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.

 

Cooking the Books: A Review of John Whaites’ ‘Perfect Plates’

I relished the chance to get cracking with my immersion into John Whaites’ Perfect Plates.  I did a Rustic French cooking course in May at his new cookery school and he was a bubbly delight of a man and obviously an excellent and passionate cook. I expected his book to be as full of personality and great ideas as John himself and I wasn’t disappointed.

So the premise of the book is that all the recipes contain just five ingredients – another reason to like the book – that sounded nice and simple. The rules are that basic ingredients like oil and seasoning don’t count as an ingredient.

I really enjoyed cooking from this book.  It was a little bit of a shock after Anna Jones’ guilt free very healthy cooking to embrace heavier, carbier dishes, but – who cares they tasted good.

The Favourites

It’s difficult to pick out favourites as everything we cooked was impressive but here we go:

  1. Braised Fennel with Halloumi and Grapefruit – I’d just got back from holiday so needed something to brighten my day and blast away my blues.  A simple assembly job here creating a joyful colourful dish singing with flavours.  The sour of the grapefruit and the salty halloumi hit the spot.
  2. Lamb, Cherry and Yellow Split Pea Tagine – Jamie kindly cooked this slow cooked dish while I was out on a ramblers hike in Yorkshire.  I returned shattered and hungry and very happy to devour this tender tasty stew.
  3. Mushroom and Sage Gnocchi – This felt like utter decadence. Fried gnocchi with mushrooms with crispy fried sage. Buttery naughtiness!
  4. Ham and Fennel Pasta – After pre-holiday dieting  being able to eat ham with pasta and cream felt like a heavenly treat.  And those ingredients are lovely together – the subtle fragrance of the fennel with the strong meaty ham and cream in the background work so well.
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1: Braised Fennel with Halloumi and Grapefruit 2: Lamb, Cherry and Yellow Split Pea Tagine 3: Mushroom and Sage Gnocchi 4: Ham and Fennel Pasta

The Very Very Goods

  1. Four-hour Tomato Pasta Sauce – I wanted to use up the glut of homegrown tomatoes we had post holiday.  Luckily we had a lot as you need 1.5kg of them! Apart from having to blanch and skin all the tomatoes this was such an easy dish – just a long wait until serving.  It was sweet and delicious.
  2. Roasted Radicchio and Figs with Stilton and Balsamic Onions – Despite the fact we couldn’t find any radicchio and had to use chinese leaf instead, didn’t stop it from being excellent.  It was a bung everything in the oven and roast type of dish and the flavours were beautiful –  roasted fig and melted stilton is wonderful.
  3. Tahini and Honey Chicken and Paprika Potatoes –  Put all five ingredients in the oven and roast and hey presto you have beautiful nutty sweet chicken and potato dinner.
  4. Roasted Courgettes and Tomatoes with Mozzarella and Basil – Another throw it in the oven dish – lovely and lazy and satisfyingly melty and tasty.
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1: Four-hour Tomato Pasta Sauce 2: Roasted Radicchio and Figs with Stilton and Balsamic Onions 3: Tahini and Honey Chicken and Paprika Potatoes 4: Roasted Courgettes and Tomatoes with Mozzarella and Basil

I think this book is great for time poor people who like to eat restaurant quality food. It’s easy to follow the instructions, the recipes are generally simple and quick apart from a few slow cook recipes which are still straight-foward they just have a long time in the oven. And when you only have to buy five ingredients per dish it makes shopping a breeze. I thought it was a good range of dishes too and they were all dinner party worthy – so a great way to impress friends with minimum effort!   It’s fun, colourful, easy-going and light-hearted just like John.

 

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/

 

Eating Three Courses for £7 at Books for Cooks, the Famous Notting Hill Cookbook Shop

I need to clarify to begin with that I didn’t in fact eat three courses for £7, I ate two courses for £5.  But I needed you to know that you COULD eat three courses for £7. This is such a deal!

My friend Lolita let me in on this hidden gem back in May.  Books for Cooks is a fantastic bookshop entirely dedicated to cookbooks and so it’s my idea of heaven.  And! Even better they have a daily test kitchen where they sample recipes from their cookbooks and serve them to the public at a meagre cost.  I was shown photographic evidence of the food Lolita had eaten and I knew I had to go as soon as possible.

My visit wasn’t entirely straight-forward.  I was accompanied by my friend Vic and her toddler Bella, both Vic and I accepting the challenge of entertaining a toddler during quite a fancy meal.  We could do this surely! Well Bella was certainly as enthusiastic as me about the cookbooks. She merrily pulled as many as she could off the shelves to have a good old look.  As the delicious starter (chilled minted pea soup) arrived, it became apparent we would need to eat in shifts.  One to walk Bella outside, one to eat and repeat!

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Chilled Minted Pea Soup

Chilled minted pea soup then?  Little did I know how much I would like a cold soup – it sounds a bit weird.  But it was thick, refreshing, sweet and delicious – it was a winner.

Next up was beef bourginon with crushed new potatoes.  What’s not to love about a beef bourginon? It was admittedly a small portion, but with pudding in mind and it only being midday, this did make sense.  And it really was a rich, tender bourginon and those great buttery crushed potatoes on top were a lovely touch.

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Beef Bourginon with Crushed New Potatoes

Unfortunately despite having plenty of room for a pud, Bella had reached her saturation point.  I jealously surveyed the three varieties of cake being doled out (guinness cake, apricot sponge and carrot and walnut cake).  I just about managed to be a grown up about it, promising myself that I would return one day and have the full three courses.

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The day’s menu and the delicious cakes I nearly ate
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Delightful Bella, momentarily distracted from pulling all the books off the shelves

I heartily recommend you visit the test kitchen at Books for Cooks whether you are interested in the cookbooks or not, you will be very interested in the delicious and bargain priced meal.  The staff were lively and welcoming and clearly loved having their bookshop crammed with greedy customers.  I will most definitely be back to browse the colourful bookshelves and eat more food.

Find out more about Books for Cooks here: https://www.booksforcooks.com/

Cooking the Books: A Review of Anna Jones ‘A Modern Way to Cook’

I woke up to  what a fantastic range of neglected cookbooks I have during my 69-er cooking challenge. For those not in the know, my boyfriend Jamie and I cooked out of each and every one of the 69 cookbooks on my shelves in just 69 days. The challenge left me craving to return to my cookbooks and to get to know them better. And so a new project emerged: I would spend a week or two cooking recipes from a chosen cookbook then write up a review which I would call ‘Cooking The Books’.

For my birthday in May I received a beautiful looking book called a Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones.  The couple of recipes I had tried had been really delicious and healthy so it was time for a full immersion.

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Anna Jones trained as a chef with Jamie Oliver at Fifteen.  She’s a vegetarian and passionately believes that meatless cusine can be exciting.  And her book really delivers. I found her recipes simple to make but somehow exotic and surprising.

Here are my favourites:

  1. Salted Almond Butter Choc Bars.  These were basically like really fresh tasting bounty bars but better for you! Made of ground almonds and dessicated coconut and coated in dark chocolate (see the header picture of the blog). And I loved the salty after taste. These got scoffed down very quickly.
  2. Nordic Breakfast Bowl. A lovely slow cooked porridge with grated apple, almond butter, raisins, coconut yoghurt and all manner of nuts and seeds.  Don’t make this if you’re in a hurry to get to work. There are a lot of ingredients – having said that it probably in reality only took ten minutes to make – I just left a trail of destruction after me because of the various bags of nuts and seeds I used. A lovely gentle flavour party for the morning and a welcome change to my dull standard brekkie of weetabix.
  3. Curry Leaf and Smoky Celeriac Pilaf – this was like a vegetarian kedgeree – spicy, fragent and unusual, the celeriac adding an extra layer of interest to the dish.
  4. Lentils with roast tomatoes and horseradish – this was a plate of multi-flavoured, multi-textured delciousness!  Wholesome earthy lentils provided the base to sweet squelchy roast tomatoes with creamy horseradish for a kick and garlic and thyme breadcrumbs for crunch.
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Nordic Breakfast Bowl
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Curry Leaf and Smoky Celeriac Pilaf
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Lentils with Roast Tomatoes and Horseradish

Not my favourites but still pretty damn tasty

  1. Courgetti with Pistachios, Green herbs and Ricotta – a plate of light lemony loveliness. A great diet dish without any sacrifice on flavour.
  2. Saffron Polenta Bake – another wholesome, exciting flavour combo – saffrony polenta, chunks of feta, toasted pinenuts and cherry tomatoes.
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Courgetti with Pistachios, Green Herbs and Ricotta
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Saffron Polenta Bake

The dish that bombed!

Frying Pan Squash and Cavolo Nero Pie.  I suspect we might have been the culprits as to why this dish went wrong and not Anna Jones. It was a filo pie that you started in a frying pan and finished in the oven.  We were told we could use kale instead of cavolo nero.  Well our resulting pie was just a disintegrated  pastry mess with big chunky hard to eat lumps of kale.  It was not a success. To be fair it tasted ok though.

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Frying Pan Squash and Cavolo Nero Pie

I’d highly recommend Anna’s book – her healthy, colourful veggie recipes show real imagination and flair. Ingredients are thrown together in a way I’ve not experienced before. The food is stylish, subtle, fragrant and beautiful to look at.  And bonus, it’s all really good for you. It was the perfect pre-holiday food for us to get us ready for baring flesh by the pool!

 

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!

    Hotel-Diderot-Chinon
    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!