Fortnightly Eats 27th May

It’s been a very sad and unsettling time with the atrocities in Manchester, it still all feels unbelievable to me.  I’m very proud of the attitude of the people of Manchester, who refuse to live in fear and have really pulled together to show their support.  As an adopted Mancunian, I continue to be grateful for and thoroughly impressed by the warmth and spirit of this city.

It feels a little at odds with this week’s events to be talking in a celebratory way about what I’ve been eating, but I think it’s important to stay positive and share some joy.

A couple of weeks ago we headed to The Drop in Chorlton to meet friends for a Caribbean Sunday roast.  It’s a gorgeous colourful Caribbean bar cafe with gorgeous colourful food! Everyone apart from me went for the Reggae Roast with jerk chicken, macaroni cheese and rice n’ peas, I diverged and went for the vegan Rasta Roast, which was pretty similar but with roasted pumpkin, fried plantain and feta cheese in place of the meat.

We virtuously cycled back from Drop Cafe to Hazel Grove along the River Mersey as it was glorious weather, and committed to continue with the healthy theme by baking a date, walnut and pecan loaf from my new healthy cake cookbook: Love Bake Nourish by Amber Rose.  It was definitely a bread rather than a cake, as it was quite dry and not very sweet, but it was very nice none the less, especially with a good slathering of peanut butter.

eating Reggae roast with jerk chicken and macaroni cheese
Reggae roast with jerk chicken and macaroni cheese
eating Vegan rasta roast with roast pumpkin, fried plantain and feta
Vegan rasta roast with roast pumpkin, fried plantain and feta
eating Date, walnut and pecan loaf
Date, walnut and pecan loaf

Last week I attended a Guardian Masterclass on food photography and styling.  What a cracking course. It made me rethink my current photography style and the thing that stood out to me is I’m so bored of taking overhead shots of food on my dining room table.  As soon as I got home from a long day in London I demanded that we photograph our tea in the garden with Jamie as a model to get some real life atmosphere. I was rather pleased with the results. It was a chopped salad with bacon, sweetcorn and avocado and the deliciously fresh ingredients were from our Riverford veg box and the recipe was from Riverford’s Spring/Summer cookbook.

eating Jamie posing with a bacon, avocado and potato salad in our back garden
Jamie posing with a bacon, avocado and potato salad in our back garden

There does seem to be a bit of an obsession in our household with banana based cakes lately. Our next banana conquest was a cinnamon and banana cake with a generous dose of rum, also from Love Bake Nourish.  It was supposedly a healthy cake as it used wholemeal spelt flour and maple syrup – not sure how healthy rum is though? But my goodness it tasted indulgent.  Sweet and moist and rummy.  Even better with a scoop of frozen yoghurt.

eating Soaking the sultanas in rum
Soaking the sultanas in rum
eating Banana and cinnamon cake
Banana and cinnamon cake

On Monday I was lucky enough to go along to a Taste The Love supper club at Gray’s Larder in Chorlton.  Here’s the menu:

Proscuitto, grilled lettuce, cucumber and white bean salad (so good)

Spinach and ricotta gnocchi in lemon broth (yum)

Pork cheek, parsley potato cake with lardo and rosemary (how I adored that potato cake)

Lemon posset with almond shortbread (divine)

Gray’s is a lovely venue and it was a superb evening – excellent food and service and a very buzzy atmosphere.

eating Taste the Love supper club at Gray's Larder
Taste the Love supper club at Gray’s Larder

On Tuesday I was in London again for a course and I treated myself to a Leon’s lunch.  What a fabulous little chain Leon’s is – healthy food with imagination and flair.  And if you don’t know already, now Manchester has a Leon restaurant at the Trafford Centre and another is due to open at Piccadilly station.  I had the tasty Thai green chicken curry and I thoroughly enjoyed staring at all the healthy cakey treats at the counter, however I still went off to Amorino the artisanal gelato shop on Goodge Street for a decadent scoop of chocolate hazelnut and another of amarena cherry gelato, delizioso!

eating Leon's Thai chicken curry

Leon’s Thai chicken curry

eating Amorino gelato
Amorino gelato

Thursday I combined business with pleasure by going to Wine and Wallop in Didsbury for a meeting and a sharing board.  Everyone needs to try their platters! On ours we had Scotch eggs, pork pies, mackeral pate and posh cheese and ham – all so fresh and beautifully presented.

eating Wine and Wallop sharing platter
Wine and Wallop sharing platter

So lucky me, I’ve been eating superb food yet again.  I’ll be back next week with more foodie updates on what I’ve been eating.  Please let me know if you have any tips on great venues in Manchester to try.


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!