30

Yesterday, I turned 30.

Hotel Chocolat Birthday Breakfast

The day started off with a tea and chocolates. Presents were unwrapped.

Black Sheep Coffee

There were pasteis, warmed slightly and topped with cinnamon. More tea, of course.

Eggs Benedict, Brunch at Fress

Brunch at Fress, with the most spectacular eggs benedict

The Smokehouse, Manchester

After some celebratory drinks, a subsequent 2 hour nap and phone calls with family, we ate ourselves into a food coma.

Last week, snapshots

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The most beautiful light at sunset. No filter required.

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What was supposed to be a shopping trip to buy a (very belated) birthday present for my father-in-law, turned into a leisurely dinner with some excellent ramen, and seeing the new Avengers film. Oh. My. Goodness. I loved the film! It was so good and I totally didn’t expect the ending. Although that’s not saying much, really. I never guess the twists in anything. Also, we still haven’t found a birthday present. Must sort that out ASAP.

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We took a quick trip to London on Sunday to see Hamlet at The Globe. Liked but didn’t love. The swapping of gender roles was interesting but the woman who played Hamlet was pretty flat and it felt as though she was reading, rather than acting, her lines. We’ve got a few more plays to see over the summer and I’m very much looking forward to them.

Simplest Eton mess

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It’s not summer yet, but the sun has finally come out and I am SO HAPPY. Eton mess is one of my favourite desserts to throw together because nothing says sunshine like strawberries and cream. Don’t limit messes to warm days though – they taste just as good on the dreary, grey ones as well.

You can play around with this recipe to make it perfect for you. Put more or less meringue in. Mix up the fruits. Whatever you fancy, the mess can take it!

Eton mess, serves 4

1 punnet strawberries (about 400g)
1 – 2 dessertspoons caster sugar (I prefer a tart coulis so I only put one in)
300ml of double cream or whipping cream, depending on how decadent you’re feeling
1 – 2 dessertspoons caster sugar (again, depends on your sweet tooth. I always err on the side of less sugar)
3 meringues nests, broken into chunks

 

Wash and chop the strawberries into bite size pieces

Take two handfuls of berries and place into a saucepan. Add enough water to just cover the berries. Sprinkle in 1 (or more) dessertspoons of caster sugar.

Simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens

Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and set aside to cool.

Add 1-2 dessertspoons of sugar to the cream and whip with an electric whisk on medium until it forms stiff peaks.

Fold in the remaining strawberries (reserve a few to garnish at the end) and the meringue.

To assemble, I like to pour some coulis to the bottom of my dish and then add the cream mixture on top. You could fold the coulis into the mix or pour on top, if you prefer.

Sprinkle a few strawberries on top to garnish, with a sprig of mint or two.

Enjoy

 

The weekend, snapshots

The weather over the weekend was amazing. We made the most of it.

B61EBA35-EB7A-46AF-A3BD-E2DE224D06EBAl fresco pizza at the new Rudy’s on Peter Street. The chocolate cake was also heavenly.

DCD13846-879D-4A2D-9409-4484BF05A5D5Impromptu barbecue at a friends house. We ate applewood smoked steak and sat outside until 10pm. I had bare legs and wasn’t cold.

1048AE26-2AE5-43D3-9EF3-7913F935E861Tea and pastries at The Warehouse cafe

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Canal walks

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.

 

 

 

Wood 20.18

My favourite thing about January is the amazing deals restaurants offer in order to entice you and your post-Christmas purse strings out for dinner. For the past few years we’ve indulge in one or two meals, but this year we budgeted a little extra so we could try to eat our way around town. At the last count there are 14 places on our list to try – and that’s after much trimming. I’m not sure I’ve got the stomach stamina for all 14, but I’m certainly going to give it a go.

Wood was high our list after reading some enticing reviews. It’s not the kind of establishment we usually frequent but with their 2 courses and a glass of fizz for £20.18 deal, we were sold.

Wood, Manchester. Smoked trout, keta, ruby grapefruit

{smoked trout, keta, ruby grapefruit}

Poor husband still doesn’t understand why I insist on taking pictures of what we’re eating, but he always lets me get a few shots of his food before tucking in. He was blown away by the flavours in his starter of trout. I had wild mushrooms with mascarpone on a croute which, whilst not very photogenic (or at least not with a camera in my unskilled hands) was absolutely delicious. There were hints of aniseed in there that played amazingly well with the earthy mushroom.

{ox cheek, creamy mash potato, josper roasted carrot} at Wood, Manchester

{ox cheek, creamy mash potato, josper roasted carrot}

Husband, who is not prone to hyperbole, has declared this the best ox cheek he has ever eaten. We rarely end up ordering the same entrée but I’m glad this was one of those few times because it was lovely sharing the experience of a special meal. I would love to know how I can make a carrot that tastes as good as this one did, smoky yet sweet and with the perfect amount of bite, without having to purchase a josper.

Wood, Manchester - chefs at work

{chefs at work}

We’ve already booked a return trip. The couple next to us had the hake and it looked amazing.

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.

 

When recovering from bronchitis, we sit outside

Panchos Burrito Manchester

We were back at Panchos on Friday evening for Burrito goodness. There was a party going on upstairs which meant seating was limited. There were two random seats left down stairs but there was no table so we would have had to eat off our laps. Instead, since we were all wrapped up in our winter coats and new Christmas woolies, we decided to sit outside and eat dinner in the cool winter air.

We had a few quizzical stares from passers by but it was lovely and made me so excited for more outdoor eating in the spring.

Panchos Burrito Manchester

Gluttony, recently

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It has been a good/bad week for food.

Good because I love to eat, but bad for my wallet and heart health. So much cheese!

Husband and I shared a platter at Nando’s. Medium spice with peri-peri chips, every time.

We had a cheeky Five Guys one evening when we went to the Trafford Centre to pick up some shoes.

Baked Camembert shared with a friend.

Food not pictured – the fish and chips that followed the Camembert. TWO trips to Panchos for burritos – the picante lamb is delicious! An original glazed Krispy Kreme  doughnut which never disappoints but I was sad to see their drink and a doughnut deal only gets you one doughnut now instead of two. And finally, two cupcakes. Although they were for charity so those calories don’t count, right?