Leeds is blessed with many lovely places to eat – restaurants, cafes, delis, supper clubs – we’ve got it all. I really do feel lucky to have so many great food choices, but unfortunately some of my favourites aren’t on my doorstep – or they weren’t!

Sukothai in Chapel Allerton has long been in my top three of places to eat in Leeds and a good takeaway from said establishment my failsafe recuperation aid when hungover (Thai food has that wonderful ability to make you feel healthier from the inside when you eat it). When I moved to the city centre, the distance from this branch and it’s sister restaurant Sukothai, Headingley where a source of great pain to me an undoubtedly the reason for many hangovers since to linger longer than they should. Fast forward to the end of summer and Sukothai South Parade opening and a very excited Fay.

I managed to squeeze in a takeaway the very first week of the restaurants opening – eating it without a hangover for more objective taste testing and I was pleased to find it delivered in every which way I’ve come to expect from Sukothai. However, it wasn’t until last week that I managed to arrange to dine in with a group of friends and this is what I found…

Much like the other branches of Sukothai, the restaurant itself is decadently decorated, though this has the added bonus of a small bar to the front, which is where we perched while we waited for our table. We had booked, so it was a little disappointing not to have our table ready for us, but the venue was packed out – as Sukothai always seems to be. We were soon seated at a table with an excellent view of the kitchen, giving me the perfect opportunity to watch the chefs do their work and stare longingly at every meal that headed passed us.

Busy chefs at Sukothai South Parade

A peek inside the kitchen at Sukothai South Parade

Our waitress came to take our order fairly quickly and I ordered the Khanom Jeeb (Steamed pork and prawn dumplings, served in soy sauce and topped with crispy garlic) at £5.95. We asked for some water for the table to drink along with the bottles of wine that we’d bought at the bar and found it a little odd that we were brought individual glasses of water, though this may have been a space saving exercise for the table, which was not overly spacious and fairly close to those nearby.

Khanom Jeeb, Sukothai

Pork and prawn mince dumplings, Sukothai

I’m a big fan of dumplings – Thai, Japanese and the ones that my Nana makes with loads of suet and cheese (I must make those soon now the cold weather has set in) and these were excellent (not too sure what happened with the photo). Moist, meaty yet delicate and with lots of crispy garlic and top and a delicious dipping sauce, They came with a side salad dressed in a light sweet chilli dressing. I enjoyed both sauces – maybe a little bit too much but just about resisted the urge to lick my plate clean because I was dining with more refined types.

Thai Green Curry with bean curd

Thai Green Curry with bean curd

Next up was Gang Kiew Wan Pak (Thai green curry with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, bean curd, courgette and mixed vegetables) £8.95, with a side order of jasmine rice. I love ordering bean curd dishes in good Thai restaurants because the curd usually comes out cooked perfectly and excellently flavoured by the curry. The curd pieces in this dish were large and flavoursome, but I would say I thought the veg was a little overdone and there was a tiny bit too much fish sauce in for my liking as it was the overriding flavour. The portions were not large, but I was contentedly full after both starters and main.

The restaurant was very full but were not pushed by waiting staff to clear our table and we finished our wine before settling up. Overall the food and dining experience was very good, though the staff were perhaps not quite as attentive as those I’ve come across during my outings in Chapel Allerton. With the inclusion of the bar, and open plan kitchen, I get the feeling Sukothai are aiming for a slightly slicker affair on South Parade and the decor and quick service certainly hit the mark.

 

 

Forget going down to the woods today unless you wrap up really, really warm ‘cos it’s really cold outside. But, if you really do want to brave the wind and rain to explore all things autumnal, make sure you have something like this waiting in the oven at home!

Bread and butter pudding is real comfort food, but it’s also something that’s really hard to get right. Some recipes can be soggy, sticky and somewhat disappointing, but not this one. This new twist on a new favourite sprung out of a new twist on an even older favourite, here’s  the food fable behind it’s creation…

Thanks to Twitter, I recently stumbled across a new brand called  The Healthy Bears who make bear-shaped bread (yep, you read that right). I’ve long been interested in ways to encourage younger folks to eat more healthily and this wholemeal bread seemed like a good way to wean little uns off white bread into something altogether more, um, wholesome! Intrigued, I got in touch with the lovely bears at Healthy Bears (I know they probably are not bears but it makes them seem more magical and improves the story if we pretend they are) and they sent out a loaf for me to try. So far, so good. Unfortunately, it was left up to my not-so-competent concierge Barry to take delivery of said bread. As regular blog readers will know, Barry is not brilliant at parcel care and thus the loaf was returned to the Royal Mail depot twice before I gave up and headed off to my local Asda to buy a loaf for myself. Should you want to do the same, you’ll find the quirky creations in Asda stores across the nation.

Loaf finally in hand, I was quite impressed with the colour and sponginess of each slice, which was rather long and thin thanks to it’s bear shape. Although it may be tricky to use for sandwiches, the shape of the bread is spot on for toasted soldiers and perfect for the dish I chose to turn it into : Savoury Bread and Butter Pudding.  Although the bread kept fresh for a week, I often find living on my own that I struggle to get through a whole loaf at once, so I decided to take this opportunity to do a bit of experimentation and come up with a recipe for something quick and tasty using the bread. I opted for a savoury bread and butter pudding that can easily be made vegetarian or free from cow’s milk (which most of my meals happen to be!)

Savoury Bear and Butter Pudding recipe

serves four

Eight slices of Healthy Bears bread (or six slices of normal bread cut into triangles)

Margarine/sunflower spread (around 50g)

Unsweetened soya milk (400ml)

Two reduced fat sausages, grilled and chopped

One large vine tomato (sliced)

One small red onion (cut into wedges)

English mustard

Mozzarella ball or goat’s cheese

 

Bear and Butter Pudding

Savoury Bread and Butter Pudding made with Healthy Bears Bread

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180c and grease a rectangular oven-proof dish. I used my lasagne dish that turned out to be the perfect size. Next, spread the bread on each side with the sunflower spread or margarine and spread the mustard on one side. Lay in the dish with mustard and spread sides alternating. Use the other ingredients to hide as surprises between the slices. So, slip nice juicy vine tomato slices between the bread, alongside red onion wedges and chunks of sausage. I used two reduced fat sausages in this recipe as I’m on a bit of a health kick, but you could up the meat content or leave it out altogether.

Beat the eggs in a measuring jug, add the soya milk and mix together well. You can use normal milk here but I tend to cook with soya milk because cow’s milk doesn’t agree with me. Pour the mixture over the bread and allow it to soak in for a few minutes. Covering with cheese adds the finishing touch and helps create a great bubbly, crunchy texture on top. I used mozzarella but a hard goat’s cheese or even Feta would work well.

Bake for around 35 minutes until the egg mixture is cooked and your bread and butter pudding is golden, crispy and delicious. The texture lies somewhere between a luxury French Toast and a Croque Madame and is utterly delicious. I served mine with some rocket and chilli jam (which I’d received in my last foodie penpals parcel). It was beary, beary nice!

Deciding on a winning cupcake batter is no easy task, but this chocolate rolo recipe will definitely help you make friends and influence people….

I make no secret of the fact I love cake, it’s a longstanding relationship that I don’t see breaking down anytime soon. My ability to make fairly good cake is something I’ve used to my advantage over the years; it’s surprising how well a promise to regularly bring cake into the office goes down in a job interview.

Though I’m a fairly confident baker I’ve always been a little bit nervous when it comes to icing and decorating and that’s because my mother has always excelled in this department. For years I’ve been in constant awe of her ability to sugarcraft everything from carefully tinted roses to lawnmower pushing gardeners and it’s put me off going beyond piping.

I’d decided to tackle this fear head on by starting small and making lots of cupcakes over the coming months, so when I heard about the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning I thought it was the perfect excuse to get practising. I got the cake-loving fraternity at work on board and several other people agreed to bake sweet and savoury goods for the event, which was set to be a day of cake.

I wanted to be sure the cakes I made would be good (just in case my decoration wasn’t so hot) and so I chose to use my favourite chocolate fudge cake recipe (courtesy of good food) into something a little different. The cakes I made contained a chewy rolo centre and were decorated with a vanilla frosting with a hint of caramel. Some of the cakes were topped with a second rolo and others mimicked a 99 by addition of a stick of Crunchie (I wanted the cakes to sell well and everyone knows variety is the spice of life.

They turned out really well (phew) and I was rather pleased with their appearance too, which won such vocal praise as: “They look shop bought”. Brill. I was slightly disappointed the rolo sank to the bottom in a few of the cakes, though this probably occurred because it’s such a light cake batter. To prevent this in future I’m going to try dropping them into the top of the batter in future and covering any indents with icing.

If you want to make your own and you should because they are light, fluffy and sugartastic, this is what you need to know:

The ultimate chocolate cupcake batter (makes 12)

175g self raising flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate soda

150g golden caster sugar

2 eggs beaten

2tbsp golden syrup

150ml sunflower oil

150ml semi skimmed milk

1 packet of rolos (frozen)

Gorgeous golden frosting

225g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

Good squeeze of golden syrup (about 2.5 tbsp)

Vanilla essence 1 tsp

Décor

Rolos

Crunchie bar

Golden sugar balls (Dr Oetker)

Chocolate or caramel sauce

Baking method

Preheat the oven to 180C then roll up your sleeves, put on your apron and get measuring. This can be a messy affair if you aren’t careful as the light fluffy cakes come from a very runny batter! First up, measure all of the dry cake ingredients into a bowl and mix. Next, beat your eggs in one bowl and measure your oil and mil, into a jug, measure to mix together.

Dry chocolate cupcake ingredients

Dry chocolate cupcake ingredients

Next, pour the wet ingredients and the beaten eggs into a well in the middle of your flour/cocoa/sugar/bicarb mix and mix.

 

Chocolate cupcake batter. Yummy and runny!

You should get a lovely silky mixture like that above, which you need to try to transfer into muffin cases in a deep muffin tray. Warning: this is the tricky bit!

 

Rolos nestling in chocolate cupcake batter

Rolos nestling in chocolate cupcake batter

Fill the cases about two thirds full, before dropping a frozen rolo into the centre of each one and top with a little batter .

Golden chocolate cupcakes

Golden chocolate cupcakes, looking nice and light and fluffy

Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes (they may be ready slightly earlier depending on your oven). When they are ready they should be spongey to the touch and a lovely golden brown colour.

The ultimate rolo chocolate cupcakes

Rolo and crunchie chocolate cupcakes oozing with chocolate sauce

Once cooled it’s time for decoration. I chose to make mine look a little ice cream like by piping the caramel coloured frosting and topping with a rolo or crunchie chunk. I finished the cakes off with golden sugar balls for extra crunch and a delicious drizzle of chocolate sauce, though if you want to go all out for a rolo theme a caramel sauce would work well.

I’m not sure what type of cupcake I want to tackle next, I was thinking of perhaps going traditional and experimenting with red velvet cupcakes and going to town with a Halloween themed decoration. Any suggestions folks?