Spud U Like


There really is only one place to go after an intense early morning ski lesson at Chill Factor in Manchester, and that is the food hall at Trafford Centre!

With an abundance of fast food chains it is hard to break your way into nutritious territory, however with Spud-U-Like’s new light bites (which, don’t be fooled, are still US size portions) you can almost get there!

I love working out how to recreate dishes at home and these dishes of crushed baked potatoes, salad leaves, crumbled creamy feta and a lemon and basil vinaigrette are a no-brainer for an easy mid-week dinner.

All you will need is:

Potatoes (any!)
Rocket or mixed dark green salad leaves
1 packet of feta cheese (preferably low cal – it is a Wednesday after all)

For the dressing:
2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp cider vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful of basil – roughly chopped
3 spring onions – finely sliced
Salt & pepper

Cook the potatoes any way you want – bake them, roast them, boil them, even mash them – whatever you find easiest and tastiest.

Mix all your dressing ingredients together in a jug or small bowl and season to taste – give them a good mix with a fork.

Once the potatoes are ready, put on to the plate of your choice, throw on a large handful of leaves, crumble on half a packet of feta and drizzle with dressing.

Serve, enjoy and feel healthily smug!


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Yo Yo Bar & Restaurant, Shipley


I first knew of Yo Yo’s when they called up my office asking for some help with their website search visibility… I thought my luck was in, being able to combine the ‘day job’ with my passion for food & restaurants. Looking at their site, I was surprised I’d never heard of Yo Yo’s with it only being 10 minutes from my house, but when I started mentioning it to friends quite a few seemed to know about the place, a well kept secret it seemed! Sadly, nothing came of the work enquiry but it did prompt me to pay them a visit.

When we pulled up outside I could have been forgiven for thinking we’d ended up at the wrong place, completely over the top window display marketing and offers galore plastered floor to ceiling really makes it look like a chavvy diner and watering hole, like a Yates’s almost. But once we’d made it through the double doors and fought our way through every type of brightly coloured leaflet, flyer and poster they could throw at us, we were seated by a very friendly young waiter.

The menu is varied and separated by region so you can mix and match courses from China, Japan, Thailand & Malaysia! I admit I was dubious given that there was so much choice but was very soon put in my place, at the table enjoying a delicious starter of Japanese deep fried squid with a seriously fiery chilli dipping sauce. For my main course I was torn between a couple of things on the menu but with the help of our waiter (who like me seemed to be on the “spicier the better” team that evening), I opted for one of their newest additions, Malaysian chilli prawn curry with pandan coconut rice and it was pretty special. So hot, but fresh, clean and tasty to balance it. The highlight of this gorgeous dish was the accompaniments – cucumber, pineapple and red onion. When I mixed these with the juicy chilli prawns, it was an explosion of fresh, sharp flavours that combined to give a real taste of Malaysia, I don’t think I had anything as tasty when I travelled there!

My boyfriend and I were equally impressed with the food and agreed that the atmosphere of this Asian-fusion-restaurant-meets-party-venue was friendly, welcoming and relaxed. Having experienced the place, I think the over the top marketing could really work if they developed into a small chain. There’s nowhere else quite like it that I know of, with the same range, quality and value, they even gave us a 15% discount card for the entire bill on our next visit so we will definitely go back to sample some more regional Asian delights!

We ate:

Japanese deep-fried squid with hot chilli dipping sauce
Chinese duck tortilla wrap
Malaysian chilli prawn curry with pandan coconut rice
Thai chicken green curry

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Maluko, Leeds


There’s nothing that tantalises my taste buds more than being invited to sample new menus! And a few weeks ago, whilst enjoying a girly shopping day with my mum, that’s exactly what we did.

Maluko are a new Polynesian themed offering in the top end of Leeds City Centre, within The Light shopping complex. The company group (who also own Walkabout) are replacing the chain Bar Risa with this new more fun and colourful bar with the Leeds branch being the tester launch.


So other than the decor face lift, Tiki lounge and a new set of uber-friendly staff – What’s the difference? They are still in the same location, and serve the same drinks – why should this work better than the student’s second favourite (to Tiger Tiger) – Bar Risa?

Well, they have a new food offering – an eclectic menu I was assured was all prepared freshly on site.

The menu was great for lunch time as they have price tiered tapas (as well as all the burgers, pastas and grills you would expect). Tapas menus A, B and C all sounded really really good but with the entire menu and team of staff at our disposal, we opted for one of each dish on menu B:

Chicken and chorizo skewers
Hummous & veg dippers
Crispy duck
Haddock goujons with tartar sauce
Chunky chips
Selection of breads, olives and olive oil

The food was great for a lunch time sitting during a spot of shopping and we were extremely well looked after.

Our host at Maluko explained to me how they would like to attract a more corporate business lunch clientele, and although I think they will struggle to compete with the likes of Bar and Grill, Jamie’s Italian and even Browns for this, their menu is cheap and cheerful enough to win the hearts of many-a-student and more public sector professionals inevitably based at the top end of town around the university and hospital, to keep them coming back for fun food and even funner drinks!

Bar image courtesy of barmagazine.co.uk

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Rick Stein’s Pasta Alla Norma


This is a great interpretation of a pasta classic from the Mediterranean master himself. Watching repeats of any Rick Stein series is my favourite way to pass the time on a sick day, or a lazy Sunday and this pasta alla Norma recipe made me pause, rewind and grab my notepad.

A combination of ripe tomato, salt, squidgy aubergine, hot chilli flakes and al dente pasta gives a mouth watering combination of classic Italian flavour and a mountain of texture. The simplicity of it and the luxurious taste means it works as a refined weekend treat or a rough and ready mid-week quickie!

Watch Rick make the dish

To make pasta alla Norma:

Slice an aubergine in to batons, put in a colander, shake with lots of salt.

Put your preferred pasta (mine is spaghetti) in a pan of boiling unsalted water and simmer.

Tip onto a clean dry tea towel and pat dry.

Toss the aubergine into a pan of hot olive oil, lift back out into the colander and set to one side.

Chop and crush 2 garlic cloves together with a pinch of salt and fry in the same pan you used for the aubergine.

Add a teaspoon of chilli flakes and a large handful of fresh chopped tomatoes.

Tip in the aubergine and add some fresh black pepper.

Simmer on a low heat until the aubergine is warmed through.

Drain the pasta and tip into the sauce – mix and serve!

You can top your dish with crumbled feta, torn mozzarella, whole basil leaves, parmesan shavings or simply a glug of good extra virgin olive oil.

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Food as Gifts


Giving food as gifts can be a fantastic way to keep the cost of Christmas presents down, but also to show off your culinary skills to your nearest and dearest!

Mince pies, Christmas puddings and panetonne are all great options for taking to parties or pulling out of the bag on Christmas eve/Christmas day with the in-laws. But if you’re thinking about sending a little token to those further away, it’s better to go for a jam, preserve or chutney.

Collect your empty jars throughout the year and buy some pretty labels to ensure you get pride of place in any relie’s cupboard above the kettle!

I did this last year with blackberries. A bit of greaseproof paper around the lid with an elastic band gives a ‚”homely” look and a personalised label will have your gran thinking you’ve walked straight out of the Masterchef kitchen.

For a savoury alternative, try this courgette chutney. It’s a little bit exotic but still moorishly sweet. I made this for my mum’s Mother’s Day gift this year and baked her a fresh loaf of country grain bread to spread it all over! Had I not arrived at her house to find her making bread, this would have been a lot more effective I’m sure, but the chutney went down a treat and keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Food is a great way to bake, stir and fold your love into your Christmas presents – give it a go for 2012!

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Laab Neua – Thai Lettuce Rolls


It is very rare that I will choose to cook something I don’t think I will like, but with a pitiful Thai repertoire it is time to start being brave and trying new things.

This weekend, my flavour of the month, Rick Stein took me back to Thailand with his Laab Neua (lettuce rolls). His description goes a little something like this: Stir-fried minced beef with lemongrass, chilli and roasted rice rolled in lettuce leaves.

What this title doesn’t tell you is how unbelievably good the end result is once you’ve mixed in the lime juice, fish sauce, mint and coriander! Ok, so the ingredients may be very similar to the Waterfall Beef Salad, so maybe I’m not that brave, but mince outside of a cottage pie? That is a little bit unusual!

Rick Stein must have a steel lined mouth to cope with the amount of chilli he suggests in his recipe for 4 – I toned it down slightly and simply halved the ingredient quantities to feed 2 as a main course. This really is one of the easiest, tastiest and cheapest Thai dishes I’ve made, a great addition to the list and one that I will probably use to create an authentic starter at my next Thai dinner party! A great alternative to my usual (and very messy) spring rolls.

Here is my recipe to feed 2 (or 4 as a starter):

250g lean minced beef (turkey mince also works as a lower fat option but will require longer cooking)
2 lemongrass stalks – very thinly sliced
4 shallots – thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp dried chillies – ground into a powder
1 large fresh red chilli – finely chopped
1-2 tbsp fish sauce (to taste)
handful of coriander – roughly chopped
small handful of mint leaves – roughly chopped
2 tbsp rice (long grain, jasmine or basmati – whatever you have lying around)
1 iceberg lettuce
olive oil
black pepper

The time is in the prep for this one, as everything but the mince is served raw.

Whilst your slicing and chopping just throw everything into a bowl. Then squeeze in the lime juice and pour over the fish sauce.

Put the uncooked rice into a dry wok and put on a high heat. Toast until lightly browned, stir continually to avoid burning the grains. Then pound in a pestle and mortar (or in a cup with a heavy rolling pin) until partly ground.

Fry off the mince in a little bit of olive oil until it is just browned (don”t over cook) and season with a bit of black pepper. Add the mince to the salad mixture and stir. Carefully peel off 1 x iceberg lettuce leaf per person and spoon the salad mixture into the lettuce leaf bowl.

Serve open or roll the leaf around the mixture to make a wrap.

These gorgeously sweet and crunchy Thai lettuce rolls will test your spice threshold and if you’ve visited any market place in Thailand, will take you straight back. Try replacing the beef mince with pork or flaked fish.


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