Monday, 30 March 2015

MPM: 30th March 2015

Much as I enjoy writing weekly meal planning posts, I am occasionally surprised when Monday rolls around and I realise that I haven't managed to write anything else.  I'm sure that I have more to say but at the moment I'm operating on cruise control and just trying to get through to the Easter break.  Which won't be that much of a break because I'm going to have to spend a decent chunk of it working towards my next exam.  Sigh. 

Still, it seems churlish to complain too much when Spring is most definitely in the air, roast lamb is on the menu for Easter Sunday and I have a box of L'Artisan du Chocolat salted caramel mini eggs tucked away to enjoy next week. 

On the menu in the meantime (taking us up to the weekend):

Warm chicken liver and bacon salad with raspberry dressing
Roast pork with roast potatoes and leeks in cheese sauce
Cod BLT salad

A couple of lighter, salad based dishes on there to reflect the longer, brighter days.  Have a very happy Easter everyone, and head over to Mrs M's for more meal planning fun!

Monday, 23 March 2015

MPM: 23rd March 2015

This week is rather fishy.  In the sense that we will be eating quite a lot of fish - not that there is anything suspicious going on. At least, I don't think there is.  If anything crops up, I'll let you know.

So yes, lots of fish on the menu. Which is good news as far as I am concerned - I love fish.  I had a brief vegetarian phase when I was about sixteen but was one of those sort-of-fake ones who continued to eat fish because I just couldn't bear to give it up.  It turned out that I couldn't really stand to give meat up either - it was Christmas dinner that did for me in the end - but the point is that I could entertain the thought of being without meat but not without fish.

The meal plan:

Skate wings with brown butter and caper sauce  (one of my all time absolute favourite dishes.)
Egg, chips and beans (a bump from last week.  The frozen chips lived to fight another day but they WILL be despatched.)
Gnocchi with mussels (or prawns if the mussels remain elusive) and saffron
Fish and chips (D insists on this once a month and I don't put up much of a fight)
Roast pork with appropriate trimmings

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


So D and I were chatting this week and I promised that I would go back to WW meetings after Easter that will be Wednesday 8th April.

I feel better that I've set a date in my head, and I'm aiming to not spend the next few weeks on one of those bonkers "I've got to eat everything now because I won't be able to have it soon" frenzies.  It's simply not true in any case - I've never had to be overly restrictive about my eating following the WW plan, just a bit more careful and considered.

I have another exam on the 22nd April, and part of me thinks I should wait until after that - it was trying to balance study, exam stress, work and dieting which led to me taking a break in December that turned into a three and a half month hiatus.  But, as I've said before, there's never an ideal time, so let's give it a go.

I'm not that interested in numbers at the moment, just getting back into good habits.  So I may ask the leader to not tell me my actual weight for the first few weeks, just to record it on my card so that I can look when I'm ready.  Sounds bonkers, but I know a few people from the message boards who have done just that and found it to be a helpful way of shifting the focus away from results and on to process.

I'd say wish me luck, but I think wish me a severe stomach bug to give me a boost for the first weigh in would be more useful at this stage....*

*Joke.  Honest.

Monday, 16 March 2015

MPM: 16th March 2015

It is Sunday afternoon as I write this and so may I take the opportunity to send all the mothers out there (and I know that many of the participants in MPM fall into that category) belated but heartfelt warm wishes.  I do not have children, nor any very strong current desire to change that status quo, but I must admit to feeling slightly misty eyed at all the pink posies and daffodil arrangements in the flower section of Waitrose.  The cat got me a card though, which also made me sniffle a little bit.

What is this Mummy's Day?
Anyway, meal planning for this week.  After yesterday's shockingly expensive leg of lamb (seriously, has it always been that price?)  most of the rest of the week is quite...restrained.  D is out on Friday and Saturday is yet to be decided.

Sea bass fillets with chraimeh sauce and courgette couscous (our take on an Ottolenghi recipe)

Egg, chips and beans (we have some oven chips in the freezer, bought for my father in law when he came round to cat sit, that need using up.)

Corned beef hash (bumped from last week)

Thai chicken soup

Coq a la biere with probably mashed potatoes (from the Le Gavroche cookbook).

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

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Yorke Arms, Ramsgill-in-Nidderdale

I had been to the Yorke Arms once before, back when I could still see my feet and had yet to learn ten synonyms for foam.  I remember little about the food, just that the hearty portions meant that we had to undo our trousers to drive home.  This time, wise to this, we booked a room and embarked upon a strict programme of  pre dinner abstinence.  Which lasted until we arrived in situ and found home made cakes by the kettle.

It was with trepidation, therefore, that I agreed with D that we would go for the tasting menu.  On the previous visit we had been floored by the a la carte.  Still, I was wearing a dress, so there was plenty of room for stomach expansion, and a stiff gin and tonic in front of the cosy lounge fire had sharpened my appetite.  And, in any case, my concerns lasted until the amuse arrived at the table – blood orange jelly, horseradish cream, raw slivers of rhubarb.  This demonstrated a kitchen with a much lighter touch than I remembered and one, moreover, which was capable of delivering enthralling and quirky flavour combinations. 

Indeed, the difficulty is picking a highlight.  Every component of every course - and on some plates this was quite a number - was sensitively handled such that they shone both singly and as part of the whole.  Cured salmon with langoustine, crab, caviar and tomatoes, for example, sounds like a cacophony of competing flavours but came together in delicate fishy symphony.  This was possibly my favourite dish of the evening.

Oh, but then there was truffled quail with raisins and delicate zips of preserved lemon.  And a fascinating vegetarian dish that used freekeh, a grain that neither of us had come across before but both agreed we would be happy to try again.  For D though the star of the proceedings was the braised oxtail wrapped in buttery puff pastry, sausage roll like, on the side of the venison main course.  The meat was so soft that it collapsed at the merest brush of the fork, darkly flavoursome and providing a wonderful coating of rich iron flavour in the mouth to cushion the tender venison.

The only misstep in the proceedings was the second of two desserts; I found the Grand Marnier soufflĂ© to be overcooked and under flavoured.  But since it came with a chocolate and olive ganache which had me making all sorts of inappropriate noises, I was willing to forgive and forget.

So overall, a fantastic dinner with far more interest and complexity than I was expecting, Plus  a comfy bed within staggering distance whereto we could repair to compare food babies.  This is a little gem buried deep in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, a place that I thoroughly recommend if you're looking to head somewhere for some serious indulgence.  

The Yorke Arms
Pateley Bridge
nr Harrogate
North Yorkshire
01423 755243

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Cheap Eats in Leeds: The Black Swan

D and I have a problem when it comes to eating out and it's called, "Can't-get-the-bill-down-to-two-figures-itis".  To remedy this we have set ourselves a challenge.  Can we find a series of venues in and around Leeds where two people can eat well for £30 or less?  The rules are simple: we each choose one venue a month.  It can't be a chain restaurant and it has to be possible for each person to have a meal and a drink for £15 a head.  Is there good food to be had for such a sum?  In an exciting new blog series, we're going to find out...

S's March choice: The Black Swan

I briefly mentioned this place when we visited the nearby Shears Yard - we popped in for cocktails and I fell in love with the espresso martini.  I was also very taken with the amazing looking pizza oven.  So my choice this month was clear.

The venue

The Black Swan, which I believe is a relatively new venue, is a three in one kind of deal.  They are a pub serving an impressive selection of real ales alongside the cocktail list, they have a downstairs pizza restaurant, which is in a room off the main bar, and an upstairs pub food bit (which we have yet to try but which looks excellent).  Sometimes these types of hybrids can get quite confused (or confusing) but the staff here are friendly and helpful and the operation seems to be quite slick - drinks we ordered at the bar were added to our food bill without any problems.

The order

3 pints of ale (D couldn't resist a second chocolate chipotle stout),
2 rather large and generously topped pizzas (pancetta, taleggio and capers and ricotta and spicy sausage respectively),
1 golden syrup creme brulee to share
The bill came to £35.50 - so slightly over budget, but if we hadn't ordered the dessert we would have been bang on.

The food

This was the best pizza I've eaten in a long time.  The sour dough base was crisp and charred on the outside with a beautiful flavour.  The toppings were generous and exceedingly tasty.  The menu itself was a delight for a true pizza lover - simple but thoughtful flavour combinations.  I will never again be likely to darken the doors of the Pizza Express just down the street when I have this little gem to visit.  I already can't wait to go back.

The Black Swan
37 Call Lane
0113 827 2349

Monday, 9 March 2015

MPM: 9th March 2014

Some excellent eating last week - the tuna steak baguette was a resounding success as was yesterday's Empire roast chicken, both of which have been added to my spreadsheet of "Meals that I want to cook again" - a mammoth list if ever there was one.  This week, I am out Thursday and D is out on Friday so they're unplanned and likely to consist of prick and ping or beans on toast, and Saturday we hope to do a recipe book night but the dishes are still to be finalised.  Elsewhere...

Salmon with curried mussels
Roast chicken with leek fritters and a garlic and lemon yoghurt dressing
Corned beef hash
Roast lamb with various accompaniments - this is a trial run of Easter Sunday lunch on which I'll be sure to report back if it all goes to plan!

More meal planning fun over at Mrs M's.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Recipe corner: Tuna steak baguette with Asian slaw

I think it is both a good thing and a bad that I have no particular expertise in any one cuisine (unless cheese on toast can be said to be a cuisine - in which case I am basically the love child of Ken Hom and Madhur Jaffrey.)  It means that I can't tell authentic from inauthentic which is a shame, and I put things together without due regard for tradition which would have matrons the world over wagging their fingers expressively.  But, equally, I am generally guided by what I think tastes good and unrestricted by a food's particular heritage. Which means that my cooking may be confused, but a lot of the time it is pretty yummy.

Take this dish.  At the outset it was just to be a steak sandwich, with all the traditional accompaniments, except the steak in question was to be tuna.  And then somehow it veered over to Asia with delicious results. The idea of using baguette was very much inspired by the Vietnamese banh mi, a wonderful collision of French and Asian traditions, and the crunchy side slaw was a perfect accompaniment - zingy, crunchy and jam packed with wonderful flavour.  This is definitely one to add to the dinner rotation list.


For the baguettes:
2 pieces of baguette, split lengthways
2 tuna steaks
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp wasabi

For the slaw:
Quarter of white cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, grated
Half a bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
Red chilli, deseeded and sliced
Handful chopped coriander
Handful chopped mint leaves
Handful chopped Thai basil leaves
2 tsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the chopped veg (reserving the green parts of the spring onions), chilli and herbs.

In a separate bowl prepare the dressing, and reserve until required.  Whisk the sugar into the vinegar until complete dissolved and then add the other ingredients.  Check and adjust seasoning as required - remember, the fish sauce is very salty so you shouldn't need to add much by way of salt.

Bring a non stick frying pan up to a high heat.  Season the fish and then cook for around 90 seconds on each side.  Remove from the heat and allow to rest for a couple of minutes before slicing on the bias,

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise and wasabi, season to taste, adding a touch of lemon juice if it looks too thick, and then slather over one side of the baguettes.  Arrange the tuna on top and scatter with the chopped greens of the spring onions before bringing together in one messy, juicy sandwich.

Dress the slaw and serve on the side.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The elephant in the room [apart from me]

It occurs to me that this blog hasn't really been much about Weight Watchers lately.  This is probably because I have not counted a point since the beginning of December.  I initially thought about writing some sort of apologia, but then thought better of it.  The truth is, I just haven't been in the right place and if your head isn't in the right place then it doesn't work.

It's not a question of making excuses (they're boring to both write and read), it's just a question of not being there and I think anyone who has ever successfully lost weight - actually, ever successfully achieved anything worth achieving - will understand what I mean. 

Do I still want to lose weight?  Most days, yes.  Most days, I am vain enough to care that I would look prettier if I was a few stone lighter.  Most days, I am concerned enough for my (generally good) physical health that I think I need to make more of an effort.  But some days I am happy - or, at the very least, content.  And contentment is fine - contentment is good but the danger is it leads to complacency and I am not yet close enough to goal to be complacent.

There is a delightful freedom to not worrying about points.  As may be clear from this blog, I love cooking, and the ability to not have to measure every ingredient that goes into a dish is rather liberating.  To not have to plan my day's food to within an inch of its life is...well, it's nice.  The break has been nice.

It is temporary.  And when normal services resumes you will be the first to know.

Edited to add: This is my 500th post!  Goodness.  Not what I would have chosen but there you go...probably sums up the contrary nature of my writing here over the past few years.  As ever, beloved readers, thank you for popping by and maybe by the end of the next 500 rambles I'll be sylph like and sorted!!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Meal planning - better late than never?

Well, it may be Tuesday but here we are with meal planning Monday.  We had a fantastic weekend (of which, more to follow) but got home very late on Sunday night which meant that yesterday I was attempting to chase my tail all day and not being very successful about it.

Still, there is a meal plan for the week.

Last night we had a delicious old favourite that was bumped several times in February - bumped, in fact, all the way into March - oven baked red pepper and chorizo risotto.  I love this dish!  It is simple, tasty and just the kind of thing that you want to sink into at the end of a tiring day. 

Elsewhere this week:

Chicken and mushroom curry (the result of a freezer dive)
Tuna steak sandwiches with wasabi mayonnaise and Asian inspired slaw
Black pepper tofu
Empire roast chicken with Indian gravy and Bombay style roasties

Quite a spicy week ahead!  I am so pleased to see a veggie dish in there - we definitely need to develop more of a repertoire of decent vegetarian friendly evening meals - it helps keep household costs down not to mention being environmentally sound.

Anyhoo, more meal planning fun, as ever, over at Mrs M's