Gin tasting @ lazy lounge, Leeds

When I left my last job back in OCTOBER one of my presents was a gin and cake tasting for two. I finally got round to booking it for me and the boyfriend and had it earlier in the week as a continuation of my birthday weekend. It’s based at the Lazy Lounge in Leeds and I think its £20 per person.

We walked round after work, it’s based in Leeds city centre, just off wellington street and as we arrived half an hour early, we settled down with a glass of their house white. I’ve had it before and it’s well worth it as house wines go. As we were ordering I was a bit peckish and saw some snacking ham. What’s that you ask? I had to find out…

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Turns out it’s cured ham in a packet and it’s a tasty alternative to the usual crisps. I was a bit peppery for my liking but that didn’t stop me shovelling into my mouth.

Turning to the important bit…the gin. We were seated at a grand piano which had been turned into a table and which was covered in gin, cake and sandwiches:

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The guy (unfortunately I didn’t catch his name) was AMAZING and definitely knew his stuff. He took us on a tour from gineva to the modern day Gin and along the way learnt how some of the phrases we use to this day evolved via the popularity of gin. For instance “dutch courage” and “quack” in reference to a bit of a dodgy doctor.

It was so interesting to learn about the evolution of gin; tasting the first type was a revelation, and not the good kind!

The sandwiches and gin and tonic cake were both delicious and well needed. We drunk a lot of gin so needed the carbs.

I think my favourite gin was one which was made out of potatoes which is so ironic because I grew up on a potato farm!

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So if anyone wants to buy me some of this I am not going to refuse!

Pop down to lazy lounge, you won’t be sorry and its a fabulous night out.

Jessica x x x

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So stuffed you could put me on a mantelpiece

It was my birthday on Friday and I ended up eating out a lot! Not that I’m complaining because I adore food, but let’s just say I’m contemplating joining a gym this week. Seriously, I looked round one tonight after work!

So….the meals….I hope you won’t be mad but I forgot to take pictures! I just got caught up in the moment (hunger to be specific) and totally forgot…. All 3 times!

1. Friday night at The Pour House, Granary Wharf, Leeds

On my actual birthday we ended up going out for a leaving do at the boyfriend’s work. It wasn’t an all awkward walking round with a bunch of flowers at someone else’s party…
We had prebooked our food a while before so I had almost forgotten what I had ordered. Turns out it was the New York-shire burger at £11.95. (Here’s a copy of the menu).

There was a few of us so it took a while to be served. The burger was alright. It was sold to me as being on the medium/rare side but it was disappointingly well done. I ate it but I finished it in no hurry to order it again. The boyfriend had the val hammer burger and was not impressed. The pulled pork soared but the tasteless burger brought it back down to earth with a bang.

Bottom line- I’d give the place a go again (the gin selection is amazing) but not on a friday night in a large group. If you’re looking for a great burger in a bar, head down to Brooklyn Bar on Call lane. You won’t be sorry.

2. Saturday night at El Bareto, Chapel Allerton, Leeds

I’ve been here before and I will go again. This place is warm, welcoming and tasty, all set in an intimate classic Spanish style, think orange walls, dark wood and rough plaster.

We ordered a bottle of the house wine which was fresh and totally drinkable. We totally forgot about the sangria otherwise we would have had a nice jug of that.

We ordered:
Marinated anchovies;
Jambon croquettes;
Chorizo in cider;
Jeffa potatoes; and
Fried squid
You can find the menu here.

The bill came to just over £40 which was an absolute bargain and we were definitely full afterwards. The two best dishes hands down were the anchovies and the croquettes. If I had to eat those non stop for a few weeks I would be a happy girl!

The only slight annoyance was how efficient it was, we were in and out in about 50 mins, although I can’t really fault them on this, we weren’t rushed at any stage, it just turns out that we know what we like so order quickly and we were quite happy to retreat back home to where icecream was calling out our name.

Bottom line- try this place you won’t be sorry.

3. Sunday afternoon at the Deer Park, Street Lane, Leeds

My family came round on sunday to celebrate my birthday and have a belated mothers day for my mum and Nanna as my parents were away for the actual day. My parents can be quite traditional and like a good pub so I thought this place would be a good shout, it has great food and a good beer selection so my dad was happy despite forgetting his glasses and missing the football.

Despite 8 of us rocking up on a lovely spring sunday afternoon, they managed to fit us in within a few minutes which was a shock considering how busy the place was.  I can’t fault the waiting staff here.

I went for the roast beef dinner as I was told I could have a rare piece of roast beef. Quite a while later the food came out and whilst the beef was most certainly not rare (or even medium) it was incredibly tender, so much so that I didn’t mind. It was accompanied by a generous helping of goose fat roasted potatoes which were fabulous and a fat Yorkshire pudding.

The chatter on our table soon quietened down once we were all busy eating and I don’t think anything was left. We left full, happy and a bit tipsy.

Bottom line- go for sunday lunch

Wow that was a long post, big congrats if you’ve made it this far!

Jessica x x x

Amazing red Thai crab cakes

I made these the other day for tea and I loved them! The picture is not going to do them justice so please do not judge on that!

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They’re served on a bed of spinach and topped with my lovely infamous carrot salsa (see here).

Ingredients (serves 2)
3 x small potatoes
1 x tin of crab meat in brine, drained
2 x handful of spinach
1-3 teaspoons of red Thai curry paste. This depends how hot you want it, see notes below
1 x small cup of milk
1 x small handful of plain flour
1 x handful of breadcrumbs
2-3 teaspoons of butter
1/2 an onion

Method
1. Peel, chop and boil the potatoes until tender in salted water. Drain and mash. I used my ricer and it makes perfectly lump free mash with barely any hassle;

2. Finely dice up the onion and mix with potato and butter.

3. Add the red Thai paste. Now I used 3 teaspoons but in hindsight this was probably too much. It’s not that it’s too hot, but it does take some of the flavour away from the crab. Next time I think I would use 1.5 teaspoons. Ensure the potato mixture is thoroughly mixed.

4. Gently stir in the crab meat. Be careful not to break up the chunks of meat too much, you still want bits of crab in there.

5. Separate the mixture onto 4 patties. Dip first in the flour making sure it’s fully coated, dunk in the milk and then carefully roll in the breadcrumbs to get a nice even coating. Repeat with the remaining patties.

6. Place on a baking tray in a pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes at about 180 degrees depending on how golden you want them.

Serve immediately with something fresh to counteract the spicy red Thai curry flavour and to enhance the crab . There’s plenty of potato in the fishcakes so don’t worry too much about a more substantial side. Two of these each was more than enough to make us feel full and sleepy on a cold wet English night.

Let me know how they turn out for you

Jessica x x x

An overdue update

Wow! It has been a while since my last update, and I know so many of you will have been sitting on the edge of your seats just waiting, praying that I will post again. Well the time to be afraid is over I am pleased to announce, and I thought I would give you a quick update on what has been going on:

1. The job! So I alluded to having a new job a few months ago…well it’s been going really well. Currently I’m a paralegal in a law firm in Leeds but I have recently been told that I will be a trainee solicitor in June/July all being well.

I don’t think I can explain how happy I am about this; I did my degree, my postgrad, worked for two and a half years with the most amazing people but for a firm which made me feel bad and like I wanted to give up on law, then I get a new job and it seems like in no time they believe in me and what to help me progress my career.

So this is what’s been keeping me busy recently. We’ve been really busy lately and I’ve been working a few late nights (well late for me anyway)

2. I accidentally bought bags of carrots again instead of singular ones. This time it was 3!

3. I’m having a root canal tomorrow! Yes horrific I know!

4. Me and the boyfriend are finally getting somewhere with the house. The living room is almost finished; the skirting boards and doors just need a further paint and we need to buy a new settee/sofa. Oh and then there’s just the dining room, hall, master bedroom and 2 small bedrooms to worry about. Oh the joy of having to re-wire a house!

5. I finally got round to updating my pinterest board tonight. I haven’t been on it since before Christmas to post my creations and it got to that point where I knew there was a lot to do and I just couldn’t face it (a bit like logging back onto here and realising it’s been nearly a month since my last post) check out my pinterest board!

6. I have found my new favourite wine- Riesling. There is a simply version at tesco which is simply divine (haha) and at under £5 a bottle an absolute steal!

7. I seem to have done little cross stitching recently. The last project was for a new baby of my mum’s pen pal’s granddaughter. I was so annoyed, I had to unpick the name because the lady decided to change the spelling of the name when it was registered. Luckily I don’t think you could tell after and I made sure to stab the middle of the squares with my needle to equal out the bigger holes where the threads had been. I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished piece so I’m afraid you’re going to have to cope with this very brief snapshot:

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Yes that is a maple leaf in the top left hand corner!

I think that’s it really, I don’t lead a thrilling life I’m afraid but I like it.

Hope you’re all as happy as me right now.

Jessica x x x

Giveaway thursday

It’s coming up to a quiet season for me birthday wise so I thought now would be the perfect time to have a little giveaway to my lovely followers.

I’m running it through instagram, check me out @jessica.Jayne.jo and follow the instructions.

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The winner gets to choose one of my handmade cards which can be personalised.

The winner will be announced on Sunday 15th February 2015 so act fast!

Hope everyone has a lovely day, remember it’s almost the weekend!

Jessica x x x

My first ever proper card

This post was supposed to be about my latest big project- think melting clocks. However I’m at work and I’ve realised I’ve forgotten to take a photo of it.

So instead here’s a look at my first ever proper card:

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I say proper because this was the first time I made a card using a trifold card. I had previously stuck designs onto bits of card so this was the first one which looked like an actual card.

A friend from work was leaving to live in France for a while so I designed and made this for her. I recall the Eiffel tower taking me forever to draw.

It’s one of my earliest designs and probably one of my favourites, it is so simple but so effective. The flag in my opinion is a stroke of genius.

The thought behind the card and the badly translated words inside (thanks Google translate….not) made sure that the card was well received.

What was your first design/project?

Jessica x x x

Cauliflower Chinese rice

I’ve made this a few times now and it’s definitely a hit in my kitchen. It’s inspired from a dish in the book “favourite mince recipes” here, which I have made various changes to.

I did originally used to make it with rice but I’ve recently decided rice isn’t my favourite thing and I’ve started replacing it with different carbs/replacements. Cauliflower works great in this dish as it absorbs the flavours much more efficiently than rice.

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Ingredients- serves 2
150g-ish turkey mince
Half a carrot
1tablespoon oil
1 onion
1cup peas
1 cauliflower
2 eggs
2 sprinkles of crispy fried onions
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
Splash of sesame oil

Method
1. Grate the cauliflower and place to one side

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(Just in case you needed to be told how to grate something)

2. Fry the mince, onion and carrot in the oil. Once cooked remove any excess oil from the pan.

3. Meanwhile mix the tomato sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce together. Feel free to alter the amounts of each ingredient to suit your taste buds.

4. Add the cauliflower and frozen peas to the pan and stir to absorb the flavours. This needs about 2 mins max.

5. Add the sauce mixture and stir to combine. It takes a little while to properly mix the sauce in. I usually do this while frying my eggs (below).

6. Fry the eggs and serve on top of the cauliflower mixture. Sprinkle with the crispy fried onions and serve immediately.

Best served with some spring rolls you can just bung in the oven to cook while you’re cooking the main event.

I think this is a fabulous quick, tasty mid week meal which looks like you’ve put more effort in that you really have.

Let me know if you make anything similar with cauliflower rice.

Jessica x x x

Leek lasagna

OK so obviously this isn’t actually leek lasagna:

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This was tea on Friday night. I had planned to make lasagna with leek sheets rather than pasta sheets but the boyfriend decided he was going home home for a leaving party, so I was left to cook for myself.

Now in these situations I would always usually have prawns seeing as he hates prawns and I adore them. However he only decided he was going away after I had had my dinner of a prawn sandwich with prawn cocktail crisps so you could say I was all prawned out.

Bearing this in mind I thought I’d make myself some good old fashioned comfort food with the contents of the fridge, loosely based on my original planned meal and completely thrown together.

Ingredients – serves 1 VERY hungry person
70g-ish turkey mince
Half an onion
1 chestnut mushroom
1garlic clove
1 leek
1 potato
Half a pint-ish milk
1 tablespoon flour
1tablespoon butter/marg
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
25g strong white cheese
Sprinkle of nutmeg

Method
1. Peel and chop the potato then boil in salted water until tender.

2. Fry the mince with the chopped leek, onion, mushroom and minced garlic.

3. Add the drained boiled potato to the mince mixture and stir to allow the potato to soak up the flavours.

4. Make a quick cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and once melted add the flour. Quickly stir to mix and them slowly add the milk until you’re happy with the quantity and consistency. Sprinkle the nutmeg in. Add the cheese cut up into rough chunks (or grated) and stir the mustard through.

5. Once the cheese has melted add the sauce to the potato and mince mixture and stir through.

6. Serve immediately and preferably with a gin and tonic. It was a Friday after all.

As I kinda just threw this meal together I wasn’t really paying attention to portion sizes and this actually made quite a lot. I intended to leave leftovers for Saturday but I decided to just be greedy and eat the whole thing..maybe that was the gin talking though.

Anyway hope you like my leek lasagna. Give it a go…this is a meal I’ll repeat for the boyfriend once it gets colder…proper comfort food for a rainy day.

Jessica x x x

You can take the girl out of the farm part 2

Unfortunately no-one had a toy combine harvester at all….no-one! I was left to use a pair of boring kitchen scissors for my harvest and did so with a heavy heart.

Moving on I wondered what I could do with my wheat and as I was looking round my front garden I spotted the lavender bush. *bing* lightbulb moment.

I cut some lavender stalks and then thought hey why stop there and I hacked away at my conifer hedge. I bought a new vase from Next a while back which I haven’t had the pleasure of using yet (nudge boyfriend) and got to work placing the dry ingredients together. Here’s a close up:

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The lightings not great unfortunately so you can’t see the purple as vividly as you can in real life.

Here’s a long shot:

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I tried to remember what my mum always told me; foliage around the sides and put things in odd numbers. Hopefully I’ve followed her instructions.

I think the vase goes great with the whole look of it and because both the lavender and wheat are bone dry hopefully the arrangement will last a while, I can replace the foliage quite easily.

I do however have quite a few heads of wheat left over….does anyone have any idea what I can do with it? I kinda want to make my own flour but have literally no idea how I can do this? Any experts???

Jessica x x x

You can take the girl out of the farm…

I grew up on an arable farm on the Lincolnshire/Yorkshire border and for as long as I can remember August has always been harvest time.

My dad would spend days in his combine harvester with my mum and various relatives being the tractor driver. It is a long standing joke that if you get caught behind my mum on a local steep hill you might as well take a diversion because you’ll get there quicker.

So last year I eventually moved out from home properly. Well I went to uni and returned after third year for the summer and then moved to Leeds to do my post grad course but I lived in a flat and my bank, driving licence etc remained at my parents address, or “home home” as I like to call it. So really in my head I officially moved into my own place when my boyfriend and I bought our own house and I’ve finally changed bank details!

So earlier this year I realised that something very familiar was growing in  my front garden…

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Yep that’s wheat. I couldn’t believe it! My mum swears that my dad must’ve intentionally dropped some seed when he was helping us move in but he denies this.

Ever since I’ve been waiting for it to get ready for harvest. One thing I’ve realised that it definitely takes longer to be ready in the suburbs than it does in the countryside.

But it was finally ready:

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Check it out!

Now I’m gutted because I had the most perfect idea…I wanted a toy combine harvester so I could take the best photo ever. Unfortunately I don’t have one. I emailed work and no-one had one. I was actually shocked, loads of them have children, maybe its a country thing but I remember we always had things like that.

So yes I’m having to resort to scissors now. Seriously, scissors, that’s barely worth a photo!

Its been very damp recently so I’m waiting a few more days for it to dry (fingers crossed) to harvest.

If anyone in the Leeds area has a you combine harvester PLEASE get in touch asap.

Jessica x x x