Saturday, 22 November 2014

Travels to AMS

I'm currently in the departure lounge at Manchester Airport waiting for a flight to Schipol! We are off to the Netherlands for a couple of days to visit Amsterdam and Utrecht. I lived in Utrecht for 6 months as part of my degree and am looking forward to visiting some of my old haunts.

I'm trying out the blogger app on my iPad and hoping that this comes out in an acceptable format, so apologies if it isn't quite right!

Upon my return I will hopefully share some interesting dutch food with you all - they do some amazing Christmas treats.

Until then, goodbye! I hope everyone has a good weekend!


Friday, 21 November 2014

Morning Ritual: Why we should be making time for ourselves

Breakfast in the November sunshine
Over the past year I have moved three times and started a new business, it's safe to say that busy and unstructured have been my keywords to life. When faced with instability and the unknown, I think it's natural to create little rituals which keep you grounded and allow you to have some constants in life.

For me this has become my morning routine and the more I do it, the more I am convinced that taking time over getting up and ready really helps in keeping me sane, well saner!

I used to give myself half an hour to get up and out the house, this was barely time to shower and put on my clothes. Breakfasts used to be a hurried and unsatisfying affair, literally grab and go, if at all. I would arrive at school, then as I got older, work, with a brain that was half asleep and hungry.

I recently decided that enough was enough and changed my morning ritual to one that allowed me to enjoy dressing and eating. Here are some of the things that I do to ensure that my mornings set me up for a stress free day!

1. Take Time

I give myself at least a full hour and a half between getting out of bed and leaving the door, this leaves me unhurried and able to take time over showering and getting dressed. I also find that planning outfits the night before is a good trick to ensuring I wear something well thought out! (I did once leave the house for a day of meetings still in slippers, the worst bit is that not one single person commented on it...)

2. Hot and cold drinks

A glass of water and a cafetiere is my usual morning routine. I do have an espresso machine, but this usually makes an appearance in the afternoon rather than the morning. I find a cafetiere is more tactile and seems a bit more indulgent, especially if you take time to heat up a bit of warm milk to add into your coffee.

Up until recently, I found myself only drinking hot caffeinated drinks before heading out the door. I found I was quickly dehydrated very early on into my day. I now make sure to have a pint of water before I leave the house, this also stops me from early morning snacking, as I am often thirsty rather than hungry.

3. Make a hot breakfast

I now take a completely different approach to my morning, especially when it comes to eating. Breakfast, I believe, should be an unhurried affair - I now give myself time to relax and actually makeself something filling, healthy and full of flavour. 

We often do a variant of something on toast, using bread fresh from the breadmaker (there is nothing that compares to waking up to the smell of fresh bread!) 

Our current favourite is a bit of a mash up, we fry a small bit of pancetta, bacon or chorizo for several minutes, add some leftover veg to cook down, then crack an egg on top, season and leave to cook until firm. Serve on hot toast.



4. Go outside

This is of course weather and facilities permitting, however if you can, sitting in the garden for breakfast is one of life's simple pleasures. Invest in some garden furniture - freecycle is a good place to look in the UK. 

5. Or just go out.

Sometimes you just need to treat yourself and going out for breakfast is definitely one way to do that! No cooking or washing up to do, just relax and enjoy the experience of sitting down and being served. 

This doesn't necessarily mean splashing out if you don't want to though - we have just found a great local butcher who makes a fantastic bacon roll for under £2. I wouldn't advise one of these each day, but you can treat yourself once in a while to something  bit naughty!

Waitrose Bircher Muesli - highly reccomnded
I thought I would share these tips on creating a morning ritual of your own. 

Obviously all people are different, so please don't feel that you need to follow all, or any of these, you may have your own suggestions for what you do to relax before work, if so, I'd love to hear them!

Fancy some more breakfast inspiration? 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Interview: Bistro Guy, York

40 Gillygate, York YO31 7EQ


I've always been passionate at promoting local businesses for a variety of reasons, they are an important part of community creation in our technologically driven societies. Also the money we spend in  such establishments is more likely to stay in the local economy and benefit other local businesses and residents.

Along with Bishopthorpe road and Fossgate, Gillygate is a strong contender for York’s best independent street. There are a wide variety of shops to browse, from the eccentric Snow Home, to the excellent vintage store, Dog and Bone.

The food scene along Gillygate is particularly vibrant, with some of my personal favourite haunts – Café 68, Love Cheese and the excellent delicatessen, Tarts and Titbits. This is definitely an area which attracts those interested in high quality local food from independent businesses.

Bistro Guy, formerly known as Ambience, is another great addition to this thriving street. Now re branded, the establishment offers a the dual experience of operating as a café by day and bistro by night, all along with a beautiful outdoor seating area and garden space which backs onto the medieval city walls.


I first heard of Bistro Guy through word of mouth, which is always a very encouraging sign when looking for somewhere new to try. Customer recommendations are the lifeblood of any small business, which means that they must work hard to impress and ensure repeat custom. My friend certainly sung the praises of the coffee and cake she had enjoyed in the hidden garden at the back of the café.

With the lure of garden and great food firmly in mind, I decided go along and check out Bistro Guy for myself. I was met with a warm welcome from the owner, Guy (hence Bistro Guy!) who was kind enough to take some time out from his kitchen prep to speak to me about his approach to running the Bistro/Café

Guy’s drive to diversify the offering into themed nights and live music really stood out to be as being one of the strengths of Bistro Guy. He is also obviously passionate about using making the most of his previous experience and links with local suppliers. The focus on local and seasonal produce is one of the real lures for diners, especially as the menu is constantly changing to reflect the best of what is currently available.

You can see the current November menus here (Top points from me for having a good website, this is something that many venues often overlook!)



Can you spot the medieval wall?
Many thanks to Guy for speaking with me.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Recipe: Caramelised Balsamic and Mushroom Tart


I currently spend three days of my week working away from home, an inexpensive packed lunch is therefore a must have. There are times when sandwiches won't cut it though and I look for something different to fill my lunchbox (yes, I have one, still.... and it is of course a child's one.)

This tart is based on Yottam Ottlenghi's Caramelised Garlic Tart and makes 6 decent portions which can be taken to work throughout the week with a side salad. I have changed the base from puff pastry to a slightly healthier olive oil crust, this is really easy to whip up.

Also, if you like what you see here, please feel free to drop me a vote in the UK blog awards! I am extremely grateful for every vote as I try to put my all into this little space on the internet.



Recipe


Requires a 23 inch flan tin.

Olive Oil Crust

250g Wholemeal Flour, plus a little extra for rolling
60ml Olive oil
50-100ml warm water

Filling

3 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
100g Chestnut Mushrooms
200g Camembert
2 free-range eggs
100ml semi skimmed milk
100ml creme fraîche

Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Method

1. Preheat your oven to 180C and measure out the flour for the crust in a large mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper, then pour over the olive oil and rub together with your fingertips until a breadcrumb mixture has formed.

2. Slowly add the water to this mixture and combine with your hands until a dough has formed. Roll out this dough on a floured surface until you get an area half a cm thick and large enough to cover your flan tin,

3. Line your flan tin with the crust, neaten the edges and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. 

4. Whilst this is blind baking,  put the garlic in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, blanch for three minutes and drain. Return cloves to the dry pan and add the olive oil, fry on a gentle heat for 3 minutes.

5. Add to the cloves the balsamic vinegar and reduce on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and the cloves are coated in dark syrup.

6. To make the egg filling for the tart, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, milk and creme fraîche, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Chop up the Camembert and mushrooms into thick chunks. Once the crust is out of the oven, these can be arranged evenly across the base, along with the caramelised garlic cloves.

8. Pour over the egg filling (be careful not to overfill, as any spillages will leave you with a soggy crust.) Bake the tart at 180 for 25-40 minutes until it is set and golden.

9. Enjoy a slice warm for dinner, then the rest will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Interview: The Biltmore, York


For full audio interview with head chef Mark, please see below!

Thai Seafood Trio - Marinated  monkfish tail + king scallops + tiger prawns + sweet coconut rice + charred flatbread cone + thai inspired coconut & chilli curry sauce

It's now been over a year since I graduated from University and ceased my student nights out into the city. Whilst York is hardly renowned for it's clubbing scene, it does have a certain reputation when it comes to pubs and bars, with many different establishments to choose from.

I first visited The Biltmore around the end of my degree, as I distinctly remember going in for celebratory cocktails (though my memories of leaving are a bit hazier!) I remember the space inside the bar being cavernous and full of happy drinkers, I had little idea though that they also served food.

The space has very recently undergone a substantial cosmetic change, making the interior much more inviting to those seeking out a meal. However it still retains much of the glamour which has firmly cemented the bar as one of the most popular drinks locations in York.

Having been impressed with the interior, which consists of a bar space/informal dining area downstairs and a more formal dining area upstairs, I was interested to see if the food on offer also lived up to the potential of the bar.

In order to find out more, I met with the head chef Mark to discuss how he is putting The Biltmore firmly on the York food map with a focus on fusion flavours and a progressive menu!


I was really impressed with Mark's focus on making The Biltmore a democratic dining space where people can come for a luxurious/interesting, yet also unpretentious, meal.

I also had the chance to try one of the most popular items on the menu -

"Thai Seafood Trio. This dish consists of Marinated  monkfish tail,  king scallops, tiger prawns, sweet coconut rice, charred flatbread cone and a thai inspired coconut & chilli curry sauce."

The dish was also garnished with micro herbs and edible flowers, both of which gave the dish a wonderful visual appeal.

In fact, the presentation was quite stunning. However my only comment would be that the curry sauce and rice were rather far apart, making the dish a slight logistical challenge, though this distance is probably a sacrifice I am willing to make for aesthetic reasons.

The flavours however were wonderfully balanced, I especially enjoyed the combination of sweet rice when combined with the aromatic curry sauce. The king prawns, monkfish and scallops were succulent and quite substantial - the monkfish was a beautiful counterpoint to the slightly spicy thai sauce.


The Upstairs Dining Area
The bar area upstairs
Downstairs bar area
I think that The Biltmore definitely does offer something different to York's food scene, which is so often characterised by (extremely good) traditional english cuisine. I also do actually have a rather odd recommendation - I do think that it would make a great place for a first date as the dishes are as visually impressive as the venue. 

I would like to finish by thanking Mark for meeting with me!

To find out more, please see The Biltmore's website here and twitter here

To see more places to eat and drink in York - Click here

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Wanderlust: UK Days Out - Dunham Massey, (Stamford Military Hospital) Cheshire


Though this blog mostly has a focus on food, I thought some of you might me interested in occasionally hearing about some of the trips I make. These posts are more of an indulgence on my part, so please do excuse them.

"Sunday is funday" has become one of my recent mantras, as weekdays are jam packed at the moment, with most of my time being taken up with running my business and blogging. Not that I'm complaining, I love being busy! However in order to maintain sanity and productivity, breaks are necessary. 

This time of year is especially beautiful, with vibrant autumnal colours and, if you're lucky, crystal clear and crisp days. As long as you're well wrapped up, outside is most certainly the place to be when the sun shines in November.

Last sunday we decided to take advantage of the beautiful autumn weather to explore the House, Garden and Deer Park at Dunham Massey, a National Trust property just outside of Manchester, near Altrincham. 

We spent most of our visit wandering through the Deer Park and successfully spotted quite a few Buck and Doe very close to the main house, it seems you don't have to wander far to see them.

The house was built in in the 1730s by George Booth, 2nd Earl of Warrington and later became a First World War auxiliary hospital from April 1917 to January 1919. 

Currently the house has been transformed so that visitors can experience the Stamford Hospital as it once was. There are also some interesting pieces of furniture and other items on display in the house, including an intact 18th century library.

The photo's below chronicle some of my highlights from the day out. I hope you enjoy them!


This buck was casually taking a break right by the stables in front of a large crowd of admirers.

Gold and Diamond Pocket Watch, 1859 and pieces of string kept by Lady Penelope Stamford, c. 1930.

View of the house entrance

Spot the Deer!

Entrance from the stables and colonial statue
Deer slaughterhouse 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Interview: Farnley Bakehouse


I met Steve at the Farnley Bakehouse to discuss his venture into real bread
Real bread has become a big buzzword in the food community, with many bakeries really going back to basics and scrutinising their whole baking process, from flour to loaf. 

Recently I was lucky enough to meet with Steve, a artisan baker who has decided to set up his own baking premises in Farnley - a small village near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Launched by Steve and his wife Simone, the Bakehouse sells many varieties of bread made from natural ingredients with no artificial additives or processing agents.


In addition to fine artisan bread, the bakery also has a range of hand-baked pastries and cake, as well as everyday items such as milk, locally sourced fruit and vegetables, eggs, cheeses and other dairy products and preserves. There is also a small cafe area, allowing customers to enjoy a treat alongside a tea or coffee!

The Bakehouse is the first of multiple ventures planned by the couple, all of which will champion artisan produce and sit under the umbrella brand of Farnley Market. The aim is to eventually include a Smokehouse and for customers to be able to purchase a larger variety of products made on site and create further jobs for local residents while supporting local food producers by selling their produce in his stores.

It was clearly obvious how passionate Steve is about his business and baking process. I also was extremely impressed with his focus on becoming a hub for the local community in this small village which recently lost its Post Office. At the time of my visit there was a wide range of customers, from teenagers enjoying a hot chocolate, to elderly residents picking up a loaf to take home. I really do think that the focus on community and quality/local produce makes this venture stand out from the average bakery.

The interviews are in three parts, the first focuses on the bread itself, the second on the business and the third is a small excerpt about the flour Steve uses at the bakery.

I found the whole interview extremely informative and hope that you do to! 

For more information on Steve's venture and how to get there, please visit the website

You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter







I picked up a loaf to enjoy later on with a bowl of thick, hearty soup





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