The end of September

The weather has turned in the last few days. The rain was icy cold last night and I took a hot water bottle to bed. We’re steadfastly refusing to turn the heating on in our house, but I know it won’t be long before I crack. I saw my breath in the cold air this morning and I swear there was a glisten of frost on the grass, but I’m choosing to ignore it for now. It has only just turned October, after all.

The last two weeks of September were spent with family and friends. A particular quirk of my current job is that I don’t get to pick when I take my annual leave – it’s fixed into my rota. A fact I wasn’t particulate pleased with initially, but being forced to have two full weeks off work is actually rather nice.

Unusually for me, I didn’t make any travel plans and instead tried to focus on spending time with my people, and relaxing.

Monday

I finished my stretch of night shifts and after a particularly infuriating journey home – travelling into Manchester during morning rush hour is my own personal hell – I made it back and was reunited with my bed. A 90 minute snooze later, I went into town to meet a friend for brunch at Pot Kettle Black – the merguez eggs were divine. I wandered over to the Northern Quarter to take a coat to the tailors before treating myself to a fro-yo, finally cashing in all those loyalty cards I have been holding on to.

Tuesday
I relaxed.

Wednesday



There was afternoon tea to celebrate a birthday and an opportunity to catch up with old friends from my last job – I miss those nutters.

After tea, I drove across the Pennines to see my family.  I finally gave into the germs that had been threatening to ruin my week and went to bed at 7pm. My cousin was up from London and we spent some quality cousin time together in the hours that I managed to stay awake.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday

More sleep and lots of sorting through piles of knick-knacks for a car boot my mother and I planned to have on Sunday.

I also successfully made salted caramel without a thermometer – I like to think it was skill, but really it was just pure luck.

Sunday

I woke up at half 5  for our car boot. We didn’t make much money but we did shift a fair amount of stuff and I had fun people watching. Our unsold wares are to go to the charity shop.

Then it was to Leeds for tea and a catch up with Lyds. We made a friend, who was more interested in our food than she was in us.

Monday

Lunch with my in laws

Wednesday
I went to my first ever book club. We discussed Normal People by Sally Rooney. I did not like the book, but I really enjoyed the evening.

Thursday

I popped back to Yorkshire to go to an event at the Redbrick Mill – a wonderful, converted mill which I have enjoyed visiting for years. I went with R and we chatted about mortgages and solicitors and felt very grown up. We listened to some wonderful bloggers speak, drank bubbles and ate vegan brownies. I resisted the urge to buy all the yellow things.

Friday

I met Em’s gorgeous beagle and we took her for a walk along the river Mersey. Then I met another friend and ended up on another walk. We covered 8 miles and stopped for food along the way. He ordered soup and then nicked my chips.

Sunday

My cousin came to visit. She told me she didn’t eat breakfast because she knew our day would involve lots of food.

We had an insanely delicious pineapple and coconut donut from Siop Shop and then filled our savoury bellies with snacks at Bundobust. We hopped on a tram to the Quays to see the poppies at the Imperial War Museum. I made my cousin share an ice-cream and fed her pho and summer rolls before sending her home.

Autumn, to-do

Autumn to-do bucket list Autumn is officially here and I’m not sure how I feel about it. This time of year always feels a little bittersweet – comfy sweaters and cinnamon spice sound so appealing, but I struggle a bit when the nights draw in and I find myself wishing time away, willing the clocks to spring forward.

Last year I compiled a list together of a few things I wanted to do to enjoy the season but with a few holidays abroad and lots of weekends away, the season passed by without too much angst. This year however I have no trips planned and a job which involves working odd hours with lots of weekends. I’m going to be extra careful to ensure I get enough time outside in the light and time with my people.

Here are a few of the ways I intend on making the most of autumn.

Go on an autumnal walk
Make fondue
Bake a pumpkin pie
Drink festive coffee
Make hot chocolate, drink it whilst stargazing
Try some new soup recipes
Make chutney
Drink mulled apple juice
Go on a haunted activity
Knit a scarf
Carve a pumpkin

Glamping in Blackpool

Glamping Pod at Stanley Villa Farm

Last summer, my mother-in-law kindly gifted us a Red Letter Days voucher for our wedding anniversary. We finally cashed it in this spring to go glamping near Blackpool and now, as we are almost nearing autumn, I am going through the photos we took on that trip.

It was a quick trip away, but refreshing all the same. A much needed reminder that time out in nature, even briefly, can be restorative.

We stayed at Stanley Villa Farm in a cute little house shaped pods although I think glamping is a wee bit of a stretch. The pods, whilst insulted, were still a little chilly over night. And the site is next to a working farm with accompanying working farm smells – which we mostly got used to. The toilets were those toilet/shower wet room combinations which I really dislike… because everything gets wet, including the toilet roll. Still, snags aside, we really enjoyed our stay.

We relaxed and read, but before long I started to think about my belly. After a quick, and probably uncharitable, Google search of ‘is there any decent food in Blackpool?’ I found The Cottage which came with Rick Stein’s seal of approval. It was a short car ride away and found it hidden on an unassuming back street. The staff were incredibly warm and welcoming and the food was delicious. Quite often, fish and chips can make me feel greasy and heavy but these tasted really clean and light. The fish was succulent and the batter crisp. Fluffy chips and a couple of slices of buttered, white bread rounded out the meal. Heaven, with a dollop of homemade tartare sauce.

Fish and Chips at The Cottage, Blackpool

We made our way back to the site for the night are were treated to the most insanely beautiful, pink sunset. There are fire pits outside each pod, with wood for sale on site and I wish we’d thought to bring some marshmallows to toast. Next time, for sure.

Sunset at Stanley Villa Farm

Morning came and we made breakfast. I think my favourite part of camping is cooking outside – there’s something so satisfying about breakfast cooked on a camping stove accompanied by a hot mug of tea to keep you warm before the sun fully comes up for the day.

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Blackpool

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Blackpool

We drove home after breakfast (with a quick detour to Yorkshire to visit my poor uncle who landed himself in hospital), feeling satisfied and content.

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.

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

 

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.

 

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?

 

The best way to spread Christmas cheer

Elf at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green Events

We loved seeing Back to the Future at the Victoria Baths this summer, so when I saw that the Village Screen were returning with Christmas films this season, I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale. I’ve been looking forward to this night for weeks. Can you believe I’ve never seen Elf before?

Mac Daddies at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green Events

We didn’t get to indulge in the food offerings last time but I more than made up for it on this trip. I had the most deliciously indulgent mac and cheese from Mac Daddies and a festive doughnut filled with jam and mincemeat.

Elf at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green Events

I absolutely loved seeing the place decked out with Christmas cheer. It was however, bloody freezing and I’m so glad we brought a blanket to snuggle under – I know they tell you it’s going be cold when you book but jeepers, it was icy.

In fact, it was so cold that by the end of the film it snowed inside!

Elf at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green EventsElf at the Victoria Baths, Manchester - Village Green Events

It was such a magical evening and I am eagerly awaiting the next time we get to visit.

In Monton

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This weekend has been the first one we’ve spent at home in  Manchester, just the two of us, in forever. It has been lovely and much needed.

Today we decided to head up the road to Monton. We spent a couple of hours walking the streets, imagining what it would be like to live in one of the fantastic gigantic old houses in Ellesmere Park. I would have one room for shoes and another one for dresses. And a library with floor to ceiling bookshelves.

I spied a couple of Qubek’s pieces just off Monton high street and made husband wait an age whilst I took far too many pictures.

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We ended our afternoon with a cream tea at a tea room – good, strong tea but not so great scones. As a personal preference, I do not think any thing is made better by glacé cherries.

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Los Angeles, eating

A few of the things I ate in LA.

Grand Central Market, Downtown LA

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I loved this place and was so sad that we were only able to visit once. I already knew where I wanted to eat, but made sure I circled the market a few times to take in all the sights and smells, before heading over to Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. I was going to get two rounds of tacos but at the last minute decided that I would only get one, and then go try some food elsewhere. It turned out that was wishful thinking because the portion was unexpectedly huge -was surprising because it was so cheap! I still think about these tacos, months later. R had a platter of fish tacos from another of the vendors and loved every bite.

Jinya Ramen, Santa Monica

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Since we were staying in an AirBnB we thought it would be fun to order in one evening. After perusing UberEats we decided on ramen from Jinya Ramen. It was hearty and nourishing.

Blue Star Donuts, Abbot Kinney

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I’m normally not very adventurous with my donut choices, favouring plain glazed or if I’m feeling fancy, jam filled. I branched out of my comfort zone and got the Old Fashioned. I chose well.

Whole Foods, Venice

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We were feeling the need for something green so we hit up the salad bar. It hit the spot.

EP/LP, West Hollywood

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We had dinner at the restaurant adjoining the Melrose Rooftop Cinema where they served the best mango and coconut pudding and lush cocktails.

The Queso Truck, Downtown LA

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We saw a few food trucks parked opposite the LACMA and even though I was in no way hungry, I couldn’t help myself from having a nosey. I didn’t bother checking out the other trucks once I found this one – they were serving up pots of hot cheese after all. I went for the classic yellow with chips and although I tried my hardest, I couldn’t finish the whole portion.