Monday, 29 September 2014

MPM: 29th September 2014

I spent the weekend at a Guardian masterclass called "Free Your Creativity" (possible subtitle: get off your bloody arse and get writing, you noodle).  It was good fun but I feel terribly tired today.  Apparently, two days of being creative in a room full of supportive strangers really takes it out of you (rolls eyes at self).

Part of it is that I'm a terrible homebody; I find being away from my safe environment not a little stressful.  As I arrived back, D had the gin and tonic ready poured, and the cat, gratifyingly pleased to see me, started chirruping from the top of the stairs, and only then did that little knot of anxiety start to melt away.  I think the scent of chicken stew, which is one of the most comforting smells in the world, probably helped too.

Anyway, back to routine and back to meal planning, albeit hopefully with routine slightly adjusted to allow me some time every day to sit and doodle in a my expressly-bought-for-the-purpose Moleskine.  I am tired of saying that I want to be a writer - what I actually mean is, writing is what I want to do and if it remains a personal indulgence that is never inflicted on the rest of the world, then that is absolutely fine.

Yes, meal planning - I keep getting horribly distracted, don't I?  It's all that freed creativity zooming around...

Mussel paella
Macaroni cheese

Chunky pea and ham soup

Cardamom butter chicken

Confit duck leg

Revisiting a few old blog recipes there which should be nice, as well as having another run through of our Christmas day dish on which I shall report back if things go to plan.  Have a lovely week all, and, hopefully there will be more meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Call yourself a foodie?

I have often thought about including daily food diary posts on here. There’s a blog linky called What I Ate Wednesday dedicated to just that and I think they’re fascinating – I love to see what people are eating.

I’ve never worked up the nerve to do it though, and the main reason for this is the title of the blog which was invented on a whim without any real thought whatsoever. I made the mistake of referring to myself as a foodie. Which is probably giving a false impression.

I love to eat and I love to cook and I spend such an inordinate amount of time thinking about what goes in my gob that it is a wonder that I remain gainfully employed. But I’m not a foodie, as anyone would realise the second they actually saw my daily eats. Here are some very good reasons why:

I do not bake my own bread. I am quite frightened of the bread making process. This year, I successfully managed to bake pretzels and steamed buns but I have failed to use this success as a springboard into the further delights of the homemade loaf. (NB: I am going on a bread making course in November to try and combat this because it’s one of those things I really feel I should master).

Oh, pastry also scares me. When I successfully make pastry I get inordinately proud.

I eat ready meals. Or “prick and ping” as Peridot once so delightfully called them, which phrase I have shamelessly annexed. I think some of them are quite nice, especially if they come from M&S. Although M&S have a rather nasty habit of discontinuing my favourite things. The day they stop making my beloved turkey and pastrami flatbread we shall have a falling out.

I eat fast food. I eat in chain restaurants. I think a Big Mac is a thing of beauty, even if it does make me feel slightly dirty afterwards. When we lived in York, we regularly ordered pizza from Dominoes at my instigation. Whatever it is that Dominoes produce it is not pizza in any true sense of the word, but I scoffed it anyway and generally enjoyed it even though it was guaranteed to give me heartburn. Now we live in Leeds we have found a local takeaway firm that makes really rather nice pizza indeed. Sometimes though, I miss a stuffed crust.

When I lived on my own I ate an inordinate quantity of sandwiches and seldom cooked. Cooking for one seemed pointless and sad. My skin (and waistline) suffered.

I’m sorry, but I can’t taste the difference in organic produce.

I drink Diet Coke like it is going out of fashion. I know it is rotting my insides, but I can’t bring myself to give it up.

Other ridiculously processed items of food that I actually like include (but are not limited to): Babybels, Laughing Cow triangles, wafer thin turkey ham, Doritos (cool original, obviously), Haribo Tangfantastics and Dairylea Dunkers. Hmmm, apparently I have a penchant for pallid, rubbery imitations of cheese.

Sometimes, I don’t want to eat expensive 70% cocoa solids chocolate. Sometimes, I just want a bar of Dairy Milk.

Go on, make me feel better! Confess your foodie sins!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Weigh in Wednesday (on Thursday)

Previously on WWF: -46lbs
This week: -2.5lbs
Total loss: 48.5lbs

Good lord but this feels like a slow and tedious process.  I know that slow and steady wins the race, is more likely to stay off, is healthier, is better, etc. etc. ad infinitum.  But when you're in it, when you're in the middle of the process (or rather, not quite the middle, the mid point remains, tantalisingly, out of reach) it feels interminable.

And it is hard to complain about it feeling interminable because the thing is, you let it get that bad in the first place

It is also hard to complain about it feeling interminable when you regularly take the day "off" to indulge your fancy restaurant habit or sink a drink or five.

But this is my blog.  And today I feel crotchety.  So I am going to complain.  I am going to whine.  And then I will get over myself and just keep on going.

Monday, 22 September 2014

One for the Yorkshire foodies

Back in April D and I enjoyed a meal in Harrogate's Van Zeller which we rated as one of our best of the year.  Lovely to see then that the very esteemed Guardian restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin has made similarly appreciative noises about the place this week.

While reading that I noticed a link to an earlier article in which Ms O'Loughlin recommends other Yorkshire venues that might be of interest.  Some places in there that we are determined to check out as soon as possible and, as ever, I'll be sure to report back. 

MPM: 22nd September 2014

I am beside myself with excitement this week, as on Saturday and Sunday I am going down to London to do a creative writing masterclass - one of the programme run by the Guardian.  Of course it means leaving Minx to the tender ministrations of D for a couple of nights but I'm sure they'll both cope.

We cooked a gammon joint in the slow cooker yesterday and so that features a couple of times this week.  I'm not actually sure what one of the iterations will be, although I'm thinking a simple plate of just ham and buttery scrambled eggs, maybe a slice of toast for good measure.  Simple, homely food.


Salmon in chraimeh sauce with couscous (the Ottolenghi recipe that we were supposed to be making last week got bumped to tonight - I'll be sure to report back)

Tagliatelle with a haggis ragu - this was originally planned out as lasagne but I have fresh pasta in the fridge that needs using, and a piece of haggis in the freezer and I love the idea of doing a sort of haggis bolognese.

Chunky pea and ham soup

Honey mustard chicken and parsnip one pot with mashed potatoes - a lovely, simple stew to greet me off the train on Sunday.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Man Behind The Curtain, Leeds

We went out for dinner the other night, to celebrate three wonderful years of marriage.  Three years, anyway.  Bits of them were wonderful.  The meal itself didn't quite fall into the wonderful category which is a shame, and I'm often tempted not to write about experiences that I don't really enjoy which is probably why I'd never make it as a bona fide restaurant reviewer.  But there was enough to like to make it worth a post.

There are no pictures, by the way - for which regular readers, used to the dismal standard of photography on this blog, may well breathe a sigh of relief.  Hey, people, I paint pictures with words, yeah?  But TMBTC requests that mobile phones and cameras are "left at the door" so that one can enjoy the food and the company free from distractions.  I respect them for asking, even though I have never really understood why some chefs object to people taking photographs of food so much - it's generally a compliment.  Plus, when you drink as much as I do, a useful aide memoire.

So, The Man Behind The Curtain.  They actually have a philosophy section on their website (you can read it here) which is sort of admirable.  And a dress code (which most of the diners seemed to ignore).  The chef has worked at Noma and, more recently, at a York venue called The Blind Swine about which we had heard great things and were sorry to have missed.  So all the signs were good.

I just found, personally, the food didn't quite support the weight of expectations.  And, to be honest, when it really comes down to it, the food is what I am interested in.

Venue - modern, trendy, wins extra points for being only accessible through one of Leeds most upmarket department stores (we looked at shoes while we waited for the lift up there).  Waiting staff - friendly, professional.  There is a long table set up at one side of the room where the chefs plate up, which is fun to watch and, although not a new conceit, certainly the first time I have seen it done outside of London.  The chefs themselves bring the dishes to the table (very Nomaesque) and were more than happy to chat about the food, which is great.

Some of the dishes were tasty.  We particularly loved the fish course which was halibut with a crust best described as crushed salt and vinegar Quavers - which might sound insulting but is the only way I can possibly begin to describe it to you and, rest assured, it was lick the plate good.  Ox cheek was nice too - cooked to absolute perfection so that it dissolved into a luscious memory of meaty goodness as soon as it was placed in the mouth.  These chaps can most definitely cook.

I felt that sometimes they got a weeny bit over excited.  Some of the combinations, to my mind, just didn't work brilliantly (maybe I am just not progressive enough, but I found chocolate and cep, for example, to be pretty unpleasant.  And I adore both chocolate and mushrooms.)  And some of the courses were a touch...insubstantial.  Stylish, yes.  But lacking in...roots.  Some of the most memorable meals we have had recently (Eleven Madison Park, Five Senses) have had a very strong sense of tradition and place running through them, and I felt that was lacking here.  I didn't quite understand what the chef was trying to achieve, what was in his heart when he designed the food.

I am keen to go back for the next iteration of the menu to see if the personality becomes more apparent; after all, this is still quite a new restaurant and it may yet settle down.  There is clearly talent enough to make it into something very good as long as it finds the story it wants to tell.

The Man Behind The Curtain
68-78 Vicar Lane
0113 2432376

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The wedding anniversary

Today is our third wedding anniversary.

Our first occurred just a few days after D had announced to me that he wanted to separate.  The second, a fortnight after we had moved back in together.   This is the first one to occur in a period of domestic calm.  (Well, it is calm as I write this, but there are still two days to go...)

This blog struggled when I was single.  When I think of food, I generally think of sharing it with my husband.  He is, among many other things, my constant companion in all things culinary, be it eating out or cooking in.  In common with many other people, food is one of the ways in which we express our love, a medium through which we construct and remember our story.

And, also in common with many people, our story has neither been entirely straightforward nor entirely happy.  But it has been enduring, and that is to our credit.

Happy anniversary, D.

Monday, 15 September 2014

MPM: 15th September 2014

Well, so much for increasing the variety of posts.  I was all set to do something yesterday afternoon about the pleasures of a domestic Sunday but was struck down by a horrible, full blown, flashing lights and stabbing pain behind the right eyeball, migraine.  This morning I feel like I have been hit by a truck.  A truck made out of wine which is most unjust since I barely touched a drop all weekend.  I am, officially, sulking.

There is a meal plan, though.

Tonight: home made fish fingers and potato wedges.  I was thinking of making up something akin to a tartare sauce to go with it, although I think a legal requirement of fish fingers might be tomato ketchup.

Tuesday I'm going to NT Live and D is exercising his masculine right to go to the pub.

Wednesday is our third wedding anniversary.  We are going to a rather exciting sounding Leeds restaurant called The Man Behind the Curtain.  Intriguing, no?  More to follow on this one.

Thursday back to home cooking, and some of the Sunday leftovers will find their way into a lamb biryani.

Friday: we're back into mussel season, so it is moules with bacon.

Saturday: D is going to be cooking a dish from "Jerusalem"; I believe a salmon recipe has caught his eye which makes for a pleasingly fishy week.

Sunday: The plan is to slow cook a gammon joint which allow lots of meat for different dishes plus fantastic stock which will form the basis for soup.  I should think Sunday tea will be a simple plate of ham and roasties with some sort of zingy chutney on the side.  Lovely.

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Weigh in Wednesday: 10th September 2014

At some point, maybe this blog will become more interesting than a mere reportage of meal planning and weigh in results.  It's hardly scintillating stuff, is it?

See, even Minx looks bored.

After a certain point, losing weight does become...well, boring.  It's a long, hard slog that involves self denial (if you're in a successful phase) or self flagellation (if you're not) - and both of these things are probably rather tedious to read about.


Previously on WWF: -46lbs
This week: -0lbs
Total loss: 46lbs

Yep, that's right, the most vanilla result of them all, a big, fat zero movement.

To be fair, there was drink taken at the weekend.  And rather than slip up on Saturday and return to form on Sunday, I allowed the slip up to remain slipped.  Where I am going to take some small (very small) measure of pride, after a shitty start to the working week I had a very persistent divil on my shoulder suggesting that the blown week stay blown until the cleansing winds of Official WI had swept the slate clean (oh my what a painfully mixed metaphor.  This is what comes of blogging at ten in the evening).  But I stuck doggedly to daily points from Monday onwards and, as a result, did not pay too dearly for my weekend folly.

It goes without saying that this week I want to get a decent result.  I mean, I say that every week.  You can take it as read.  But a decent result this week would prove that I am not to be derailed, I am bloody but get the drift.

Right, off to bed - goodnight and sleep tight Blogland!  Onwards and ever, ever downwards.

Monday, 8 September 2014

MPM: 8th September 2014

Monday morning.  UGH.  And that is all I have to say on the matter.

Meal planning for this week - well, we continue our September policy of staying in for the most part, so nice and quiet.  The freezer needs a serious defrost, so most of the meals are predicated on what we already have in.  At least, that was the original plan, looking at what we're actually eating makes me wonder if I actually stuck to it.  Ah well.  The weekend is still slightly up in the air, with D muttering about fish and chips on Friday night (and who am I to stand strong in the face of Britain's favourite takeaway?  Fortunately, our local does sensible sized portions that don't break the points bank too much).

So, such as it is...

Thai chicken noodle stir fry

Lime and pepper crusted tuna steaks with cucumber "spaghetti" and wild rice

Cheesy toad in the hole with root vegetable mash, onion gravy and kale


Roast lamb with the trimmings

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Weigh in Wednesday: 3rd September 2014

Previously on WWF: -44.5lbs
This week: -1.5lbs
Total loss: 46lbs

Yay!  After last week's stellar loss, I wouldn't have been surprised to stay the same but a very respectable result indeed.  If I could hit the big 5-0 by the end of September (which also, conveniently, takes me into the next stone bracket) I shall be over the moon.  I have another clear week ahead as well (a quiet social life can do wonders for the points budget) so am remaining quietly optimistic.

Monday, 1 September 2014

MPM: 1st September 2014

While alarmed by the speed at which the year is passing, nevertheless, I get a little bit of a thrill writing the word "September" in the title.  We're now coming into one of my favourite parts of the year, that late summer, early autumn period where the light has a certain clarity, the air a little nip and the mind can (very slowly) begin to turn to (whisper it) the C word.

We have a meal plan in place for six out of seven days this week - our plans for Sunday have now changed so not sure what we'll end up doing.  Plenty of time to worry about that though, and in the meantime, I've picked a couple of "classic" dishes from this very blog to revisit, which, overall, gives the plan a wee bit of an Italian feel.  We shall have to redress this with a trip to another continent next week.  But in the meantime, the meal plan looks like this:

Kipper, bacon and new potato salad topped with a poached egg

Chicken (Sunday roast leftovers) and sage and onion stuffing sandwiches

Gnocchi with butternut squash, chilli and sage

Burmese chicken soup (thank you, Mr Waitrose)

Oven baked red pepper and chorizo risotto

Spaghetti carbonara

And that's us!  More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.