word) should be punitive.  If you read Peridot's blog, for example, she puts herself through the wringer on a weekly basis, interspersing fast days with restricted calorie days - the woman has willpower of IRON.  And Lesley is currently back on meal replacement packs and, by all accounts, rocking it.  Me bitching about the fact that I ate a bag of Minstrels after my tea and it took a rather large chunk out of my weekly points seems petty in the extreme.

But ProPoints always felt to me like it could be a viable lifestyle choice if you took a bit of care over planning your meals.  Smart Points, much less so.  Steph - as per your comment, joyless is often the word that springs to mind.

I think that the Minstrels are an interesting example.  The Smart Points calculation starts from the calories in an item.  A high percentage of saturated fat and sugar will then send the points up and a high percentage of protein will bring it back down.  So as you can imagine, an item that is basically all saturated fat and sugar (e.g. Minstrels) is going to end up pretty high.

Minstrels are 212 calories a bag.  If you're a woman on a fairly restricted daily calorie intake - say, 1200, which is pretty low - that represents one sixth of your daily calories.  Minstrels are 11 SP a bag.  If you're a woman on the lower end of the SP allowance - say, 31 (which is 29 dailies plus 2 out of your 14 weeklies) - then the Minstrels now represent a third of your intake.  It's obviously not quite as straightforward as that, what with fruit and vegetables being 0 SP, but it is a marked difference.

There will be many people out there who will say yes, but you shouldn't be eating a bag of Minstrels every day - I even said a similar thing myself a few posts ago.  To which I answer yes, I shouldn't.  But it shows a marked lack of understanding of the mentality of many dieters to tell them this.  Say to them - you could eat a bag of Minstrels every day, or you could use your points on slightly bigger portions at dinner and a good proportion of the time they'll go for the latter option.  Say to them - you shouldn't eat a bag of Minstrels everyday and we're going to make it bloody hard for you to do so and heels get dug in.

Or my heels do at least.

Anyway, I'm on day 4 of the first week and I'm still on track with, for all my griping, points to spare.  I just am feeling a bit Gollumesque over that weekly bank...

Image result for Gollum gif

Still, onwards and (hopefully!) downwards chaps.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Smart Points review - one day in

Weight Watchers relaunched their points based counting system at the end of last year with Pro Points  (PP) evolving into Smart Points (SP).  Now I, personally, had a lot of success on Pro Points and found it relatively easy to balance everything within my allowance.  My initial impression is that this is going to be a lot harder to do on Smart Points.

For the uninitiated - every Weight Watchers member has a daily points allowance and an additional "bank" of points that can be drawn on throughout the week.  Both the daily and the weekly allowances decrease as you lose weight.  In addition, exercise earns you "Fit Points" which can be swapped for food once you've earned more than a set amount - which amount rises as you lose weight to make you work harder.  With me?

My daily points allowance on SP is about the same as on PP, my weekly bank has decreased by 7.  So, overall, fewer points.  I think I'm going to be needing those Fit Points, especially as most foods, with the exception of some lean proteins, have gone up.

I wasn't particularly organised today, and had to buy lunch from our on-site shop.  I chose fairly wisely - a sandwich that, at 370 calories would have come in at 9-10 PP and a small pot of low fat yoghurt.  The sandwich turned out to be 11 SP and the yoghurt a whopping 4 SP.  Ouch. Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for supper came in relatively low though, so it balanced out.

It feels, though, that Weight Watchers really don't want me to consume anything containing any amount of sugar or fat.  I adore butter, and used to be able to get 7g for 1 PP, which was enough for decent coverage on a slice of toast.  The same amount is now 3 SP.  Any and all sweet treats have gone up - a two finger Kit Kat, for example, has gone from 3 PP to 5 SP a bar.  All of these increases, combined with the lower allowances, makes it feel a lot more restrictive and "diet-ey".

I've come in bang on my daily allowance today but more by luck than judgement - I need to spend the weekend doing some careful planning to allow me to stretch those Smart Points further.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Oh woe, oh woe, back to WW we go

So, thoroughly disenchanted with WW, especially after the change to Smart Points, I decided that I needed to find an alternative plan.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was trying something but wanted to give it a fair shot before writing about it.

Cue hollow laugh.

The thing was, I was sick to the back teeth of counting.  I wanted to do something else and what I came up with was the 5:2 plan, which involves having two fast days a week and eating normally the rest of the time.  My reasoning was that, OK, the fast days would be thoroughly miserable and would involve some form of counting to ensure that I came in under 500 cals, but the rest of the time would be "normal" eating - exactly what I craved.

The fundamental problem was that it turns out I am RUBBISH at fast days.  I think I managed one properly - perhaps two - and hated them.  And I struggled with choosing the days.  It couldn't be the weekend.  It couldn't be on a Monday because that's tutorial day and I can't concentrate on seven hours of tax legislation on an empty stomach.  So that left Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  But Tuesday and Thursday are the good exercise class days - Tuesday is Body Combat followed by Aqua Aerobics, and Thursday is Clubbercise and I was nervous about exercising on 500 calories. I messed around and, basically, didn't achieve anything.

So I'm accepting the inevitable and dragging myself back to WW.  I am going to give Smart Points a good go - my gym buddy A has lost a stone and a half in the last few weeks so it clearly works.  I have bought a Fitbit and linked it to my account so that I can rack up Fit Points which I will probably swap for food, accepting that this will mean a slower loss.

As far as I can gather, Smart Points is pushing people towards a high protein, low fat, low sugar diet.  Which sounds rather joyless but, as ever, I will be trying to bend it to my tastes as much as possible and report back here as to the results.  I'm not necessarily going to publish Smart Points on the recipes that I post though, because I really like the freedom of just sharing stuff that I like without having to write a "Sorry, this is so high in points..." precursor.  As ever, if you want the Smart Points then please just drop me an email.

D also wants to drop some weight and has decided to do a month of Dukan - which is also geared towards high protein and low fat, so the two should mesh fairly well, although I am far too greedy to give up carbs altogether, which is pretty much what he is intending to do.  Again, I'll let you know how that goes.  Once he is in "Cruise" phase, which allows some vegetables, I can see the spiraliser getting a LOT of use which will be interesting.

Wish me luck my loves.  For the fifty one billionth time.

Monday, 28 March 2016

TWTWTW: Easter 2016

The weather outside may be frightful (par for the course during a UK Bank Holiday weekend) but here, chez WWF, all is peaceful.  Apart from the feline member of the household who was bombing around just a minute ago - not sure what it is she is chasing.

So on Wednesday we took ourselves off to Whitby for a couple of nights.  The colour theme of the sojourn can pretty much be summed up by this picture:


Very Grey.  But hey, you don't go the seaside for sunshine.  You go for atmosphere.  You go to take random pictures of seagulls:



You go for FISH AND CHIPS:


That plateful of loveliness is brought to you courtesy of Trencher's which I heartily recommend to you if you find yourself in Whitby and don't fancy queuing outside the Magpie.  I really liked the fact that they offered a small portion which was perfectly Seren sized.  I can never manage all the chips in a standard - when D and I get takeaway I always push for two fish and one chips between us.

Ha, but check out what happened on the Friday that we were heading back to Leeds:


The Weather Gods can be right bastards sometimes.

In other Easter tidings, I made my first ever batch of hot cross buns:


Yes, not things of beauty, are they?  They tasted nice though - a denser, breadier texture than shop bought offerings.  My next attempt will up the spice content, but the basic recipe I used can be found here.

Some sad news cast the slightest of shadows over the long weekend; my parents' beautiful tabby cat, Minnie, has been diagnosed with a tumour and is only like to be with us for a few more weeks.  I got the chance to see her yesterday and she is still in very good health and spirits, eating well and quite happy, so it looks as if the rest of her time here will be peaceful and content, as, indeed, was her whole life.  She will be very much missed.  I wrote a bit about her here.  Minx has kindly agreed that this week, Minnie should provide the obligatory cat picture.


Friday, 18 March 2016

TWTWTW: vet, 80s, teriyaki

I've been quiet all week - full of cold and rather sulky.

Obligatory cute cat picture


Minx went to the vet this week for her yearly jabs and was an angel throughout. The vet commented that she was a "perfect" weight, a rarity in our household. She doesn't appear to be overly bothered by food and will graze from her bowls throughout the day as and when she remembers. A salutary lesson for us all.

I go back to the 80s

I am writing this before the week is truly over, prior to heading down to London for an 80s themed birthday party. I have packed fingerless gloves and blue eyeshadow and will probably need to be steaming before I set foot outside the hotel room. Being aged 0-9 in the 80s, I wasn't particularly au fait with the fashions so have spent some interesting sessions on Pinterest acquainting myself with what passed for style back in the day. I am hoping for proper retro buffet snacks - cheese and pineapple on sticks, Monster Munch...oooh, boil in the bag fish! Not really a buffet snack but I remember eating it a lot as a child - can you still get it?

I do not quite succeed at lamb teriyaki

There has been a dish on the Wagamamas menu for a while now of teriyaki lamb with wasabi and pea noodles of which I have always liked the idea. I tried to make something similar this week and although it was fine it didn't blow my socks off. Perhaps my mistake was, per this recipe, making the teriyaki sauce from component parts - perhaps it's one of those things that you just have to buy pre-made. If anyone has any teriyaki tips then please let me know - I am sure that this dish has potential but I need to have a bit of a rethink.

Have a good weekend dear readers (insert witty sign off here).

Sunday, 13 March 2016

That was the week that was

I want to get into the habit of doing the odd round up post. As I get older, I get increasingly forgetful - although it might be the effect of gin rather than years - and lots of lovely things get consumed and then never make it as far as the blog.

Plus it will give me an excuse to throw in Cute Cat Picture of the week:


My culinary horizons are expanded

Last night, if I had been wearing a hat I would have been forced to eat it. We went for dinner with friends and got the opportunity to sample some authentic, home cooked South African food. I, having looked up bobotie online, was not convinced. But it turns out to be divine! Somehow the richness of the meat and the complexity of the spices perfectly balances with the sweetness. I am really quite tempted to try and make it myself. I do not, however, intend to garnish it with banana (sorry, Les) - that was just one step too far from my palate.

Oh, also, peri peri chicken livers. You NEED these in your life, dear readers.

We order too much Thai food

In the hope of reviving my occasional "Cheap Eats in Leeds" series, D and I had dinner at Leeds institution Thai Aroy Dee. Unfortunately, I was tired and he was grumpy after a whole broken glasses saga, so we clearly ordered far too much food and came in over the £30 mark. Mind, we ended up taking an awful lot of it away to eat the following day. We intend to return and give it another go.

Giant Couscous is my new favourite thing

Served this week with lamb and haggis meatballs, roasted aubergine and a creamy aubergine purée - this little grain is an absolute revelation! It has made me think that I need to be a bit more creative with my staple carbs and mix up the standard pasta, rice and potatoes rotation.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday lovelies...(insert witty sign off here).

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Cooking with Yorkshire rapeseed oil



The latest product that I've been lucky enough to try as part of my ongoing quest to be the BBC Good Food Show's most annoyingly enthusiastic blogger was some fabulously garlicky rapeseed oil. Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil is produced over in North Yorkshire not far from my old stomping ground of York and, to be honest, was an easy sell. D and I always tend to use rapeseed oil as our house standard not just because it is a local thang but also because we love the flavour - light, very slightly grassy, very slightly nutty, it is great on its own and perfect for cooking. Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil for the win.

I must admit that, in the past, I've thought the idea of flavoured oils slightly gimmicky but this garlic oil may well have started to convert me. The problem with garlic is that it is very, very easy to burn - adding a subtle garlic hit through oil instead is genius. I used it to roast tomatoes and aubergine earlier this week and was very pleased with the results.


Along with the oil itself, I received a book whose title I have shamelessly poached for this post which made for very interesting reading, not least because the number of cake and pudding recipes in there really emphasised the versatility of rapeseed oil. I do have a tendency to reach for butter when I'm baking but I'd definitely be up for using oil as an alternative. From a health point of view I've completely lost track of where we are in the whole good fat, bad fat, three bags full fat debate, I'm mainly interested in using the best tools for the job. If oil makes a good cake or a good scone then, fine, I'm on it.

Dipping my toe in these waters, I knocked up a batch of cheese and garlic oatcakes using the garlic oil. The results made me wonder why I ever buy oatcakes. Give them a go - maybe with different flavoured oils (my book tells me that Yorkshire Rapeseed oil also make herby oil, peppery oil and spicy oil - the tinkers) or different cheese or (sob!) no cheese.


Ingredients

120g oatmeal
25g mature cheddar, finely grated
Tbsp garlic rapeseed oil
Up to 50ml freshly boiled water

Makes 8-10 oatcakes

Top cook tip! Don't have any oatmeal to hand? Just do as I did and blitz any oats you have knocking around the cupboard (I used a 50:50 blend of jumbo rolled oats and steel pin cut oats).

Preheat the oven to 160 and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Place your oatmeal, or blitzed oats, into a large bowl with the finely grated cheddar, plenty of black pepper and a pinch of salt, and toss together lightly.

Pour in the oil and, preferably using your hand in a sort of claw shape, gradually combine with the dry ingredients. Add the water a drop at a time until the mixture comes together into a soft dough.

For shaping these babies, I found the easiest thing was to take a small piece of dough, form into a ball and press flat between my two palms. The result is somewhat more rustic than the picture in the book but it worked and was amusing to do.

Bake the oatcakes for 20 mins or so until firm and golden and beginning to brown at the edges. It's advisable to flip them halfway through cooking to ensure an even bake.

Scoff. Preferably with additional cheese.

Thank you, Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Top Notch Brunch Spot: Ox Club, Leeds

I mentioned Ox Club in passing a couple of weeks ago as a top notch brunch spot.  After visiting it for a second time this Sunday (D treated me as a Mother's Day gift from the cat) I decided it deserved a write up all of its very own.

Mainly, because the food was, again, absolutely gorgeous.  But also because I decided to be a proper blogger and take some "mood" shots of glasses of water and whatnot to set the scene.



D says that you can't just put your cutlery at a funny angle to your orange juice and call it "art".  I, respectfully, disagree (and think that he should have moved his hand further out of shot).  And here, I instagrammed the bejeezus out of a Bloody Mary:


Because a bit of Tilt Shift (not to mention a stiff vodka first thing in the morning) makes EVERYTHING BETTER.

But, to more important matters - just feast your eyes on this, the current menu (or, if you can't make that out, the website can be found here):


How is it possible not to want to eat every single thing on there?  Last time we went, we both had the Korean fried chicken and I very nearly ordered it again because it was such a paragon of brunch time yumminess.  I was strong though, and went for the Huevos Rancheros that popped up on the Specials' Board.  You'll see the picture is decidedly more functional since I wanted less art and more food in my face at that point:


Two perfectly cooked, fudgy-yolked eggs, a generous scoop of black beans and a salsa that had a generous hum of chilli and coriander all perched on top of a couple of very pretty, purple corn tortillas.  Lovely.



D was similarly appreciative of the steak and cheddar eggs, particularly the skill with which the steak was cooked to a perfect, blushing pink.  We also both commented on the well judged portion sizes - the last thing you want after brunch is to feel so full that you need to go back to bed for a nap.

What I especially like about Ox Club is that yes, you can have your Full English, but a lot of the other options are a wee bit different, offering a real departure point from other venues.  It remains to be seen how frequently the menu will change, but the inclusion of specials is a pleasing sign, suggesting that the kitchen has the potential to stay on its toes.

Worth bearing in mind is that the service, certainly on a Sunday morning, is very friendly and very chilled - this is a place to linger rather than expect to swoop in and out.  Save that for another day of the week and another restaurant.  One party decided not to stay, citing the lack of vegetarian options - and OK, if you don't want something sweet and there are no specials on, you'd be restricted to avocado toast - or toast with baked beans and house fries cobbled together from the "Extras" section (which I personally don't think is much of a restriction myself).  Again, just worth bearing in mind (although English breakfasts don't tend to be particularly veggie friendly wherever you go).

Amongst the rest of the clientele, though, one hour after opening, the place was full of people enjoying good coffee and excellent food.  It is definitely our new favourite place to brunch in Leeds and we're already considering going back for an evening service to see if the kitchen retains its high standards later in the day.  Hopefully, for your sake dear reader, it will be too dark on that occasion for any more photos...

Ox Club @ Headrow House
The Headrow
Leeds
LS1 6PU

07470 359961 (NB: they currently don't take reservations for brunch)
info@oxclub.co.uk

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The BBC Good Food Spring Show - more news!

The sun is shining today and there is definitely more than a touch of Spring in the air so I can officially start to get even more excited about the forthcoming Good Food show. And what could be more exciting than a whole host of amazing producers from the good county of Yorkshire trying to sell us all food.

Now confirmed as having stalls are:

York & Dulgent fudge - prizes for the clever reader who manages to guess a) where they are based and b) what they make. I love fudge and am intrigued by some of the flavours mentioned on the website.  Raspberry and prosecco are two of my favourite things and united in the medium of fudge - this I need to try.  I'm rather taken with the notion of limoncello fudge as well.

Amos and Tom's popcorn - now, oooooh! I do love popcorn and, as everybody knows, it is practically health food.  Even when it is sea salted caramel flavour...

Sloemotion - top marks for the punning name here. I believe that D and I have tried their sloe gin in the past to decided nods of approval but I hadn't appreciated that they do a range of other products, so will definitely be having a good sniff around their stall. Bramble whisky sounds very interesting indeed.

Patrick Macarons and Patisserie - an entirely new brand to me, but, Patrick, you had me at macaron.  And then you had me still further at "Forced rhubarb and ginger". I do like a macaron and they strike me as the kind of thing that one should never attempt to bake oneself but to leave safely in the hands of the experts. Like Patrick. It's my father in law's 70th birthday during the weekend of the show and I reckon a box of macarons would be a very classy way to mark the occasion.

Will bring you more news as I get it (that phrase makes me feel like a roving reporter!) and if you are planning to attend the show then let me know - I'll meet you by the macarons.

Monday, 7 March 2016

MPM: 7th March 2016



Morning meal planners! And how are we this fine Monday morning? Actually, I don't know if it is fine because I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon. There is a bit of a blue sky over North Leeds at the moment which is nice after yesterday's freak snow storms.

We're doing one final week of meals from the freezer and, taken together, it looks rather meaty so lots of lighter, veggie based lunches methinks. D is out one night and we're seeing friends next weekend, so only four meals on the planner at the moment and very nice they sound too:

Spaghetti Bolognese (sauce from freezer)
Lamb and haggis meatballs (yes, mince and Haggis from the freezer) with giant couscous and smoky aubergine purée
Venison sausages (from the freezer!) with mash and red onion gravy
Homemade pizza (base and sauce from...ALL TOGETHER NOW...the freezer!) with blue cheese, salami, walnuts and rosemary

What will be delighting and delecting your taste buds this week? More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

To all the Mums

It is Mothers' Day this Sunday. Yes a gimmick, yes a cynical attempt from the card companies and florists to extract money, yes cheesy. But it's nice to stop and think about mothers and what they do from time to time. I know I'm guilty of not doing it enough.

I went for afternoon tea with my Mum on Thursday, at Harvey Nichols:


Which was lovely (albeit FILLING). What was even more lovely was the chance to spend some time together, just the two of us. We gossiped, pored over the Charlotte Tilbury counter in the HN beauty hall and generally idled away a couple of hours in very girlish and pleasing style.

Our relationship has not always been easy over the years - we're very alike which makes us very close but, equally, capable of hurting each other very much when things get fraught. She's a worrier and I know she constantly frets about not just me but all the family, which drains her and makes her tense. If I could wish her one thing this Mothers' Day it would be the chance to put all her worries into a big balloon and let them go for a little while.

Picture from pusheen.com
I would also remind her of how the next years are going to be AMAZING. She and my Dad are having adventures all over the world, she has two beautiful grandchildren whom we are all excited to watch grow (not to mention a beautiful if highly strung grand-cat) and her children are happy and healthy and secure so her job is done and done well.

So happy Mothers' Day Mum, I think about you and worry about you more than you know and am always, always wishing you lhos.

And to all Mums out there, doing a difficult and sometimes unrecognised job - have a good weekend and remember that raising the next generation is probably the most important work in the world. The future is literally in your hands. Kudos and - keep going. But remember to demand breakfast in bed on Sunday.

Monday, 29 February 2016

MPM: 29th February 2016

Huh. So you know that I said that last week we were eating down the freezer in preparation for an influx of meat? Well, said meat didn't arrive when it was supposed to arrive. The good people of Westin Gourmet will be feeling my wrath this morning. And by wrath I mean that I will be phoning up and murmuring very politely that I was slightly disappointed that I had ordered something for a certain date and they haven't, you know, fulfilled their end of the bargain and I hate to be a pain but, you know, could they please let me know when I can expect all my meat to turn up (thankyouplease). Yeah, I'm quite British when it comes to being wrathful on the phone.

Still living in hope that we shall be awash with meat at some point this week, we have another round of freezer diving planned, with a couple of other top notch dishes thrown in for good measure. On Thursday, I am taking la mere out for afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols, so a nice, light bowl of soup is all that will be required in the evening. Other than that, the week looks fairly uneventful. Hurrah for a quiet life!

So, this is what the menu plan looks like:

Tuna steaks with wasabi and lime mayonnaise in brioche buns with oven baked French fries (from the freezer) on the side
Cholent (from the freezer) with crusty bread for dunking
Fish pie
Caribbean chicken soup (from the freezer)
Oxtail and chorizo stew (from the freezer) with mashed potato
Vada pav (Mumbai potato "burgers") with okra fries - D is aiming to recreate a dish from our beloved Bundobust. Nothing in this dish is coming from the freezer.

Have a good week's eating friends! And wish me luck in my Meat Mission...

Friday, 26 February 2016

Sloth

I have never been a big fan of exercise, being more akin to a sloth than any other creature in God's green Earth.  My nickname is not Sleepy Slouj for nothing.

Sloth.  Or me?  Image taken from https://gifts.worldwildlife.org
What I really want though (really, really, want) is to have a healthy, balanced approach to not just food but life in general, and exercise and fitness have to play a part in that, however much I would like to hide away from it (preferably in a pillow fort with my cat).

Recently, a friend of mine (well, I suppose officially she is a friend of D's but I am nicking her because she is the only person I know who gets as overexcited as me at the prospect of a Space NK discount code) tentatively suggested going to a class at the local fitness centre, on the strict proviso that we stand at the back.  The class in question was Clubbercise, which is basically just prancing around in the semi dark with disco lights and glow sticks.  It is waaaay more fun than doggedly stomping away on a treadmill.  And, subsequently, we have tried Aqua Aerobics (which I also love although have to spend most of the class attempting to stop my boobs making a break for freedom) and Kick Fit (great stress reliever).

I won't go so far as to say that I am a gym bunny, but I do find classes to be quite motivating and it is lovely to have someone to go with.  I have gone so far as to sign up for a monthly membership (the rolling kind which can be cancelled at any point - I know myself and the limits to my enthusiasm pretty well).  I'm very unfit at the moment, but I hope a few weeks of regular attendance will see a marked improvement.  Now that the weather is becoming distinctly more spring like, I'm hoping to get my walking boots on and if I could get up a hill without sounding like The Little Engine That Could, I would count that as a major achievement.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Recipe corner: American style chocolate chunk cookies

Picture courtesy of zazzle.co.uk  How cute is this fabric? 
I sometimes think that people (and I most definitely include myself in that all encompassing term) have forgotten what a treat actually is.

A treat is not something to be consumed every day - certainly not in any quantity. It is something to be anticipated, something to savour, something special.

When I was a young kid, sweets were for weekends and fizzy drinks for high days and holidays. The only pudding we tended to have during the week, if at all, was yoghurt. And then oh, the giddy joy at going to the sweet shop on a Friday to pick out the evening's delicacy (rhubarb and custards, or Munchies, or the wonderous thing that is a Caramac) or the pleasure taken in the sponge pudding or a crumble after Sunday lunch.

As I got older, of course this was less enforceable and, being a teenager with a remarkably sweet tooth, visits to the school tuck shop were a pretty standard part of the day. But now, as I get older still, I quite like the idea of going back to that mentality where a treat is not for every day. I want that sense of anticipation, and that sense of specialness that makes sweetmeats all the sweeter.

So I made cookie dough and shaped it into a log and I wrapped it in cling film and consigned it to the freezer so that I can bake up a slice from frozen every now and again. An oozing, chocolatey cookie, soft in the centre with a suspicion of crunch around the edge, headily scented with vanilla and on the verge of being slightly too sweet, that sort of cookie definitely falls into the treat category. Especially if consumed within minutes of coming out of the oven so it is still warm and the chocolate is liquid and smudges your fingers. I do not intend to bake up a cookie every day. But, if I am going to make my treats really count, this is definitely the way to go.

Use any kind of chocolate you like. I'm thinking about making the next batch with Smarties.

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
1 medium egg
Tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
100g chocolate, chopped into chunks

Cream together the butter and the sugar until soft and fluffy. Stir in the egg and the vanilla extract.

Sieve the flour and the baking powder into the mix, add the salt and stir and, finally, fold through the chocolate chunks. The mixture should be soft and malleable, like Playdoh.

Spread a large piece of cling film on the work surface and tip out the cookie dough. Use your hands to push the mixture together and shape it like a log. Then wrap the clingfilm round and roll it, so the log rounds out and becomes a sausage. Freeze.

When coming to bake, preheat the oven to 170. Use a sharp knife to take off a slice of dough - any size you like but the log should yield at least 12. Sit in on baking paper on a tray in the oven for 11 minutes. When you take it out the middle will still looked uncooked, but it will become former as it cools. The edges should just be turning golden brown.

Wait a few minutes (anticipation, remember?) and then dive in, face first. Heave a contented sigh.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Recipe corner: Vietnamese style braised pork with vegetable fried rice

Believe me when I say that you have to make this dish.  I mean, I know that I probably say that about all of them but this one is an absolute must cook.

In the last few years, D and I have made an effort to make more Sunday roasts.  I love a Sunday roast, I really do, but it is one of those things that I didn’t make myself until I was well into my twenties.  And there is no question that it can be a bit of a faff; the individual processes may be easy, but timing everything to be ready together is less so and the whole faffiness is exacerbated when you are working with a tiny kitchen and a distinct lack of dishwasher.   Nevertheless, it is a proud British tradition and one that we have tried to embrace at least a couple of times a month.

What is also a proud British tradition (at least, it certainly was for my grandparents and probably my parents too) is “leftovers day” when the remainder of the joint is served up for supper in cunning disguise. I love leftovers day as much, if not more, than I love the roast.  Sometimes, I’ll just opt for cold meat with a side dish, or even sandwiches (roast beef and horseradish sandwiches are a thing of beauty and joy forever) but I have been trying to get a bit more clever.  That is where this recipe comes in.

In the top five countdown of roasting joints, pork has always scored fairly low for us – there is nothing wrong with pork but it’s not a favourite.  D has now declared that pork must move higher up the rotation of roasts so that we can make this leftovers dish on a regular basis.  And who am I to deny him.

We spied this recipe on the Guardian site (an excellent resource for foodies – so many interesting recipes to browse through) where the author in turn adapted it from a recipe book, and so the recipe Chinese whispers go on.  I reduced it down to two portions (while upping the meat quotient slightly) and served with a lovely stir fried veg and egg rice, which I am expect is entirely non Vietnamese but was just what I fancied and worked terribly well. 

Ingredients

200g cold roast pork, chopped into chunks

Tsp. black peppercorns
Tsp. coarse salt
Tsp. soft brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic
Shallot, finely chopped
Tbsp. fish sauce

2 tsp. soft brown sugar
100ml boiling water
100ml coconut milk

90g basmati rice
Selection of stir fry veg (I used spring onions, baby corn and sugar snap peas)
Clove of garlic, crushed
Tbsp vegetable oil
Medium egg
Pinch of chilli flakes
Splash of fish sauce

In a pestle and mortar, bash together the peppercorns, salt, one teaspoon of the sugar and the garlic until it forms a murky looking paste.   Stir this, along with the shallot, through the pork and set aside while you make the caramel. 

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, place the remaining two teaspoons of sugar over a low heat.  Resist the urge to stir but swirl the pan from time to time to ensure that it is melting evenly.  Meanwhile, stick the kettle on to boil, weigh your rice into the bottom of a steamer pan and slice your veg to suit.  Keep half an eye on the sugar as it will go from caramel to sticky, burnt mess very quickly.

Once the caramel is golden brown and liquid, add the boiling water.  It will bubble up, so exercise a degree of caution.  Allow to bubble frantically for a couple of minutes and then add the coconut milk.  Stir briskly to combine and then throw in the pork and combine everything well.  Reduce
the heat as low as it will go and simmer for around ten minutes.

Cover the rice in water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.  Once it is boiling, turn the heat down and put the veg, in a steamer basket, over the boiling water.  Cover.

After five minutes, remove the vegetables.  Re-cover the rice and turn the heat off.  Allow it to steam for a further five or so minutes until cooked through. 

Heat the oil in a wok or large pan and stir fry the lightly steamed vegetables.  After a couple of minutes, stir through the crushed garlic and cook a little more until the garlic smell has lost its raw edge.  While these are cooking, lightly beat your egg with seasoning and chilli flakes.

Once the veg are beginning to soften but still retain some bite, you can stir through the rice.  Then, make a well in the centre and pour in the egg.  Once it has started to lightly set, mix through the rest of the ingredients.  Add a splash of fish sauce and check the seasoning. 

Check the seasoning of the pork as well – you may need to add more sugar or more fish sauce to get the sweet / salt balance just to your liking (although I found that these measurements worked perfectly).

Serve, and thank goodness for roast dinners and leftovers.

Monday, 22 February 2016

MPM: 22nd February 2016



Certain eagle eyed readers (hello, Mum!) will have noticed that there was a recipe for Vietnamese braised pork up here at the end of last week which has now vanished, for which I wholeheartedly blame the Blogpress app. I went in to correct a spelling and it did something funky to the formatting of the entire piece. Perhaps it is progressive - perhaps it believes that this is the way that blogs of the future are supposed to look, with varying line lengths and weirdly floating margins but I say, NO. And I deleted the app in a fit of pique and returned the blog post to draft status until I can get to a computer to rectify that damage / questionable style decisions. 

I suppose the actual lesson is to proof read things properly in the first place and to try and pretend to be a proper writer as opposed to someone who just dashes off stuff in between bites of the Real Life cherry. That's how bloggers get book deals, people. Although, I am most disappointed to note that despite the fact I have spiralised every week since the turn of the year and baked spelt bread I have not suddenly developed flawless skin, swishy hair, tight buns, a six figure readership and a similarly pearly toothed agent. Disappointing.

So, this week's meal is mainly courtesy of the murky depths of our freezer. Last week I ordered a hamper of meat from an online butcher because it was too good an offer to turn down. I now have to work out how to store said hamper of meat when it turns up on the doorstep next Friday. To this end, D and I had the shelves of the freezer out on the kitchen floor today trying to do an inventory cum tidy up. 

D is out on Thursday so I will have one of my favourite quick suppers - filled tortellini (from the freezer, bien sur) tossed with butter, Parmesan and lots of black pepper. We're both out for dinner on Friday and Sunday is, as yet, unplanned. Elsewhere this week:

Cullen skink 
Leftover lamb biryani with cucumber raita and homemade flatbreads
Sausage and bean casserole
Steak (from afore mentioned meat hamper) and oven baked French Fries

More meal planning shenanigans to be found over at Mrs M's.

Monday, 15 February 2016

MPM: 15th February 2016



It is Sunday afternoon as I write this and Sounds of the Seventies is on in the background. Satisfyingly Sundayish. This weekend has mainly been about cooking - a four course Valentine's extravaganza last night (very good, if I do say myself and which probably merits a blogpost of its own) and pottering with the Sunday roast today. So far, I've parboiled potatoes, and made a herby carrot mash and cauliflower. cheese to accompany the pork shoulder. Frankly, I don't think we'll need the meat.

So, what does this week look like meal planning wise?

I'm out on Thursday - off down to London to see Matthew Perry's play. Yes, I know the review have been awful, but I was a teenager in the nineties and convinced that I was going to end up Mrs Matthew Perry (or, more accurately, Mrs Chandler Bing). I couldn't not see it, and even though I will spend eight hours getting there and back on a National Express coach, I am squeeingly excited. D will have to fend for himself.

We had chilli scheduled for Saturday but might need to eat down the freezer a bit before attempting to squeeze another batch cook in there. Otherwise, we have:

Leftover chilli crab cakes (from Saturday night) with salady bits
A mussel spaghetti, similar in style to this one to use up some leftover mussels (from Saturday night. Are you sensing a theme?)
Vietnamese style braised roast pork with vegetable egg fried rice
Mackerel fillets with a giant couscous salad
Roast lamb

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Cinnamon raisin spelt bread and Mercer's preserves

So if you find yourself at the BBC Good Food Spring Show (hard to say after an afternoon on the gin) in Harrogate this April one of the lovely stalls will be run by the good people of Mercer's of Yorkshire. A Yorkshire based company run by a husband and wife, they sell a lovely selection of preserves and sauces. Having been sampling their delectable lemon curd and onion marmalade (not necessarily together) this month, I can confirm that they are definitely worth checking out.

I was particularly taken with the lemon curd which is a real favourite of mine but one of those things that I never bother to make myself because other people do it so well. When we were kids, my brother wouldn't eat "jam with bits" - i.e. pretty much all jam - so we tended to get through a lot of lemon curd (and seedless raspberry which to my mind now is something of a travesty). Standard Saturday breakfast was baguette slathered with butter and curd and very lovely it was too.

Given my recently discovered mania for bread making, I decided to bake a loaf which would work with both of these products. Spelt flour is slightly harder to work with than the standard stuff but it yields a gorgeous, nutty tasting loaf with a slightly cakey texture that toasts well. I would recommend spreading thickly with soft goats' cheese before dolloping on the onion marmalade - the cinnamon and raisin combo really complements the salt / sweet / sour flavour profile. Equally, just spread thickly with curd and perhaps a little creme fraiche, it is utterly delectable.


Ingredients

250g wholemeal spelt flour (if you can't find it in your local supermarket, Holland and Barratt or similar health food stores stock it)
Tsp salt
Tsp fast acting yeast
Tsp sugar
Tsp ground cinnamon
30g raisins
Tbsp vegetable oil (I like rapeseed)
200ml cool water (you may not use all of it)

This is a sticky dough, so best made in a stand mixer with dough hook attachment. If you make it by hand, prepare to get messy.

Tip your flour, raisins, cinnamon and sugar into the mixing bowl. Add the salt to one side of the mixture and the yeast to the other so they're not touching. I don't know the specific reason for this, but Paul "Silver Fox" Hollywood tells me that never the twain shall meet and I believe him.

Set the mixer on to its lowest setting and pour in the oil and then gradually add the water. You'll need somewhere between 150ml and the free amount - enough for the mixture to come together in a shaggy dough. Once it has formed a rough ball, ratchet up the mixer and let it do its thang for about 5 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky, but elastic.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and prove for an hour.

Grease or line a loaf tin and tip in the proved dough. Give it a second prove for twenty five minutes. It's obviously working on a very hard theorem. While this second prove is going ahead, preheat the oven to 200.

Bake for around 30 mins, or until the internal temperature has reached around 200 degrees. Allow to cool slightly before falling on it armed with butter knife and topping of choice.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Look!

The BBC Good Food Spring Blogging Community website is now live! It's here! There's me!

I'll be sharing a recipe with you this weekend which works beyootifully with a couple of the lovely Yorkshire preserves that I received to try this month so be sure and keep you eyes peeled (peeled I tell you!) for that. And do check out all the other blogs on the list (but remember that I'm your favourite...)

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Of cabbages, kings, diets and...fried chicken

The very lovely Steph has been writing a lot recently about CBT with relation to food and eating disorders and it makes for interesting reading. I was particularly struck by what she has to say about being a WW member and how it contributed to having a wacky approach to food because it has been on my mind of late.

The holy grail of the diet world is two fold - to be a healthy weight AND to have a relaxed relationship with food. At the moment, it feels like when I am NOT following WW, but just eating in a natural, instinctive, normal way, I hit point number two. I maintain my weight without difficulty, I gravitate towards a balanced diet, my portions are sensible, my appetite regulated. The moment I start up with the pointing, that goes out of the window. Food is defined as good or bad depending on whether it fits into that day's allowance. Days are also defined as good or bad - or perhaps on or off is a better term. When you're on, it's fine, but when you're off, you spend the time in a sort of feeding frenzy, consuming all the foodstuffs you won't be able to have when you're back on, whether or not you really fancy them at this point in time.

Is this making sense to anyone but me?

The problem I have at the moment is that to be mentally healthy, I don't think following a diet plan (this sort of issue is by no means exclusive to WW) is the right thing to do. But to be in better physical health, I need to be slimmer - no two ways about it. And I don't know how to balance both. I'm trying something a bit different at the moment but I don't want to say too much until I've given it a fair shot. I'm planning to stick with it for the next six weeks (which also happens to be Lent) and assess where I'm at come Easter, at which point I will share more with you.

Right, that's that.

In other news, our quest to find the best brunch venue in Leeds may be at a premature end because I can't imagine anything beating this:


It's Korean fried chicken with wild rice, kimchi and pickled cucumber topped with a crispy fried egg and it is served at a recently opened venue called Ox Club. The menu is DREAMY. But even in the face of such delights as ricotta pancakes with honeycomb and berries, or corned beef and kale hash, both D and I had to order the chicken and neither of us could stop making yummy noises the entire time that we were eating it. The service is friendly but laid back to the point of almost comatose - I wouldn't recommend this place if you like to be in and out quickly. But if you're happy to linger over coffee (which I think is fine at brunch) then go! Eat fried chicken for breakfast! Be glad you live in such a decadent age!

Monday, 8 February 2016

MPM: 8th February 2016

I wonder if the fact that Chinese New Year, Pancake Day and Valentine's Day have fallen in the same week this year is an indication of some sort of forthcoming Foodie Apocalypse. Certainly, it spells Likely Doom for the dieter hoping for a good result on the scales. And also Not Much Fun for people who have schlepped over here to read an entertaining meal planning post.

So in between Chinese food (we're going to Red Chilli in Leeds which has featured on this blog before - it's fab), pancakes (bacon and maple syrup or lemon juice and sugar?) and a three course romantic extravaganza, what will we be eating? Not much! We have the remains of a roast chicken in the fridge so I can see us just grazing on that throughout the week. By Sunday, we will probably have eschewed cutlery altogether and just be chewing happily at the carcass. Nice.

For actual meal planning, do, please feel free to check out the lovely people over at Mrs M's.