Sunday Afternoon Quickie: The White Hart, Saddleworth

I’ve been hearing rave reviews about the White Hart in Saddleworth for a couple of years now, and have been meaning to for a long time.

The fact that they sell excellent food and are located in the beautiful Saddleworth countryside were two strong incentives for me.  And finally this weekend I got my a**e in gear and booked a table.

Both Jamie and I were in a bit of a sorry, lethargic state today (a super busy week knocked us out!), so we weren’t wildly energetic when we rocked up at the White Hart.

However we very quickly perked up on arrival which is the mark of a good restaurant for me – if it can transport your mood they are doing something right.

I was impressed instantly with the attentive service and started greedily noting the delicious looking food on other customers plates!

Jamie and I unfortunately and unusually didn’t have the appetite for a full Sunday roast, so we opted for open sandwiches.

For me:  rump steak sandwich, mustard mayonnaise, caramelised onions, fried hens egg

For Jamie: chargrilled free range chicken, dry cured smoked bacon, mayonnaise, basil, mango

And a portion of duck fat fries to share.

And we were delighted with our meal! Both sandwiches were beautifully presented on chic white plates with a little rim.

You can go to a pub and order a really lovely sandwich, but these were sandwiches taken to another level, using the finest ingredients and brilliantly executed.  So simple but so good.  My egg yolk was just the right gooeyness, and the salad leaves were perfectly crisp and fresh, the duck fat chips were crunchy and light, the mango sauce with chicken was lovely and tart.  We were very happy customers.

And the absolute mark of success was that we were very quickly planning a return visit to enjoy the full roast, which judging by the other diners plate was an absolute feast!

white hart rump steak sandwich, mustard mayonnaise, caramelised onions, fried hens egg
Rump steak sandwich, mustard mayonnaise, caramelised onions, fried hens egg
White Hart The chargrilled free range chicken, dry cured smoked bacon, mayonnaise, basil, mango put a big smile on Jamie's tired face!
The chargrilled free range chicken, dry cured smoked bacon, mayonnaise, basil, mango put a big smile on Jamie’s tired face!

All Aboard The Grain Train!

I didn’t especially have an opinion on grains until I read Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite in October last year.

The premise of Diana’s cookbook is finding really amazing cuisines that are incidentally delicious. Her recipes blew my mind, they were exotic, intriguing and obviously, incredibly tasty. I also loved the many articles in the book giving her interpretation on healthy eating. There are features on calories, the lessons we can learn from Japanese cooking, the miracle of broth, good fat and bad fat, dieting and grains. Her thoughts are measured, well researched and inspiring.

The section on grains really caught my eye.  Ingredients such as barley, buckwheat and farro are cheap as chips, packed with an astonishing amount of nutrition and prepared the right way, despite their rather dull reputation, are versatile and bloody gorgeous. Unfortunately in a Western diet we tend to eat a lot of processed grains (white rice, white bread, pasta) that have had most of their nutrients stripped away.

I was further convinced by Diana’s argument to get more grains in my life by the cracking recipes in her book.  Favourites included:

  • kisir (an autumnal tabbouleh with pomegranite seeds) served with griddled aubergine, date, walnut and yoghurt salad
  • a pilaf of mixed grains with sweet potato and fennel with avocado ‘cream’
grains Griddled aubergine, date, walnut and yoghurt salad and kisir
Griddled aubergine, date, walnut and yoghurt salad and kisir

So a seed was planted in the back of my head ten months ago when I read A Change of Appetite. I decided to try to eat less white rice, white flour, pasta and to strive to eat more grains like quinoa, freekah and millet. However that’s easily said given I’m an experimental cook and I like eating out. I can’t say I succeeded. But, luckily I came across the Grains, Seeds and Legumes cookbook a couple of months ago by Molly Brown.  It’s packed with imaginative ways to use a wide range of grains, taking its inspiration from Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Indian and Spanish cuisines. We’ve had some stunning meals.  And the thing with eating grain fuelled meals is they are not only delicious, but leave you feeling full in a very satisfied, light way.  And sadly with refined carbohydrates like white bread you are hungry again quickly.

I’m still not treating my body as a temple, I eat a lot of cakes – although healthier versions, enjoy more than my fair share of wine and mainline diet drinks which are packed full of chemicals. However, I feel I’m at least moving away from a refined carbohydrate heavy diet and towards more grains in my meals.  And rather than feeling I’m on some miserable healthy eating regime, I feel like I’m on a tasty adventure!

grains Quinoa, chicken and black beans with avocado puree
Quinoa, chicken and black beans with avocado puree
grains Turkish barley and lentil salad with tahini dressing
Turkish barley and lentil salad with tahini dressing
grains Warm barley with roast pumpkin and feta
Warm barley with roast pumpkin and feta

Having Your Cake And Eating It!

As you may have gathered from reading my blog posts this year, I have a very sweet tooth that interferes with my desire to eat healthily. I have been very open about my ice-cream addiction and my attempts to curb my evening treat.

So a big theme for me this year has been finding a healthier alternative for dessert.  And ‘healthy’ cakes have become a thing for me.

When I say healthy, I think it’s more accurate to say it contains a few more wholesome ingredients than the original. The recipes are still loaded with sugar and fat.   And whether that’s in the form of maple syrup and coconut oil, too much of it still isn’t good for you.

But I do take great comfort in knowing that when I’m eating a healthier version of a cake, it might be doing me a little bit of good at the same time.

My favourite cookbook for these treats at the moment is Love, Bake, Nourish  It was a birthday present back in May, and for the last two months I’ve cooked the sh*t out of it!

Unfortunately I was too lazy to take photos of all of my efforts, but let me tell you about my greedy cakey couple of months.

For starters I really enjoyed the following:

  • Courgette and apple
  • Maple pecan
  • Orange, almond & pistachio
  • Coconut
  • Chocolate beetroot

And pretty much unanimously, they’ve all been AWESOME.

And the four pictured below are my absolute faves:

  • Banana and cinnamon
  • Chocolate and chestnut
  • Spiced scented carrot cake with a crumble topping
  • Nutmeg love

Amber Rose the author tends to use spelt flour instead of refined flour, which is much more nutritious, she also uses honey, maple syrup or brown sugar instead of refined sugar.  And the use of a lot of nuts, veg and fruit in her cakes bumps up the goodness levels.

I tell you what though, those ingredients may make the recipes healthier, but actually they seem to elevate the flavours.  I’ve been really impressed with complex, interesting taste of the cakes.  All of them were rich and indulgent and really satisfying.  Most were quite pudding like in that they were quite dense and moist, and I was all over that.

I can’t wait to crack on and cook everything in the book. Next on my list is the  passion fruit and lime syrup cake.  Mmm.

healthy Banana and cinnamon cake
Banana and cinnamon cake
healthy chocolate and chestnut cake
Chocolate and chestnut cake
healthy Spiced scented carrot cake with a crumble topping
Spiced scented carrot cake with a crumble topping
healthy Nutmeg love cake
Nutmeg love cake

Down at The Unicorn

I’ve totally slacked on reporting back on my last environmental challenge, which was doing a weekly shop at the Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton.  For those who haven’t been following, in the last couple of months I set myself six enviromental food challenges to do over six weeks (all fun ones I might add!).  The Unicorn is a co-operative serving a range of wholesome and organic foods, all sourced as locally as possible.  Committing to shopping there felt like a small and enjoyable enviromental gesture.

Although I billed this trip as my ‘weekly shop’,  the fact is on the day I was feeling lethargic, disorganised and grumpy.  I failed to write a list or think about what we needed for the week, but just decided to tip up and see what I fancied.   Despite my mardy mood, I took pleasure in my little jaunt to the Unicorn.  I thought stuff it, I’ll just be experimental and buy some weird shit that looks interesting!  This translated into vegan chocolate cake from the deli, cherries, peaches, alfafa sprouts, farro, sourdough rye bread, cashews with black pepper and other random bits and bobs.

In terms of conducting a serious experiment I can’t report back and tell you if you can do your weekly shop successfully in the Unicorn, I don’t think I could as it’s a vegan supermarket and there were a few practical basics missing for me.  But it’s a great grocery shop – I felt especially heartened and happy to see all the beautifully, largely locally grown veg lovingly piled up at the front of the store.  The veg looked more rugged and intriguing than the uniform produce you see in supermarkets. I’m down with that!  Knowing that the money I was spending in the Unicorn was going to local farmers who put a lot of love and care into growing these veg was a nice feeling – one I’ve only recently becoming acquainted with.

My trip to the Unicorn piqued my curiousity and made me crave for a more wholesome shopping experience, where I get to be closer to the food chain and have an understanding of where my food has come from.  And how lovely that the staff at the Unicorn all genuinely care about the food and know where it’s come from.

And! The peaches and cherries were EXCEPTIONAL – so so juicy and sweet, and the sourdough rye bread was really excellent too.  Everything was good but those items stood out.

So what’s next for me and my quest to try a bit harder with the environment?  Well I definitely still want to strive to continue my environmental education and see what I can do to improve my contribution to the planet, but as always it’s going to have to be fun!  Watch this space – I’ll be telling you all about it soon.

 

A Marvellous & Mindboggling Day of Vegan Cooking

Yesterday I rocked up at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School to do my ‘vegan toolkit’ cookery course.

So why vegan? If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’ve recently become a lot more curious about how I can make my own contribution to helping the environment – and going vegan would definitely be a good step – or eating more vegan food at least.

My other motivation is actually that I think it could be healthier – the more I read about the meat, fish and dairy industry, the more wary I am of  what animals and fish are now eating (animals are fed antibiotics amongst other things and it sounds like all fish in the oceans are eating particles of plastic).

And my final reason is I’ve  been increasingly inspired by the vegan food I’ve been eating lately. Having previously dismissed vegan food as dull and worthy, I’m enjoying the current explosion of exciting vegan restaurants, cookbooks and general noise around innovative vegan food.  So I thought, why not give this cookery course a whirl and see if I can discover some interesting new food.

vegan The gorgeous Vegetarian Society Cookery School building in Altrincham
The gorgeous Vegetarian Society Cookery School building in Altrincham

And as it turns out, my choice of cookery course was EXCELLENT!

Between 9.30am and 3.30pm we cooked 17 dishes. And not 17 versions of tofu and vegetable burger, but properly inspiring stuff: mayonnaise, meringues, meaty (but not meat of course) suet pudding, pizza, chocolate cake, paella, ackee and tofu stir fry, wonton dumpling soup, a vegetable pastry plait and a load of other stuff too.

vegan A very meaty indulgent suet pudding made with mushrooms and soya
Suet pudding – very indulgent and definitely my favourite dish
vegan Vegan pizza
Vegan pizza

Not only did everything we cooked taste delicious, but Alex, the chef and trainer, was such a font of knowledge and enthusiasm. We bombarded him with questions – about veganism and health (in particular vitamin B12!), about where to get ingredients, about the Vegetarian Society, and he generously shared his knowledge.  He was a truly infectious teacher.  And not only did we have a lovely snack break at midday (quesadillas, bruscetta, scrambled tofu and a crazy spicy tofu pate called Soloman Gundy), but we also got a second ‘full’ feast to dive into of everything else we cooked at 2.30pm.  Eating all this food made me an extremely happy lady.

Whilst I don’t have any plans to go fully vegan, I’m very keen to try more vegan food, and this course has given me a confidence boost.  In fact I can feel a new challenge coming on!  How about I commit to cooking at least one delicious vegan meal a week? And obviously I’ll blog about my meals.  Watch this space and please give me your favourite vegan recipes to try.

 

Weekly Eats 1st July

Well I’m pretty excited to tell you about what I’ve been eating this week.  It’s been adventurous.

Let’s start on Tuesday when I went to the new healthy cafe that opened in Altrincham a few weeks ago.  It’s called Common Ground and it’s run by three retired Olympians.  That in itself makes it worth a visit. It’s a gorgeous venue – it’s utterly instagrammable with a beautiful minamalist interior and a lovely bright yard with colourful furniture.  Oh and it’s got cute real life dogs.  They specialise in great coffees and healthy cakes, although apparently they will be serving healthy food and (not so healthy) booze soon.  I loved the vibe of the place, it was relaxed, friendly and inspiring. And the sugar free, gluten free pistachio and rose cake I ate was truly excellent.

Weekly eats rose and pistachio cake
Rose and pistachio cake
Weekly Eats Common Ground's utterly Instagrammable yard
Common Ground’s utterly Instagrammable yard

And on Tuesday evening I embarked on my own healthy cake project.  I’d been browsing through my Love Bake, Nourish cookbook and liked the look of the chesnut and chocolate cake.  Instead of flour you use chestnut puree (500g of the stuff) and ground walnuts.  I can confirm that it tastes as delicious as it looks.  Very moist, sweet and fudgy.  I will be baking this again as it’s one of my favourite cakes of 2017 and guilt free too.

Weekly eats chestnut and chocolate cake
Chestnut and chocolate cake

Things got even more experimental on Wedsnesday.  I have wanted to try deep fried courgette flowers for a long time as I’d heard they are rather exceptional.  So as our abundant courgette plants were flowering this week I pounced on the opportunity.  We used a Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall recipe which involved stuffing the flowers with ricotta and fresh herbs, dipping them in a flour and sparkling water batter and deep frying them for a few minutes.  We served these crispy delights on a plate of our own home grown nasturium leaves and flowers.  We were pretty amazed at a) how good they looked and b) how incredibly tasty the were.

weekly eats Deep fried courgette flours with ricotta and herb stuffing
Deep fried courgette flours with ricotta and herb stuffing

On Saturday we ventured into town to test out the newly opened Mayfield.  Basically this is a bunch of lovely street food stalls hosted in the old Mayfield Railway Depot by Piccadilly station, featuring different cutting edge street stalls every week.  Have a look at the photo of the top of the blog to give you a flavour.  It was a fab friendly atmosphere, and whilst there weren’t a lot of stalls (perhaps six or seven in total), the food on offer was top notch.  I opted for a healthy and delicious mung dahl with roasted cauliflower, Jamie also went vegan but junk food vegan! He chose a Vietnamese vegan hot dog and fries.  I resisted the doughnut stall but when Jamie appeared with a cornflake and custard doughnut, I ended up scoffing an awful lot of Jamie’s!

weekly eats Mung dahl with roast cauliflower
Mung dahl with roast cauliflower

On our trip home from Mayfield’s because I hadn’t had a ‘full’ pudding having only had bites of Jamie’s doughnut, I felt I deserved a treat, so I nipped into the new Leon at Manchester Piccadilly and grabbed a gluten free brownie made with coffee, dark chocolate and orange zest.  It was lovely!

That’s it for this week, if you have any tips on interesting foodie places to go in Manchester do comment below, I’m always looking for ideas.