Sunday, 10 December 2017

Spicy Sweet Potato & Coconut Chickpea curry

Yes, before you say anything - the wooden table background is back. Natural light inside the house is tough in dark December, so I took the pan outside on a snowy Sunday morning and stood in the freezing cold to try and get a shot that made this curry look a little bit appealing.

Anyway, enough about the behind the scenes exclusives... this curry is delicious; spicy and warming and full of flavour.

The recipe below will make between 4 - 6 portions depending on if you're adding rice or sides...

You'll need:

  • 1 red onion
  • Around 6cm of ginger, grated
  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • A generous dollop of tomato puree
  • Half a bag of spinach (around 100/150g)
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons hot curry powder (usually a blend of coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, garlic powder, fennel etc) (or mild, if spice isn't your thing)
Wash your sweet potato and chop into small chunks (I leave the skin on but it's up to you). Steam or boil for 15-20 minutes until they're soft and pretty much cooked through. 

Dice your onion and heat up in a large frying pan. I just added a bit of water to stop it sticking, but use oil if you wish. Add the grated ginger and turmeric, and add some more water, until a paste like consistency has formed with the turmeric and onions. 

Then, add your sweet potato. Don't worry if the potato starts to crumble a little bit. Add the chopped tomato and coconut milk, and keep stirring. After around five minutes add the rinsed chickpeas and tomato puree (I find it helps thicken sauce up). Keep it cooking for around ten minutes and then add the spinach, folding it in to the curry as you go. 

Finally, add a sprinkle of salt and leave to stand for about ten minutes.

Serve, and add sides as you see fit... 


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Why do I bullet journal and should you start?

Google 'how to bullet journal' and a whole host of hits come back at you, telling you why you should do it, the best ways to do and what you can get out of it.

But what actually is it?!

In its crudest form it's essentially a glorified to-do list (but anything that involves an excuse for buying new stationary is absolutely a-ok with me). You basically 'quick log' all your thoughts, stresses, to-do's, pressures, appointments etc etc etc in no particular order, allowing your mind to 'empty' and get a sense of everything going on around you.

Anyway, I've been bullet-journaling once a week for a few months now and found it's helped me in a lot of ways. It helps me keep organised and I can prioritise things I need to do that week, as well as feeling less stressed about things that are going on in my head.

If you love a good old list, I think you'll be able to get on board with this. Here are 3 reasons I bullet journal.

1) There's no right or wrong way of doing it

Given that I initially Googled how to do it, and given that it's a bit of a personal admin 'buzz word' at the moment, you'd be forgiven to think that there's one set way of doing it. There's not. Do it however you want. Find a way that works for you.

For me, I do a weekly journal over three pages.

Page one is a literal mind-spewing list of everything and anything that's in my head at that time - from needing to do a dark wash, to certain career development goals, blog posts I want to write, things I need / want to do at work, people I need to call, things that are bothering / upsetting me, articles I've bookmarked, recipes I want to try, workout goals, things that are making me happy, weekend dates, things I need to buy - the list is endless.

Page two and three are then a double spread. My week is listed out by day at the top, with tasks and events listed out by day underneath the corresponding day. An attainable, achievable weekly 'to-do' list sits bottom left of the page. Then, my finances and people to call / meet up with are in the middle, and on the right hand side, I have a list for goals for the week, and then a list for specific meals or workouts I want to try and incorporate.

Naturally, some things carry over to future weeks, but that's fine - I like to be able to see everything on one page.

This might not be your preferred way of doing it, but it works for me.

2) It helps clear my mind 

I feel so at ease and 'cleansed' when I've noted everything down, got it off my chest (so to speak), and worked out how I'm going to solve / achieve / fit stuff in for the week ahead. I'd even go so far as to say it's like a conscious mindful meditation, mulling over every little thing in my head. We are bombarded with so much information now, it can be hard to find focus, and I find this brings me clarity.

3) I can see all my priorities and assess where I'm going to make a difference

Some weeks are quiet, some weeks I'm out for dinner four times a week and working long hours. My goals might be the same but different things going on in your life can affect what's realistically achievable. Some weeks work is the top priority, some weeks it's my own hobbies, some weeks it's about just doing the bare minimum! I love seeing what the main priorities are and finding ways to move myself closer to my goals.

I love how all-encompassing bullet-journaling is. It's not just about tracking personal admin, fitness, food, work, self-development, social life - it's a way of combining them all.

Essentially: I love lists. I love stationery. I love writing notes. So it's a win-win for me!

Thanks to luxury and designer stationery company Rooi, for sending me this gorgeous Kate Spade notebook for me to log away with :) It's been a dream to write in!

I'm by no means a bullet journal expert, and if you are looking for more in depth info on bullet journaling - definitely give it a Google and find a tutorial that resonates with you, if you fancy it. Would also recommend my lovely friend Kat Horrocks who's amazing at helping with goal setting and personal development (she's a life coach!).

This Buzzfeed article sums it up pretty well, ha!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Friday night @ Australasia

Friday was "date night" (can't express how much I cringe at that term), which was made significantly better as Australasia had invited me down to review their updated menu. Some people who read my blog (shout out to my dad) might remember when I was last invited to Australasia to review their Sunday menu, or when I took my mum (years ago) for afternoon tea to celebrate Mother's Day. We had a lush meal last time and I was really excited to go on a Friday night when everyone there would be celebrating the arrival of the weekend. 

This had the potential to be a lovely pic had I not been impatient to get to the table haha
When we arrived it was buzzing, really 'chatty' and upbeat, with lots of people looking ready to have a good night. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but the lighting in that place never fails to amaze me. I always forget that I'm underground thanks to the soft, golden glow and white wash walls. They'd also added mirrors since I'd last been, which helped bounce more light around. 

We started off with cocktails: a smokey old fashioned for James and the Australasian porn star martini for me. 

James always gets the smokey old fashioned and I really like it too so it was win win. My martini was gorge - Grey Goose, lychee liqueur, lemon, mango, vanilla, fresh passion fruit and a shot of sparkling Chardonnay (any Belinda Blinked fans out there will know how much excitement that brings!).

We opted to choose from the 'local' menu - (choosing small dishes to share) and our waiter recommended 3-4 dishes each - which is right up my street. I dislike it when you go for the sharing plates option and a waiter recommends a silly number like 2 each. 

So, safe in the knowledge that we had around 6 to 8 dishes to choose from, we got stuck in. 

Salmon sashimi (x6 pieces) was first on the list, it's got to be done. 

We also chose prawn nigiri (x4 pieces) and the Avocado, mango and broccoli Californian rolls (x4 pieces). 

Edamame beans with lashings of lime and salt accompanied this and made up the first part of the meal. 

I love wasabi, and even more so in Australasia when the waiter grates the fresh stuff right in front of you. Please note: I found it so much stronger than usual wasabi, and that's coming from someone who loves spice. There were a good couple of coughing / eye watering fits during this, much to my embarrassment. 

The way the salmon is served is pretty cool, and I was a big fan of the avocado Californian rolls - the floral detailing stamped on the rice made it look really pretty.

We'd also ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc to go with the meal, and our waiter gave us some good advice on which bottle to have (this didn't feel pushy, it was the same price), but the flavours would compliment our choices better. Or something. Either way, it was lovely.

For our next round of small plates, we chose:

Prawn tempura (a classic), Yakatori chicken skewers and the best named dish... 'ANGRY PRAWNS'  (both from the Robata grill menu). We chose the latter on the name alone, although I did ask what they were, and they're in fact tiger prawns. We also almost ordered scallops sashimi but very quickly changed our minds when we remembered that they would be raw, so opted for the 'hand-dived scallops, cauliflower, carrot and ginger'. 

Let me start with the Angry Prawns. Oh my gosh. If you could only have one dish, make sure it's this one. I feel bad in saying that as all the plates we got were delicious, but these prawns were absolutely insane. Meaty, almost creamy, with a rich sauce, we could've eaten this dish three times over (it's £13.50 for three prawns so make every bite worth it). 

Next up, the chicken skewers. These were right up my street and the portion size was massive. To me, the marinade was almost like a satay, with a spicy but sweet dipping sauce. I really really enjoyed this dish and was pleasantly surprised with how big the skewers were. 

The scallops were lovely too. I have to be in the mood for scallops, and it's one of those food items that I can't really think about what I'm eating when I'm chewing it (anyone else?!), but the texture of these was lovely, not slimy or tough, but had a melt-like quality I've not experienced. The cauli / carrot / ginger puree was a really nice addition too.

We were stuffed. Which naturally meant one thing: dessert menu. 

James was really keen for the Chocolate Dome (it's amazing), and we'd had it last time so you know, needed to try it again, just to be sure we liked it. It comes with molten caramel sauce that they pour over a chocolate dome, it melts and reveals salted caramel icecream and peanuts. YEP. It's actually divine. We demolished it, and also ordered another scoop of icecream to go with it. 

Our serving staff were so friendly, offering helpful advice on what to get and generally looking after us to make sure we were having a good time. Looking around as well, the staff are all so busy but calm, there's a real emphasis on making sure people have a relaxed, amazing experience. 

We never once felt rushed or that the waiters were hurrying us up, and so after we'd been chilling out in a dome coma and they asked if we wanted anything else, espresso martinis seemed like a great idea. 

Going on a Friday night was the perfect way to start the weekend (we ended up 'out out' so Saturday morning was a struggle), and I really couldn't recommend it any more if you're looking for a Friday night treat. Also, the playlist was fab - so many Jessie Ware remixes and just generally 'my type' of chilled music.

It's really funny reading this alongside my last review - I'm clearly still a huge fan!

Naturally, I'm reviewing this place and so wouldn't be posting unless I'd had a good time - I'd like to say though that not many of the staff knew we were reviewing and they were so polite and friendly. 

Australasia remains to be a classic favourite of mine on the 'Manchester scene', and I'm so glad that eighteen months on I'm able to give it as glowing a review as I did then. I've been back in between the two reviews for drinks etc and will no doubt be drinking espresso martinis there again soon... 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Lentil & Blackbean curry with a nutty butternut squash mash

This weird and wonderful concoction occurred earlier this week when James and I had come home from a long weekend away and there was "nothing in the cupboards" (apart from 9782 tins of beans and tomatoes). I couldn't be bothered to go out so decided to get frugal and creative and voila, this little beauty was born!

It's definitely comfort food at its finest. And 100% not traditional, as I wouldn't usually put the two together, so you could just make the curry on its own...

It's a good job it tastes so nice because it's really hard to make what's essentially a plate of brown vegetables look nice, even with a filter (I took these pics at about 9.30 when this was ready and wasn't expecting to do a blog post from it, so excuse the shoddy photos).

It really is delicious though, so give it a go.

Serves 4:

For the curry you'll need:

  • 1 tin green lentils
  • 1 tin black beans 
  • 100g chesnut mushrooms (any mushrooms will do)
  • 1 tin chopped tinned tomatoes 
  • 1 good squeeze of tomato puree (I love it so always use about half a tube)
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala 
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt to season

Chop your onion and fry in a pan with the garlic. Add the garam masala and stir, coating the onion. After a few minutes, add your mushrooms and do the same. Then, add your lentils and black beans and stir again. Add the paprika and chilli powder and mix. If things are looking a bit dry, add some water (I think I added about a cup of water). Then add your chopped toms and puree, and let things simmer for about 20 mins. Add a sprinkle of salt and you're done!

For the butternut squash mash you'll need:

  • Around 300g butternut squash (I used pre-diced frozen stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (or a teaspoon if you don't like spice)
  • Pinch of salt
Boil or steam the butternut squash until it's soft and mashable. Drain and give it a mash in the pan, adding in the tahini and paprika and salt. Mix it up well (tahini has a tendency to stick together). 

Serve :)

So there you go. A really quick and easy recipe to make when you've got next to nothing in the cupboards. 

© Frankie's Weekend. All rights reserved.