Something for the weekend: George’s, Leeds

Before I properly start this blog post there are 2 things you need to know:7

  1. The photo quality does not do this restaurant justice.
  2. It is embarrassing that after nearly 5 years of blogging that after 5 minutes D took better photos than me. Bravo my darling, bravo.

If you’re looking for a venue that can produce a classic British dish and put a contemporary twist to the same high quality; Georges is probably the place for you. This place came highly recommended to us from several of Dane’s work colleagues and upon visiting, we could see why. This place is a fun cross between a seaside town and a cocktail bar, with the restaurant booths being decorated like beach huts which was a lovely touch.

We visited on a Friday night after work as D was reviewing Miss Vincent at the Key Club. The staff were lovely, really attentive and pretty interested when D told them they’d be appearing here! The food came really quickly, essential for us as we didn’t really have time to linger. I definitely got the impression that it wasn’t the sort of place you’d be rushed out of though as the cocktail menu was impressive and extensive.

I wasn’t really paying attention when I ordered my drink and was delighted when the below concoction appeared in front of me. This is a Candy Baby – a non alcoholic cocktail. The first time in around 15 years i have had candy floss.

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Dane samples the wild ocean hake in onion bhaji batter. He raved about this, and the batter really was like proper onion bhajis. This was the perfect spin on British fish and chips, but obviously also allows you to enjoy some Indian flavours at the same time.

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My eyes were slightly bigger than my stomach (which they often are after a day in the labs at work) and I ordered a stacked fish burger with cheese croquettes. Both burger and croquettes were delicious. The fish was beautifully cooked. I wasn’t so struck on the deep fried gherkin and picked onion though. (This is more personal preference rather than the way it was cooked). I did feel like I slightly over ordered, and I would say that never time I would order a lighter side with this burger as it was pretty sizeable, and I could not finish everything.

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If you happen to be in Leeds (or Newcastle/Nottingham) and you want somewhere that will appeal to those who want a more traditional menu, without ignoring those who like trying new things this is the place for you. The menu is pretty varied, there are options for meat lovers, and those who want a lighter meal.

We arrived at the music venue, perhaps not the oldest in the audience, but definitely the fullest people there!

Thank you to the staff who were so friendly and really made us feel welcome.

I’d love to return to try some of the exciting looking cocktails. I’m sure we will be returning soon.

For more information on Georges including booking information click this link.

If you’re interested in the band D was reviewing this link takes you to one of their music videos.

Have a great weekend!

The Hobbit Themed Chocolate Birthday Cake

The Hobbit Themed Chocolate Birthday Cake

Hobbits are well known for their love of food. So is my family. As the Hobbit is one of my Dad’s all time favourite books it seemed pretty fitting to have a birthday cake themed around the part of the Hobbit; although the execution of it was something of a lucky fluke. Fortunately although it is not an exact replica of how Smaug or his hoard looking in the film, or how I imagined it in the book, it is a pretty good approximation.

This cake is a perfect birthday cake for any chocolate lover. You wouldn’t necessarily have to make this exact cake, you can adapt this around other themes as you wish.

To make this cake you will need:

170g caster sugar

170g butter

150g self raising flour

20g cocoa powder

3 eggs

For the filling

100g white chocolate

50g double cream

For the ganache topping

200g dark chocolate

200ml double cream

50g milk chocolate

To decorate

3-4 packs of chocolate fingers

Chocolate such as Malteasers, Minstrels or similar

Kinder Eggs (basically I wanted a Minion from one)

Gold lustre cake spray

Gold cake decorations

To make the cake preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 medium cake tins. Whisk your eggs and sugar until light and fluffy so they leave a trail on the surface of your cake mix. Melt your butter and fold this into the mix, along with the flour and cocoa powder. Bake for around 12 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean and the cake is springy to touch. Once cooked set aside to cool down. It is nigh on impossible to decorate a warm cake.

While the cake is cooking make the chocolate ganache and filling. To make the white chocolate filling melt the white chocolate and cream together. Set aside to cool. Take the same approach with the darker and milk chocolate and cream to make the ganache topping. Melt the chocolate and cream together until thick and glossy and then leave to cool before putting on the cake.

Once the cake and ganache are cold sandwich together the 2 cakes using the white chocolate filling. Cover the cake and the sides with a smooth layer of ganache. Line up the chocolate fingers on the side of the cake (this looks attractive and hides the fact that decorating cake sides tidily is a chore). Half the Kinder egg and place on top of the cake as a cracked egg. Add the chocolates as treasure at random, however bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect and most people will want a bit of chocolate topping on their cake. Spray with gold lustre spray and add your cake decorations.

Put in the fridge to chill to firm for several hours before serving. Add a dragon if one is available.

Serve as part of second breakfast, elevenses or similar. Hobbits need to know there is decent fare in the pantry at all times.

A weekend in Northumberland

A weekend in Northumberland

Northumberland you stole our hearts. It turns out that all it takes for D and I to be happy is a beach, fish and chips, a place of historical interest and a boat trip. (Maybe also a day off work). We visited not one but 2 castles; Alnwick Castle, where much of the first 2 Harry Potter films were shot; and Bamburgh Castle which is just beautiful and overlooks the sea.

Considering we did everything at a relaxed pace we managed to fit a lot in. I really and wholeheartedly recommend taking a boat trip from Seahouses. Apart from seeing some of the beautiful coastline that the UK has to offer, we also got to see some adorable seals and puffins (the smell of guano was a bit ripe though).

Obviously being at the seaside we have to take the opportunity to have some of the best fish and chips we’ve had in a long time overlooking the sea.

We hit the jackpot with our B&B and I wholeheartedly recommend it. The room and bath were beautiful and the owners were so kind. We stayed at the Old Station House just outside of Belford. I could not recommend the place enough.

I think with planning a wedding its sometimes tempting to focus purely on the day ahead rather than enjoying your time as an engaged couple. I’m so glad we took an opportunity to spend time together in such a blissful and relaxed surroundings.

If you’re looking for a relaxed and reasonably priced break in the UK I couldn’t recommend Northumberland (both the coastal area and the National Park) enough.

Spinach and tomato pie

This year D and I have been eating a lot less meat. There were several reasons for this but the best thing to come of it (apart from feeling so much better) was the opportunity to try a whole host of new recipes.

Considering D is not really much of a vegetable eater he actually enjoyed this recipe. Alongside having a great many health benefits, spinach is one of the most versatile vegetables. This is also a pretty easy thing to put together after work and packs a punch in terms of fruit and vegetable portions.

To make a pie to serve 4 you will need:

1 pack of lighter puff pastry

2 eggs

450g frozen spinach

50g Parmesan cheese

200g garlic and chive soft cheese (the lighter option)

Salt and pepper

Herbs de provence

4 large tomatoes cut into segments

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 onion, diced

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat until soft. Add the spinach, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and fry until the spinach has cooked down. Once the spinach is cooked; add the cream cheese, Parmesan and egg. Reduce the heat and make sure the cheese and egg is distributed through the mixture.

Place the spinach in a pie dish and top with the (rolled out) pastry. Glaze with the egg. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

This pie also makes excellent leftovers or vegetarian picnic food.

Beautiful Philadelphia

Beautiful Philadelphia

Following New York we had a day each in Philadelphia in the city; however due to having limited time we made the most of our trip by only having a day each in Philadelphia and Baltimore.

There is so much history in the older American cities. To us Philadelphia felt like a cross between New York and Amsterdam. There’s something very laid back about the city. We started our visit by eating cheese steaks in one of the parks before taking in some of the historical building and seeing the Liberty Bell. We learned something about the early days of American independence, went to an exhibit in the Peale house and toasted our engagement in City Tavern. I’m not 100% sure that everyone in the Tavern really understood our Northern English accents though but we both had some Olde Fashionde drinks which were welcome on such a hot day.

For a slice of foodie heaven we stepped into the Reading Terminal Market. Which made us extremely hungry and would make the biggest foodie excited. The range of food inside that market was exciting and mouthwatering. If you’re in the area is it well worth a visit and it was extremely tempting to fill our suitcases with salami, pasta sauces and cheesecake.

In a total change of scene, we were told of the NFL draft and we followed the hoards of football fans. Although neither of us have any idea about American football the excitement was infectious. We had fun perusing all of the stands and watching the commentary in the sunset. Although it was unplanned to be in Philadelphia for the event it really felt like we were getting a taste of the USA.

In Philadelphia we stayed in an Airbnb, it felt like such luxury to 1. spread out our possessions and properly repack our cases. 2. Have a bath instead of a shower. We barely spent any money once we were actually in Philadelphia as so many of the places to visit are free or very inexpensive. My one regret about the visit was that we couldn’t get a picture near the infamous Rocky steps due to the Football draft, but it was such an experience we couldn’t complain too much.

 

New York and an announcement

New York and an announcement

 

Hello! Its been so long! I must apologise for not filling you in sooner on life, our travels to America and what I’ve been up to lately. The two biggest bits of news:

  1. D and I went on an amazing trip to the USA covering New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Shenendoah, Northern Florida and Orlando.
  2. We got engaged in New York.

New York really lived up to the hype. Growing up the media and friends and family talk about how amazing New York was and truly we had a fantastic time. There’s so much to see and experience, I feel like I could go back and still not do everything I’d love to do.

We stayed in a tiny hotel room in a hotel off 8th Avenue. Apart from the fact that we could only open the cases on the bed, it didn’t really matter as with only 5 days and the whole of New York to explore it was really more of a base to sleep and for that we really only needed somewhere safe with a comfy bed!

 

We walked about 15 miles each day around the city (pack comfy shoes) and did a lot of the iconic things but I think my favourites were:

  1. Watching not one but two musicals on Broadway – we got to see Josh Grobin in Natasha and the Great Comet and we saw the opening night of Bandstand. We actually got engaged on the stage at the Imperial Theatre after watching the Great Comet.
  2. Going to Central Park and seeing iconic places from films and tv programmes.
  3. Seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (we love a bit of History).
  4. The shopping. Need I say more?
  5. Watching Twin Forks in Chinatown.
  6. Watching Wrestling in a Catholic School Gym in Brooklyn – although I was so jet lagged I fell asleep for a chunk of the match.
  7. Randomly happening upon Katz’s deli from “When Harry Met Sally”.
  8. The food! Although we didn’t really actively seek out trendy places to eat we certainly ate really well. We ate in a lovely diner, had some wonderful Chinese Food, ate a lot of pizza and had some delicious pizza in a local deli.

 

In summary, a trip to New York really doesn’t have to break the bank. We saved a lot before our trip but some of our top tips for keeping costs down were:

  1. Use the Subway. You can get weekly Subway tickets for about $37 which makes it so much easier to get across the city.
  2. Food needn’t break the bank. We ate in diners, pizza shops, delis and fast food restaurants. We ate hot dogs from a hot dog stand and we ate a lot of fast food. We found that if you eat in the more residential areas of Manhattan or Brooklyn there is a lot of great food. Notably when we went to the Railroad Diner in the East Village the food was fantastic, the staff were so lovely and the portions were so ridiculous we ate at 10am and didn’t need to eat until the evening.
  3. If you want to watch something on Broadway – Google Rush Tickets. We got amazing seats to see Natasha and the Great Comet for under $40 (I forget the actual amounts). I actually cried during the final song, something I had wanted to do since I got into theatre was to see a musical on Broadway. You can usually get Rush Tickets for certain musicals if you buy tickets when theatres open at 10am.
  4. You don’t have to pay the full admission price for the Natural History Museum – it is a suggested donation only.
  5. Plan ahead, we looked a lot of ticket prices before we went and D put together a vague itinerary so we knew what we were likely to be spending that day and took advice from friends and online reviews to determine what we wanted to do.
  6. Don’t feel like you have to have a whole new fashionable wardrobe to fit in with the locals! This won’t apply to a lot of readers but it will apply to some. It is really worth noting that although there are some truly stylish people in New York; Sex and the City is a myth. Being on the Subway a lot we noticed we didn’t really stand out as tourists for dressing how we usually do and like everywhere there is a huge variety in how people dress.

 

If we had just done New York as a short break we would still have had one of the most memorable trips of our lives. I feel like New York was kind to us and we left in a happy bubble, engaged and excited for the rest of our trip.

 

Perfect vegan chocolate cake

Perfect vegan chocolate cake

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or have to follow dairy and egg free diets I have you covered. I think at a push you could even make this nut free if you substituted the coconut oil for soya based spread.

If you are none of those things never fear D and I both loved this cake, the cake tends to crack on the surface but the rise is really good and it is really rich. D and I are not vegetarian or vegan but we are cake lovers and also probably what is now classed as flexitarian.

This is a very much simplified Nigella Lawson recipe based on what I already had in. However it turned out really well considering I forgot to buy sugar and had to use an old pack of demerara sugar I had in the back of my cupboard.

To make a rather large cake you will need:

225 g plain flour

1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

1½ teaspoons instant espresso powder

75 g cocoa powder

300 g demerara sugar

375 mL hot water

75 g coconut oil ( about 90ml)

1½ teaspoons cider vinegar

To decorate

Dairy free chocolate spread

2 squares dark chocolate

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 20cm cake tin (one with a catch to release or a moveable base) with baking parchment. In a large bowl mix together the flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In a second bowl (or large jug) melt your coconut oil into your water along with the sugar and cider vinegar. Pour this into the bowl with the dry ingredients and beat together using a hand whisk. Pour the cake mix into the cake tin and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out pretty clean and the cake mix has come away from side. Set aside to cool.

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While the cake is still warm melt the chocolate spread. Prick the cake with a few holes and use a knife to make a thin layer. Grate over the dark chocolate.

Serve warm or cold. This cake will stay fresh when kept in an air tight container if it lasts that long.