Sunday, 29 April 2012

Blog Love - 1

As I'm at a bit of a loss with what to write about at the moment, cooking and food not really setting my world on fire at the moment, I thought I'd do a few posts sharing with you the blogs that I like to read.

First up is The Pursuit of Domestic Goddess-ness written by the lovely Claire, who you can find on Twitter as @littlepatts.

Claire's an excellent baker, and far more patient with decorating that me - I love the baking side but get bored easily with the decorating side - hence why my favourite cake to bake is always a no fuss loaf cake!

This is Claire's second blog, she also writes another called Breadsticklers which is all about eating out in Leeds.  I love her honest and warm reviews on that blog too.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Frankie and Bennys, York

I was offered a £50 voucher in return for a review for Frankie and Bennys a while back, we chose to use the voucher this evening and took Phil's boys with us, we wanted to take them out as a mini celebration of telling them about the baby.

When we arrived we were seated at a tiny table near the kitchen doors, which with all the menus and other paraphernalia on the table was far too small, so I asked to be moved.  Luckily the next table they showed us to was a booth and much more roomy, we'd placed our drinks order before we moved.

We opted to do a main and a dessert each.

The boys chose the Calamari Caesar Hot Baked Wrap with fries and Carbonara, Phil chose a chicken burger and I went for the lighter pizza option.  At this point our drinks hadn't arrived and we had to order them again - I assume the table change caused confusion.

There was further confusion when the food came out and the Calamari Salad came instead of the wrap.  We queried this and a lady, who I'm assuming was a floor manager, came over and told us there wasn't a Calamari Caesar wrap on the menu - she was holding the menu at the time.  I was rather embarrassed that we appeared to have made a mistake and both Phil's eldest and I had misread the menu.  She did offer to put the calamari in a wrap but after we'd waited 40 minutes for food Phil's eldest was very hungry and just wanted to eat.

Imagine my surprise when upon checking the Frankie and Benny's website it clearly shows the wrap.

Calamari Caesar

Our flour tortilla loaded with our seasoned calamari, Cos lettuce and Grana Padano, smothered in Caesar dressing. Served with a pot of coleslaw and your choice of house fries, salad or a jacket potato.

We were charged for the salad, and also for the fries - we should have been charged for the wrap, which came with fries.

I'm kicking myself for not demanding to have another look at the menu to show her what we'd seen, I just accepted what she told us and then paid for the salad and the side when the bill came.

The rest of the mains were OK, nothing outstanding, but I was expecting that.  The calamari was eaten happily and the salad left, teenage boys not being salad lovers, luckily my pizza was much bigger than I was expecting so that was passed over and devoured.

I wasn't expecting amazing food, but I did expect the staff to know the menu and not to be over charged.

I also asked for another drink when the food arrived, after 15 minutes I was still waiting for it, our waiter did notice after the 15 minutes and brought me one straight over - but by that time I'd finished my main.  Irritating, but not a disaster.  We also didn't get charged for that - but I'm assuming that was an error, and not to compensate for another wait.

We all opted for a dessert, these came out without a hitch, two sundaes, a tiramisu and a vanilla cheesecake.  We were amused that our waiter thought the sundaes were for the boys, when they were actually for Phil and I, and had a chuckle when he handed over Phil's youngest's cheesecake telling him it was Chicken Tikka Massala. Other than mishearing the Calamari order, and it was very loud in there tonight, I can't fault the service by our waiter, he was friendly, polite and cheerful throughout, despite the frantic evening.

We all really enjoyed the desserts, I'd been looking forward to a sundae all day and wasn't disappointed.

The restaurant was absolutely heaving this evening, with the staff rushed off their feet, so I can understand the waits with the drinks and the slow pace of food coming out. It's not something we were bothered by.

But I absolutely cannot forgive what happened with being told there wasn't a Calamari wrap on the menu, when there clearly was.  Even after the £50 voucher was taken off we still had a further £28.70 to pay, so I'm unhappy to have had to pay for the fries, and the higher price for the salad  - but I suppose this is my own fault for not being more forceful and demanding to see the menu again myself.

When I arrived home and saw there was a calamari wrap it's soured the meal somewhat for me, even after ending the evening with a lovely big sundae.

However, seeing the boys looking at my scan picture together and trying to decide if the baby will be a boy or girl while we waited for the food brought a tear to my eye, so the evening hasn't been a complete disaster.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


I haven't eaten anything all that exciting recently.  If you follow me on twitter you'll have seen my announcement on my other blog.  Being pregnant seems to have sapped my passion for food.  Food has now become fuel, and somewhat of an inconvenience.  I've gone off meat and fish, so eating vegetarian meals - although I've found I can stomach sausages and bacon when faced with them - I just don't fancy them - chicken, on the other hand, I just don't want to even try with.

I've felt so tired and sick on an evening that Phil's taken over the cooking - it's Come Dine With Phil round these parts nowadays.

He's doing a cracking job of catering to my every whim - cooking, cleaning, washing up and being general dogsbody.  When all I want is a Solero off he dashes to get me one.  The man needs a medal, or a sainthood for putting up with me and my rages and tears.

This evening he whipped up some gorgeous Stuffed Mushrooms which I wolfed down - can't wait for him to do these again!

I finished off the meal with a Solero in bed.  I can think of nothing better than a Solero in bed right now.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The chain issue

I have a voucher patiently waiting to be used for a well known chain, having been approached a while back to do a review for them.  I've seen lots of reviews popping up for this particular chain and have seen via twitter lots of snobbery from food bloggers on why they don't use chains.

Does using chains make you a bad food blogger?

I don't think so.

I do comprehend that as someone that others may call a "foodie", although I'd never call myself one, I'm expected to hate chains, to only use independents and to be supremely interested in local sourcing of food.

Let me let you into a little secret.... I do appreciate seeing local sourcing of ingredients, but I don't hate chains.  In fact, I probably use chains more than independents, particularly when eating out with friends.

Why - because I know where I am with them, my friends know they like them and mostly because I don't feel the pressure for the meal to be great if I've insisted on going somewhere independent rather than a chain.

I know that in Pizza Express I'll probably find the pizza slimy but that my companions will be happy enough with theirs, I know we all like the dough balls so we can share a starter without having to deliberate the menu an extra half an hour and then leave someone who didn't get their choice sulking.

I know in Akbars there's something on the menu that we all like, that the food won't really set my tastebuds on fire but it will be of an acceptable standard.

I know that my friend and I can go in any Wagamamas in the country and there's plenty on the menu that she likes, and yes it won't be as good as the little thai place we go to in London, but it's somewhere that will suit both of our tastes, won't break the bank and will be quick.

If I was able to choose every time I'd rather go somewhere new that I haven't been before, be that an independent or a chain.  On my 29th birthday I wanted to go to an independent, but I was overruled by the friends I was with, one who has a digestive disease and is panicky of trying anywhere new, but would feel safer going to the chain we went to, the other who didn't really care where we had a curry, just wanted to have one.  I was a bit miffed - it's my party and I'll eat where I want to, and all that.  But I accepted that not everyone cares about trying new places - did I really want to make my friend worried about having something to eat, or did I want her to enjoy herself?

My two favourite restaurants in Leeds are independents - Pinche Pinche and Jaipur.  But as neither are in the city centre it's rare I go to them.  I shall be making an effort to go to both before things change completely in the Baxter/Hughes household though.

The snobbery I've seen on twitter has made me a bit wary of posting the review of the chain - will I be judged as a crap food blogger for accepting to do a review on a chain?

I would never normally do a review of a chain - we all know what they're like, it's not that interesting reading about it - unless they were doing something new, or I had a particularly great experience.

I agreed to do this one because it's a chain we used to go to as children, and I want to go as a family with Phil and the boys and take them.  We loved going because of the theme, the huge sundaes for pudding and we loved sitting in the booths.  It's not a place I'd normally go, because I know it's fairly expensive mediocre food, but I wanted to see if it has the same appeal to teens today.

What do you think about using chains?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

MS Society Cake Break in Bingley, 6th May

My good friend Chrissie (@techiefairy) is hosting a charity bake sale on Sunday 6th May as part of the MS Society Cake Break appeal.

The event is being held at Foundry Hill Bar in Bingley, just opposite the train station and will run from 11am to 7pm.

I've taken a few words from Chrissie from the Facebook Event page:

"This will be the 3rd year I've done this, and the last 2 years were a real success. Some of you will already know I've chosen the MS Society because I have a cousin who suffers with it, and who now has to face the possibility of major surgery on their spinal cord (which might not work) to prevent paralysis. So bake me a cake for charideee, or come and scoff them for a small donation. Free parking, and right next to Bingley train station and the bus terminus for several main routes to and from Bradford, Shipley and Keighley.

Hot and cold drinks will be available, and I will be there from 10am if people donating goodies want to drop them off. Or contact me via private message to arrange collection or delivery of your cakes prior to the actual event. It would help me enormously if you could deliver them, but don't let that stop you rolling your sleeves up and putting the oven on if you can't. We will have refrigeration if you want to make things with cream and custard in".

I'll be attending and baking my sumptuous Spiced Ginger Cake, which went down a treat at the last Clandestine Cake Club I went to, and I may even make some buns (or cupcakes as they're known round some parts...).  The bar the Cake Break is being held in is lovely, comfortable and spacious and has some great beers.  I'd be stupidly happy if someone makes a Coffee Cake, I'll be making a beeline for that.

There's an eventbrite page to sign up for, which gives some more information.  Chrissie is also fundraising and would be grateful for any donations.

I'm hoping my blog post will get a few more people coming along to enjoy cake and raise some cash!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Meal Planning Monday

I'm still not feeling like eating meat, so it'll be a veggie week for me but Phil can have meat added to his meals if he wants.  Phil will be on call all week so I'm trying to make it an easy cooking week and will force myself to cook, even if he's not in.  Usually I end up having toast if there's just me to cook for - seems pointless cooking for just me.

I didn't feel very well when we got in so Phil rose to the challenge and gallantly cooked for me, even though he's on call and should be resting himself!

Monday - jacket potatoes with cheese and beans, cooked by Phil
Tuesday - spicy tomato spaghetti with mushrooms
Wednesday - pitta bread pizzas and salad
Thursday - pasta and pesto
Friday - eating out, blogger event at a new restaurant in Leeds
Saturday - herb crusted fish and savoury rice
Sunday - vegetable lasagna

What are you eating this week?

Check Mrs M's blog for the other entries.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Lower Fat Potato Dauphinoise

I used this BBC Good Food recipe as the basis for how to make my lower fat dauphinoise as part of our Easter Sunday meal.

But I replaced the full fat creme fraiche for low fat, the thyme sprigs for basil and the shallot with half an onion.  I followed the method of the recipe though and cooked for an hour and a half - our oven is a little temperamental so I had to give the potatoes a quick nuke in the microwave to make sure they were soft.  I'd probably cook these at a higher heat in our oven than the recipe suggests.

I wanted to use my mandoline slicer to cut the potatoes but it was as though Phil read my mind, and knowing my habits of being extremely clumsy he'd peeled the potatoes as requested and then chopped them for me, spoiling my fun but possibly saving us a trip to A&E...

We had the dauphinoise with slow cooked lamb shanks.  I'd never cooked lamb shank before so followed this recipe from BBC Food to the letter to make them.  Until Easter Sunday the only way I'd ever cooked lamb was in curry - I do a mean slow cooker lamb saag.

The meal was a success, Phil loved the lamb and I loved the potatoes.  I only managed a bit of my lamb and then gave the rest to Phil, the portion size was too much meat for me, but I ate all my potatoes and then ate the leftover potatoes for my supper later.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Meal Planning Monday

I didn't strictly stick to last week's menu, deciding on one of the days that absolutely nothing but hot dogs would do.  I shall attempt to be less naughty this week.

Monday - Half a barburrito veggie burrito (yack) 4 crumpets with marmite (yum)
Tuesday - heading to the parents for tea, who knows what it'll be
Wednesday - Chorizo and Tomato Omelette, crusty bread
Thursday - mushroom risotto
Friday - sweet potato and pea curry, naan breads
Saturday - pasta bake
Sunday - Sausage and mash

Check out Mrs M's blog for the other entries.

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Power of Twitter

I love communicating on Twitter.  I've made friends, found out about and attending some excellent events and learnt a whole host of things I never otherwise would have done from there.

I especially like chatting with other people about food.  Previous conversations about nostalgic food, strange combinations and simply what people are having for their lunch/tea have led to cooking inspiration.  But two conversations this past couple of days have made an impression.

The first was a chat with Ewan about doing an Olympic food event - I was thinking about trying to bake things from as many countries as possible, but when he came up with the idea of at least 11 of us being allocated countries to do a dish from each night then I had to join in - if you fancy taking part too then leave a comment on his blog post (also he has a lovely blog that could do with some more followers, so hit that follow button too!).

The other conversation that my ears pricked up to was from Rachel and Elizabeth's (CDWR guest bloggers) breakfast - potato waffles! As soon as I saw their tweets I had to have some, Phil was despatched to the supermarket this afternoon and for tea tonight he whipped up a veritable feast.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Meal Planning Monday

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but here I go...

Monday - Tinned tuna fishcakes
Tuesday - Chicken and Pea rissotto
Wednesday - Chilli
Thursday - Fajitas
Friday - Curry
Saturday - Freezer Forage
Sunday - Roast lamb, potatoes and veg or Moroccan Lamb with couscous

Phil's on call this coming weekend so I could end up cooking the lamb and then we'll eat it on Monday instead if he's called out and won't be back for tea.

What are you planning on eating over the Easter weekend?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Butternut Squash and Potato Pasties

A few weeks ago I was inspired by Emma's recipe for Double Potato Pies, as we had some pastry in the freezer I decided to give them ago, but opted to use up a butternut squash rather than sweet potato.

I roasted the squash in a hot oven with a little olive oil while the potatoes cooked, and then browned a finely chopped onion with a little garlic.  

When the squash was fully roasted I added it into a bowl with the potato and then mashed it up before adding the cooked onion.  

I used a small side plate as the template for my pasties and filled one side with the mixture, then folded the pastry over and sealed it, and then brushed with milk.

I popped the pasties in the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry was browned.

I also made Phil a special potato and cheese pasty that didn't have any onions in, he loved that too.

I'll definitely be making these again when the weather turns colder (that'll be by Tuesday then...).

Thank you Emma for the inspiration!