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

 

Last week in snippets

Monday night bruschettaBannys Indian Fish Summer
1, 2
First BBQ of the yearLater afternoon light
3, 4
Bedtime reading
5

  1. I felt like pottering around in the kitchen on Monday. The results were a simple but delicious, three course dinner. My favourite bit was the bruschetta, made with fancy tomatoes instead of our usual, cheaper salad tomatoes.
  2. A meal out at Banny’s on Tuesday to say good bye to a work colleague. I had the Indian Fish Supper which was an interesting concept but I’d get the regular fish and chips if I was to go again. You can’t beat lashings of salt and vinegar.
  3. We had the first barbecue of the season on Saturday. Oh. My. God. It was GOOD. I ate so much that I had to retire to bed for an hour and sleep it off.
  4. Late afternoon light, pre-nap.
  5. Apposite bedtime reading. I found myself heading to bed at 9pm most nights last week so I didn’t get very far into the book.

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!

48 hours in Milan, snapshots

snapshot Milan Duomo

For a long time, the deciding factor on where to go on holiday very much depended on where Ryan Air was flying to cheaply.* Milan, well Bergamo really, since most Ryan Air flights don’t actually seem to land in the airports of the city advertised, has been on my radar as somewhere to go one day. Last weekend, quite by accident, I finally got round to it visiting.

My friend and I were supposed to go to Madrid last November however our flights were cancelled and as well as being refunded our money, we were given some flight vouchers. After a perusal of possible destinations to use them on, we ended up picking Milan.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

I’ve been a bit of a useless friend recently, and this was the first time I’ve seen L in 10 months so we knew we would spend the whole time catching up over food and tea. Sightseeing wasn’t particularly high on the agenda.

Still, once we landed in Milan, we found ourselves wandering over to the Duomo since it was the one landmark we knew of.

Milan Duomo, front

We approached from the side and decided to walk all the way to the end of the Piazza before turning around to get our first proper look of the cathedral. It was pretty spectacular and gleamed in the midday light.

Aperol spritz at the Aperol terraceAperol Terrace, Milan Duomo

Landmarks are best enjoyed with a drink in hand so we headed over to the Aperol terrace and sat outside, sipping drinks, under the shadow of the Duomo. It was one of my favourite moments of the weekend. It was a little chilly but the sun was out and it’s the first time I’ve felt its warmth on my face all winter.**

The rest of the weekend was a merry blur of chats, food and copious cups of tea. We did consider going to one museum, but once we got there we were put off by the large queue and went for cake instead. Many museums in Milan are free (and BUSY!) on the first Sunday of the month.

Some notes on the things we did.

Eating

Somehow, over the course of the weekend, we managed to walk 23 miles. A good job, I suppose, given how much we ate. We did very little research beforehand and instead Googled things we fancied. Apart from some lacklustre but filling dim sum, we lucked out and found some excellent food.

avocado toast from Fancy ToastMilan Be Bop Pizza

Sushi at Conch – Tasty sushi. Crazy delicious wakame salad.

Gelato from Raki – I had the most amazing vanilla and ginger gelato.

Toast from Fancy Toast – sweet and savoury toast toppings. I wish I had room for the nutella toast after my savoury avo but I just couldn’t do it. The portions are really filling.

Pizza from Be Bop – Thin and crispy based pizzas. Good prices.

Arancini from Antica Fabbrica dell’Arancina Milano – cheap, cheerful and tasty arancini

Espresso with melted chocolate from CioccolatItalian – GO HERE for melted chocolate heaven. I had the most amazing espresso with melted hazelnut chocolate and whipped cream. L had a pot of hot, melted chocolate full of pistachio nuts.

Sleeping

Mercure Milano Regency, here

Clean. 2 minutes from a tram stop or a 30 minute walk from the city centre. Crap water pressure, but I can forgive them that. It had a quirky Hotel Budapest vibe to it. After hotel tax, it worked out at £50 per night for a room, breakfast included.

Mercure Regency Hotel

Doing

Frog free walking tour, Milan

Free walking tour with Frog Walking Tour

Apart from walking between food stops, we did manage to make it to a free walking tour. I love these kinds of tours and have done one in pretty much every place I’ve been that offers them. I find them to be a good way to learn about the place you’re visiting, seeing some major sights and getting tips on things to do from locals.

Grand Canal, Milan

We were too full by the time aperitivo came around, which is a sort of Italian happy hour with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, but we enjoyed walking around the Navigli area where you’ll find many bars serving the meal, set along side a pretty old canal system.

I really enjoyed my weekend in Milan. If you can get cheap flights, it’s certainly a place that’s worth a visit for a leisurely, food-filled few days.

 

*Back in the glory days when you could literally fly somewhere for 2p return

**I’m being dramatic, I know, but winter feels like it has dragged on for soooooooo long!

An ode to Rabbie Burns at Albatross and Arnold

Burns night supper

{photo from here}

After much procrastination, I finally joined WeBlogNorth just before the new year and I’ve been enjoying finding new blogs to read and Instagram accounts to follow. Through the group, I heard about an opportunity to attend a Burns Night Supper that was being held at a relatively new bar in town, Albatross & Arnold. I ummed and ahhed about whether or not I should put my name forward for a seat because do I count as a blogger yet? Do I need more followers before I do? Does anyone care what think about, well, anything? All questions to which I have no answer, but regardless, my unofficial word for the year is ‘bold’ so I boldly threw my name into the ring. As a result, last Thursday I found myself walking through the Manchester rain to meet six other blogging ladies and eat some good food.

I arrived early, thinking I’d have trouble finding the place – a quick Google search told me it was above The Range, an indoor, virtual golf club in Spinningfields. Although it wasn’t immediately obvious when I got there, if I was going through the correct set of doors, I quickly saw a sign guiding me up the staircase to my destination for the evening.

Whiskey explanation at Albatross and Arnold

{whiskey chat}

I was led to our table and settled down with a drink – any place that gets the distinction between a soda and lime, and a soda and lime cordial, is on to a winner in my book. Nice one, A&A. It wasn’t long before photographer, blogger, all-round-girl-boss Georgie Glass arrived and before I knew it, I was surrounded by a group of wonderful ladies and inspiring, creative chatter.

Now, I have two confessions to make in this post.

Here’s the first.

I’ve never read any of Burn’s poetry. Or at least, I hadn’t until I did some last minute swotting earlier that morning. I knew, vaguely, what Burns night was about and when  it’s celebrated, thanks to its printed presence in all yearly diaries and calendars. Before our meal, we were treated to a reading, complete with Scottish accent and all.

Grilled Scottish Artichoke

{Grilled Scottish artichoke butter emulsion, tomato concassé. Paired with Speyburn 15 year old}

Second confession, and to preface, I normally consider myself a pretty worldly person so this was a blow to the old ego..

It turns out I have absolutely NO CLUE how to eat an artichoke – which is how I found myself, after my first mouthful of food, at my first ever blogger meal, surrounded my people I had only just met, surreptitiously spitting out bits of woody artichoke into my napkin. To my relief, I wasn’t the only one having trouble and when the guy on the table next to ours looked over at us for some guidance on how to eat said vegetable, one of us (I forget who, sorry) had the bright idea to Google how to eat it.

‘Pull a petal from the artichoke.
Place base of petal between teeth
Pull through teeth to remove soft, meaty, pulp
Discard woody remains.’

I’d liken the action as similar to squeezing the last bit of juice out of a Mr Freezy ice lolly.* Once I’d got the hang of it, it was pretty tasty.

Whisky cured Scottish salmon

{Whisky cured Scottish salmon Old Pulteney, pickled cucumber. Paired with Old Pulteney single malt scotch}

Whisky cured Scottish salmon

{salmon, details}

The rest of the meal went off without a hitch and our next course of whiskey cured salmon with pickled cucumber, went down a treat. The cucumber was surprisingly firm and deliciously tart. The salmon, smooth and almost melt in my mouth.

Each whiskey was introduced before it was served and we were encouraged to sniff, swirl and sip in order to enjoy the nuances of the drink. Mmmmmm, peaty.

Whiskey explanation at Albatross and Arnold

{tasting notes, golfball decor}

We were treated to live music as we ate. If all clubhouses were this atmospheric, I would strongly consider taking up golf.

Venison Haunch

{Venison haunch, parsnip purée and freeze dried blackberries. Paired with Ancnoc Peat Head}

Look how perfectly pink that bit of meat is. Sadly, I couldn’t really taste the blackberries thanks to a lingering cold, but the venison was juicy and tender. There was enough of the purée to have some with every bite of meat – a pet peeve of mine is not having enough of your accompaniments to last through the meal.

After a round of haggis canapes, it was onto dessert.

Raspberry and lavender cranachan

{Raspberry and lavender cranachan. Honey, toasted granola. Paired with Balblair 2005 vintage}

Chewy granola, sweet raspberries, boozy cream. I have plans to recreate something similar at home, because I think this would make an awesome brunch item (sans whiskey, ha!)

Raspberry and lavender cranachan

{cranachan}

I had such a lovely time and I’m really excited to explore blogging and the community here in Manchester. I also really enjoyed branching out and trying a new kind of dining experience, thank you to Albatross & Arnold for having me. I see more of your food in my future!

Details

Address: The Range | Leftbank | Spinningfields | Manchester | M3 3AN

Opening times: Mon – Thurs: 11am – 11pm / Fri & Sat: 11am – 12pm / Sun: Closed

Menu, here

 

 

Meal, with compliments. Words and artichoke shame, my own.

*I might have aged myself with that reference

 

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?