Review: An Alpine Lunch at Betty’s, York

Now, Betty’s is well known for it’s cakes, it’s pastries, the Afternoon tea. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that their heritage actually encompasses not only Yorkshire, but also one of my most favourite countries – Switzerland. The founder of Betty’s was indeed Swiss and their influence still shines through on the menu today. From luxurious chocolates to a hearty rösti to traditional Bircher muesli, there’s hidden Swiss delights throughout the menu.

And with it being a bitterly cold afteroon and our trip to Switzerland still a few months away (our visit was shamefully nearly a year ago!) it would have been rude not to indulge…

It was a tough decision, but in the end we were both happy with our plates of food.

I went for the Swiss Alpine Macaroni, with Penne pasta, dry-cured bacon, new potatoes and a rich cream
sauce, with copious amounts of melted Raclette cheese. Oh my. This was good. However first thought of putting potatoes into a cheesy pasta dish deserves a medal. The bacon was thick, so that it was both crisp and juicy. The pasta was perfectly cooked. The cheese sauce strong, but not too overpowering. I’d happily eat this again. And again. And again.

W ordered the Bacon & Raclette Rösti – A Swiss speciality of grated potato, Gruyère cheese and cream,
pan-fried with bacon and topped with melted Raclette cheese. This, with the addition of the cream, was richer than the ones we’ve tried in Switzerland, but delicious none-the-less. I’ve just checked their current ‘specials’ menu and there’s a glorious sounding Turkey & Cranberry Rösti (yes, I am writing this review on my Christmas break, Lord knows when I’ll actually get round to posting it).

We’d planned to order a small selection from the Cake Trolley for pudding, but these mains were rib-busting (in a good way!) and we were far too full. Another time that Engadine Torte will be mine!

Have you ever been to Betty’s? Did you stick to tea and cake, or try some of their Swiss dishes?

Food: Favourite Blogger Recipes

Despite my extensive collection of cookbooks, I’m all too guilty of Googling for a recipe or some dinner inspiration. It’s something I’m trying to change, and one of the ways I’m combating this is that when I do Google, I try to use a blogger’s recipe rather than from a standard recipe site.

This has two benefits – one in that I’n boosting their views (always good to give something back to the community I guess, especially as I *try* to go for smaller bloggers), and two in that it’s giving me some (much needed) photography inspiration. And I’ve found some damn good dishes too…

These are just the ones I have personally tried and loved. Some of them I might have edited slightly, then posted the results on my own blog, some of them I love just how much they are.

Miss Pond’s Squash & Sausage Pasta – link

Now this is super-yum. I generally leave out the feta unless we have it for other recipes (mainly because having it unaccounted for in the fridge leads to me baking it with honey and slathering it on bread), but the combo of spicier sausages and squash is a winner. So, so tasty!

Half Baked Harvest’s Chicken & Orzo One-Pan – link

This is one we made only the other week. Super simple and, although it can take a while, it doesn’t take a huge amount of chopping and hands-on time. The next time we made this we’ll probably leave out the lemon slices as they were a tad bitter for our tastes – and I’ll be trying other versions too. I’m thinking a combo of mushrooms and parmesan would work so nicely with the chicken and orzo! The best thing about this recipe? It uses a small amount of wine, so the rest of the bottle needs drinking…

Rhyme & Ribbons Lentil & Mushroom Bolognese – link

You know me, I loveeee a Bolognese. Amanda was the person who first inspired me to make a vegan mix out of mushrooms and lentils and I love her for it. This is the perfect dish to have in the freezer as it defrosts easily in the pan with a bit of water, and it’s also great to take to work and heat in the microwave.

You can see my recipe for a Tomato Free Bolognese here.

Little Miss Katy’s Potato Skin Crisps – link

Okay, so this recipe is super dangerous – because you’ll never be able to throw potato peelings away again. We don’t tend to make the dip, just adding plenty of spice to the potato and devouring whilst still hot enough to burn our fingers. It’s a Sunday afternoon staple for us as we prepare our roast.

Image credit: Katy

Amy Elizabeth’s Fesenjan – link

Fesenjan was the favourite thing that I cooked in 2017, and having already made my first batch a few weeks ago it’s safe to say it’s still a dish I love. Amy Liz’s was the first recipe that I tried and, whilst I’ve edited it since (my version is here) it’s still a classic. It’s slightly safer in it’s spicing so would be the way to go if you hadn’t eaten any of the flavours before.

Cookie & Kate’s Satay Quinoa Salad – link

This is one of my go-to lunches – it makes a *tonne* of the stuff, it lasts really well in the fridge and it’s just so damn tasty. I have edited the recipe slightly (mine is here), but the original is still super tasty. The dressing is one you really have to make to your own tastes – I like a zingy kick from the lime personally.

Lottie Huckle’s Porridge – link

Okay, so I don’t get the chance to do her level of toppings on the regular morning (read: ever, because I’m always far too hangry to go that far) but I’ve taken her method of cooking my oats to heart. A long soak (I do tend to do around 20 minutes in boiling water), a slow simmer. My porridge is 100x better!

Image credit: Lottie

This post was harder to write than I thought it would be – there’s just so many food bloggers and recipes that I’ve loved recently!

Do you have any favourite food bloggers whose recipes you can recommend?

Recipe: Low-Carb Mushroom “Risotto”

It’s been well documented on here many, many times that my ultimate comfort food is mushroom risotto. It’s rich, creamy, comforting and can be rib-achingly heart. And it’s that last point that lead me to devising this recipe. Sometimes I want the flavour and creamy texture, but I also want something lighter. Something that doesn’t make me want to spend the rest of the evening napping. This is perfect.

Substituting cauliflower “rice” in place of my beloved risotto rice not only squeezes more veggies in my dinner, but it increases the nutritional value and lowers both calories and carbs. Of course it’s not a ‘healthy’ dinner as there’s plenty of cheese and cream involved, but it is less guilt-inducing and certainly makes my tummy feel happier (too many carbs don’t really agree with me – I say with a sob as pasta, bread, rice etc is life!). Making a mushroom risotto with cauliflower rice just means I can enjoy my favourite meal more often!

Recipe – Generously Serves 1

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or around 15g of butter
  • 1 small onion, or two shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch dried thyme (or 1/2 tsp fresh)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 large handful of sliced mushrooms, I prefer to use chestnut ones
  • 2-3 dried mushrooms, crumbled
  • 1 cup stock, vegetable or chicken
  • 1/2 a cauliflower, riced in a food processor (I use a mini chopper)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of creme fraiche (I used half-fat)
  • 30g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 handful of fresh spinach, either to serve, or wilted in right at the end

In a medium pan, heat the butter or olive oil over low heat and add the onion/shallot, celery and thyme. Fry until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and continue to cook for around 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms (fresh and dried) and fry until golden brown, adding a spot more butter or oil if it’s looking dry.

Add the cauliflower and stock and, stirring frequently, cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in the creme fraiche and cheese, and season well (plenty of black pepper!). Cover with a lid and leave to stand for 3 minutes, then stir in the spinach (if you want it wilted) and serve with extra parmesan.

Cauliflower is being use in a lot of inventive ways in the food blogosphere right now (check out my recipe for Cauliflower Cheese Pizza Bases). Whilst I’m definitely not a fan of depriving myself (if I want a proper pizza I’ll damn well eat one) I do like making little healthier switches so I can enjoy my favourite foods and still fit into my skinny jeans.

Have you tried doing anything ‘unusual’ with Cauliflower?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #35

This fortnight has been a pretty weird one, as most of it I’ve spent being rather ill with a severe cold/flu illness. In fact this was the same illness than led to my previous happy things post being cut short halfway through – apologies about that. It’s been kinda difficult to see the good things when you’ve spent so long in bed, especially when you’re too ill to walk the length of your flat or even read a book, but I’m hoping writing this post will cheer me up.

  1. Chicken soup. The best medicine you can buy!
  2. Starting with (another) new team at work for the next few weeks. I may have only managed half a day before I headed home ill, but I’m excited to start a new project and see where things go.
  3. Sausages in Cider. I had very little taste for over a week with this illness, and this was the first dinner where I actually managed to appreciate it.
  4. Chicken & Ham Pie topped with Cheesy Mash. I needed comfort food, and this worked.
  5. Finding a 20% off code to coincide with when I needed to reorder Pixi Glow Tonic. Every little helps!
  6. Lemon Meringue Pie. Coupled with a lack of taste I had very little appetite, but I was craving this – so my wonderful fiance made me one fro scratch.
  7. Ordering some pretty pyjamas for the morning of the wedding. At least I’ll look decent in the bridal preparation photos!
  8. A pamper evening. If you’re feeling ill then an evening with candles, a warm bath and facemasks might not make you feel better, but it does help a little.
  9. Receiving our pre-wedding shoot photos back. Our photographer has done an absolutely amazing job, I’m planning on sharing a few over on Instagram during the week!
  10. Blood Orange Curd Tart with Dark Chocolate Pastry. This was our Sunday night dessert yesterday and it was goooood!

Sorry for the slightly depressing Happy Things post! Hope you’ve had a better fortnight than me!

Recipe: Chocolate & Guinness Cake

It may come as a surprise to you, as I’ve declared my love for chocolate many times, but I’ve never really enjoyed a chocolate cake. Give me a brownie, I’ll be happy. Give me a muffin and I’ll enjoy it. But I’d never, ever choose a chocolate cake in a tearoom. This cake has changed all of that. This cake is, without a single doubt, the absolute best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten.

The Guinness in this cake adds a beautiful rich dimension to the chocolate. It mellows out the sweetness, intensifies the cocoa flavours and adds a deep, dark colour to the sponge. Not only that, it keeps it wonderfully moist, meaning the cake lasted us nearly a week before we managed to get through it (this is the problem when you bake a large cake between the two of you!). But fear not, whilst the Guinness does add some extra flavour, it’s not an imposing taste. I’m by no-means a fan of drinking the stuff, but I couldn’t get enough of this Chocolate Guinness Cake.

Recipe (Makes a 20cm round cake serving 8 generously)

  • 175g self-raising flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 275g dark brown soft sugar
  • 110g very soft butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 50g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 200ml Guinness
  • For the icing – 300g icing sugar, 100g soft butter, 40g cocoa powder, 40ml milk, 40g dark chocolate

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the Guinness. Now, using a whisk, beat well until you have a smooth creamy consistency. Finally gradually stir in the Guinness. Divide the mixture between two greased and lined 20cm tins and bake at 180C for about 30–35 minutes. Allow to cool fully.

For the icing, sift together the icing sugar and cocoa powder. Add the butter and beat well until coming together. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time. Melt the chocolate, then gradually add to the icing mixture. Continue beating for 5-10 minutes or until creamy and fluffy – it’s far easier to make this in a stand mixer! Use to sandwich the cakes together and cover the top. This icing recipe is also wonderful on cupcakes.

It’s also rather good warmed slightly and served with ice-cream…

Are you a fan of chocolate cake? Have you tried baking with beer? 

Review: The Olney Pancake Parlour, near Milton Keynes

A bonus of being a foodie blogger is that is gives you the perfect excuse to visit new places. And when a pancake parlour popped up in a charming little town not too far from my parent’s, welllll I just couldn’t say no! Olney is a favourite place of ours to go for a few hours – cute little shops and boutiques, an excellent monthly farmer’s market and a nice country park nearby to take the dog. Now this place has opened there’s yet another reason to visit.

Olney Pancake Parlour was the venue for a mum-daughter-sister date, and what a choice it was. Yes, it was insanely busy on a Saturday afternoon and, yes, service was a little slow. It was noisy with sugar-high children but that was all part of the charm. I do think perhaps table service would work slightly better, given the dishes were a little cold once the server eventually located the correct table, but that’s my biggest gripe.

With Olney being the birthplace of the pancake race, there’s already a fair bit of pressure on them to get their pancakes right, and thankfully they do. You can choose between a traditional Olney-style pancake (a little bit like a less sugary, less buttery version of a French crepe in my opinion) or a stack of fluffy American-style ones. There’s a whole host of savoury or sweet options, and vegan pancakes are available on request. Sounds good, right? The toppings were even better.

I went for the Terry’s Chocolate Orange (chocolate orange ganache, Terry’s chocolate orange, mandarin and chocolate sauce) on a traditional-style pancake and it was DELICIOUS. The orange flavour came through perfectly, cutting through the chocolate to ensure it wasn’t overly rich or sickly. The small scoop of ice-cream was just the right amount, and the addition of Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments on anything are fine by me.

My mum also join me on the traditional pancake front, going with an Apple & Blackberry Cinnamon Crumble. I really liked this, although she felt it was perhaps a tad overpriced, a little too sweet and far too much cinnamon. Well, I guess you can’t please everyone! Personally I loved the texture-combo, with the silky pancake, soft fruit filling and buttery biscuity crumble.

And then there’s was my sister’s Triple Chocolate Brownie American Stack (brownie chunks, chocolate sauce, Maltesers and Smarties). This was absolutely huge, and well worth the premium for the stack. I, quite predictably, had to help her out in order to finish it and can vouch for the fact that these were some of the best American pancakes I’ve eaten. Light, fluffy and just the right tough of sweetness. I definitely enjoyed this, though perhaps not the right choice for the faint-hearted!

Oh, and if you’re not in a pancake mood then there’s a whole host of other options – salads, breakfasts, sandwiches, paninis, jacket potatoes. But quite frankly if you’re not in a pancake mood I’d perhaps suggest you go elsewhere and leave a table spare for me! Now all that’s left is for me to return and try their pancake-themed Afternoon Tea…

What is your favourite pancake topping?

Review: Mandira, Covent Garden (London’s 1st Fresh Yoghurt Bar)

Billed as ‘London’s first fresh yoghurt bar’ Mandira is a small, fairly-Instagrammable place just off Covent Garden. Admittedly the concept of ‘yoghurt bar’ confused me and, quite frankly, scared W when I told him where we were headed for lunch. As Time Out say, it’s a slightly bizarre concept!

The USP of Mandira is their pots of natural yogurt with various sweet and savoury toppings, but there’s also soups, Turkish Simit bread (similar to a bagel, but slightly flatter, lighter and topped with plenty of sesame seeds), vegetable latkes, smoothies (the cacao and orange one sounds divine) and authentic Turkish hot drinks. Everything is prepped daily and then assembled to order, keeping it as fresh as possible, but also (perhaps more importantly) keeping the yoghurt toppings crunchy.  Recently, Mandira has added something new to their menu – it’s what I was asked to review, and as it’s my current obsession I couldn’t say no!

Turkish Eggs are my go-to breakfast, brunch and/or lunch option right now. Full of protein, light, ready in ten minutes and super easy, there’s not a single reason to go for anything else. Perfectly poached eggs, on a bed of thick and creamy yoghurt, drizzled with melted chilli butter and served with plenty of bread. Now, I have to say that whilst I *love* the dish, Mandira’s version wasn’t quite to my taste.

The eggs were poached to perfect, the yoghurt was gorgeously thick and creamy. However the yoghurt was cold, and the chilli butter was in fact olive oil, then a shake of dried chillis and paprika. It all led to the dish being served up luke-warm and getting cold quite quickly – and cold poached eggs are not exactly appetising. It’s definitely got promise though, heat the yoghurt and they’d have a winning dish. Especially with some toasted Simit dippers – I’ll definitely be trying to make these by adapting my bagel recipe!

W went for one of their Simits – with Turkish Style Cured Beef, Butter and Kaseri Cheese. This was delicious. Filled with mild and creamy cheese, and plenty of the tasty and lightly spiced beef (similar to pastrami) I did have a bit of food envy! Mainly as it was so cold and this was properly hot and warming…

We were also given a selection of their yoghurt pots (in miniature, so we didn’t have to roll ourselves out!) to try. We picked three savoury and three sweet flavours and got stuck in!

Out of our savoury picks, the Hummus + Za’atar (Hummus + Chickpeas + Toasted Pine Nuts + Parsley + Za’atar + Sumac + E.V. Olive Oil) was our least favourite, as it felt a little underseasoned. The other two were gorgeous though.  Smoked Salmon and Dill (Forman’s Smoked Salmon + Dill + Lemon Juice + E.V. Olive Oil) was generous on the salmon, perfectly seasoned with black pepper and dill, and the whole combination went perfectly with the yoghurt. I can imagine a pot of this and some Simit dippers would make a perfect lunch! The Cauliflower and Green Tahnini with Barley Rusk was also very good. The green sauce was intensely flavoured, the cauli tender and the rusk added a good crunch. A tad garlicky if you were popping out of the office for a quick lunch, but as we shared it wasn’t too much of an issue!

The sweet ones were also good. Sweet enough to round off the meal, without being cloying or leaving us in a food coma. My favourite was the Banana and Hazelnut, which came drizzled with Maple Syrup. There was just enough banana and crunchiness to remind me of a banoffee pie, definitely not a bad thing! W really enjoyed the Quince Compote with Granola. The first time we had eaten a fresh quince (rather than in a jam or chutney with cheese) it was really quite delicious. The Dark Chocolate & Orange was slightly disappointing, though absolutely delicious if you got a good spoonful of everything as the mint leaves made all the difference.

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Whilst our meal wasn’t faultless, I know I’ll definitely be back. Whether it’s to sip a Turkish tea, grab a toasted Simit or a pot of yoghurt and salmon (I imagine it would be wonderful on a hot summer’s day – though that feels a long way away after the weather this week!), I’m glad Mandira is now on my radar!

*We were invited to review Mandira for lunch, but all opinions are mine (and my fiances!). 

Would you go for a sweet or savoury yoghurt pot?

Recipe: Vietnamese-Style Caramelised Pork Mince & Rice Noodle Salad, with Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce

And the award for the longest recipe title goes to….

Yep. I could have just said “Asian Pork Salad” or something similar, but it really wouldn’t have sounded quite so delicious. In fact, despite me making a royal mess of cooking the rice noodles (I still can’t even fathom what I did to them), this was one of the most delicious date-night meals I’ve cooked in a while.

This is perfect for a light dinner, yet it still feels like a big treat. Of course the sugar quantity isn’t exactly small, so best not to have it too often, but it is delicious enough for me to overlook occasionally! To make it even easier and quicker you could use bought chilli-sauce, but the results are so much better with homemade.

And, okay, so this probably isn’t strictly authentic. But it is delicious. Sweet, but with deep savoury flavours. A real hit of spice. Freshness from the salad. Definitely one I’ll be making again and again.

Recipe – Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce (makes enough for 2x quantities of the pork dish, freezes well)

  • 4 red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 stick lemongrass
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 60ml cider vinegar
  • 75ml water

Making this sweet chilli sauce is surprisingly simple, and it tastes SO much better than bottled shop-bought stuff. Simply pop all the ingredients in a blender (I used a mini-chopper) and whizz until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and reduce until the sauce is syrupy – stirring constantly. Mine took around 15 minutes, and the fumes are quite potent so pop your kitchen fan on! Set aside to cool, probably best to transfer to a bowl as it will stick to your saucepan.

Recipe – Caramelised Pork & Rice Noodle Salad (serves 2)

  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Juice and zest 1 lime
  • 100g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • ½ cucumber, peeled into ribbons (discard the really watery middle)
  • 2 small carrots, cut into matchsticks (I use a julienne peeler as it’s SO much easier) 3 salad onions, cut into thin rings
  • 1 small handful chopped, fresh coriander

Heat a small amount of oil in a large wok, and fry the pork mince for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through and golden. Meanwhile you can prep the veg, and toss it together with half of the lime juice, the lime zest, fish sauce and half of the coriander. Cook the rice noodles via the instructions on the packet.

When the pork is nearly ready, addd the ginger, garlic, soy sauce and half of the sweet chilli sauce. Stir to combine, then add the lime juice to taste. Season well with salt and pepper, then served sprinkled with coriander, along with the salad and rice noodles.

Are you a fan of Vietnamese Food? What other recipes would you recommend?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #34

Sunday night, it’s cold outside, I’m cosy-ed up on my sofa with a hot chocolate and looking back over all the good things in the last fortnight. Not a bad end to the weekend!

      1. Doing a menu tasting for our wedding. All of the food was wonderful, especially our chocolatey dessert. I can’t wait!
      2. A Valentine’s night in with a current favourite casserole (pork, lemon, mustard and dill with parmesan dumplings – it’s delicious) and cheat’s chocolate mousse.
      3. Bright skies and sunshine. It feels like Spring is just round the corner!
      4. Having a clear blog inbox for the first time in months…
      5. Having a first measurements session for my wedding dress – eek. I am so looking forward to seeing it all come together.
      6. It’s been all go with the wedding stuff recently – we also had our pre-wedding photoshoot with our wonderful photographer. The sneak peek was wonderful, so I imagine there will be lots of happy tears when we get the rest of the snaps!

What’s made you happy recently?

Recipe: Leek & Blue Cheese Risotto

I’ve probably said this before, but I’m firmly of the belief that risotto is the perfect comfort food. Creamy, though not overly heavy, cheesy (but not greasy), and it can be loaded full of nourishing ingredients. When I’m feeling under the weather, need cheering up or just generally want some comfort food, it’s risotto that I turn to.

This recipe is perhaps a bit more indulgent than the risottos I tend to cook, with less emphasis on the vegetables, more cheese and a healthy dose of wine. Whilst I don’t tend to use wine in my risottos (why cook with it when you can drink it?!) I do find it pretty necessary in this one to add an extra note of background flavour. It intensifies the sweetness of the leeks, tempering the harshness of the blue cheese. And if you’ve opened a bottle to cook with, it would be rude not the finish it, right…?

#Recipe (generously serves 2)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh thyme, leaves only (around a tbsp)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 175ml white wine (roughly 2/3 of my large wine glass)
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • A knob of butter
  • 100g blue cheese
  • 25g parmesan
  • 25g walnuts, roughly chopped

Gently fry the onion, celery and garlic in the oil for around 5 minutes until softened but not brown. Add the rice to the onions and stir for a couple of minutes until the grains are slightly translucent.

Increase the heat and add the wine, stirring until it is all evaporated. Then add the stock a ladelful at a time, again stirring until absorbed before adding more. Repeat until the rice looks creamy and tastes cooked – I find it takes 20 minutes but it varies depending on the type and brand of risotto rice.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, gently fry the leeks and thyme in the butter. Add to the risotto when it is cooked with plenty of black pepper then crumble in the parmesan and most of the blue cheese. Cover, take off the heat, leave for 2-3 minutes, then serve sprinkled with the remaining blue cheese and some chopped walnuts.

Perfect for a cosy Friday-night in, or indeed a meat-free Monday meal! I also like it with some crisp bacon on top, although admittedly this adds to the washing up…

Are you a risotto fan? What’s your go-to comfort food?