Dine Around the Dome, intu Trafford Centre

Last Thursday evening, I got to stand-in for the wonderful M-Dog at what was honestly one of the best food events I have attended. As M-Dog was off on his jollies, lapping up the sunshine, he was unable to attend, so that’s where Sophie’s Scran stepped in.

We were to ‘dress for dinner,’ and arrive promptly at 6:30 to dine for 7:00, starting in the 360 Champagne & Cocktail Bar for welcome aperitifs (Elderflower Martini’s). And boy were they delicious – the perfect mix of dryness, sweetness and a little sourness from the lemon garnish, they were honestly delightful. It was at this point we could acquaint ourselves with each other; there was about 15 of us in total, all female and all bloggers. This was with the exception of Justin the PR Manager and Jason the photographer! At this point I did wonder if M-Dog would fit in with this fabulous but rather ‘girly’ mixture of Fashion, Beauty, Mummy, Lifestyle and Food bloggers… but then I remembered he’s a dog. When foods on the table, he isn’t fussy in the slightest!

Our first stop was Café Rouge, a lovely little French restaurant on the first floor of intu Trafford Centre’s Orient. On the menu here was Ceviche de Salmon. Atlantic Salmon slices cured in lime and marinated in chilli, red and spring onion, finished with fresh coriander, olive oil and served on baby gem lettuce. This really was a delight – so fresh, clean and a great hit of coriander which I loved. The paired wine was a lovely Saint Etalon Sauvignon Blanc, crisp and tangy which went perfectly well with the fish.

Next port-of-call was the wonderful Carluccio‘s, for a sensational array of anti-pasti style dishes which were all ready laid out on the table, waiting for us to just sit down and dig in. I absolutely love sharing plates – so was in my element here. The dishes on offer were; Pepolata Arancini – crispy fried pepolata (a delicious Italian red pepper sauce) and mozzarella rice balls, served with a (rather addictive) red pepper mayonnaise for dipping. Also served was Caponata, a traditional Sicilian aubergine sweet and sour stew served chilled with toasted focaccia for dipping. And to accompany, a selection of Salumi (thinly sliced meats from Carluccio’s deli), Parma ham, Milano Salami, Napoli Salami, and a delicious herb-roasted ham. The whole selection really was to die for – and went wonderfully well with the selected drink – Aperol Spritz, refreshing and very summery. It felt like we were dining al-fresco.

As if this wasn’t enough, we were only half way through our Dine Around the Dome experience! Just a very short walk across the way to the very vibrant Las Iguanas. Here, we feasted on the following dishes: Mexican spice-dusted corn chips with tomato salsa and the juiciest Peruvian olives. Empanandas in two varieties lamb and mint which was fantastic, and also brie and mango, which I was sceptical about at first but actually really enjoyed it. A lovely Mango and pecan salad which was really fresh and complimented all of the other dishes well. Churrasco Skewers – honey glazed chicken and halloumi served with Manioc root fries. I wasn’t too keen on the fries, I found them heavy and quite oily, but the halloumi and chicken on the skewers were sensational – especially the cheese which was juicy and soft and not rubbery in the slightest! The drink of choice here was the fantastically fruity Mando Collins (Absolut Mango vodka, triple sec, orange & mango juices, topped with lemonade). The most refreshing cocktail I have tasted in a while!

By this point my tummy had stretched a little and was somehow ready for the next and final savoury course of the evening. We were treated to authentic, homemade Japanese and Korean dishes at the lovely Wokooshi – an independent, family-run restaurant in the heart of intu Trafford Centre’s China Town. We started with a Korean dish called ‘Beef Bulgogi’ which was amazing – the Beef is marinated in Korean soy sauce, sugar and black pepper then cooked on a sizzling hot plate. Wrapped in a lettuce leaf and dipped in a hot sauce – this was a seriously tasty dish. Next was the salmon Teppanyaki, which was cooked to perfection. The owner came out to talk to use about the dishes, and told us how they buy the salmon whole, then use the whole fish for the various dishes on the menu (such as the sushi and this Teppanyaki dish). Another Japanese dish served was sizzling Seafood  Udon Noodles, which had lovely scallops and king prawns. The final dish was Korean – Spicy Chicken Bibimbap, made with steamed rice served in a hot stone bowl topped with chicken, carrots, kimchi, mushrooms, bean sprouts and seasonal greens. It is then mixed at the table with chilli paste and a fried egg. I must say, I love spicy food but this was a little on the too-hot side for me! However, as it was the owner who served the dish for us at the table, he did say that other pastes were available so the dish wasn’t always this hot. Served with a stunning Sake (Sho Chiku Bai Nigori Sake), a light Japanese Black Beer (Asahi Premium) and the most delicious sparkling Sake (which was like Japan’s answer to Processo, honestly, this was so delicious. That’s the Processco shortage sorted!!)

After this epic journey from France, Italy, South America, Japan and Korea – it was up to the The Captain’s Lounge for desserts. We picked our desserts at random – and I just so happened to pick one of my favourites – Tiramisu! Homemade by Pesto – yet another of the Trafford Centre’s restaurants. Up in the lounge we all enjoyed our desserts, Nespresso coffees and an Espresso Martini. Absolutely delicious.

Overall this event was fantastic. It was really well organised and the hosts seemed to genuinely want us to have a great time, it was clear in the way that they looked after us so well.  A big thanks to them all for making sure it all ran so smoothly. I will certainly look in at the Trafford Centre’s dining hotspots in a different light going forwards, knowing now that they do have bespoke and original menus. I especially cannot wait to return to Wokooshi with my boyfriend to try out their Sushi and that heavenly sparkling Sake!

View from the Captain's Lounge, Trafford Centre. Photo Credit Jason Lock
View from the Captain’s Lounge, Trafford Centre. Photo Credit Jason Lock

Dine Around the Dome event at the intu Trafford Centre, Manchester. This was a PR and Marketing event and as such all meals and drinks were complimentary.
Picture © Jason Lock Photography, www.jasonlock.co.uk
Advertisements

HUSSS Sandwich Co. Liverpool – Plus Exclusive Recipe

Morning Campers! Boy have I got a treat for you today. For this month’s guest post I have teamed up with Ste Holmes – the man behind HUSSS Sandwich Co. in Liverpool.

Ste makes AWESOME sandwiches, served from a food truck on Myrtle Street, Liverpool. And his story is genuinely really cool. After graduating from University in 2008, he went on his travels around South East Asia. Being a true food lover, he was blown away at every meal-time by the amazing flavours they use in this part of the world. From the rich and complex noodle soups of Vietnam, to the spicy, fresh salads of Thailand, he was hooked on the delicious variety of flavour combinations.

When Ste returned home to the UK he put his degree on the back-burner and began researching the various cuisines of South East Asia. After studying hundreds of recipes, he realised almost all of the meals he had been enjoying contain the five flavours: HOT, UMAMI, SOUR, SALTY & SWEET – and so ‘HUSSS’ Sandwich Co. was born.

When these five flavours are used together, they compliment each other and create the most amazing taste sensation. Over the past couple of years, the HUSSS Sarnie team have worked together using combinations of the five flavours to develop a unique range of HUSSS Sandwiches. In short – they are using South East Asian culinary principles to liven up your lunchtime! And I am so in love with this concept!

In true guest post style, I have an exclusive recipe for you to try, and some words below from the man himself. If you give this a go at home, we would love to hear how you got on, and see your grilled cheese creations, so use the hashtag #baconjamgrilled if you do and we will retweet our favourites!

 

HUSS Sandwich Co. Bacon Jam Grilled Cheese
HUSS Sandwich Co. Bacon Jam Grilled Cheese

Recipe: Bacon Jam Grilled Cheese, yes, that’s Bacon. Jam. Grilled. Cheese.

The question we get asked most when this is on our menu is ‘What is bacon jam?’ Short answer, jam made of bacon. Long answer, smoked and unsmoked streaky bacon with bourbon, maple syrup and spices. What’s not to love?

You need to make the jam at least a couple of days in advance to let the flavours marry, but other than that it’s plain sailing. This recipe makes enough to make four bacon-filled grilled sarnies, with enough left over to slather on burgers, hot dogs and cereal (if you’re a gamer).

BACON JAM

Chipotle chilli powder is ground smoked Jalapeno. It adds layers of depth to the jam. If you can’t find it, substitute Cayenne, but please find it. Phone me, I’ll send you some. Cumin adds a lovely earthy flavour, and the Bacon, well, it’s Bacon.

What you need:

  • 2 tbsp neutral oil, vegetable or peanut are ideal
  • 150g finely diced onion
  • 150g finely diced shallot
  • 3 large cloves garlic, diced
  • 600g streaky bacon – mixture of smoked and unsmoked, diced
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground mustard
  • 125ml bourbon whiskey
  • 65ml maple syrup, pure maple, a little goes a long way and the mixed stuff is nasty
  • 80ml cup balsamic vinegar
  • 80g brown sugar

What to do:

  1. Heat a heavy based pan (Le Creseut is a winner here) over medium heat. Add 1 tsbp oil, then the onions and shallots. Cook for about ten minutes until they are soft and translucent (be careful not to burn them as that will make the jam taste acrid). Once softened, add the garlic and cook for two minutes more. Remove the onion mix to a bowl.
  2. Add  the remaining tbsp of oil to the pan, followed by the chopped bacon. Cook out for 30 minutes, stirring frequently until crispy. Cook in batches if you’re pan is a tiddler.
  3. Return onions to pan, along with the spices. Cook for one minute. Add the whiskey, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar and bring to the boil. Add the sugar and once amalgamated (massive word) turn the heat down. Cook for a further 15 minutes until the mixture has reduced and become jammy. Stir frequently.
  4. Use a stick blender or transfer to a food processor and blend to a coarse consistency. You want some texture; you don’t want a smooth puree.

GRILLED CHEESE

Mozzarella is THE perfect cheese for grilled cheese. It melts amazing and goes stringy and gooey. On the downside, it’s a pretty neutral cheese. So an extra mature cheddar is the perfect bed partner. We’ve tried all sorts of posh breads for grilled cheese. Sourdough, rye, ciabatta, you name it. But simple sliced white gets our vote. You need a thinnish bread so the cheese can melt and its innards can become volcanic. Warburtons Danish loaf is our go to. It’s not very artisan but it really does the job.

What you need:

  • 8 tbsp bacon jam
  • 4 slices mozzarella (sliced, not fresh)
  • 4 slices extra mature cheddar
  • 8 slices white bread (we use Danish bread, found in most supermarket bread aisles)
  • Butter, at room temperature

What to do:

  1. Lay four slices of sliced white on a chopping board. Top each piece of bread with a slice of mozzarella, followed by two tbsp of bacon jam. Use a palette knife (or normal knife if you don’t have one) to spread the jam all over the cheese, making sure to reach every corner evenly. Top with a layer of cheddar and another piece of bread.
  2. Heat a frying pan, or ideally two (or four if you want to serve them all at once and you’re felling switched on) over a medium heat. Use a palette knife to nail the top slice of bread in butter, making sure to cover every corner.
  3. Place a sandwich buttered side down in the frying pan and coat the naked side of bread in butter. Get a saucepan lid or weight and push down on the sandwich. This will make sure that all of its surface area is being grilled. Don’t touch it. I know you want to, but don’t. It’s the Maillard Reaction (Wikipedia it). You want it to get nice and brown but definitely not burnt. Listen to it. When you hear it toasting away nicely flip the sandwich and repeat with the other side. If it’s beige you’re premature. If it’s burnt blame me and start again. We do about a two minutes-two and half minutes per side over a medium heat with a saucepan lid pressed down on the sarnie.
  4. Once both sides are golden flip it out onto a chopping board and slice on the diagonal. The mozzarella should be stringy, the bacon jam scorching, and the bread lovely and crispy.

Hot (Chipotle), Umami (Cheese), Sour (Balsamic Vinegar), Salty (Bacon), Sweet (Maple Syrup). HUSSS. Dig in.

And if that wasn’t enough to get your tastebuds tingling, here are some more images of Ste’s other mouth-watering creations:

HUSSS Sandwich Co. Bacon, Guacamole Grilled Cheese
HUSSS Sandwich Co. Bacon, Guacamole Grilled Cheese
HUSSS Sandwich Co. Pulled Pork
HUSSS Sandwich Co. Pulled Pork
HUSSS Sandwich Co. Falafel Wrap
HUSSS Sandwich Co. Falafel Wrap

FOLLOW HUSSS Sandwich Co. on Facebook, Twitter and check out their awesome website.

A Persian Feast…

For my birthday last month I was bought a wonderful cookbook, Persiana, from my Uncle and Aunty. The book is by Sabrina Ghayour, a food blogger and supper club hostess from London, and I had never actually heard of her before. However, I trusted my Uncle’s judgement (he is a trained chef and worked in the industry for years, so he knows good food). Also, the wonderful Gizzi Erskine is quoted on the front of the book to have stated “Sabrina Ghayour is a phenomenal Persian chef” – so, naturally I was more than eager to give the book a go to find out for myself what all the fuss was about.

During the Introduction to the book, Sabrina talks about her supper clubs and the simplicity of Middle Eastern food. She talks about how Eastern food can be (as has been) misinterpreted over the years, to be something more complicated or difficult than it actually is. She talks of how her supper clubs put emphasis on bringing strangers together; using food as the focal point for shared, convivial experiences during which all else is forgotten and food and enjoyment alone become the focus.

It all got me thinking. No, not about starting my own supper clubs (but maybe one day!) Thinking about inviting some close friends round for a feast of good food, good conversation, fine wine and of course, a few obligatory card games at the end the evening! Ok, the last bit was just a spontaneous (but fun) add-on…

I wanted to keep the menu light, summery and varied – because the weather’s been nice recently, and I love the idea of mezze platters, sharing plates and tapas. I think food is so much better when you can just place it all in the middle of the table and let your guests dive in. To make the experience even better, my friend Rachel bought her new ‘Swiss Grill’ to the table – an electric grill which allows you to grill food and keep it warm at the table, as well as having 8 individual frying pans which you can fill up as you chose and set them down on the ‘hob’ to warm through. It was like having a BBQ only inside, and without men and fire! Bliss! 🙂

The Food

A Traditional Persian Mezze Sharing Experience:

Spice & Salted King Prawns

large, juicy king prawns lightly coated in a salty spiced dry-mix then fried in hot oil to make them crispy, light and very morish

Turkish Adana Köfte Kebabs (Lamb)

juicy, tender lamb mince pummelled like a dough to combine with finely diced onion, diced red pepper, garlic, chilli flakes and fresh parsley

Chargrilled Aubergines

with saffron yogurt, parsley & pickled chillies

Shirazi Salad

a beautiful, vibrant and refreshing salad of diced cucumber, ripened vine tomatoes, red onion, pomegranate seeds and sumac

Griddled Halloumi

the classic!

Harissa-Marinated Asparagus

marinated in Harissa, lemon rind, lemon juice, honey and sea salt

Homemade Cacik

pronounced ‘jajik,’ a wonderfully cooling mixture of cucumber, Greek yogurt, parsley and  dill

Persian Herb Rice (Sabiz Polow)

basmati rice, parboiled with finely chopped parsley, coriander, dill and spring onions then steamed in a lidded pan with butter to created crispy, indulgent base

As you can tell from the variety above, we really did have a true feast! Most things I was able to cook and prep ahead, and then heat up on the Swiss grill (asparagus, aubergine, lamb kebabs). The halloumi cheese we just cooked there and then on the grill at the table.

The other dishes (herb rice, king prawns, cacik, and salad) were easy to make ahead and serve when it was time. I also popped a shop-bought flatbread in the oven too, which was great for dipping into the creamy cacik and eating with the kebabs. Next time though, I will try making one of Sabrina’s flatbreads from scratch as they look and sound delicious.

Well, there you have it. I just wanted to share our Persian feast with you to hopefully inspire you to get creative in your own kitchen. All the recipes I tried from this book were easy and delicious. The only dish I wasn’t keen on was the aubergine and saffron yogurt – I loved the grilled aubergine, but I found the dish was too bitter (teamed with the saffron yogurt) – perhaps just a Persian paring my palate isn’t quite yet used to!

As you can see, the girls didn’t hesitate to get their phones out and start taking pictures of the wonderful feast! Here are some of the snaps they took…

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

IMG_0014

IMG_0105

 

IMG_0114

 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

IMG_0109


 

Soulful Food Co. ‘One Pots’ plus Discount Code!

I have recently been in touch with the lovely and super-cool people at Soulful Food Co. and have been sampling their #SoulfulOnePots, with the view that if I like them, I will share a discount-code with you all as a little thank you for reading and following my blog. You will be pleased to know, they have turned out to be an absolute delight!

As you know, I have recently been on a health-kick. I’ve decided to get my ass in gear and start exercising, as I was starting to feel a little ‘under the weather’ (as we all do from time to time). I attributed these feelings to my sheer lack of exercise, eating too many calories and not getting the right balance of nutrition in my diet. Over the past few weeks, I have cleaned up my diet, stopped eating for the sake of it and joined a really nice gym where I have been working my ass of to try and get into better shape and health.

So… The arrival of 6 healthy, hearty #SoulfulOnePots therefore, couldn’t have come at a better time. For the past week, I have been fitting them into my diet (mostly for lunch, which means snacking less in the day) and sometimes for dinner (perfect when you’re in a rush – you will see why later).

Here is a summary of what I thought of each pot – and at the end of the article, there is a discount code for you to enjoy a whopping 35% off your #SoufulOnePots online order! You are welcome!!

How they taste:

Official Name & Description: Mexican Bean & Sweet Potato with Quinoa. A rich & warming bean fiesta of a stew, with sweet red pepper, tomatoes & lentils.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Low Salt, Gluten Free, Vegan, 262 Calories per tub.

My Verdict: Overall this tasted absolutely fantastic. Great textures from the variety of beans (black beans, pinto beans and red kidney beans) and also green lentils. The lentils have a slight bite to them which is lovely. The sweet potato is firm but squidgy and soft in the middle, nice bite-sized chunks. Loads of flavours from the added herbs and spices, particularly fennel seeds and cumin which gives an authentic Mexican flavour. LOVELY!

Official Name & Description: British Pulled Beef Chilli with Black Barley. West Country Beef, slow cooked till tender, in our fresh take on the classic chilli con carne.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Dairy Free, Lean Protein, 2 of your 5-a-Day,  391 calories per tub.

My Verdict: The beef in this one pot is tender, meaty and there is plenty of it. Absolutely no accompaniment needed if you’re having this for lunch like I was. It’s packed full of loads of fresh red peppers, onions, kidney beans and celery which all contribute to the wholesome flavour. A great level of spice and seasoning, from both the fresh red chilli used and the cayenne pepper, chilli powder and pepper. Delicious.

Official Name & Description: Free Range Thai Green Chicken Curry with Kelp Noodles. Our own fragrant take on the eastern classic with babycorn, sweet potato and red pepper.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Lean Protein, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 441 calories per tub.

My Verdict: This was one of my favourites, simply because I love Thai curry and this one is done really well, whilst still maintaining balanced nutrition. I had never tried Kelp noodles before, but can honestly say they are light with a great texture (a little bit like glass noodles but without the starch). As the kelp is raw and very low in carbs, this allows rest of the food fill you up, which I found kept me fuller for much longer (so less/NO snacking, yay!) The chicken had a great ‘pulled chicken’ texture, and the veggies were crunchy as if they has just been stir-fried. Absolutely tonnes of fragrant, tasty Thai flavours coming through too: lemongrass, coconut, basil, coriander and chilli. So much nicer than the Innocent Veg Pot ‘Thai Green Curry,’ by a clear mile. DIVINE!

Official Name & Description: Free Range British Pulled Pork Stew with Chorizo, Beans and Spelt. Hearty & rustic, with smokey British chorizo & nutty grains of finest Somerset spelt.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
No picture! So here’s a pretty picture of the packaging!

Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low Fat, Low G.I, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 315 calories per tub.

My Verdict: For just 315 calories per tub – this is seriously impressive. I forgot to take a photo of this one, as I was in a rush after work to get home, eat dinner, and get my ass to the gym. So, I just grabbed this one pot from the fridge, heated it in the microwave and ate it straight out of the tub. As I am used to brown rice, I must say the texture of spelt as an alternative is a little strange to get used to at first – but it is an overall more nutritious option with more fibre and less calories per portion. The sheer flavour from the pulled pork and smoky chorizo more than made up for the new texture. You can tell a lot of love has been put into slow cooking this very hearty and nutritious stew. I ate it about 45 minutes before my gym session and it gave me enough energy to absolutely smash it!

Official Name & Description: Free Range Moroccan Chicken Tagine with British Spelt. Chunks of chicken, veg, apricots & almond, slow cooked in delicious North African spices.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Lean Protein, Dairy Free, Low G.I., 2 of your 5-a-Day, 395 calories per tub.

My Verdict: Lovely and warming spices (ginger, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper and cinnamon). There is less spelt in this one so the texture less noticeable. There was perhaps a little bit too much carrot for my liking, but for lunch this was a very satisfying dish, which would be lovely as a dinner with some homemade chapatis.

Official Name & Description: Butternut, Lentil & Spinach Hotpot. Gently cooked with coconut, lemongrass & a warming hint of Indian spices.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Nutrition Info: 380g serving (1 pot) = Low G.I., Gluten Free, Vegan, 2 of your 5-a-Day, 388 calories per tub.

My Verdict: I must admit, I think (subconsciously) I saved this one until last, because I didn’t fancy it as much as the others. However, this one turned out to be my favourite overall. The chickpeas, cauliflower, spinach, split peas and green lentils all work together really well to give a light but hearty texture. The spices used are really warming (turmeric, mustard seeds, cardamon powder, ginger and red chilli), which give the hot pot a lovely little kick. The only drawback is that the potato-to-squash ratio favoured potato a little too much for my liking. On the ingredients it says 7% of both, but there was certainly a lot more potato than squash!

Overall, I would highly recommend these lovely pots of flavour-packed wholesome goodness. I think they would be a great purchase to supplement your own home-cooking as they are healthy, nutritious and overall taste fantastic! They are £3.49 per tub plus P&P to buy online, which is a little bit on the pricy side, but you get what you pay for, and these really do taste great and the ingredients are top notch. Use the discount code for 35% off your order, see below. 

All of their packaging is fully recyclable too, which is awesome.

As promised, please use code SCRAN35, for 35% off  your Soulful Food order, which is valid until the end of May 2015.

I was sent the Soulful Food One Pots on a free-of-charge basis, to taste and try and feature on my blog. All opinions above are my honest and actual thoughts on the products supplied.