Friday, 18 April 2014


Lauren and I have always had a bit of a love affair with food. As neither of us are big drinkers, our dates when we first got together quickly began to consist of meals out or brunches at cafes. This is something that has never really changed - and through the years our friends have learnt that too; invite us to the pub and we'll probably politely decline, but invite us out for food and we will likely say yes! We have always loved Indian food but also love Japanese, Italian, Greek, Moroccan, and Mexican too (and more besides!). We love big flavours, but are quite partial to ice cream, pancakes, chocolate and cake too (just food, really!). It's a running joke that I put a million ingredients in everything - if I make pizza from scratch its likely to have every vegetable, herb and seasoning in the kitchen on it!

When we moved in together in Leeds and had to learn how to cook for ourselves, we dumped the  usual student fare (pot noodles and beans on toast were popular with Lauren's uni friends!), and instead used the opportunity to learn how to cook amazing meals from scratch. We were strictly on a budget, and I still don't know how we managed it, but whilst staying within our means we learnt how to cook proper food, from scratch - we didn't even have a microwave, and still don't!

During this time we were predominantly vegan - something I think we found easy as we didn't go for meals as much as we do now. Throughout the years, whilst we have remained vegetarian, our veganism has waned and peaked again at various times, and now we are beginning to re-incorporate dairy free alternatives into our diets. Neither of us would ever be vegan, we love food too much to eliminate so many possible choices , particularly when visiting restaurants, but certainly changing to dairy free milk, butter, cheese etc when at home, and not buying eggs or using dairy in cooking, is an easy change to make and one we hope to continue. As a previous animal rights activist, I knew a lot of vegans - none of them seemed to find it easy, and I think we'd really struggle to adopt this lifestyle full-time.

We have been eating a lot better lately, not so much for weight loss as much as to eat good food, that we know has been grown properly, and adopting a way of eating that we would like our future children to follow. Not that we've ever eaten badly, but we have taken more interest in preparing more complicated dishes, with lots of flavour, in addition to really upping the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables in our diet. Lauren has always wanted to learn how to cook authentic Indian food (well, we eat enough of it!), and so she got an Indian vegetarian cook book from my parents for her birthday. We recently took a trip to our nearest Whole Foods to pick up lots of spices. (Of course all the local supermarkets sell spices too, but it gave us an excuse to go to Whole Foods!)

We always have the same problem in Whole Foods - it's foodie heaven! We find it difficult not to buy the whole shop. Apart from picking up lots of lovely spices including freshly ground rose masala, garam masala and ras el hanout, we bought lots of vegetables, fruit,  fresh herb plants, olives, peanut butter, popcorn, salad boxes, chocolate chai latte (we both love chai!) and more. We aimed to buy a few pence worth of spices and ended up spending well over £50. Plus cake and ice cream for the car journey home. Disgraceful!

Our first attempt at authentic Indian cooking was to cook potato and coconut masala dosa's (kind of like Indian savoury pancakes made with lentil flour). They were delicious, even if we did make more filling than dosa! Lauren is rarely happier than when she gets to spend an entire day in the kitchen preparing food, and Indian food takes a lot of cooking! From chopping fresh coconut (once you have managed to break in to it), to grinding the spices and then bringing it all together, it took her about 3 hours altogether. But wow, it was worth it! A lovely way to spend a day off!

The following day was spent at my aunties wedding (nothing to do with food but it doesn't really deserve a blog post all of it's own, and it was a good day!) It was a really nice day - it was nice to spend time with my family, and my brother had us laughing at silly jokes all day long. He took great delight in loudly correcting my nan with "HER WIFE" when she introduced Lauren to someone as my partner! It was also the first wedding ceremony we had attended since our wedding and we were interested at how similar a civil wedding ceremony is to a civil partnership ceremony - we couldn't spot the difference, although I did notice that at the start of the ceremony, they now say 'a marriage as defined in this country as the union between two people' rather than 'a man and a woman'. Yay!

My mom stayed over at our house after the wedding, so the next morning we took her for brunch at a brand new French coffee shop in Birmingham. Although a little pricey, the coffee and pastries were delicious!

Anyway, back to food… We have continued trying our new recipes, and the day after the wedding we tried another recipe from Laurens' new book. This time we made Mattar Paneer, also making a green rice, roti bread, mint dip and poppadoms. It was so yummy, we actually preferred it to an Indian takeaway, which is one of our favourite things ever!

Whilst we were saving for our wedding, and therefore living to a really strict budget, saving every penny we had, and purposefully NOT going out all that much, we began to make a list of good food places in Birmingham we wanted to visit. We always used to say that once we were married we would start to go through the list. In the really hard times, of Lauren working 6 nights a week and us rarely seeing each other, imaging that we could go on lots of lovely dates together, not having to worry too much about the money, or the calorie content (well no more than the average person!), was something that really kept us going. And we are making good headway through that list! Amazing brunch places and gorgeous restaurants are a plenty in this wonderful city, but our favourite newest find is a vegan restaurant in Birmingham. We visited this week for a second time and have very much fallen in love with it! I'm quite jealous that Lauren and her colleagues have chosen to go there for their work's social evening so she'll get to go again, without me!

Our love of food doesn't just stop at the cooking / baking and eating part of it, anything food related is quite up our alley. With this in mind, we recently gave our kitchen a bit of a make over (it's amazing what a tin of paint can do!) so we can enjoy cooking in it more. It is the one room in our house we would completely change if money was no object, but for now we will have to suffice with a new colour on the wall, and a few new decorations! And as the sun has decided to come out to see us, even if just for this weekend, we also plan to get back in to the garden and start another year's attempt at growing vegetables. We have grown our own veg in two out of the four years we have lived here, with varying levels of success - one year we were overrun with homegrown courgettes, and yet another year it was the potatoes that did well - we shall see! Maybe we'll just stick to herb pots, we seem to do alright with them...

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