Where do you stand on sprouts? Are you in the ‘no way’ camp, scarred by too many traumatic encounters with the pallid, mushy horror that is the over-boiled sprout? Or are you in the ‘hell yes’ camp, loving sprouts so much that you’ll risk annoying your colleagues by re-heating your sprout concoctions in the work microwave, perfuming the office with the sprout’s unmistakable aroma. (And no, not that aroma before you ask. Naughty.)
Me? I’m a ‘hell yes’ girl. Sorry, lovely colleagues, but I bloody love sprouts. I love the way they look, like cute miniature cabbages huddling together for warmth. I love the way they add the pizzazz (that’s right, PIZZAZZ) to a roast dinner, soaking up gravy as if that’s what they were born to do. But most of all, I love their versatility. Because sprouts aren’t just for Christmas. Oh no. Sprouts are for life. Or, at least, for the period between October and March when they’re in season.
Now, I’m all for tarting up sprouts in posh risottos and fancy stir fries à la Ottolenghi, but today I want to share something simple. It came into my life unexpectedly, one of those ‘I’ve-only-got-a-few-things-in-the-fridge-so-let’s-chuck-them-together-and-see-what-happens’ recipes. But as humble as its origins may be, don’t be fooled by its simplicity. Because this is an absolute corker of a sprout recipe; a recipe with the potential to turn even the most devout of sprout haters.
“Your girlfriend’s a veggie? Unlucky, mate… How do you manage that? Does she make you eat veggie food too? Or do you have to eat separately? AND WHAT ABOUT BACON?!”
SIGH. Forget the prospect of being force-fed tofu and lectured on animal cruelty; this is what you should fear about dating a vegetarian. Because apparently it’s not love, respect and trust that a successful relationship rests on; it’s the compatibility of a couple’s attitude to eating meat.
But I’ve got a secret to share, and it’s a big one. Dating a vegetarian is not hard. Seriously. Sure, we don’t want to eat dead animals, but most of us really don’t care if our partners do. And honestly, that’s all there is to it. I’ve been in a carnivore-veggie relationship for nearly six years now, and we ‘manage’ just fine. Neither of us has tried to convert the other, meat and vegetables coexist peacefully in the same fridge, and, shock horror, we even share meals together. Mine just don’t include meat. And bacon? Well, what about bacon? He eats it, I don’t. It’s not rocket science, people.
We knew it had to happen sometime. Our sunglasses and sandals have been packed away for another season, rendered useless by the incessant rain and darkness that’s now bookending our commutes. Expressions are glum, sniffles are rife and we’re all moaning about the lampposts of Leeds that have suddenly been straddled by the silhouettes of looming festivity; impatiently waiting to be illuminated so that everyone can be under no allusion: winter is coming.
Yes, we’re all mourning the demise of our unnervingly glorious summer, but the advent of winter serves up solace in its most irresistible form – British comfort food. As we don our cosy jumpers and hibernate until March, picnics and barbecues are replaced with heaving plates of piping hot, consoling roast dinners, thick soups and wickedly indulgent puddings. It’s the comfort food that our little island is famous for, and there’s no better place to enjoy it than in one of the many quintessentially British establishments strewn across every village, town and city throughout the UK. As long as there’s a roaring fire thrown in. There’s got to be a roaring fire.
You’re probably thinking of your local pub now, right? Maybe you’re even in your local pub, pint in hand and left cheek burning by that obligatory roaring fire. Now there’s a thought… British comfort food is practically synonymous with our great local pubs, but they’re not the only place to seek refuge and fantastic comforting grub this Winter. Even after nine Leeds winters, it seems I still haven’t uncovered everything our city has to offer, as I discovered this week when Leeds-List invited me* to enjoy an evening at Sam’s Chop House in the City Centre.
Everyone has an opinion on what the best restaurant in their local area is. I’m sure that we’ve all passed on a glowing recommendation for the ‘best Italian restaurant’, extolled the virtues of the ‘best Indian restaurant’, or enthusiastically tweeted about the ‘best Chinese restaurant catering for small children in a square mile of Roundhay Park’. Ok, that last one may be a step too far, but you get the point.
Touted around far too often, ‘best’ can be a problematic description. As @philkirby eloquently put in his recent article ‘Why would anyone say that Leeds was the “best city”?’, best can be a divisive term that can aggravate anyone whose idea of ‘best’ differs from the one proffered. It’s also a highly subjective term, which in turn makes it a highly contested term which can have no crowned winner. How can one restaurant be termed ‘the best’ when there are so many restaurants sharing the same glowing accolades from their customers?
So why, you may ask, have I written a post entitled ‘ The best restaurant in Leeds?’?
Sunday mornings are made for ‘me-time’. Waking up without the piercing shriek of an alarm. Lazing on the sofa in your pjs with a bottomless cafetiere of strong, soothing coffee. Flicking between Sunday Brunch and Saturday Kitchen Best Bites, promising to make each of the moreish recipes that tantalise you on the screen (and never getting around to it).
But most of all, Sunday mornings are about preparing THE breakfast of the week. This is the breakfast that you look forward to throughout the working week when you only have time to grab a paltry bowl of cereal, if anything at all. Prepared lovingly with a week’s worth of anticipation and desire, it’s the breakfast you devour slowly, savouring every last bite. This breakfast could be home-made pancakes, a full fry-up or even a continental spread of fresh croissants and ALL the jams, the only condition is that it feels decadent, hearty, and utterly satisfying, enough to get you through another week until you can do it all over again.
As a vegetarian, you know that certain eating establishments just aren’t for you. You’re unlikely to find solace in a Brazilian steakhouse, a barbecue grill probably won’t do it for you, and if meat or beast is the prominent component of a bar’s name, you can make a safe assumption that it’s not going to be veggie friendly.
I used to feel this way about Friends of Ham. Close to celebrating its first birthday, Friends of Ham has earned itself a stellar reputation in Leeds. Favourable reviews and social buzz a-plenty, it’s clearly doing something right, but you wouldn’t necessarily think that ‘something’ appealed to vegetarians. After all, vegetarians are NOT friends of ham. Friends of pigs maybe, but certainly not friends of the meaty product of their demise. And when a bar so brazenly flaunts its love of meat, you’d be forgiven for assuming that veggies wouldn’t get much of a look in.
Sometimes, you just need a burger. You know which times I mean. You’re tired, starving or maybe you’re feeling the effects of a few too many drinks the night before. It’s a nasty combination of symptoms that only a burger will sort out.
But it can’t be any old burger. It needs to be the QUEEN of burgers, scoring full marks in the four key areas – bun, garnish, chips and of course, the burger itself. The first three elements need to set the stage for the burger, which means a freshly made bun, a crisp, complementary garnish and homemade chips so good that you’ll want to dedicate your favourite love song to them. With the stage set, the burger can then shine in all its glory. It needs to be handcrafted, zinging with flavour and so big that you need to open your mouth REALLY wide to devour it. These are MY requirements for the ultimate burger.