A couple of weeks ago, Bradley and I went on one of our road-trips to Bristol to visit close friends. It was a bit of a Glastonbury reunion and also an opportunity to see our friends’ really cool new house. It was a weekend of epic proportions; they were amazing hosts and we really did enjoy ourselves… probably a little bit too much judging by the enormity of the hangover that was to follow! But, hey, it was all worth it…
We arrived on the Friday evening, ready bright and early for Saturday’s antics. Our hosts, Becky & Craig, know how much we like cool and quirky places to eat, so they picked out somewhere to take us for brunch on the Saturday morning. We needed something tasty, hearty and filling to keep us going throughout the day… So we headed to No. 12 Easton.
A cool, down-to-earth little coffee house and Deli, situated in the Easton area of Bristol, not far from Stapleton Rd station. The place was busy when we arrived (always a good sign) and the girls on shift were quick to welcome us. They helped us find some seats (as there was 7 of us) outside in the, bright, sunny little courtyard.
We ordered a range of brunch/breakfast style dishes, and some of the guys opted for more ‘lunchtime’ options with sandwiches.
I opted for the sausage sandwich with mustard & red onion marmalade. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I have an unadulterated obsession with sausages. The bread was incredible, soft but sturdy slabs of white, bouncy bread – perfect to fuel a day of drinking alcohol in the sunshine! The onion marmalade was sweet and sharp, and the mustard was wholegrain which gave it a lovely, savory kick. The sausages themselves were thin, sliced chipolatas, but very meaty indeed. Delicious.
Brad opted for the waffles and bacon with maple syrup, of course! He tells me it tasted as good as it looked (amazing), even though the table was wobbly and he dropped it on the floor, quickly preceded by him picking it up and devouring the whole thing anyway… strictly adhering to the 3 second rule… of course.
Becky and Craig went all out for the sandwich option and both got the house smoked chicken and gammon sandwich with Pitt Cue sauce and pickles. It looked lush.
The cakes on offer also looked absolutely divine. We had a big slab of shortbread and it tasted amazing – chunky, sweet and buttery. It crumbled perfectly then just melted in your mouth as you washed it down with a cup of their delicious coffee, which they source from Extract Coffee and Round Hill Roastery. I don’t know much about coffee – but compared to the usual Starkbucks or Costa, this stuff had such an epic depth of flavour somehow and really gave you a nice little wake-up buzz from the caffeine.
Overall this place was great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee or cakes. If you’re in the area I would highly recommend!
This week I got to go to the launch of a really exciting new eatery in Cheshire: Chilli Banana Thai Street Food in Bramhall. It’s the ‘little sister,’ of the already very well established Chilli Banana restaurant in Wilmslow, but this time with a street food twist that’s focussing mainly on take-away dishes complete with delivery service for the surrounding areas.
The launch evening was from 5-8pm, and on offer was a fantastic range of enticing street food dishes inspired by the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. I really couldn’t resist, so Bradley and I rocked up at 7pm (the earliest we could get there due to traffic issues) with empty bellies and open minds towards this new and exciting concept.
We were greeted by the very friendly face of Dawn, who took our coats and immediately fetched us a drink – there was lots on offer but we opted for a glass of red wine each. A stunning, fruity glass of Merlot which we both agreed was delicious (some launches serve nasty tasting wine so even before we tasted the food, we were impressed).
The place was packed which was really great to see. I have been to a fair few restaurant launches now and believe it or not some actually have next to no food on offer, which in my opinion isn’t great for a restaurant launch. It also makes it impossible to blog about… After all, how can I blog if I have no yummy looking content or tasty experiences to report back with?
This – my friends, was not one of those occasions…
From Bangkok to Bramhall…
The first thing that caught our eye was THAT PORK. This baby had been slowed cooked ‘since sometime yesterday’ according to the owner, Steve, basically meaning that this beast had been slow cooking for a serious number of hours. The meat was so succulent, juicy and the flavours were amazing – you could taste soy, star anise, a sweetness too – it was all perfectly balanced and everybody was totally blown away by it. I thought this was a great dish for owners May and Steve to choose for the opening night; it was a show stopper that really showcased May’s culinary skills and ability to transform a simple ingredient into something truly amazing. Hats off to the chef!
Next we tried the Thai red chicken curry – a burst of fresh, spicy, vibrant flavours that really took your breath away and was so moreish. Lots of green beans too so you got a nice amount of veggies to accompany which was a really nice, fresh touch to the dish.
We also tried the Thai green curry – much more mellow and coconut focussed but still light and packed full of flavour.
There was Pad Thai being rustled-up to order too, which was really great to see one of their talented cooks at work. This was a veggie option with tofu, which was lovely and firm and gave the sweet yet spiced dish a nice bit of substance, overall a great veggie option. Their menu includes a great variety of noodle dishes too – meat versions of the Pad Thai with chicken or king prawns, or their famous ‘Drunken Noodles’ which come served with either chicken, pork or beef. I’ve had these from the Wilmslow branch and they are absolutely delicious, so if you love noodles make sure you give one of these dishes a try.
Other dishes freely on offer to sample were the miniature Thai spring rolls with chilli dip, chicken skewer bites and also tempura vegetables. We tried the sweet potato tempura and it was an absolute delight.
Chicken satay pieces
Thai spring rolls
Overall, Steve and May were very welcoming and it was clear to see from the turn out that the people of Bramhall are really buzzing about this place. It seems likes a fantastic addition to a place which is already full of foodies who appreciate exciting food. I just know this place will do really well.
I want to say a big thanks to Natasta for extending the invite to me via Twitter, Dawn for the very warm welcome and of course to May and Steve whom it was great to finally meet. Bradley and I are now seriously considering a move to within 1.5 miles of Bramhall, just so we can eat super amazing take-out food each weekend. But, for now, the Bramhall branch’s older sister in Wilmslow will do just fine as a still-loved alternative!
Follow Chilli Banana That Street Food on Twitter and take a look at their full menu offering on their website, here.
Last month I got to go to a great event at Selfridges Food Hall in the Trafford Centre, ‘Meet the Makers’. Events at the Trafford Centre (Manchester’s largest indoor shopping mall) are usually pretty epic; like the time we got to Dine our way around the Dome… man, that was fun. This time, we were focussed on Selfridge’s and Selfridge’s only, and boy does this place have an eclectic mix of local, artisan and bigger more well known brands – all showcasing their individual offerings.
The event was an opportunity for brands both big and small to show off their products to a load of hungry food and drink lovers. Hopefully it will be a regular event, rotating the suppliers each time to give them all a chance to shine!
I went along with my sister, Hannah; and as we arrived we were taken straight over to meet the lovely Sarah, founder of Hey Little Cupcake. She was manning her stall and poised, ready to teach us how to hand-ice the perfect cookie monster Cupcake. We each had a go at making our own. As if that wasn’t fun enough on its own, we also got to take a “Cupcake Selfie” which was later printed on a Cupcake complete with Violet sparkly icing underneath. One for each of us to take home. Off we went to sample further delights whilst our cupcake selfie was prepared…
Next up was wine tasting, and the cupcake making certainly got us ready for a little tipple. It was off to The Wine Shop where the very knowledgeable, Carl, gave us a great talk about sparking wine. The talk was focused on the key differences between the ever popular and ‘wine of the moment’ Prosecco and it’s 2 main counterparts – Cava and of course, Champagne. We got to sample all 3, and I can confirm these three things: I still love Champagne, Selfridge’s own-brand Prosecco is to die for and Cava still reminds me of my Nan (in a good way!)
After a little tipple we were ready for some more action. This time, Krispy Kreme invited us over to try our hand at icing our own doughnuts. This was fun. It’s sort of a “dunk and swoop” motion that’s required. I didn’t eat the doughnut though… I’m not really a fan, but my boyfriend Bradley is, so I saved mine for him and I’m pretty sure he ate it in about 4 bites when I got home later that evening 🙂
It was around this time we headed over to Yo! Sushi, to view a sample of their “Sushi School Masterclass” and of course, eat some sushi! Hosted by the lovely Kat and Kai (pictured below), this was a real chance to see some sushi masters at work. At 23, Kat is Yo! Sushi’s youngest Head Chef and Kai, her eager Sous Chef showed off her speedy wrapping and chopping skills. They made avocado hand rolls, cucumber and avocado Maki and California rolls with salmon and fish roe on the outside. Very clever indeed. It was great to see how they make the different kinds of sushi shapes – I have yet to try making my own sushi, so would be interested in trying out a full-length class there in the future.
We nibbled on sea-salted edamame beans (yum) whilst the sushi was prepared, and also got to try some of Yo! Sushi’s warm dishes. These dishes are made to order if you’re there as a regular diner (i.e. not on the famous conveyor belt). We went for the chilli beef dish – it was warming with a hint of spice and was a really nice addition alongside the chilled sushi. Also up for sampling was some authentic sake which I really love. The perfect way to wash down sushi!
After sushi, it was time to meet more makers! This time though, back to beverages – we met the very friendly Andy from Just Bee Drinks, a Manchester-based duo of friends who love bees and honey. The two decided to make these wonderfully balanced and refreshing soft drinks by infusing spring water with honey and other natural ingredients like blueberry, ginger and lemon. Which is just genius if you ask me. These little bad boys have been on sale in my gym for a while now and I have purchased them on a couple of occasions before meeting Andy at this event.
It was great to speak to maker direct I really wish the two all the best with these lovely little beverages. My favourite is the Apple, Ginger and a hint of Honey. They are all thirst-quenching and flavourful drinks so I am sure they will be flying off the shelves for a long time to come.
To continue with the tour – yes, we ate more food. Last, but not least, was an impressive showcase of Selfridge’s Food Hall’s ‘party food’ offerings. All prepared by their very own chefs who work onsite. We could see the chefs putting the finishing touches to the canapé-style dishes, and although we were full they just looked too tempting not to try them!
The quiche was still warm which was really delicious, and it was amazing how much flavour came through each little mouthful. My personal favourite was the blue cheese and chutney, whereas Hannah loved the tomato, mozzarella and basil bites. All gorgeous party food I must say.
To round things off, we ventured back across to Hey Little Cupcake to pick up our Cupcake Selfie (yes, the cupcake with a an edible photograph of our selfie on it) which pretty much blew my mind. Ha. ❤
Overall this was a fantastic event and a great opportunity to meet and speak to local, artisan food suppliers. All of which were offering a great range of products to try. The more ‘hands on’ elements were particularly fun, and I hope they host another event like this soon!
Last night I attended another Supper Club. I am beginning to get a little obsessed with these types of dining experiences. Not so long ago I went to an authentic home-made Italian food supper club in Manchester and before that another pop-up supper club featuring some amazing Malaysian home-cooking which was also a really special experience. My taste buds concurred.
I find that Supper Clubs are so much more of a food adventure. Everybody eats the same menu and it’s great to meet new, like-minded people and have a good old chat over some really delicious scran. Last night was no exception.
Last night’s event was arranged by Inca Pop Ups (run by Claire Kerkham) who specialise in sourcing, organising and hosting such food events, usually in unassuming but very cool settings which Claire hunts down and hand-picks herself.
The Setting and Host Chef
Last night’s event was at the Yard, Alderley Edge. A really beautiful café, shop and event space that focus on ethical, healthy products and delicious, wholesome foods in their ‘conscious kitchen’ café. Tucked away behind the main high street in this glamorous, Cheshire village, it’s the perfect spot to host an event of this size with it’s large, open kitchen and rustic dining area.
The real star of the show last night was no less than Robert Owen-Brown, ex-head Chef of the famous Mark Addy pub and now seasoned pop-up chef, this man really knows how to cook ‘real’ food. He prides himself on using only the finest quality, locally sourced ingredients and transforms them into hearty, classic dishes that really do blow you away with their simplicity and earthiness. He foraged the wild mushrooms from the beef dish himself from Delamere Forest, and the partridge in the game terrine was sourced just up the road (not far from Dunham Massey). It was fantastic to eat truly local food, cooked by a local chef in a wonderful local setting just 10 minutes away from my house. ❤
We were greeted by the Inca Pop Ups team with a glass of Prosecco and Kombucha with a blackberry which was delightful. We were seated on a large, rustic, wooden table right next to the kitchen where we could see chef hard at work, but still managing to look collected and relaxed. I was with Jo Cooksey from Taste Today, and after acquainting ourselves with the lovely guests on our table (Lucy Hope, aka The Chanteuse and the professional photographer for the evening Simon Brown, aka Travelling Simon) we were ready to eat.
Before we were served, chef said a few words, talking us through his menu choices and why he uses seasonal produce. He also mentioned there might be some butter present in each dish (to keep things healthy) and he might have admitted to eating fish food as a child, a very humble man with a great sense of humour indeed!
Robert also mentioned his new cookbook ‘Crispy Squirrel and Vimto Trifle’ which a few of us bought, and he signed. It was great to hear from him before the feast commenced.
The first course; Hand dived scallop with celeriac and coral cream (and razor clams).
This dish tasted as good as it looked. The delicate orange coloured sauce was perfectly seasoned, and made from the roe of the scallops (the best bit!) which Robert pointed out many restaurants discard. It was great to taste a complete dish that resourcefully uses the whole product with very little wastage. The celeriac also delicious, crunchy and firm.
The next dish was a real contrast; Classic game terrine with hedgerow berry chutney.
Succulent, juicy bits of top-quality game snuggly moulded together with the welcomed edition of black pudding which really gave this terrine a lovely other dimension. The seasonal berry chutney was only slightly sweet, which complimented the savouriness of the meat so well.
It was at this point one of the other guests at our table, Margaret, showed us her beautiful bottle of Rioja, which she kindly let us try. The Yard serves alcohol, so you were welcome to buy a bottle from their selection (they also had chilled beers) or pay just £2 corkage to take your own, which is what Margaret did. One of the nicest red wines I’ve had the pleasure to taste. Thank you, Margaret!
After a short rest (and a look around The Yard’s beautiful shop, images below) we were ready for the main course; Lightly smoked fillet of beef, wild mushrooms and good king henry.
The beef was outstanding. It was so tender, seasoned to perfection and melted in your mouth. The gravy was packed full of rich flavour, but still light. The potato fondant was delicate but substantial and the wild mushrooms were earthy and added great texture. The ‘good king henry’ is an edible plant, chef likened it to a mixture between spinach and kale and it really was delicious, as were the sweet, mini, sculpted carrots. A hearty portion size too – an outstanding main course and again, empty plates all round.
On to dessert; Dark chocolate and wild honey ‘Cambridge cream’, orange fudge and vanilla froth.
This is honestly one of the nicest chocolate desserts I have eaten. Cambridge cream is the English crème brûlée. Here, Robert made a dark chocolate and honey version which was somehow light and not at all sickly. The hint of orange flavour from the orange fudge was beautiful and the vanilla froth really topped it off nicely, the presentation looking like a freshly poured Cappuccino. The home-made flapjack on the side was divinely buttery (as expected) and just melted in your mouth. Both flavours and presentation, this pudding was very clever indeed, and not at all pretentious. I loved it.
Last but not least, the final course; Cave aged goats cheese & Camembert with thyme waffle
As a lover of all things savoury (and cheese, of course) I was delighted to see this as the final dish of the evening. The thyme waffles were an absolute delight, slightly sweet but a fantastic contrast to the savoury sharpness of the aged goats cheese. A wonderful, creative take on the classic (and now seemingly boring!) ‘cheese and biscuits’. Hats off to the chef.
The Tea Alchemist
To round things off, we got the choice of one of the wonderful Alchemist Tea’s. Each came served in a teapot, teacup and saucer that complimented the nature of the tea. I went for the Dragon Well tea; which came served in this wonderful cast-iron teapot and oriental iron cup. The taste was delicate and refreshing, and it really worked well to cleanse the palette after such a wonderful meal.
Overall this was an absolutely delightful evening of food, drink and great company in a wonderful setting. It was the ultimate celebration of local produce and down-to-earth, hearty, good food that doesn’t hide behind fancy names. Excellently cooked, seasonal ingredients from our wonderful Cheshire surroundings.
I look forward to attending future events hosted by Inca Pops, you can do so by keeping a close eye on their Facebook page. Many thanks to Claire, Robert and the team for hosting such an outstanding event.
A few other images of the Yard and event can be found below;
I attended this event as a guest of the host and as such received a complimentary meal. However, all my opinions above are my honest interpretations of the evenings offerings.
You may have noticed that my latest blog post discussed what healthy eating is, and how we all (including the pros) take different approaches to it.
This time, I’ve decided to summarise my own key tips for eating well; things I’ve picked up over the past few years that I honestly think will stick with me for life.
My approach to healthy eating is simple; I’m considered in what I eat the majority of time, and treat myself the rest. After all, life’s for living, and it’s way too short for crappy diets that leave you feeling guilty and hungry. Another key to the balanced lifestyle is fitness – so I try to stay active as much as possible too (dancing in the kitchen most certainly counts!)
So here are my top tips for ‘eating well,’ I hope you find them useful!
Be selective with your oils
With its light and nutty flavour, Rapeseed oil can replace olive oil in pretty much every recipe. It’s especially good in curries, stews and classics like chilli con carne, or a great low-fat Bolognese ragu. It has the lowest saturated fat content of any cooking oil (half the sat-fat as olive oil), and as it’s mostly made here in the UK. So supporting local artisans like Calvia Rapeseed Oil (made in Cheshire) is also a big plus for me. Make sure you buy the high quality, cold pressed versions for the true healthier option.
Coconut oil is also a firm favourite in my kitchen. It is high in ‘good fats’ that are easily absorbed by the body, and is fantastic for frying eggs or roasting veggies, fish or sweet potato fries. I use Lucy Bee as I love her brand, recipes and the cute jars come with ‘easy-peel’ labels, so you can easily re-use them to stash tea bags, candles, dried chillies or whatever else you might have knocking around your kitchen!
Choose lean, good quality proteins
It’s common to want meat with every meal nowadays, as it’s so easily accessible in the supermarkets at cheap prices. However, it’s also good to give your body a rest from it, which is why I love the #MeatFreeMonday campaign that promotes this message.
Saying that, I do LOVE meat, so when I do eat it I make sure it’s of the highest quality available. Musclefood is an excellent option for meat and fish. It’s delivered to your door ‘super chilled’ so you can chose to eat it right away (refrigerate it) or store in the freezer. Their chicken breasts have won numerous Great Taste awards and they stock great quality Red Tractor approved British meats. There’s no added water in their bacon or chicken, and they have a greater variety of lean meats compared to the supermarkets. The chicken sausages I use in my Lean Sausage Shakshuka dish are delicious, and only 97 calories per sausage.
You should also never underestimate your local Butcher or Fishmonger for providing top-quality cuts of meat and fresh fish at very reasonable prices. They will de-bone it, slice it, portion it or skin it for you if you need them to, which can save you valuable time in the kitchen (for dancing, of course!).
When you do eat carbs like rice, bread and pasta – opting for whole grain varieties is best as they have a lower ‘GI’ (glycaemic index). This means they release energy slower, keeping you ‘fuller for longer’ as they are less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar. Ask your local bakery if they do a low GI loaf option, or stick to whole grain, pitas or tortilla wraps where possible.
I’m also a massive fan of quinoa and bulgur wheat which you can substitute for rice in many dishes. Or if you want to avoid wheat and gluten but love pasta, I highly recommend Rizopia’s brown-rice pasta. It tastes amazing considering it contains neither wheat nor gluten!
Never compromise on flavour
To ensure proper satisfaction after each meal – you need to make sure you haven’t compromised on flavour too much in order to keep things ‘healthy’. I try to make sure my food is full of fresh or dried herbs and spices where possible. Adding a kick with fresh chillies (if you like it hot) or a hint of freshness with some freshly picked herbs can often transform a dish from mediocre to average, without affecting the calorie count. My favourite herbs and spices are;
Basil (great in Italian dishes or Thai curries)
Coriander (perfect in any type of curry dish, as well as to freshen up rice, quinoa or bulgar wheat salads)
Fresh chillies (in my opinion, a superfood as it speeds up your metabolism as well as adding flavour)
Bay leaves (last for ages in the cupboard, and go perfectly with minced meat dishes like spag bol or cottage pie)
Garam Masala (perfect to add a beautiful curry flavour)
Oregano (fresh or dried, great with Italian dishes or on top of veggie pizza)
Harissa (dried or paste, you only need a bit to add a wonderful depth of flavour)
Piri piri/Cajun or Jerk (great to spice up chicken or sweet potato fries)
Remember, it’s all about balance!
Healthy eating really is all about finding your own way and sticking to it, until it becomes a healthy habit. I find that it’s all about staying on track as much as you can, and eating your favourite ‘treat’ foods in moderation. Food is meant to fuel you and make you feel good, so I don’t beat myself up trying to eat the perfect ‘healthy diet’ 100% of the time, nobody should!
What are your top tips for eating healthy? And what are your favourite indulgent, ‘treat’ foods? Use the comments below to let me know, I would love to hear from you! ❤