10 Great Places to Eat in Manchester

I’ve been doing A LOT of eating in Manchester this year.  Jamie and I made it our mission to eat in as many of the best restaurants, supper clubs and cafes in Manchester as we could.

Here’s a little countdown of some of our faves from 2016 in no particular order:

1. Yazu, Chinatown

This is a tiny, very homely and simple restaurant that sells beautiful honest Japense food. We had stunning sashimi and tempura, and the atmosphere was delightfully low key and pleasant.

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Sashimi and veg tempura

2. Rudy’s Pizzas, Ancoats

Do incredible stonebaked pizzas.   The white pizza below called Ancozzese, with wild broccoli and tuscan sausage, was sensational.  Rudy’s is a gorgeous and effortlessly trendy glass fronted venue in a pretty square in Ancoats.  The staff were lovely and the venue was buzzing.

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Ancozzese pizza on left, and jolly Jim the owner on the right

3. Hawksmoor, Deansgate

This is a glamourous art deco venue and they serve fabulous meat – steaks are the focus although other options are available.  The service is impeccable and it feels like a treat being there.

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Steak and chips!

4. Trove, Levenshulme

I love going to Trove just for a coffee or lunch.  But they also do brilliant supper clubs.  We recently went to the Maple supper club – every dish had maple syrup in it.  It was mouth wateringly good food.  In the photo below, on the left are homemade pittas, falafels, pickles and courgette salad and on the right is lemon almond tart with balsamic strawberries.  I didn’t want the food or the evening to end.

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Falafels, pitta and pickles and the best lemon almond tart

5. The Buttery, Levenshulme

I met Neil Buttery when he was running a pastry class with Cracking Good Food.  As he was such an ace pastry chef I wanted to try his new restaurant, the Buttery.  It’s an intimate venue, with arty vibes and a welcoming atmosphere and just damn good pies, beers and wines and all at very good prices.

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Jamie downing some top notch ale at The Buttery

6. El Gato Negro, King Street

This classy new venue opened at the beginning of the year.  The interior is elegant and stylish and their tapas is equally excellent.  Along with some other wonderful dishes, I ate the best tortilla of my life – moist, rich and herby.

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El Gato Negro – it’s just classy

7. Lunya, Deansgate

We popped in here for a cheeseboard one evening.  Lunya feels so spanish.  Sitting up at the bar (which is next to their deli), Lunya felt alive with hustle and bustle, and the cheeseboard was divine.  We came back a few days later to try their restaurant upstairs, but the atmosphere just wasn’t the same as the buzzy excitement of the bar area.

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More cheese please!

8. The Walled Garden Vegetarian Supper Club, Whalley Range

In May I went to Eddie Shepherd’s supper club for the second time.  He’s a charming host and his 14 courses of experimental and delicious vegetarian food were just as good as the first time.

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Eddie’s experimental vegetarian cooking

9. Brassica Grill, Heaton Moor

On hearing that Brassica Grill had been nominated for a Manchester Food and Drink Festival Award , we were keen to try it out.  Whilst my starter and main were good, they weren’t memorable, what stood out was the delightfully relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the restaurant and the staff were adorable.  AND most importantly my pudding was off the scale: raspberry souffle and lemon thyme ice-cream.

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A raspberry souffle to die for

10. The Allotment Vegan Restaurant, Stockport Old Town

The recently opened Allotment vegan restaurant is one of the best meals I’ve had this year. Taking vegan food to another level.  It’s high end food, I’d say on a parr with the quality of food served at the French.  The shiitake terrine with berries blew my mind, the creamy rich pate complemented by the sweet sharpness of the berries.  And the aubergine chargrilled ‘steak’ was so beautifully seasoned it would give any meat steak a run for it’s money.

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Shiitake terrine and aubergine steak

And ten of the places I still want to eat (I could easily make this a list of 30 if I wanted to – there’s too many good restaurants!)

  1. Grafene, King Street
  2. The Refuge at the Palace Hotel, Oxford Road
  3. The Hearth of the Ram, Ramsbottom
  4. The White Hart, Saddleworth
  5. Where the Light Gets in, Stockport (due to open soon)
  6. Hispi, Didsbury Village
  7. San Juan, Chorlton
  8. Grays Larder, Chorlton
  9. El Rincon, Deansgate
  10. Manchester House, Spinningfields

What are your favourite places to eat in Manchester? Please comment below so I can add them to my wish list!

 

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Making a Splash at Victoria Baths’ 110 Year Birthday Celebration with the Manchester Real Junk Food Project

The chance to visit the beautiful architectural phenomenon Victoria Baths AND eat food by the Real Junk Food Project was too good to pass up! Jamie and I signed ourselves up back in August.  I didn’t really think more about it other than, how cool, I’m going to a beautiful old building and I get to try celebrity chef Mary Ellen McTague’s food.  I was also excited about experiencing The Real Junk Food Project who make their dishes with food donated by supermarkets and other food suppliers that would otherwise be discarded.  What a great concept.

However Jamie’s mum came round for a cuppa a few days before and gave a whole new angle to Victoria Baths.  This was a place that meant a huge amount to her.  Christine’s eyes lit up when she heard we were going.  Not only had she gone there as a child for her weekly bath, but it’s where her mother had done her washing.  Her mother would go there on the same day every week with her friends and they would sing their hearts out to pass the time while they did the washing.  It was a place of community and happy memories for Christine.  And as a young adult she had gone there with work colleagues to enjoy the Turkish Baths where you apparently you got scrubbed to within an inch of your life. That had been a lot of fun too. So going to the 110 year birthday celebrations took on added meaning and depth after that lovely insight.

It was a Thursday evening and as we arrived we were given a glass of prosecco and were given free reign to wonder around the building.  And what a treat that was.  We started in the Turkish baths area where deck chairs, towels and scrubbing tools were laid out artfully to help stoke up your imagination as to what it must have been like.

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Jamie having a good scrub!

Then we went into the pool area which just felt opulent and beautiful.  We loved wandering around taking photos of the old changing booths and walking up to the spectators gallery and enjoying the fantastic views from up there.

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The stunning pool area and the beautiful and battered changing booths
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A wistful moment for Jamie on the spectator gallery

And after a bit of pleasant ambling and prosecco sipping it was dinner time!  I had no idea how this was going to work other than the food had been donated that day from supermarkets, bakers and other food suppliers and Real Junk Food Project muster up a menu based on the goods that come in.

This was the menu we received:

Garlic sourdough

Roast cauliflower and rice with cumin, ginger and lime

Scotch broth

Lentils, paneer, tomato and coriander

Roast courgette and pepper

Sweetcorn and seafood chowder

Birthday cake

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Birthday table – with vintage plates and serviettes
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Garlic sourdough with green salad, roast cauliflower & rice, Scotch ‘broth’, birthday cake

The food was delivered as sharing plates – dish after dish was brought out and we piled stuff on our own plates.  In my enthusiasm I took hearty portions of everything thinking we had got our full quota of food on the table.  But no, more goodies kept coming out, recipes that weren’t even on the menu.  I may have been full but I had to keep trying everything obviously! This was Mary Ellen McTague’s food – I wasn’t going to miss out on any of it.

My overall impression of the food was that it was very good, imaginative and wholesome food. Fine dining it wasn’t – it wasn’t that fussy and finessed – it felt more like an amazing and exotic buffet – which was a vibe I loved.

Firm favourites were definitely the garlic sourdough (great idea) – and the bread was apparently sourced from Trove Bakery.  I also LOVED the scotch broth, which had us all baffled because it was most definitely not a broth – it was in fact pearl barley with some very tasty lamb on top.  No idea if there was a change of mind regarding the initial idea of scotch broth but either way I was very happy with the succulent, earthy risotto-ey outcome.  I was a big fan of the creamy sweetcorn and seafood chowder too.

I thought the sharing plates were great for a party atmosphere.  What better way to get to know your table neighbours than by passing around new intriguing dishes that you have to identify and discuss! Especially as there seemed to be several additional curveballs like spinach, chorizo, chicken and a watermelon salad that weren’t on the original menu.

The evening ended with a delicious slice of birthday cake with chocolate icing and a lovely speech from Corin Bell, Director of Real Junk Food Project Manchester and chef Mary Ellen McTague.  They run regular pop ups in Manchester where the food is provided on a pay as you feel basis.  They had wanted to contribute to the Victorian Baths birthday celebration as it was a cause that they identified with – taking something old and finding a new purpose for it.

All in all it was a fabulous night – it was a fun indulgent evening, whilst supporting two great projects – the Victoria Baths Restoration and the Manchester Real Junk Food Project.

 

Beautiful and Creative Food at the Brand New Allotment Vegan Restaurant, Stockport

I’m loving that two fancy restaurants are opening in Stockport.  It makes me very happy that I don’t have to schlep all the way into town to get a lovely dinner.  The Allotment Vegan Restaurant opened mid August and the intriguing Where The Light Gets In is due to open very soon.

The Allotment is in the beautiful old town part of Stockport.  The lovely architecture in the old town is in stark contrast to the 70s blandness that is the Mersey Way shopping centre. And the Allotment fits in with the old town beauty perfectly – it’s appearance is unassuming but quietly stylish both outside and in.

 

We were greeted by a warm friendly waitress who explained the menu to us, opened our BYO wine and made us feel at home. It was full and buzzy with an interesting cross section of people, all enveloped in an enjoyably intimate and calm atmosphere.

I was delighted to experience my first ever amuse bouche of multi-coloured raw beetroot sticks and hummus.  I didn’t realise that raw beetroot crudites were a thing – they are not unlike carrots and I’m very much converted.

Jamie’s starter was soup of the day which was Root Veg and Chimichurri. It was super tasty but I definitely won on the starter front with my Shitake Parfait and Seasonal Berries which was OUT OF THIS WORLD.  It was basically a rich mushroom pate which was taken to another level by the berry sauce. Sounds like an odd combo but it stopped me in my tracks – the sharpness and the sweetness of the berries against the creaminess and earthiness of the mushrooms just worked.  The raw mustard seed crackers were excellent too.

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Amuse Bouche of Beets and Hummus, Root Veg & Chimichurri Soup, Raw Mustard Seed Crackers and Shitake Parfait and Seasonal Berries

My main was  a ‘Mixed Grill’ of roasted buckwheat sausage, grilled portobello with smoked cheese, hot fried cauliflower and confit peppered aubergine steak.  It was divine – the stand out piece being the aubergine which really did compete with a real steak for flavour – smoky and rich.  The deep fried spicy cauliflower was also exceptional.

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‘Mixed Grill’

Jamie’s maincourse was ‘Pineapple and Aubergine’ – the same delicious aubergine steak as my mixed grill served with blackened pineapple, lemon grass and tofu cream and all sorts of other goodies.

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‘Pineapple and Aubergine’

I decided to forgo ordering a separate pudding and just share Jamie’s Chocolate Mudpie and Sweet Potato Custard.  Lucky Jamie getting to share his food with me.  However first there was a ‘pre-pudding’ – what a bonus.  Peaches with a hazelnut, tofu cream.  Yum!

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Pre-Pudding of Peaches and Tofu Hazelnut Cream

And then came the exquisite Mudpie and Sweet Potato Custard.  Sounds like it’s going to be vegetably and worthy, but oh no.  This was an absolute highlight.  A rich moist brownie style mudpie with the sweetest creamiest most un-potatoey custard you can imagine.  And it was a huge portion, so Jamie and I both had plenty, although in hindsight, I could happily have demolished my own.

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Semi Demolished Mudpie and Sweet Potato Custard

Whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or hardcore carnivore you will love the Allotment. And whether you live in Bolton or Liverpool or Stockport – it’s worth the trip – this is exceptional, imaginative food served in a lovely, welcoming and thoughtful atmosphere.

To find out more click here: http://www.theallotment.info/

 

Boast fest! My last 3 months since leaving the BBC. Ok a few shit things have happened too but it’s mainly been good.

I took voluntary redundancy at the end of April, and apart from a brief stint of working in June, I’ve not been doing paid work since and I intend to keep it that way for a few months more so I can properly chill out and lay the ground work for the foodie career I want to build.  I’ve experienced highs and lows since April.  I would say mainly highs, but I want to tell you about some of the stuff I’ve been doing, how I’ve spent my time, what’s gone well and what’s been shit!

Random stuff I’ve been up to

  1. I’ve kind of abandoned housework! You’d think with more time on my hands I might do more?  But I’ve figured I just wanted to get out and about and meet people and get some momentum going.  So housework has been an even lower priority than during my working life! I do look at our front garden which is knee-high in weeds a little regretfully but not enough to spur me into action.

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    Skanky neglected front garden
  2. Insanity.  One of my resolutions on leaving my job was that I’d like to try some new types of exercise.  For the last ten years pretty much all I’ve done exercise-wise is run, walk and cycle.  Which is fine.  But I was bored of it.  So in July  I embarked on a sweaty form of hell called Insanity for a month.  It’s a 40-60 minute high intensity work out (downloaded) that you do nearly every day.  I’m proud that I stuck it out for a month, but when I realised that I was dreading the 5pm work out every day and I couldn’t actually see any difference in the shape of my body, I thought stuff this and packed it in. I find running boring but I never dread it! So I’m back to running for now – but I might give yoga a whirl! But that is the beauty of having some time out – the space to try  new things and then discard them if they don’t work.

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    Dripping with sweat after an Insanity work out
  3. Watching loads of documentaries on the refugee crisis.  When I worked 9-5 I wanted to watch cheery things in my free time to rejuvenate myself from the toil of my job. But with time on my hands I’ve found myself curious and drawn to watch the many brilliant documentaries on iPlayer about the staggering number of people leaving their countries to flee wars and seek safety in Europe.  I usually end up crying as I watch them, but apart from helping me understand what is happening, I’m absolutely inspired by the spirit and bravery of the refugees.  Is it me or are Syrians a particularly lovely, kind and heroic nationality?  Sorry Brits but I can’t imagine us being quite as resilient, smiley and noble in the face of civil war.

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    BBC Two Documentary ‘Exodus: Our Journey to Europe’
  4.  I’ve gone very feminist in my reading and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the following:
    • Letters to my Fanny – Cherry Healy
    • What would Beyonce Do – Luisa Omelian
    • Moranifesto – Caitlin Moran

5. Cooking! I’ve done a shedload of it and it’s been therapeutic and joyful and fun.

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Suprisingly delicious low sugar date muffins

The bad stuff

  1. Taking on a job that was a long term contract that really wasn’t right for me and getting stressed.  I now realise that I was probably a bit panicky having left the corporate world and the security and structure of a job seemed appealing.  I didn’t really scope it out properly and leapt straight in.  When my whole ‘thing’ about taking redundancy was that I wanted to feel out my new career path independently.  Jumping straight into a full-time job was not the best way of letting the new ‘career me’ evolve.  I stuck it out for a month, but I’m so relieved to have my freedom back.

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    Panic!
  2. Britain voting to leave the EU freaked me out.  Political instability and the prospect of a recession felt like a weird place to be when you are starting your brand new freelancing career.  However the country doesn’t seemed to have imploded and things seem to be ploughing forward in a business as usual kind of way for now, so I’m being as confident and positive as I can be.

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    Brexit (Guardian photo)
  3. Putting way too much pressure on myself generally to be ‘productive’.  I’m a girl that likes to feel she’s ticked a few tangible things off her to do list at the end of the day. So I’d get up in the morning and write myself a list and try and tick things off.  If I’m honest it was a bit joyless!  I was getting increasingly wired and tired. Despite it appearing to be a luxury to not be at work I was weirdly more exhausted than when I had a 9-5 job.  Yes stressed about exciting foodie projects but I literally wore myself out by being on my computer and phone 24/7. I have since had to give myself a talking to and I’m deliberately forcing myself to regularly chill out and not think about/do research for my career!  It seems to be working.
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Chillax!

The good stuff

  1. Eating out a lot.  This counts as foodie research.  It’s been a lot of fun testing out cafes, restaurants and supper clubs – I feel like I’ve got a really good feel of some of the best restaurants in the city and it’s given me a lot of creative inspiration.  This could also explain why I lost NO weight doing Insanity.

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    Lovely Art Deco Hawksmoor Restaurant
  2. The best 40th birthday party ever.  I don’t normally enjoy the limelight. But I wanted to go big for my 40th! I’m extremely happy with where my life is right now and I wanted to celebrate big style.  I loved filling my house with friends new and old and putting on a big Spanish feast of food.  It was a glorious way of celebrating my next decade and starting this new chapter of my life.

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    Fortieth!
  3. Freelance friday.  First of all I discovered Ziferblat.  A magical and very chilled out freelancing space in the Northern Quarter where you pay 6p a minute to use the space (and eat their unlimited cake).  Then I found out that freelancers sit together every friday afternoon and pretend to work on their laptops but in fact just chat.  I can’t tell you what a delightful find this has been.  I’ve met a group of like-minded, bright and inspiring freelancers who have given me advice and direction throughout my at times wobbly first few months of going it alone.  Every friday I go home buzzing with ideas and excited to have got to know my new interesting friends better.

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    Freelance Friday Buddies!
  4. I’ve booked a holiday to Goa.  Jamie and I have been talking about this for months.  And finally last week we committed to booking flights in November.  It felt decadent, but it felt good.  Jamie and I haven’t been on a big adventure together and it felt like something we’d really enjoy.

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    Goa
  5. I’ve signed up to a four day food writing course in France in December.  Again this felt highly extravagant, especially in the same week as booking my holiday to Goa.  I saw the course and it just felt like it had my name written on it! An immersive writing course run by two successful food writers and four days of stuffing my face with amazing french food, going to french markets and truffle hunting then figuring out how to write about it. Definitely ‘write’ up my street!

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    Hotel Diderot, Chinon

What now then? Well I’m about to go on holiday for two and a half weeks (Italy, Brecon Beacons and London). So during my holiday I’m officially going to give myself a break from career thoughts and just bloody chill out and enjoy myself.  I’m hoping to return to Manchester in September with gusto.  I’ve got some foodie projects bubbling away which I can pursue on my return when I refreshed and brimming with post holiday creativity.  The past few months have been quite an adventure so I’m curious to see what other exciting things happen in my life in autumn!

 

 

It’s damn well bloody over! 69-er is COMPLETE.

And it ends with mixed feelings (and an expanded waistline!).  I’m sorry that there’s no longer going to be anything pushing us out of our comfort zone of routine dinners.  That there won’t be anything that motivates me to whip up a cake or some scones after dinner when I normally couldn’t be arsed.  That it may not occur to me any more to sling together a casual salad or soup for a saturday lunch instead of a sandwich.  However I am relieved that I stand a chance now to lose the weight I’ve put on in the last 9 weeks.  And that I can do other things in life other than cook and pick recipes!

So what have been the wins?

Engaging with cookbooks I normally can’t be bothered to open has been a wonderful discovery.  Who’d have thought that cookbooks without photos actually work?  I love a visual demonstration of a dish to inspire me but a number of my cookbooks didn’t help me out with that. And guess what? The food tasted just as good without the photo.

If a cookbook is old it doesn’t stop it from being excellent – Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef (1999) helped me to make the best beer bread in the world and Nigella’s How To Eat (1998) provided the recipe to an exquisite mushroom ragu.

Even if I don’t particularly like a chef on tv (Rick Stein – I find him very whingey) doesn’t mean that they can’t write an amazing cookery book. I was literally blown away by Rick’s creamy leak cannelloni.

It’s forced me to try different sorts of cooking – I often avoid my Asian/Indian/Chinese cookbooks because the ingredients can be difficult to source.  But we managed and the dishes were a joy.

Conquering bread was a HUGE deal for me.  I’ve talked about making bread for YEARS and with this challenge I made pitta bread, beer bread and potato bread.  My fear of breadmaking has gone.

It’s confirmed to me that some of my favourites will remain favourites.  I refer to them again, but Nigella and Jamie never failed to deliver amazing food throughout the challenge.

And what will I be taking with me going forward?

I’m going to be more curious about my cookery books and not stick to my comfort zone of my three favourite healthy cook books. Different styles of cooking have different merits and it’s fun to mix it up.  I hope to make an attempt to return to as many of those 69 books as possible.

Finally let me talk you through the last eleven recipes of the challenge. They were all pretty lovely – apart from the Basil and Mango Smoothie (Innocent Smoothie Recipe Book) which was a bit bland.  You can look at all the dishes on the collage below, but I’ll pick out my top 3 faves.

  1. Beetroot and Feta and Mint Salad – Fabulous Baker Brothers.  A bit faffy to make as you had to roast the beetroots then de-skin them with rubber gloves.  Messy work I can tell you. But this was a beauty of a dish – fresh and wholesome and deliciously oniony.
  2. Leek Cannelloni – Rick Stein.  This took ages to make and involved four pans on the go at once.  Every element required steeping and simmering and several stages (eg infuse the milk for the cheese sauce for 20 mins with bay leaves, onions & garlic before you even make the cheese sauce!).  And the lasagne sheets we had to boil in a pot ended up stuck together so we had to chuck them out and have a pasta-less cheese bake. However this didn’t matter and the effort was worth it.  It was out of this world.  The tomato sauce was rich, the leeks with ricotta were a great combination and the cheese sauce was so  flavourful and creamy – it was the icing on the cake.
  3. Baked Cheesecake – James Martin.  I went through a phase about six years ago when I’d have people over for dinner and I’d ALWAYS make a cheesecake.  I was obsessed – I must have tried ten different varieties of cheesecake.  So since that overkill, I don’t make cheesecakes, until the challenge that is.  As it turns out I think it’s the best cheesecake I’ve ever made – the lemon zest and whisky soaked sultanas added a subtle and sophisticated twist to a traditional recipe.

So now 69-er is over, what next? Well certainly for the next two weeks before my holiday I’m going to be doing a lot of healthy eating recipes to lose those extra pounds I’ve gained. So expect a post about that.  And for the next challenge – I’m not quite sure yet, but it would be nice to start another juicy challenge in September.  A food waste challenge or mastering a cuisine are appealing ideas.  Do comment and let me know if you have any suggestions for me!

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Posca Supper Club at Trove, Levenshulme

Last Thursday I took Jamie out for a surprise birthday dinner.  I’m amazed I managed to keep up the secret for so long – even insisting that I buy his train ticket out of earshot so he wouldn’t know we were going to Levenshulme.

We arrived bang on time (7.30pm) with our BYO bottle of wine to a completely empty restaurant.  We felt a bit conspicuous as we were shown to our table in the sea of emptiness. However it didn’t take long to fill.

I booked the supper club last month without really knowing anything about it other than it was going to be vegetarian.  I just trusted that if it was happening at Trove it was going to be good AND I love a supper club – so what could go wrong?

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I wasn’t disappointed.  The food was EXCELLENT and really unique.  And Trove is such a nice intimate chilled setting – so the perfect backdrop for this kind of event.

Emma Tillyer is Posca.  She’s a pastry chef by day and wanted an excuse to experiment with cooking techniques like fermenting, pickling, smoking and cheese making. She tries to make everything from scratch and throws in some foraging too. Emma wants people to enjoy her food and have a good time eating it, but she also want to challenge people and give them something different.  Which I think is a great ethos and was beautifully reflected in the interesting food served.

Our first course were Injera breads (Ethiopian fermented flatbreads), tomato stew and tomato salsa. They were like tasty crumpets!  Next up Mozzarella curds, battered and deep fried with poached gooseberries and watercress.  Emma had made the curds with rennet and citric acid, hung them for a few days and mixed them with salt and cream.  And oh yes! They were fine.  Crispy battery delicious cheesiness.

The third course brought us butter poached romaine lettuce, endive, nasturtium leaves, veggie Parmesan and sourdough crisp.  I’ve never had a butter poached lettuce before and I can confirm I REALLY like it.  Never thought I’d say that – but it was a very subtle dish and I liked the contrast of the slippery melty lettuce and the crunch of the sourdough croutons.

Fourth course: Home smoked jersey royals, ricotta gnocchi (with homemade ricotta), spinach and nettle puree, spinach and sunflower seed pesto, rocket and borage flowers. At this point I can honestly say I felt like I was at the French – not only was the dish exquisitely presented (see lower right pic above), with pretty purple borage flowers artfully scattered around the plate, but the flavours were off the scale. The smokiness of the potatoes was to die for and blended brilliantly with the pesto and the lovely squidgy gnocchi.

Finally came the puddings.  There was a bit of a wait for this – I was certainly getting a bit tetchy in anticipation – dessert is an important course for me!  It turns out that Emma had never made vegan ice-cream before and hadn’t anticipated how long it would take to churn a non-dairy ice-cream.  She nearly didn’t serve it due to it’s sludginess.  I’m glad she did: beetroot halwa, sweet beetroot puree, sunflower seed milk ice cream and candied horseradish.  The beetroot halwa was not particularly sweet but had a lovely earthy flavour with nuts and raisins that you discovered as you bit into it.  And the sunflower seed milk ice-cream was a lovely sweet compliment to the halwa.

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And a sweet touch at the end were the petite fours – raw chocolates.  I have to confess that as they looked like rolos I was expecting a sweet hit and they weren’t very sweet at all.  I think I’m too much of a sugar fiend for these pretty little chocolates!

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It really was a fabulous and impressive evening – and what a bargain for £25! Emma’s passion and flair for food was literally dripping off the plates.  And I always love the chilled, minamalist arty vibe in Trove.  Have any of you been to any good supper clubs? Do let me know about them – I’m keen to try more!

 

69 in 69 – I’m raising the bar

We’re only on day 14, and we’re up to 15 recipes, so it feels appropriate to change the challenge to completing 69 recipes in 69 days.  I’m sure we can do it and I’ve moved the deadline day to 28th July instead of end of September. Go us!

And rather than drown you in detail, here is a quick whistle stop tour of all the nine recipes we cooked this week:

Beetroot Brownies: Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache (all the cakes in this book are made from vegetables).  These brownies were a revelation.  Easy to make even if the beetroot peeling and chopping was a little messy on the hands.  And MY GOD, they packed a punch – moist, rich, earthy.  I couldn’t get enough of them.

Moroccan chicken kebabs and panzella salad: Good Housekeeping Step by Step Cook Book. I’ve wanted to make panzella salad ever since I had one that blew my mind in Tuscany a few years ago.  Who would have thought that some stale bread, tomatoes and cucumber could taste so good?  But it’s quite something.  And the whole meal was a magical combination for a stunningly sunny bank holiday sunday.

Griddled nectarines with feta salad: Good Food 101 Veggie Dishes. This was a saturday lunchtime quickie – just a few simple ingredients compiled in ten minutes.  A gorgeous, light combination of salty feta, sweet melty hot nectarines and fresh mint.

Jamie chose a slow roasted Persian Lamb recipe with pomegranate salad: Good Food 101 Slow-Cooking Recipes. I was not keen – it involved pomegranate molasses and a pomegranate – I wasn’t convinced we’d find either of those in the Stockport suburbs of Hazel Grove.  However Jamie’s enthusiasm won out.  He even MADE the pomegranate molasses!  The thing that impressed us most was the pomegranate salad.  Yes the lamb was succulent and delicious (four hours of cooking in molasses), but the salad was tart, juicy and beautiful – a wonderful compliment to the lamb.

Smoked haddock with white beans and parsley : Gordon Ramsey Cooking for Friends was last friday night’s supper treat.  Jamie found it a bit fiddly – there was pureeing and faffy stages to the dish, but as the consumer of the dish, I was delighted.  It was stylish and showy to look at and just felt like something that you would be served in a posh restaurant.  Bacon and smoked haddock is a great combination and the bean/thyme mash was lovely.

Jamaican chops: Caribbean Food Made Easy with Levi Roots.  A week day simple dinner for us – pork chops slow cooked in a fiery, sweet tomato sauce with celery, peppers and lime. Easy to assemble, tasty and comforting.

Salmon fillet wrapped in proscuitto with herby lentils, spinach and yoghurt: Jamie Oliver The Return of the Naked Chef was a desperation choice.  It was late in the evening and I needed to pick something easy for the next day.  Everything else in this cookbook looked long-winded, but when I spied this I was a happy girl.  Speedy, simple and healthy.  And it really delivered.  It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing dish but prosciutto and salmon REALLY works – the salty meat enhances the salmon and those herby lentils were a nice earthy, flavourful background to the dish.

Keralan Coconut Curry: Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast.  Another beautiful book that had never been cooked from. The curry was creamy, spicy and had lovely depth – for me it was delicious but nothing earth shattering as I’ve had many similar curries, but it really wowed Jamie.

Spurred on by last week’s pitta success I baked oatmeal and potato bread: Home Baking Cookbook.  It was a cheap and easy number (apart from having to make the mash which was a pain!).  Admittedly we did burn the entire top of the loaf, but it really had no affect on the flavour.  It was a dense bread wholesome bread – perfect for making picnic sandwiches with the leftover feta from the salad. I’m definitely getting into this bread making thing – it’s satisfyingly easy and I love the therapeutic process of kneading the dough.

It’s been an intense week of cooking and eating and I’ve loved it.  This challenge is proving to be a real adventure – it’s a heartening and nostalgic experience re-connecting with my neglected books.   Fancy joining me in a similar challenge? Comment below and fill me in!