Review: Splendid Kitchen, Manchester

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend, his friend and I ventured out of Cheshire and into Manchester to get a proper ‘scran’ on and make the most of Splendid Kitchen’s 50% off food bill in April. In their own words:

“Splendid Kitchen serves a very British take on the best of American cooking. Our hot dogs are made using only the finest locally sourced butcher’s sausages and our beef burgers are hand made in house, while our Big Plates take influence from both Britain and the United States to create something we like to call ​’Northern Soul Food.’ “

So we were greeted & seated by very lovely, friendly staff. Great first impression. The place is casual, cool and trendy, which I liked a lot.

First off, the corn dogs were amazing – so fresh, perfectly seasoned sausage and the corn coating was light and fluffy, with a great mustard dip. Seeings as these guys specialise in sausages, and have their very own company, The Splendid Sausage Company – I expected nothing less, they really were fantastic.


Splendid Sausage Corn Dogs – yum!
Corn Dog with homemade mustard
Slider Sharer

We also tried the Slider Sharer and this was great, however I did think the half-brioche buns tasted a little stale, but, saying that – this could be because they are a part-bread, part-brioche mix which I am not used to, so that could explain the difference in texture!


A damn good tasting/looking chicken burger!
Monkfish Tacos
Onto the mains, a highlight for me was that chicken burger. It looked fantastic and tasted great too. Crispy, well seasoned and perfect amount of salad/slaw. The Porklife hotdog was also epic. Slight meat sweats induced afterwards but I would expect nothing less from such a mighty meaty morsel. I went for the Monkfish Tacos – slightly disappointed with these as the Asian slaw didn’t live up to much – but, I had plenty to be getting on with with my Pizza Fries, which were fantastic, and actually tasted just like PIZZA!

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Pizza Fries
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Chilli Fries with homemade Guacamole
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Pork Life Splendid Sausage Hotdog!
Other sides we tried were the Pulled Pork Mac n Cheese, and the Chicken Bites Mac n Cheese – both a little on the salty side but overall my friends enjoyed them. Naked fries were lovely, and the homemade Guacamole was delicious, fresh, very yummy.

Finally, the puddings. Bradley and I shared the Malteaser Chocolate Sundae, which was absolutely was heavenly – especially welcomed after such a savoury feast! It had loads of ice cream, fresh cream, toffee sauce and sprinkles, but somehow wasn’t too over-facing (despite what the photo my suggest!) The Blondie with ice cream and cream was so lovingly devoured by my friend that I can only but image he enjoyed this too. Don’t share dairy, kids!  As if we hadn’t had enough by this point, there was still room for a little strawberry milkshake, which was also delightful and I drank the whole thing in one.

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Epic ‘blondie’ for dessert
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Malteaser Chocolate Sundae was to die for!
A cheeky little strawberry shake to wash it all down
Overall, we really enjoyed the meal and would return. Next time I hope to attend one of Splendid’s Kitchen Takeovers, the Nasi Lemak on in May if I could but I am on holiday then! (It’s 18th May, a date for your diary!

We paid for our meal in full, less the 50% discount which has been on offer throughout April to celebrate Splendid’s birthday.


Gizzi’s Roast Duck & Noodle Soup

Earlier this month, I received a cookbook for my birthday by a chef and award-winning food writer I have become quite a fan of over recent months. Her name is Gizzi Erskine and she is a Scottish born, cat-loving, super cool babe who looks like a 1960’s pin up model and cooks the most fantastic Asian-inspired dishes. She was also a writer for the Sunday Times Magazine, and trained at Leighs School of Food & Wine. The book is pictured below. I also go Ruby Tandoh’s CRUMB, but more on that later.

Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts by Gizzi Erskine
Not all of her cooking is Asian inspired, but a great deal of it is. The book I received is named ‘Skinny Weeks & Weekend Feasts,’ which seemed apt, as this is pretty much how I like to live – be good in the week and indulge a little extra at the weekends. The recipes in the book range greatly from Japanese, Thai, Malaysian and Indian influences to her stylish, modern takes on British and American classic dishes too – like Fish Pie, Fried Chicken and Sunday Roasts.

The concept of the book is simple – quick, nutritious, low calorie but full-flavours in the week and indulgent feasts at the weekend! Although it was a Friday night – we wanted something quick to put together, so after much deliberation between 3 or 4 of the possible recipes we felt like trying right away, we decided on the Roast Duck Noodle Soup and were NOT disappointed. I thought I would share the recipe with you – as it really was delicious, easy and tasted just like something from the most authentic of Japanese noodle bars!

The book says all in all the recipe takes 45 minutes to prep and cook, and it serves 2. However, as we couldn’t find duck leg that evening, we opted for a duck crown which took a little longer to cook. It also upped the portion size and gave enough leftover duck to have Saturday night crispy duck pancakes! WINNING!

What you need:

  • 1 x 250g duck leg (we substituted this for duck crown, and roasted the whole thing then just used a third of it for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 100g egg noodles
  • 1L chicken stock
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp star anise
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame sauce
  • 3 shitake mushrooms, quartered
  • 50g enoki mushrooms (although I couldn’t find these, so I just doubled up on the shitake)
  • 2 heads pak choi, thickly shredded
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • a few chives, thinly sliced
  •  1 red Thai bird’s-eye chilli, sliced
  • a few sprigs of fresh mint (Bradley’s not too keen on mint, and this is just a garnish, so we left it out)

What to do:

Heat the oven to 180*C/Gas 4. Season the duck with salt and pepper, lay it on a roasting tray, pop in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, until the skin is crispy and the meat is tender and almost falling off the bone.

Roast duck crown, split into two halves. We used the smaller half for this recipe.
Roast duck crown, split into two halves. We used the smaller half for this recipe.
Mix together the honey, five-spice powder and half of the soy sauce in a bowl. Heat a saucepan over a medium heat an place the duck in the hot pan . Pour over the honey mixture and cook gently until sticky and glossy. Remove the duck from the pan and shred the meat. (IF you are being ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ – this is the part where you REMOVE the skin, which harbours most of the fat). As it was Friday night, we decided not…

The duck basting in the honey/soy glaze.
The duck basting in the honey/soy glaze.
Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water with a pinch of salt until tender. Drain well.

Heat the stock, ginger, garlic and star anise in a large saucepan, add the oyster sauce, sesame oil and remaining soy sauce and stir to combine. Add salt TO TASTE (I didn’t here – as I thought it tasted divine already!) Simmer for a few minutes.

Once you add the pak choi, noodles and duck to the broth just bring it back to the boil then it's ready to serve!
Once you add the pak choi, noodles and duck to the broth just bring it back to the boil then it’s ready to serve!
Remove and discard the ginger, garlic and star anise from the broth using a slotted spoon. Add the shitake mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the pak choi, enoki mushrooms (if using), spring onions, chives, noodles and duck. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Divide between bowls and garnish with chopped chilli and mint (if using). Enjoy!

Gizzi Erskine's Roast Duck & Noodle Soup
Gizzi Erskine’s Roast Duck & Noodle Soup


Review: Gusto, Alderley Edge

Last Sunday, the boyfriend and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Gusto in Alderley Edge for a bite to eat. We booked a table just a couple of hours ahead, and they had enough space to squeeze us in.  We were seated in a beautiful booth right near the window. Perfect for a spot of people-watching and of course, excellent lighting, just in case I got the urge to take any photos of my food… 😉

Beetroot, red onion and cranberry bruschetta with goat’s cheese and a walnut dressing.

To start, I decided on the bruschetta. They have 3 bruschetta options in total (impressive), but after a little deliberation I chose the beetroot, red onion and cranberry bruschetta with goat’s cheese and a walnut dressing.  The bread was substantial enough for a starter but still light and crispy, which worked really well with the toppings. The goats cheese was also slightly toasted which worked, and the walnut dressing really was delicious. I could have eaten a whole other piece if it were there – not sure what that says about the portion size, as I was particularly ravenous!

Bradley chose the Fritto misto of sardine, prawn and squid with pan fried garlic polenta, green gazpacho and lemon purée. It goes without saying he enjoyed it; he had eaten the entire thing before I had chance to take a photo… 🙂

For the main course, we both decided we fancied a steak. As not to be too greedy, and keep options light, we went for the 28 day-aged flattened rump steak with garlic, chilli, peppercorn, sea salt, rocket and Grana Padano cheese. We shared 3 side orders to bulk it out a little, steamed spinach with sea salt, fries and Italian fried courgettes. The steak was well-cooked, perfectly seasoned and still hot throughout from the griddle. I mention hot throughout as sometimes you find flattened steaks to be a little too cold once they reach the table. It was also melt-in-your-mouth tender and we both ate every last bit. The chilli flakes are also such a good addition, which gives it a subtle but noticeable bit of spice. Yummy.

The sides were also excellent – fries, hot, nice and crispy and the spinach tasted really fresh and was seasoned well with the sea salt. However, it was the Italian fried courgettes which really stole the show. So light, so crispy, seasoned to perfection with the courgette still maintaining it’s slightly bitter flavour inside. A very generous portion too which helps when sharing! The texture and bite remained in the middle of each lightly battered strand. Genius, and the best version of fried courgettes I have ever tasted. Well done, Gusto!

28 day-aged flattened rump steak with garlic, chilli, peppercorn, sea salt, rocket and Grana Padano

On to puddings, and I decided to keep it stodge-free and simple, so went for this delightful little Ginger panna cotta with confit clementine. I was so pleasantly surprised by this pudding, the panna cotta was perfectly set and you could still see the writing of the mould on the top, which I thought was a nice touch- intentional or not! The panna cotta itself was light and creamy, with prominent ginger and a soft vanilla flavour coming through. It was accompanied by a medley of strawberries and clementines which were sweet but still had a lovely bite to them, which indicated they were nice and fresh. Carefully sprinkled beneath and above them was a crunchy chocolate dusting which added a lovely extra sweetness and texture. Just yummy.

Ginger panna cotta with confit clementine & fresh strawberries

Overall we really enjoyed our meal at Gusto, Alderley Edge and will return no doubt again in the future. We paid full price for our meals – but used their Dining Club card which allowed 20% if booked online, as recommended by M-DOG, Manchester Dining Offers Guide! Thanks, M-DOG!


Salted Caramel & Popcorn Cake, by The Cake Duchess

After the success of being featured in the wonderful Great British Cookbook, the Cake Duchess has literally been swept off her feet with orders for her wonderfully decadent and stunningly decorated cakes – which seem perfect for any occasion.

One look at her Instagram account and you will be drooling; instantly craving one of her sweet little treats,  so lovingly hand-crafted,  decorated to absolute perfection and using the finest of ingredients. There was one little beauty, however, which caught my eye more than any of the others – and that was her mighty Salted Caramel and Popcorn Cake. It, looks, to, DIE, FOR! Wouldn’t you agree?!

Well, the lady herself, (also know as Amy Vyse, from Nottingham) was good enough to share her secret recipe, and here’s what she had to say about it:

“This recipe is for my famous, best-selling cake  ‘Salted Caramel & Popcorn Cake.’ The cake consists of layers of caramel sponge, filled and coated with a salted caramel buttercream, then topped with a caramel drizzle and of course, popcorn! What more could you want from a cake!!”

I am really happy to share this wonderful recipes and exclusive photos with you on my blog. If you try this cake – please make sure to tag @TheCakeDuchess and @SophiesScran on twitter – and use the comments at the bottom of the page to let us know what you think! Enjoy!


For the Cake

  • Butter for greasing
  • 7 medium free range eggs
  • 430g caster sugar
  • 400g butter
  • 430g self raising flour
  • 1 x 395g tin sweetened condensed milk
  • 100g sweet popcorn
  • Edible Glitter (optional)

For the Buttercream

  • 240g butter softened
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 100g caramel (see recipe below)
  • Pinch of salt

As this is a long and complex recipe, we have split it into chronological sections to make it simple to follow!


1.  Making the Caramel

To begin you need to start by Making the Caramel. Now of course, there is quick and a long method to making caramel – either buy it premade from a shop or follow the recipe below. It is fine if you chose either, but below is the most satisfying by a long way!

  • Remove the label from the unopened tin of condensed milk. Fill a deep pan with water and bring to boil. Carefully place the tin into the pan, making sure there is enough water to completely cover it at all times, keep topping up the water when necessary. Gently simmer for 3 hours.
  • When the 3 hours is up, remove the tin from the water and allow to cool completely before opening. When you peel back the lid, there is nothing better than the sight you are greeted with – thick, gooey, indulgent caramel!


2.  Now for the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 150* and grease 2 x 6” (15cm) round cake tins with butter. Line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper.
  • Place the butter and sugar in bowl and mix on high speed until light and fluffy.
  • Break the eggs into a separate bowl, ensuring no egg shells spoil your batter, (we will add some texture later!)
  • On a low speed, mix the eggs into the sugar and butter mixture and beat until all is combined. If your mixture looks like it has curdled add a small spoonful of flour.  Once combined, sift flour into the mixture and beat until smooth.
  • Now add 200g of the beautiful caramel, and gently fold into the mixture until you have a lovely evenly coloured batter.
  • Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave the cake to stand for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.



photo 4 (2)

3.  For the Buttercream

  • Cream the butter until soft, and mix in the icing sugar – remember to turn the mixer down when adding icing sugar, or you will end up with a snowstorm effect in your kitchen 😉
  • Once combined and stiff, add the caramel and pinch of salt and mix well.

photo 4 (3)

4. Time to Ice

  • When the cake has completely cooled you have two options, you can skim the tops off of your two sponges and leave them whole, or you can cut them again to give the cake 4 layers instead of 2.
  • Once decided, place your cake on a cake board or plate and spread a spoonful of the buttercream on each layer. Add the next layer and repeat – until you reach your top layer.
  • Next, we need to ‘crumb coat’ the cake. This is to seal in any stray crumbs, and create a smooth surface to the cake. A second layer will then be applied for a perfectly smooth finish.
  • Spoon a large dollop of buttercream onto your cake, and smooth over the top of it with your palette knife or cake scraper. The Cake Duchess swears by her cake scraper, and says you can pick one up for about £4 at your local Hobbycraft or cake decorating shop. 
  • Slowly scrape the surface to make sure you have a perfectly smooth and flat top.
  • Spread the icing around the sides of the cake and use your choice of utensil to make sure it’s smooth.
  • Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, then repeat and leave for another 30 minutes.
  • Once the cake is chilled, remove from fridge and place the remaining caramel into a piping bag (if you don’t have a piping bag you can use a sandwich/food bag by snipping off the corner).
  • Slowly, around the top edge of your cake, pipe the caramel so it creates a lovely ‘dripped’ effect down the sides of the cake.
  • To finish, top with popcorn pieces and sprinkle with a little edible glitter!

Salted Caramel & Popcorn Cake

There you have it! The Cake Duchess’s famous Salted Caramel & Popcorn Cake. DIVINE! 

Amy would love to see your finished cakes, so please make sure you tag @the_cakeduchess on Twitter, @thecakeduchessnotts on Instagram if you make this amazing celebration cake!!

With Love, Sophie & The Cake Duchess -x-


Recipe: (Slightly) Healthy Beef Burgers with spicy wedges & slaw

Burgers still seem to be all the rage out and about in the foodie word at the moment, and being a true burger fan, I must admit, I don’t think I will ever bore of them. However, what does make the burger a slightly less sustainable option for me is the potential greasiness and overall fat content – not so good if you’re trying to ‘be good’ ahead of your summer holidays! As my mum is currently doing really well on Slimming World, she advised me to give one of their recipes a go. The whole idea of Slimming World is based around eating the foods you like, – but reducing the fat content where possible and using lots of seasoning and fresh herbs to make sure you still maximise on flavour.

I say ‘slightly’ healthy burger here, as I have made a fair few adaptations to the original recipe. Afterall, I was cooking for my boyfriend and 2 of his friends, so didn’t want to make it too healthy! These ones are fried in light cooking oil spray – but would also be perfect on the BBQ.

The recipe serves 4 people and takes about 1 hour to come together.

What you need:

For the wedges

  • 4 medium sized baking potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the burgers

  • 500g lean beef mince
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • ½ tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp fresh Thyme leaves (or you could used dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Low calorie cooking spray (olive oil version) for cooking

For the coleslaw

  • 200g red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • finely shredded 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated (using a food processor is easiest, if you have one!)
  • 3 tbsp fat-free natural yogurt
  • 1 level tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 1 spring onions, roughly chopped

To serve

  • 4 brioche buns
  • 4 slices of smoked back bacon (see point 5 below, as you may want to grill your bacon beforehand)
  • 8 slithers of cheddar cheese (2 for each burger)
  • Green salad leaves of your choice
  • Tomato ketchup & Light mayonnaise

What to do:

1. Using clean hands, mix together the beef mince, egg yolks, chilli flakes, paprika and thyme leaves. Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty – make sure the mixture is fully combined, and don’t skimp on the seasoning – add plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper.2. Divide the combined mixture into 4 portions, and using your hands, shape each portion into a burger. Cover with cling film and set aside in the fridge for 30 mins until ready to cook.3. Preheat your oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas 7. Parboil the wedges for 6-8 minutes until just tender. Drain well and leave to cool in a colander for a few minutes, until some of the moisture has evaporated.

4. Coat the wedges in the Rapeseed oil and chilli flakes, season very well with salt and pepper and transfer them to the baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle over the paprika, and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once after 10 minutes and adding more paprika if needed.

5. As your wedges are cooking, make your coleslaw and cook your bacon. I have a George Foreman grill – so used that to grill my bacon losing any excess fat. Alternatively, you could lightly fry it in some low calorie cooking spray or grill it beforehand.

6. For the coleslaw, put the fresh red cabbage, grated carrot and spring onion in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt and mayonnaise, then stir into the cabbage mixture. Season to taste and set aside in the fridge until serving.

7. Place a frying pan sprayed with low calorie oil spray over a medium-high heat and cook the burgers for 5 minutes on each side until just cooked through. For the second 5 minutes of cooking time, add the cheddar and bacon on top of the burgers.

[Tip:] if your frying pan has a lid, pop it on top for the last 2 minutes of cooking time, which will help melt the cheese and warm the pre-cooked bacon on the burgers. At this point, also pop your brioche buns on the bottom shelf of the oven to warm through slightly before serving.

8. To serve: remove buns from the oven and lightly coat each side with some light mayo. Add the lettuce leaves to the bottom bun, then place the burger with cheese and bacon on top. Divide the wedges up into 4 and serve alongside the burgers, with a big dollop of the homemade coleslaw from the fridge!

Slightly Healthy Burgers with spicy wedges & slaw

Hope you enjoy this (slightly) healthy burger recipe! If you try it, let me know how you get on and tweet a picture to @sophiesscran 🙂


Artisan Market, Great Northern Pie Co. & Pure Origin Chocolate

You would think, the weekend after Easter, I would be fed up of chocolate by now. Well, the truth is, I am. But, something caught my eye at the market today – I just had to have a little taste. Then, I was converted 🙂

It was the lovely stall of Pure Origin, who hand-make a lovely range of milk, dark and white chocolates in Congleton, Cheshire. The company have 2 brands, their Pure Origin flavours, and the Tree Frog Chocolate range. We sampled a few flavours, but two stood out and we really couldn’t resist buying them (despite having 3 Easter eggs at home still uneaten!)

The lovely stall of Pure Origin / Tree Frog Chocolate Co. at Northwich, Artisan Market
Artisan Milk Chocolate: Sea Salt & Caramel and Hickory Smoked Almonds
Artisan Milk Chocolate: Sea Salt & Caramel and Hickory Smoked Almonds

The two we chose were both milk chocolate, Sea Salt & Caramel and Hickory Smoked Almonds. The almonds are smoked by The Cheshire Smokehouse too, which makes it all the more special and it’s great to see the local collaboration. The hickory smoked nuts are delicate against the only slightly sweet milk chocolate, and the crunchy texture is the perfect match for the smooth chocolate too.

Hickory Smoked Almond Milk Chocolate, nuts smoked by The Cheshire Smokehouse

The Sea Salt & Caramel flavour is also so gorgeous, it literally melts in your mouth and has the perfect amount of bite in its texture. So much better than any Easter egg!

The second highlight of the market was The Great Northern Pie Co. Even though these guys have a permanent spot at Altrincham Market House, I have still yet to try one of their Award winning pastry delights.

The Great Northern Pie Co. Spring Menu, Northwich Artisan Market

There were 4 flavours on offer from their lovely seasonal ‘Spring Menu’ but honestly, it was a no brainer. We chose the Ham, Stornoway Black Pudding & Mustard Cream. And boy oh boy, did we choose good. The perfectly seasoned, firm yet crumbly pastry is filled with slow-roast ham, Charles MacLeod’d black pudding, English mustard cream, carrots, tarragon, lemon, paxo ‘stuffing’ breadcrumbs and mustard seeds. It really was the nicest pie I’ve ever tasted!!

Ham, Stornoway Black Pudding & Mustard Cream Pie

Other flavours they had on offer were Meats & Potatoes, Lancashire Cheese & Onion and Goats Cheese, Peas, Lemon & Mint. All sound delicious!

So there is a little insight to mine & boyfriend Bradley’s trip to the Artisan Market in Northwich, Cheshire today. We were on a slight budget, so didn’t go too mad buying loads of different foods, however, we could have spent more as almost all of the stalls had something lovely to offer. We will certainly be returning!


Recipe: Best Party Hummus

Hummus is a really easy, simple recipe which can be knocked together in no time based mainly on ingredients you can always keep in the cupboard. I like my hummus to be lemony, garlicky and with a hint of warmth from the cumin. There are loads of variations you can experiment with but this one seems to be a real crowd pleaser. It makes enough for about 6 people as a starter, or more as part of a party selection. This weekend I made it with my Thyme & Tabasco Sausage Rolls for a few friends and it went down a treat.

What you need:

  • 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas (reserve the liquid, plus a few chickpeas for topping)
  • 3 tbsp. tahini
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. crushed sea salt
  • 6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • The juice of 2 large lemons
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • A pinch of Paprika for dusting
  • Greek basil (for topping)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling, optional)

What to do:

  1. Get the bowl-blade option ready on your food processor. Rinse the chickpeas in cold water and add to the bowl. Next, add the tahini, garlic, salt, lemon juice, cumin and a few tablespoons of the reserved liquid from the tinned chickpeas. Turn on the food processor and slowly pour in the olive oil as everything combines.
  2. When the mixture is fully combined, tip it into a serving dish. Drizzle with some more extra virgin olive oil and decorate with a few whole chickpeas. Sprinkle with paprika and finely chopped Greek basil leaves for decoration.