It’s a little known fact I am a bone fide Geordie. Thanks to my consistent accent confusion, this is something that is generally only evident if I’ve been chatting to my parents or friends on the telephone or I’ve consumed upwards of six amaretto sours. Armed with this information and the knowledge that I credit the skilled cooks and bakers that are my Mam and Nana for stirring my passion for all things food, it should come as no surprise that the Hairy Bikers are two of my favourite TV chefs and that many of their books adorn my food porn shelves.

When I got wind of their last BBC series ‘The Hairy Dieters’ I must admit that I rather selfishly feared that the guys’ newly svelte but equally hairy appearance might mean that their food had moved away from the flavoursome comfort food that reminds me of home (Mum’s Know Best is one of my most-thumbed cookbooks). Luckily, when I was sent a copy of the cookbook accompanying the series, I was relieved to find that Dave and Si weren’t recommending we all live on salads and water 24/7 (though there are plenty of yummy salad suggestions in the book).

The main messages of the book are some age-old dieting mantras – eat less, move more, curb carbs where you can. All very solid messages, which seem to have worked well for the bearded ones. The book itself is – like the lad’s other books – full of easy to follow messages, with appealing but simple pictures and there are a few motivational words from the guys thrown into the mix.

As it happens, the impending wedding of a friend has spurred me on to lose a bit of weight myself, so I’ve found myself dipping into the book more than I had anticipated. So far I’ve cooked the delicious minestrone soup and the cumin-roasted veg, which is now a favourite side dish. One thing I would have liked to see more of within the book was more carb-avoiding side dishes like this that fill you up good and proper without reaching for the rice.

What I do like about the book is it’s unpretentious nature. Too often diet books talk in jargon and give realistic indicators of just how bloody hungry you are going to be! Another great thing about the book is the fact it’s published in paperback (by Orion, priced £14.99), which means it’s more affordable than some of the other Hairy Biker books and should be accessible to everyone who is looking to change their diet but still wants to spend time being creative in the kitchen.

Speaking of creativity, being consistently bombarded with images of cake thanks to the Great British Bake Off, I decided to cave and bake some cakes. Because I didn’t want to ditch the diet completely, I decided to tweak the Hairy Dieter’s Skinny Lemon Cupcake recipe to make it cow-milk free. Unfortunately I didn’t have a muffin pan handy so they didn’t turn out as light as fluffy as those in the book, but they were still tasty, here are the results (blog post with recipe tweaks to follow):

Skinny lemon cupcakes with lemon drizzle icing

 

 

 

 

 

Three months in and my days now seem to revolve around counting down to the arrival and sending of my foodie penpal parcels. So far, I’ve received some really thoughtful and useful parcels and this month’s was certainly a belter, courtesy of my new condiment-loving chum Hannah. One of the nicest things about the foodie penpal scheme is that it encourages you to chat with fellow parcel givers via Twitter and by following Hannah (@Hansyquirk) I discovered we shared a mutual love of all things saucy – specifically the hot stuff, ooh-er.

Having mentioned our mutual appreciation of condiments to Hannah I had very high hopes for August’s package. It was incredibly frustrating therefore when my seriously rubbish concierge Barry missed my parcel’s arrival, which resulted in me having to wait nearly a full week until I could unwrap my monthly treat. Much nail biting was done and Barry was lightly cursed once or twice.

Here’s a litte message from me and Hannah: “GET IT SORTED BAZ!”

Right, rant aside, here’s a peek inside my lovely pink-tissue padded parcel:

 

Just as I’d hoped, condiment Queen Hannah took my love of sauces seriously and furnished me with no less than three homemade condiments – Bacon Jam, Mango Chutney and Chipotle, CHIPOTLE! So far I’ve only tried the smoky and delicious chipotle, but it won’t be long until I’ve hoovered all three – condiments don’t have a good survival rate in my flat.

In fact, I may run another condiment evening. This involves ovening some perfect condiment accompaniments like chips and bread and inviting friends to bring over their favourite condiment. As a group you then sample sauces and take time to appreciate the wonderfulness of condiments. Yes, I really relish chutneys, ketchup, hot sauce and mustards, mmmm! FYI the winner of the first ever condiment evening was a garlic chutney. I think Bacon Jam could be the contender to beat this time round.

Anyway, back to the parcel. Nestled among the condiments was some Wasabi powder (which can of course be used to create a sauce). There was also some very potent lime and coconut delight, which unfortunately didn’t seem to have enjoyed the trip to the Post Office depot and back (THANKS BARRY). Prettying up the package were some cupcake cases and colourful sprinkles and I plan to use these to decorate the lemon cupcakes I’m making this week from the new Hairy Dieters book I”ve been sent to review (heads up, it’s awesome).

And so concludes my August foodie parcel. Thanks Hannah! If you fancy having a package of wonder delivered to your door each month, click on the foodie penpal logo at the bottom of this page, I’d fully recommend getting involved!

I’m going to start this post with a gush warning – I always try to give a balanced and objective account of my Eating out Adventures and keep the superlatives to a stomachable level, but there’s a pretty solid chance that this blog might turn into a full on gushing waterfall of praise for my new food crush Hepworths Deli.

For those who haven’t yet stumbled upon this new kid on the deli block, Hepworth’s is situated just off Leed’s main street Briggate in Thorntons Arcade. Through the day it’s proprietor Joe Hepsworth concentrates on selling salads, platters, sandwiches and other deli delights, but as of August 16th Joe – who also runs catering firm Hepworth’s Kitchen – has also launched a pop up restaurant, giving a select number of diners the chance to experience his higher-level culinary skills.

Like most food bloggers, I tend to use catching ups with friends as a bone fide excuse to eat out, particularly if there’s somewhere new in town that I’m plotting to try.  On this occasion the new place to eat+old friends equation was a real winning formula, so much so that my two former housemates and I have decided to try and schedule a catch up every time Hepworth’s holds a pop up restaurant evening and here’s why…

For just £20 per head we were served a sensational five course fresh summer menu, which can be viewed here. Upon arrival at the small (but surprisingly light and airy) deli, we were greeted by a very friendly waiter who talked us through the menu, opened our BYO red wine choices (ooh I do love BYO), brought us some water for the table and promptly presented us with our first course, this beautiful amouse bouche:

Pea Veloute mint oil and peashoots amouse bouche

Despite not usually being a fan of peas – they are the only thing I don’t eat aside from beans – I polished this off very quickly. The fresh mint oil perfectly cut through the sweet and creamy pea flavour, though rich, the small serving meant it was just enough to introduce a range of flavours without leaving us too full for the treats to follow.

Ham hock terrine, spiced apple chutney toasted brioche, petit salad

For my starter I opted for the ham hock terrine and chutney, which as you can see, was presented beautifully with the aid of some very pretty red amaranth (something I’m now trying to search out and use myself as it added great colour without a strong taste). The terrine was meaty but not overpowering in flavour and tasted great with the light brioche and sweet, fruity chutney.

Panfried mackerel, Thai salad

The panfried mackerel looked equally as attractive, and since it was consumed by one of my fellow diners in around three minutes – presumably tasted equally as good, too.

Panfried bass, lime quinoa, coriander dressing

Since I plumped for the meat starter I followed with the fish main course. I really love citrus flavours and often use lemon or lime juice in place of vinegar, so the lime quinoa was a proper treat for me, though the sweet tomato salsa on top of the fish stopped things becoming too sour. The fish was soft, moist and simply seasoned, another winner!

Braised beef, spiced carrot, red wine jus

I was pleased with my choice of main, but I couldn’t help but be a little jealous when I spied the main my friend Laura had picked – the mash alone had me salivating! Thanks to the generous portion she received I was lucky enough to get the chance to sample both the mash and braised beef; the shin was melt-in-the mouth perfect and the mash as creamy and smooth as it looked (I’m replaying eating it right now, Mmm!)

Strawberry shortbread cheesecake

When dessert arrived there was a collective table ‘oooh’ and it’s not hard to see why. The disconnected strawberry shortbread cheesecake featured homemade shortbread crumble, strawberry ice cream, cream, purple basil and strawberry pâté de fruit and was a real adventure on a slate. The sweet and intensely fruity jelly of the pâté combined with basil made me audibly ‘mmm’ several times, to the point where I zoned out completely and had my own ‘When Harry met Sally’ moment, enjoying every lingering mouthful to the point I almost didn’t realise that my ice cream was starting to melt.

Once I regained composure we were able to indulge in some after dinner coffee and have a quick chat with the chef himself. When Joe revealed he was only 26, I felt a little ashamed of my worldly achievements to date, to have so many culinary strings to his bow (the deli, dinner party catering and now the popup restaurant) and to be seemingly handling them all so well is quite a feat. In the days since I have intermittently been determined to learn the art of patisserie, sign up to a French language course, or at least learn sugar craft.

Before departure, my fellow diners and I all left our email addresses and urged Joe to put us at the top of the mailing list for Hepworth bistro events. I often consider Leeds to be unrivalled for the good mix of quality restaurants on offer in a relatively small city, but the pop up restaurant fills a new niche entirely – restaurant quality food with an ‘at-home’ atmosphere, topped off with a cosy setting. For these reasons I’m predicting tables at future events are going to book up very fast indeed, I just hope I’ve said enough to get some kind of preferential treatment.

In the name of providing balance to the universe, I’m following up my ever-so-healthy and dairy free flapjack bun post with this, the most sinful and dairytastic of snacks. As you may have gathered from the post, I created this fantastic but fat-filled rocky road recipe as a departing gift to the good folk at Epiphany, where I worked up until last week. Just like my time with the lovely employees at Epiphany, this recipe is full of unexpected treats and the odd lump and bump in the road (lovely smooth linking there!)

Because I was creating a recipe that I wanted others to enjoy, I put aside my dislike (and fear) of white chocolate and embraced it fully to create a truly milk-laden recipe. The recipe itself was loosely based on Nigella’s traditional rocky road recipe, which I happen to think is the ‘best ever, never fails’ recipe for squares of joy. Working to the principles of Nigella’s rich dark recipe, I came up with this creamier version:

Recipe

600g white chocolate

150g butter

200g shortbread

100g rich tea biscuits

75g dried cherries (not glace)

200g marshmallows (cut up)

150g rose and lemon turkish delight (cut up)

5 tablespoons golden syrup

Assembly

 

Stage one: Rocks for the road

I wanted my rocky road to be aesthetically pleasing as well as kind on the tastebuds, so I chose ‘rocks’ that would provide colour as well as texture (the biscuits, cherries, turkish delight and marshmallows) and mixed them all up in a bowl.

Stage two: White nice cement

Creating the cement for my road was suprisingly tricky. As a bit of a white chocolate novice I wasn’t anticipating just how tar-like the mixture could become.To make yours super smooth and avoid panic, heat your butter, white chocolate and golden syrup together very slowly and remove from the heat immediately once it’s melted together.

Stage three: Laying the path to indulgence

The final stage is to mix your rocks into the chocolaty goo and press down into a lined baking tray to cool before cutting into teeny tiny squares (this stuff is rich). I covered mine with a fine coating of icing sugar using a sieve to make it look a little prettier, though you can definitely go without the extra calories!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I rustled up these low-cal treats the other week for my foodie penpal Sarah over at Northwestnosh as I’d really wanted to send her something homemade, but she’d said in her email that she wasn’t a fan of stodgy or calorific foods. I adapted the recipe from the book Only 100 calories published by the every reliable M&S and as well as being low fat they had the added bonus of being dairy free, which made them a winning snack for me, too!

Recipe

55g light brown sugar

50g cranberry and cashew nut mix

200g porridge oats

2tsp ground cinnamon

2 egg whisked whites

Method

The original recipe used cranberry, chopped apricots and hazelnuts, but as I had a snack bag of cranberry and cashew mix in the cupboard, I made a simple switch and upped the level of oats to compensate for the lack of apricots. I also increased the amount of cinnamon as I’m a real cinnifan! Making the buns was a real five minute job, all you need to do is pour your frothed egg whites into the mixed dry ingredients, pat into balls and fill bun cases laid out in a tray.

The final step is to bake at 20 minutes at 190c, which should make the oats look and taste nicely toasted. These buns are really fragrant when they come out of the oven and though they don’t have the sticky or butteryness of normal flapjacks, they still have plenty of crunch and texture.

These last really well if kept in an airtight container, so they’re great for adding to packed lunches or even taking to work for breakfast if you’re in a rush. Next time I make them I plan to use dried papaya and pineapple in place of the cranberry and cashews and to add in some dessicated coconut to create a tropical flavour.