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July 25, 2013
After my desire to forget it went ignored, I ended up having a fabulous 30th Birthday this week. It all started with a lovely surprise meal with good friends and family at the Lost and Found in Birmingham on Saturday night, followed by a surprise overnight trip to York for my actual birthday on Tuesday. If this is an indication of the next decade, I think I’m going to like it!
I absolutely loved York and will definitely be visiting again. It has such a buzz and a wonderful cosmopolitan vibe set against a fascinating historical backdrop. I really think I could live there. We stayed at The Lawrance apartments in the city centre (highly recommended) and Gav booked a meal for us at The Blind Swine.
We were completely in the dark about what to expect here – the website is under construction and there is no menu – you simply book and turn up. Gav was able to book a table fairly easily for a Tuesday evening, but I think there’s a waiting list on weekends.
The dark décor is understated cool, with mid-century style wooden tables and chairs, collage artwork and amp speakers fixed to the wall. There is just a handful of tables and a slick, shiny bar.
We were presented with a very unique cocktail menu, before tiny dishes started to arrive – served by the chefs who had prepared the meals in the open kitchen. We had 15 small dishes in total – including cocktails, plus savoury and sweet plates. I won’t go into them all – as I think it probably changes by the day – but you can see how beautiful they are (I was also rather smitten with the serveware, from Wonki Ware and Jars, if you’re interested!).
Our favouties dishes were the squid ink bread with beetroot butter; pork belly with burnt pineapple and squid; and salted white chocolate cream. I also loved the vodka sours with beetroot and balsamic vinegar, and horseraddish and juniper martini.
There was an element of Heston's style in the unique flavour combinations and quirky presentation (the nut-encased foie gras was designed to look like a Feast lolly), but it felt very fresh and modern. There were twists on tradition, like the watermelon and passion fruit puree that looked exactly like beef tartar with an egg yolk.
The service was excellent and it is such a great place to go for something a little different. The perfect special occasion meal for anyone who appreciates creativity and is crazy about food.
WARNING: While exceptionally tasty and fun, the dishes aren't very substantial - and if you order cocktails or other drinks on top of those included in the set menu, you may find yourself more than a little merry. Hic!
All pics taken by me at The Blind Swine, York.
July 5, 2013
The sun is finally shining and I’m making the most of the lovely weather, planning picnics and BBQs before it disappears. A potato salad is a stalwart of the outdoor dining menu, but I’m not one for the cloying, mayo-laden versions that leave you feeling a bit sick. I wanted to try something lighter and different, to take on a picnic in Hyde Park tomorrow and to my dad’s birthday BBQ next weekend.
Inspired by the Swedish fare of mustard and dill, I came up with this simple recipe and surprised myself how good it was. The sweetness of the honey pairs nicely with the tart mustard and the dill adds a lovely, light fragrance. At tomorrow’s picnic we’ll have it with smoked salmon, horseradish dressed prawns, green salad, Swedish crispbreads and cheese, and then with herby trout and chicken at next weekend’s BBQ. The dressing couldn’t be simpler and really takes the humble spud to a new level. I hope you’ll give it a go.
Dill & mustard potato salad
750g new potatoes (I used Jersey Royals but any will do)
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 egg yolk
Generous bunch of dill, finely chopped
Pinch of Maldon sea salt
What to do:
- Slice the potatoes so they are all roughly the same size – bite-sized chunks work well. Cook in a pan of salted boiling water until tender. Drain.
- Meanwhile, whisk all the dressing ingredents together and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if required, or more honey if you’d like it sweeter.
- Toss the potatoes with the dressing and tip into a serving bowl. Top with extra chopped dill.
May 22, 2013
The weather may be acting otherwise, but it is summer salad season in our house at the moment with some new favourites on heavy rotation. Last week’s amazing Caesar, and this delicious Asian slaw style salad with chicken.
I spotted it in Bon Appétit magazine and was drawn to the colours, crunch and quickness of using a rotisserie chicken. It is great for those evenings when even the most enthusiastic of cooks cannot be bothered to turn on the oven or hob.
I couldn’t find red cabbage so substituted two bags of this ruby coleslaw mix from Waitrose, which worked really well and saves even more time. I added some sliced mange tout and cocount as well, and used Sriracha sauce for extra punch. Sriracha hot sauce is my new best friend in the kitchen. Have you tried it? I put it on absolutely everything from poached eggs and avocado to soba noodles and fried rice. I’m actually feeling a little nervous now the bottle is almost empty. I get it from Amazon and the £6 bottle lasts for months, even for a chilli fiend like me.
We devoured this salad for dinner and packed in lunch boxes the next day. The recipe makes a fair amount and I imagine it would be great for picnics and BBQs. It feels healthy and light, but very filling and satisfying too. Give it a go! Find the full recipe from Bon Appétit here.
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May 17, 2013
Caesar salad with chicken is one of my all-time favourite salads. It reminds of the summer I lived on Martha’s Vineyard and I love to order it when eating out during the warmer months. I’m under no illusions that it is a healthy option, but it tends to be one of the few carb-light meals on pub menus.
I’ve recently started making it at home too and now both Gav and I are totally hooked. The secret is in a punchy homemade dressing. None of that goopy nonsense from a jar, oh no. A simple mix of finely chopped anchovies, minced garlic, lemon juice, zest and olive oil, and you’re good to go. I love this kale version (where my dressing is adapted from), but more often use romaine lettuce. A whole head provides plenty of crispy goodness for two people.
Croutons are made from sour dough, torn or cut into bite sized pieces, tossed with a little olive oil and baked in a 200°c pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes. Chicken tastes best griddled I think, with the smoky charred stripes contrasting nicely with the sharp and creamy dressing. I look forward to making this lots over the summer (if we get one!), enjoying it in the garden with a chilled glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Bliss. I hope you'll give it a go.
Amazing Caesar salad dressing
1 garlic clove
3 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets
1 tsp lemon zest
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
*Blitz all the ingredients except salt in a blender. Taste and season with salt if needed. If the dressing is too thick, thin with a little water. Toss with torn romaine lettuce, croutons and grated Parmesan. Serve griddled chicken on top or on the side.*
May 1, 2013
I’ve never really been into meatballs. Growing up in a red meat-free household, our bolognaise was soya, burgers were quorn and our sausages contained the lovely Sos Mix (it is really lovely, honest. I still use it in sausage rolls now.) The idea of a ball of meat sounded quite gross and never really appealed, until I gave them a go at Leon a few years ago. De-lish.
Now completely converted to these tasty little morsels, I love to make meatballs at home, especially with turkey for a leaner option to beef. My favourite recipes include Ottolenghi’s turkey and sweetcorn meatballs (I’ll feature them soon) and these hoisin-glazed turkey beauts.
Super simple and tasty, they are great to whip up any day of the week. We had them on Saturday evening with basmati rice and steamed asparagus. Yum. Just don't let them overcook - the lean turkey mince can dry out.
Hoisin-glazed turkey meatballs
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp freshly grated root ginger
½ tsp crushed red chillies
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp corn flour
2 spring onions, minced – plus extra for garnish
450g turkey mince
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
Juice of ½ lime
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment/grease-proof paper.
2. Whisk soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, crushed chillies and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in corn flour until smooth. Mix in spring onions and turkey until completely combined.
3. Wet hands, take rounded teaspoon of mix and roll into bite-size balls. Lightly coat with cooking spray and transfer to oven. Bake until meat is cooked through – about 15-17 minutes.
4. Stir hoisin sauce, coriander and lime juice in a large bowl. Add cooked meatballs and gently toss to coat with glaze. Sprinkle with spring onions and sesame seeds and serve hot.
April 17, 2013
Our hometown of Lichfield is lovely but it is definitely too quiet for me, with little in the way of independent shops, interesting restaurants or buzzing bars. However, the one thing it is not short of is great curry houses. We’ve sampled them all in our quest to find the best and agree that Indian Village takes the top spot. Bursting with fresh flavours, the perfect amount of heat and spices, and not in the slightest bit greasy, the food is really wonderful and great value for money.
Gav had an excellent butter chicken there last week so we decided to recreate something similar at home this weekend, as well as our first attempt at making naan bread.
We followed this recipe for butter chicken from one of my fave food blogs, Manger. It was absolutely delicious although quite different to the version at Indian Village, which had no tomato and was more yellow-green in colour. Next time, I plan to have a go at this recipe instead. It is a Punjabi recipe and includes more ginger and almonds, which seems more authentic and closer to what we had.
The Peshwari naan bread recipe from Manger wasn’t so good unfortunately, and the resulting very dry, dense dough ended up in the bin. We were determined not to give up though and tried Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for plain naan instead and filled it with the Peshwari stuffing. Thankfully, this was a huge success and something we’ll definitely be making again – perhaps with more ground almonds and coconut to enhance the flavor.
I’m definitely inspired to try more curries from scratch instead of relying on trusty Patak’s pastes. I’m interested to know – what’s your favourite Indian dish and have you tried making it at home?
March 18, 2013
Smitten Kitchen was one of the first food blogs I started following many years ago, along with Lottie and Doof and 101 Cookbooks. I continue to check in with these three foodies more often than any others as there is always something tempting on offer, with an interesting story and fabulous pictures.
It often means I’m converting US to UK measurements though, so I’m thrilled to hear that the recently released Smitten Kitchen cookbook is now available in the UK, and if this blueberry cornmeal butter cake is anything to go by, it is definitely worth picking up.
I love blueberries but rarely cook with them and this will certainly change after making this delicious bake, which is somewhere between crumble and cake. It is not overly sweet, which I really like, and recieved rave reviews from friends and family this week. I'll certainly be making it again. I couldn’t find cormeal so substituted polenta, which worked fine.
Find the full Smitten Kitchen recipe via Bleubird here.
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March 8, 2013
I have raved before about Yotam Ottolenghi and his fantastic cookbooks. I think Plenty is my favourite as despite not being a vegetarian, I love the abundance inspiring ways to cook vegetables that make them the star of a meal, packed full of fresh flavors and interesting textures.
One recipe we turn to again and again is green pancakes with lime butter. I made it last Saturday when my friend Carly visited for the weekend, and I’m making it again tomorrow for a little Mother’s Day brunch I’m throwing at home.
They are great simply served with the lime butter and rocket salad, or as more of a meal – with smoked salmon, sautéed garlic prawns or a poached egg. The recipe is a little involved and washing up heavy (you use three mixing bowls and a frying pan) but definitely worth the effort.
I’m not normally one for this style of thicker pancakes but the whisked egg white makes them nice and light rather than heavy and stodgy, which completely wins me over.
The lime butter recipe tends to make more than you need for the pancakes, but we relish the leftovers melted on scrambled eggs or smeared on toast. Delicious.
Find the recipe, originally featured in the Guardian, right here.
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February 22, 2013
Are you a sweet or savoury person? I am definitely in the savoury camp, preferring toast and eggs at breakfast; starters over desserts and last weeks pancake day treats filled with cheese and ham.
But I’ve been looking for ways to break up the same old savoury breakfast options, as well as to bring more healthy goodies into our diet. Granola seemed like the obvious solution, but the packet ones I’ve tried are either too sugary or artisan brands that give little change from a fiver.
So, when I discovered a recipe called 'A Better Granola' in Bon Appétit magazine, I decided to try making a batch of my own. It is a customizable recipe, to which you can add your own choice of nuts, grains, seeds and dried fruit. I used pecans, mixed seeds (sunflower, linseed and pumpkin); desiccated coconut and dried apricots, and substituted the agave syrup for honey.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this granola not all too sweet, in fact I could taste the sea salt a little, which is a big plus for a salt fiend like me. It is fantastic served with natural yoghurt and sliced banana, and we’re on our second batch already. I highly recommend giving it a go - find the full recipe at Bon Appétit here.
PS. Have you tried Total Greek Yoghurt? By far the best brand in my opinion.
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February 6, 2013
I adore olives but rarely buy marinated ones anymore – they are just too easy to make at home, and of course much cheaper too. Instead, I buy a jar of regular pitted olives and play around with different herbs, spices and flavourings.
So this Food Talk post isn’t so much a recipe – more just a handful of tips and ideas for DIY marinated olives.
- Always drain jarred or tinned olives in a colander and rinse with cool water to remove the salty brine.
- Marinate in a non-metallic container. Tupawares are ideal as you can shake and tip the container around to ensure even coverage with your marinade.
- Allow your olives to marinate over night for optimum flavor before eating – even longer if possible.
- Marinate at room temperature. Storing in the fridge will cause the oil to solidify – you don’t want that!
- If using raw garlic – crush a clove and keep it whole – it is much less overpowering than chopping or grating it.
- Use a tablespoon of oil and a splash of vinegar or citrus juice for the base of your marinade – I like extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar or lemon juice.
- Lime zest and dried chilli flakes
- Lemon zest and fresh parsley
- Lemon zest, thyme and rosemary
- Smoked paprika and toasted fennel seeds
- Orange zest and oregano
- Lemon juice, garlic, chilli, fresh coriander and dried cumin (Moroccan style)
- Toasted seseame seeds and mint