A weekend in the Peak District

Jacket potatoes and cheese

Have you ever seen a more beautiful thing, than a pile of jacket potatoes and a mound of cheese?

Proper home baked jackets potatoes feel like such a naughty indulgence. When I was growing up, my mother used to zap a potato in the microwave for 10 minutes and then stick it under the grill to try and get that proper jackety taste. They always turned out okay – but I was never tricked into believing they were the real deal. Her Yorkshire/Asian thrift would never allow her to let an oven run for two hours just to make a couple of spuds. Even now, as an adult who pays my own electricity bill, I can’t bring myself to make jackets for us at home. Sometimes I think I should bake some bread at the same time or something, so I’d feel like I was getting my ovens worth – but then I’d have to actually rustle up a loaf of bread and who’s got time for that? Since there were eight of us on holiday, making jacket potatoes for for dinner one evening seemed a justifiable use of the the oven.

Anyway, I’ve majorly digressed.

TL;DR – One night we had jacket potatoes for dinner. They were tasty.

A few weekends a go, I went to the Peaks with some of my family and we did more than just feast. Barely, but still.

We stayed in the tiny village of Elton, in THE BEST cottage. They had literally everything you could want and even things you didn’t realise you need. Like an electric whisk which was lucky since the one I lugged all the way down there was, in fact, missing a whisk!

Baking a birthday cake{tres leches cake in progress}
Scones for breakfast.JPG{breakfast scones}

Have you ever seen a more beautiful thing, than a pile of scones or a pile of potatoes? I’m learning that my favourite things about these family trips is feeding people because my favourite photos of the trip are of the food. Not pictured but equally as excellent – chicken curry and rice, bbq chicken wings and fixin’s, birthday cake, mexican tres leches cake, homemade hot chocolate. Yum.

Aaaanyway.

Things, we did them.

We spent a day in Eyam, a village that was famously struck down by the plague in 1665 but successfully and selflessly, isolated itself off from the rest of the world in order to prevent the disease from spreading any further North.

Eyam, Plague CottageDSC_0162Eyam Plague Doctor Uniform {doctor’s plague outfit, Eyam Museum }

We walked around the village and then up to the Boundary Stone, which marked its limit. The grooves carved in the stone were used as a money exchange. Filled with vinegar, which was thought to kill the infection, coins were left in the pools in exchange for food and other goods, which were left by their neighbouring villagers.

Eyam, Boundry StoneCousins in the Peaks

We followed a walking trail which took us through Stoney Middleton and passed the Roman Baths, before continuing on to the Riley Graves. The final resting place of Mrs Hancock’s husband and six children who all tragically died within an eight day period.

Shadows in the Roman Baths{Roman bath, light)

We hired bikes on Sunday and burned some calories cycling along the Monsal Trail. Mercifully flat and well paved, the trail runs along the former Midland Railway line. We hopped on at Hassop, where we were able to hire bikes, which unfortunately meant we didn’t have time to pop to Bakewell for a tart. Next time though. We peddled for miles, through four old railway tunnels, dodging muddy puddles, laughing all the way.

Monsal Trail before the tunnelMonsal Trail tunnel

I had such an amazing weekend. My family are loud and crazy and quite a bit annoying. But they are also hilarious, kind, wonderful people. Roll on the next trip!

A is for Ancoats; a Manchester A to Z

roldham_a-spread
{photo from here}

‘A is for Ancoats

A dreary place is Ancoats,
‘Tis full of smoke and fog,
The lassess wear shawls on their heads
Their feet are shod with clogs.
‘Tis really not a pleasant place
Upon a rainy day;
We have to start with Ancoats tho’,
For Ancoats starts with A.’

 A Manchester Alphabet, Roger Oldham

Canal Walk Ancoats{summer in Ancoats}

Last year whilst wandering around Manchester Art gallery, a favourite pass time for lazy Saturday afternoons, I came across a wonderful set of illustrated short poems by Roger Oldham. Written in 1906, A Manchester Alphabet depicts in humorous verse, scenes from daily life in the city.

As I read each passage I reflected on my own memories of the places and things he wrote about. T is for Trams – every time I have to navigate my way across the tram tracks in St Peter’s Square, unsure of exactly which direction I can expect a yellow behemoth to come chugging toward me, it flits into my head that Gaudi met his demise under one such vehicle. C is for Chorlton – home to the best kebab in Manchester, has to be eaten in the car even though last time you promised yourself you wouldn’t do it again because they are drippy little buggers and the juice gets everywhere, making your car pong of onions until the end of time.

I’ve lived in Manchester for six years now and as seems to happen when you settle in a place, I find myself frequenting the same parts of town, the same restaurants, the same bars. I was inspired to make my own Manchester Alphabet and use it as an excuse to explore more of the city I call home.

And then, in typical Jasmin fashion, I did nothing about it for over 12 months.

Hallé St Peter's
{Hallé St Peter’s}

I visited the city a lot in the years before moving here and back then Ancoats was just a place that had some sneaky free parking (no longer, damn you yellow lines), not somewhere I would spend an afternoon hanging out. These days I know it as the place to get the best pizza in town (more on that in a second) but beyond that, the area is still a mystery to me. It seemed fitting that Ancoats should be my first stop in this journey.

In typical Manchester fashion, as Oldham wrote, it was a dreary day. No matter, in lieu of a shawl I had an umbrella and a bobble hat.
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I invited my cousin along for the day. She’s a clever and creative little bean who enjoys making videos so I thought it would be a fun bit of bonding time. I was right, we had the loveliest (and greediest) of days and I’m super proud of the video she created of it.

Some notes on the places we visited

Mustard Tree, here
110 Oldham Rd, Manchester M4 6AG
Opening times: Mon – Sat: 10am – 4pm / Sun: Closed

One of three charity shops for the Manchester based charity. They aim to tackle the causes and consequences of poverty and homelessness by empowering people through education and employment, and providing provisions to those in need. There was a decent selection of cheap but good condition clothing and homeware. I bought the blue jumper in the video (Topman, excellent condition) for a couple of quid and it has been in heavy rotation since.

Ancoats Peeps, here
Ancoats PeepsAncoats PeepsIf you look close enough, you might just find a brass eye piece staring out at you from an unassuming wall. There’s no explanation as to what you’re looking at or map to find any others but if you so manage to spy one, go ahead and peer through. You might see something, or you might see nothing.

Ancoats Coffee Co. here
Royal Mills, Redhill St.
Opening times: Mon – Fri: 8am – 6pm / Sat: 9am – 5pm / Sun: 10am – 5pm

Housed in an old cotton mill by the Rochadale Canal, is The Ancoats Coffee Co.  I confess, I didn’t have any coffee here, but the tea was good. The brownies looked intense but we didn’t get to try one since we were going to eat soon.

Rudy’s Pizza, here
Cotton Street
Opening times: Mon – Fri: 12– 3, 5-10pm / Sat: 12am – 10pm / Sun: 12am – 9pm

Canal Walk Rudy Pizza

Yes, I have been here before, but it’s the best pizza in Manchester so there was no way I wasn’t going to take the opportunity to visit.

Elnecot, here
Blossom Street
Opening times: Mon – Thu 5pm–11.30pm / Fri 12pm–11.30pm / Sat – Sun 11am-11.30pm

Elnecot Sticky Toffee Pudding
Honestly, the thing that drew me here was the gigantic neon ‘toilet’ sign that glares across Cutting Room Square. I went for a pit stop and I stayed for pudding. Perhaps that’s their trick? Lure you in with the promise of facilities and keep you there because you spy six things on the walk down to the loos that other people are eating which you must try for yourself.

Their sticky toffee pudding was one of the best I’ve ever had and I am forever indebted to my pathetic bladder for leading me to such deliciousness. My cousin had the chocolate fondant and it did that amazing oozy thing when you slice through it. Heaven.

Ancoats General Store, here
Great Ancoats Street
Opening times: Mon – Sat 7am–11pm / Sun: 8am–11pm 

Newspapers, apples, water, craft beer, Thursday evening street food events, coffee. All bases covered.

Cha-ology, here
Great Ancoats Street
Opening times: Wed – Sat 2pm–7pm / Sun – Tues: Closed

I was so disappointed to learn they had moved to a reservation only system. It’s on my list to return – if you take a look at their website, you’ll understand why.

 

 

 

A very Mexican new year

New Years Meal, tres leche cakeNew Year Meal, dips

I spent 8 hours in the kitchen on Saturday, cooking up a storm for our annual New Year meal and I loved every minute of it. I only took two photos all day but trust me, the food was immense (if I do say so myself) and much merriment was had.

Some notes on the food:

The lamb. Oh my, the lamb. I was aiming for something reminiscent of my beloved picante lamb at Panchos and I ended up making something that I like even more!

I used this meat rub to marinate a leg of lamb and slow roasted it using these these instructions.

Once it had completed the first roast for 4.5 hours (the leg weighed 2.4kg) I removed the meat off the bone, or at least the meat that was left on the bone, most of it had melted off into a delicious puddle, and shredded it. I mixed in generous amounts of this barbecue sauce which I had made earlier in the day, along with a little of the juice from the roast to keep the meat nice and moist. It went back in the oven for half an hour, covered with foil, to heat through. The barbecue sauce was delicious although a tad too sweet for me. Next time I think I will try decreasing the amount of honey and hoisin. I doubled the amount of garlic suggested – I couldn’t help myself, it’s an Asian thing.

I used this old favorite chilli recipe, with double the amount of garlic (obvs) and no red peppers. I used half the amount of hot water they suggest because I wanted a thicker chilli that could be used for burritos.

I prepared some chicken using this recipe.

I made this dip (so goooood, but so bad for you) and this one (with a regular tin of tomatoes to which I added some minced garlic and onion). We had guacamole but I bought that ready-made because avocados stress me out.

The meal was rounded out with a big pot of rice, pico de gallo, a black bean salad, some pickled red onions (shake 125ml of both water and red wine vinegar with 1tbsp salt and sugar in an old but clean jar, add half a thinly sliced red onion, leave for at least 1 hour/up to a day before you eat) and tortilla chips.

We had a tres leches cake for dessert. I cut a little of the sugar out, maybe about 50g? It still tasted amazing. I accidentally cooked it a little longer than it needed though. I had expected it to brown on top as it baked, like a regular sponge, so after checking on it at 18 minutes and assuming it was a bit under cooked, I left it for another 4. However, since the cake is mostly egg whites, I don’t think it picks up much colour as it bakes so I should’ve tested it with a skewer a bit earlier.

Sadly it was pretty damp that day so we couldn’t string up the pinata outside. Instead, four of us grabbed a bit of the donkey and pulled on three. There’s something a bit depressing about holding a dismembered, piñata donkey’s leg in your hand though. Next time I’ll get one that’s not as cute, so I feel less mean beating it up for sweets.

 

Autumn goals: an update

With two holidays abroad and no weekends at home I didn’t get everything done on my list this season, but I gave it a good go.

IMG_1625IMG_1592IMG_1667

I had pumpkin spice lattes in LA and I ate a pumpkin pie someone else made.

I had a friend round for baked Camembert and gossip. It was going to be fondue, but since I was late to work by 90 minutes thanks to a motorway closed due to flooding, I had to stay late to get all my jobs done which didn’t leave much time for cooking by the time I got home.

We bought new bedding and even splurged on some cosy pyjamas.

We went to a haunted escape room with some of my cousins which did double duty as an autumn goal and 30 before 30 goal. Sadly for some reason the company haven’t posted our victory photo on their Facebook page so you’ll have to take my word for it – we won the game with three minutes to spare.

I made homemade hot chocolate for the family, but we wussed out of stargazing. It was too cold, so we watched Inception at my mother’s house instead.

Peas

My absolute favourite thing from mum’s garden are her peas. She sent us home with a generous portion, and some courgettes.

Courgettes and peas from mum's garden

When I was retrieving pictures off my camera, I found this one which must have been taken by husband…

Pea in the washing machine

I guess tissues aren’t the only thing I need to check my pockets for before putting clothes in the laundry basket…

And may the odds be ever in your favour

Archery

The odds were in my favour it seems because after our fun afternoon of axe throwing earlier this year, I wrote a TripAdvisor review for the company we went with and won myself another activity with them for my efforts!

Rather generously, the prize was for me and four guests so I decided to drag along the mother and her two sisters (plus husband, poor sod) to try something new for the month of July.

Unfortunately I have no photographic proof of this, but I was MUCH better at archery than axe throwing. We learnt how to hold the bow and arrow properly (i.e. not how they do it in the Hunger Games) before being let loose on some targets. Whilst I didn’t quite skewer the apple on the mannequins head, I did manage to pop the balloon target I was given. I think I may have found my sport!