Chillies and empowerment, #WithOxfam

As you know, I love chillies. Anything spicy – I’m there.

In my eyes, chillies are a super food. But what makes chillies so great? And why should we be using more of them in our diets?

Here’s my top 5 reasons to eat chillies followed by an awe-inspiring case study from Oxfam; which really proves that chillies are going a long way to becoming a true super food. The little fiery red capsicum’s are being used in Bangladesh to empower women to make better lives for themselves and overcome poverty caused by adverse weather conditions in that part of the world.

red finger chillies

Why I think chillies should be considered super-scran;

They contain a lot of vitamin C (up to seven times more than the average orange)

They add flavour, vibrant colour and warmth (but not always hot-heat) to a variety of dishes

Chillies can increase the speed of your metabolism, and help burn fat

They aid sinus congestion, which is why your noes runs after a hot curry!

There’s such a huge range to choose from, there’s literally a chilli for everyone and every dish!

habaneros variety
habaneros variety

Chillies in action #WithOxfam

So chillies might be good for our health, metabolism and taste buds, but when Oxfam contacted me to see if I wanted to hear more about how they coordinate projects across the world and use chilli farming as a way to empower women out of poverty, I was excited to find out more.

In Bangladesh, many of the poorest people live in areas badly affected by terrible weather conditions like flooding, cyclones and heavy storms. These conditions make communities in the area vulnerable; there is little work and many people are forced to go hungry as their crops and cattle get washed away with the floods.

Due to food being scarce, women need additional support as their husbands are away for long periods, seeking work in the cities.

Oxfam work with their partners in Bangladesh to help flood-hit communities earn an income through growing chillies.  Amazing, right?

Joygun Islam, who’s pictured above, is directly affected by Oxfam’s work. She said:

“We eat less food when there is a flood. We mostly eat dried food, and we try to save some rice if we know the flood is coming.

“Sometimes we have two meals a day, but some days we only have one meal.

“I’ve benefited a lot from growing chillies. I now eat better than I used to before. I wouldn’t be able to eat before but I’m getting good quality food now. I now have some disposable income to spend on things like chicken and fish.”

Joygun is now vice president of her local community based organisation (CBO). The CBO uses chilli production as a practical catalyst to improve peoples lives in these badly affected villages. She’s received full training on how to grow chillies, which she says has given her confidence and self-belief. Her husband now recognises the important contribution she makes to the household income, and this financial boost allows them a more varied and nutritious diet.
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I fully support this sort of project work and feel that more should be spoken about these incredible projects and how a regular donation can really improve people’s lives in the simplest but most effective ways.
Cheshire Food Blog
Joygun Islam spreads chillies out to dry in the sun, they take between 3 and 11 days to dry thoroughly. The dried chillies are then sorted for quality, colour and size. Only the best go to market.

What can a regular donation do?

£9 can provide a family with manure, organic fertiliser and training in eco-friendly farming techniques.
£24 can provide a family with the tools, seeds and training to set up an allotment, helping them to feed themselves.

Empowering people to help themselves is key to a sustained solution to overcome poverty. Women like Joygun can now give their children nutritious food and prepare for future disasters.

I hope you have enjoyed this read and finding out more about this type of project. This is just one of many, many initiatives Oxfam run to help beat poverty across all corners of the world. The next story I am going to feature is about coffee production in Honduras, so keep your eyes peeled for that one and in the meantime follow Oxfam on Twitter for their latest project updates ❤

Dried Chillies for sale in the market <3
Dried Chillies for sale in the market ❤
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Sunday round up. 28/02/2016

What a week!

This was the week I really upped my overnight oats game, all part of a blog feature I’m doing at the moment in collaboration with Holland and Barrett. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that this week I posted an image that started a little bit of debate. The below image is of my overnight oats with a dollop of manuka honey on top. Some people thought it was an egg yolk… You’ll just have to take my word for it; it wasn’t!

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This week I also attended a fantastic cookery class in Wilmslow, run by the lovely Gemma AKA You Say Tomato. She showed us how to cook 3 really easy ‘Deliciously Doable’ dinners, and we sat back and relaxed whilst she whipped them up in front of our eyes.

Quite the hostess, there were nibbles and drinks provided too, and it was all based at her lovely house.

I discovered how utterly divine polenta can be when cooked right (image below of Gemma’s “lemony mushroom ragu on oozy polenta with kale pesto“) which really, honestly, blew my mind. Read more about my evening at You Say Tomato on the blog later this week.

Cheshire Food Blog

So what else has happened this week? I reviewed some Bombay mix flavour crisps and wasabi flavoured popcorn on the blog. Which were very scrumptious snacks indeed.

I also watched the Brit Awards, did you? I have officially decided I’m a ‘Bieliber’ now too, his performance was great. James Bay played guitar for him on stage, which made it for me and really captured my attention. I also thought Rihanna killed it, and the tribute to David Bowie at the end was awesome.

And to end a great week – we had family friends over to stay. I cooked a Moroccan feast, in a tagine from Morocco and using all the authentic spices. Keep your eyes peeled for the recipe to follow.

Our friends brought their puppy along to stay (she’s called Billie and she’s a blue Staffordshire Bull Terrier), and I thought, as it’s Sunday, you might enjoy another doggy picture. So here you go…. JUST LOOK AT HER! 💓😍💓

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Finally, I had a CRACKING gin and tonic at the Bull’s Head, Mobberley (my local) which was beautifully garnished with lime peel and juniper berries.

Cheshire Food Blog

I hope you’ve all had a great week too.

With love,

Sophie -x-

Ten Acre snacks.

I really love crisps. They are my ultimate favourite snack, ever. Did anyone read this recent article in the Guardian, about the potential fall of crisps due to the rise and shine of posh popcorn? Well I did. And it made me a little sad. I for one don’t think Brits will ever fall out of love with crisps. And I don’t think they will every be fully replaced by ‘poshcorn’ either.

Which is exactly why, when a company called Ten Acre snacks (who specialise in both varieties of snack) contacted me I was excited to taste them, and see just how a brand can target both crisp lovers and popcorn addicts simultaneously.

Surely one product would be stronger than the other? Surely most flavours would be savoury, thus making them not so appealing to all the sweet-toothed Tessies out there?

I simply had to investigate…

A Manchester based company with a ‘free from’ attitude

Brought to us by Yumsh Snacks who say they make snacks that everyone can enjoy, and when they say everyone, they mean everyone. Pioneering a concept they call ‘free-from plus’ their snacks boast an impressive list of things they are free from:

Gluten, dairy and MSG. Plus, they are vegan, halal and kosher.

So, if that’s what they are free from, the what are they full of? First of all they are British. All of their potatoes, flavourings and packaging are sourced from the UK. And they are made in small batches in the UK too, which I think is very impressive.

I was very generously sent their full range of 10 flavours of hand-cooked crisps, and seven flavours of hand-picked popcorn. Here’s my summary of their stand-out flavours (the full list of flavours is at the bottom of this post).

Crisp taste-testing

The Secret Of Mr Salt – Ready Salted Crisps

I know what you’re thinking. Why is she starting with the boring flavour? Well, my friend. These are not boring. They were the first packet I sampled and they were delicious. It was mainly the texture that got me (which is applicable to all other flavours I sampled).

They have the most delicious crunch – but aren’t too hard like some other hand-cooked crisps out there. Lightly salted but enough so that the seasoning can cut through a decent scoop of plain hummus (which I enjoyed alongside the packet). A fine bag of crisps indeed.

When the Pepper Crack’d – Black Pepper and Sea Salt Crisps

As above, but with lashing of freshly ground black pepper. Which gives them a great little kick. Also sensational alongside a good pot of hummus for dipping.

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beautiful Bombay spices

When Bombay Got Spicy – Bombay Spice Flavour Crisps

I love Bombay mix, and have honestly never come across a bag of crisps this flavour before. They were delicious, warming, spicy and a great balance of flavours that really did remind me of a handful of Bombay mix. These would be great by the bowlful when you have friends over as something a little different and unexpected.

Pastrami In The Rye – Pastrami Flavour Hand Cooked Crisps

These little beauties were peppery and salty and meaty, all with the same great texture and crunch. Again, another well executed and innovative flavour. Making Walker’s weird and wonderful range look even more horrendous!

 

The Story of When the Cheese Met the Onion – Cheese and Onion Flavour Crisps

Cheese and onion are my favourite flavour crisps, and I have to admit I like the Walker’s variety. Other attempts at cheese and onion just seem to take it too far. Kettle Chips’ mature cheddar and red onion are too intense: too cheesy, and too onion-y. These ones however don’t try to be overly fancy. They are just cheese and onion, very well done.

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delicious crisps with a crispy crunch (that doesn’t break your teeth)

Popcorn taste-testing

Sweet and Salty 

I’m starting with this one, as in our house, we consider ourselves connoisseurs of sweet and salty popcorn varieties. I know that’s not a thing, but trust me – it should be. We have tried alllllllll the brands. And we have our favourite. Here’s how this one holds up: The balance between sweet and salty is good. The sweet pieces are in the form of crystallised chunks that have a light crunch to them. And the rest are dusted with a light salty powder.

So they haven’t quite replaced my favourite brand yet, but their other inventive flavours more than make up for it…

Wasabi 

Well, this flavour is amazing. The best wasabi flavoured product I have tested to date (apart from the real thing). Hot, spicy, gets up your nose a little bit like English mustard. Again, this flavour features the light, crunchy, crystallised kernels which had an almost sweetness to them. Mindbogglingly full of flavour. Nailed it.

Cappuccino

I took one look at this flavour in the extensive collection and thought ‘no’. Just no. Cappuccino flavour? That will be awful, I said. There’s no way that one will work, I said. So I left it until last. Boy, on boy, was I wrong. It was my second favourite after the wasabi and completely different. Much sweeter than I had imagined, with a subtle coffee flavour that added a welcomed bitterness. Delicious and very clever indeed. Hats off, chef.

Overall, I really enjoyed this taste test

The fact that these products are made self-contained here in the UK is great – it’s nice to see a company really embracing what we have here instead of importing bits and bobs from elsewhere.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the crisps and the popcorn, but slightly more so the crisps as they are pretty much my Achilles heel. Their flavours are inventive, well executed and their branding is cute and honest. Packaging lovely. I am not surprised they have won awards. They are a really great product, and there is something for everyone.

You can read more about Ten Acre snacks on their fun and cute website.

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All available flavours:

  1. The Secret Of Mr Salt – Ready Salted Crisps
  2. When the Pepper Crack’d – Black Pepper and Sea Salt Crisps
  3. When Bombay Got Spicy – Bombay Spice Flavour Crisps
  4. Pastrami In The Rye – Pastrami Flavour Hand Cooked Crisps
  5. How Chicken Soup Saved The Day – Chicken Soup Flavour Crisps
  6. When the Chilli got Sweet – Sweet Chilli Flavour Crisps
  7. The Story of When the Cheese Met the Onion – Cheese and Onion Flavour Crisps
  8. The Amazing Adventures of Salt and Vinegar – Salt and Vinegar Flavour Crisps
  9. When Hickory Got BBQ’d – Hickory BBQ Flavour Crisps
  10. The Day Sweet and Sour Became Friends -Sweet & Sour Flavour Crisps
  11. Cousin Maisie’s Fennel and Lemon Popcorn – Fennel and Lemon Flavour
  12. Ambrose Popperley’s Wasabi Popcorn – Wasabi Flavour
  13. Aunty Winifred’s Sweet and Salty Popcorn – Sweet and Salty Flavour
  14. Captain Theodore’s Lime and Sea Salt Popcorn – Lime and Salt Flavour
  15. Cornelius Popperley’s Sour Cream and Chive Popcorn – Sour Cream and Chive Flavour
  16. Lucia Popperley’s Cappuccino Popcorn- Cappuccino Flavour
  17. Cousin Penelope’s Strawberry & Cream Popcorn – Strawberry & Cream Flavour

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Sunday round up. 21/02/2016

This week has been a little up and down.

Mainly ups, but some downs. Then I read this article thanks to my best friend, Jodie, and things seemed to gain a little perspective. If you haven’t yet read it, I urge you to. I think it’s applicable to most people. It’s addressed “To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind In Life” but is a particular good read if you’re possibly, potentially, maybe having a brief  ‘mid-twenties’ crisis. You’re welcome.

A highlight of this week, without a shadow of a doubt, was curry night at my old man’s. It’s also his birthday today – so shout out to Pete and happy birthday from your number one favourite blogger, Sophie’s Scran!

Dad loves curry. He always has done, always will do. His recent stint living in north Manchester and desire to take a ‘healthier’ approach to eating curry almost daily, saw him ditch the takeways and has started making his own from scratch instead.

Curry Night at Dads (9)
chicken tikka, wholespices and spices simmering in the pan with masala gravy

Inspired by a cookbook he got this Christmas (Atul Kochhar’s Curries of the World), he’s been experimenting will all sorts of new, authentic Indian flavours and techniques. So on Wednesday he made Atul’s British chicken tikka masala complete with homemade chapatis and chickpea dhal. Served with wholespice infused basmati rice. We even tweeted a picture to the twice Michelin starred man himself (Atul, that is), and he kindly tweeted back with his approval. Well done, Dad!

 

Curry Night at Dads (10)
homemade fresh chapatis, ready to be dry-fried in the skillet
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puffing up to perfection, Dad’s homemade chapatis
homemade masala gravy - the basis of many curries in Atul's book
homemade masala gravy – the basis of many curries in Atul’s book
the finished feast ❤

Sticking with the positives, we are dog-sitting this week for Brad’s parents. It’s so lovely to have their staffy/collie cross, Vinnie, with us this week. We took him on a three hour trek around Tatton Park yesterday, which also gave me the opportunity to browse their food offerings…

In the Housekeeper’s Store they sell all sorts of fancy local ingredients including venison reared on site. I’m making a Moroccan tagine for friends next week, so picked up some mutton, which I thought might be nice instead of lamb. All will be revealed next week!

In the meantime, here’s a cute picture of Vinnie absolutely living the dream after his walk!

It's a dog's life!
It’s a dog’s life!

Have YOU had a good week? I sure hope so. Happy Sunday, anyway.

Sophie -x-

Cheshire food blogger

Sunday round up 31/01/2016

So, it is finally here. The end of January. I think I speak for us all when I say. THANK. GOODNESS!

It’s been 6 long weeks of ‘dry January, or ‘Veganuary‘ and all sorts of other efforts people make to change their lifestyle habits for the better. As you probably know, I haven’t participated in either this year – but I have been keeping an eye out on the experiences of others. And feel like I have learnt some lessons (all be them vicarious) in the process. Here’s my round-up of January happenings…

 

Veganisim is probably on the rise. You know I love meat. And cheese. And eggs. But, saying that, I also love meat-free feasts on a regular basis too. And do make a conscious effort not to overindulge when it comes to eating meat (for reasons related to health, budget and sustainability). Brighton-based food blogger Cate in the Kitchen went on a Vegan-adventure this January. It was very interesting to watch. She came up with some cracking recipes and also failed quite epically one on occasion when she ate a cheese burger with all the toppings from Meat Liquor. Very entertaining indeed. Catch up here.

Food waste is still a trending food topic. It’s still making the headlines. It’s still a huge issue. And I can’t tell you enough how much I absolutely hate food waste. In an attempt to minimise food waste in my house, I have started to use Google Sheets to plan meals, build my shopping list and make use of things I already have in the cupboards/fridge/freezer before buying more. These efforts, along with online shopping, are so far working well to keep food waste in my house to a minimum. If you would like £20 off your first shop at Ocado…. click here. If you would like my recipe for this bacon, pea and spinach pesto pasta for the Staple Food Challenge click the image below:

Bacon, Pea and Spinach Pesto Pasta (4)

Pescatarianism kind of sort of appeals to me. A little bit. Watching Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Food Fight this week made me really crave seafood. As did my visit to the Seafood Pub Co. I eat seafood quite often as I really do love it. But I don’t incorporate it into my diet regularly enough. This week I have ordered some mackerel, seabass and have cod and king prawns in my meal plan for the week so will be experimenting with some new recipes. Whether or not I can give up meat to go entirely pescatarian, however, is another matter. But a damn sight easier than veganism! That’s for sure.

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Giving up booze is one thing. But moaning about it… is another. I’m sure giving up booze for January is a great way to detox and lose a few pounds. But I have seen so many people on Twitter (and in person) moaning about it. IF YOU WANT A GLASS OF WINE JUST HAVE ONE!

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And finally… I booked a holiday. A trip to Northern Italy. To flounce around eating red meat and carbs and cheese and drinking the finest of wines. And I can’t bloody wait.

What have your thoughts been on January and it’s many trials and tribulations? Are you as glad to see the back of it as I am? Share yours thoughts (and rants, if needed, in the comments below!)

Sophie -x-

Cheshire Food Blogger

The Railway Cafe, Alderley Edge

This place is kind of a dream. I visited late last November with my good friend Becky to celebrate her birthday. We both love adventurous food, gin, cocktails and decent restaurants with a bit of character so we thought this place sounded perfect. We visited on a Saturday taking advantage of their early bird deal: 20% off if you order before 6pm which I thought was a really great offer.

From the outside, the place looks warm, cosy and inviting. You walk in through a dark, curtained porch then straight into the bar and dining space. The place has plenty of character: the dark polished wooden floor has panels of intricately pattered tiles and the general décor is rustic and trendy. When a place gives me ideas for the decoration my own house, I automatically feel at home.

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When we arrived, the place was empty, but it was early and the staff were seemingly preparing themselves for a busy evening ahead. They gave us the best seat in the house; a cute table for 4 in the middle of the restaurant, opposite the bar.

We first perused the impressive cocktail menu – a great mix of gin cocktails; some short, some sweet, some with a spicy twist (guess which one I went for?). As it was back in November, and I can’t remember exactly which ones we chose: all I will say is that Becky’s was sweet, mine included chilli. They were both delicious. We drank 2, each.

Ready to eat – we studied the menu. It’s a mixture of snacks/nibbles, small plates, large plates (you can tell roughly by the price of the dish how big in size it is likely to be – advice from the manager who gave us the menus and offered to talk us through them). As we were spoilt for choice we decided on a mixture of small plates to share.

We ordered/devoured:

  1. Lamb Sliders mini lamb burgers in a toasted brioche, garlic mayo, cucumber raita and pickled onions
  2. Chilli Imli Chicken Wings ginger-tamarind glaze and cracked black pepper
  3. Super Green & Quinoa Salad with kale, tender stem broccoli, poached pear, asparagus, chilli and candied pistachio
  4. Beetroot & Avocado cumin yoghurt and garlic toasts
  5. Gunpowder Chips hand cut and served with garlic mayonnaise

It was kind of a feast. We could have done without the chips, but they were beautiful, and we thought it’s Becky’s birthday so ‘f*ck it’. No regrets.

Cheshire Food Blogger

The lamb sliders were amazing. The meat was slightly pink in the middle, absolutely packed full of warmth and flavour from a gentle array of seasoning and spices and the accompaniments really complimented and enhanced the flavours. The buns were so, so soft and squidgy too. They were delicious.

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The chilli imli wings were also divine. So fresh and steaming hot, they arrived first with finger bowl to-boot. This was going to be messy. Sweet, sticky, meaty morsels of satisfaction. The portion size was impressive too.

The quinoa salad was an explosion of sweet, healthy flavours that did well to cleanse the palate between mouthfuls of the other dishes. In it’s own right, it was a big bowl of goodness that was filling enough to eat with perhaps just one other small plate as a main course for one person.

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The beets and avocado were lovely, so many layers of flavour and texture from the crunchy toasts to the sliky texture of the beet/avocado salsa on top. The ‘gunpowder’ chips were chunky, fluffy in the middle, crisp on the outside and seasoned really well with a dusting of chilli and paprika.

Somehow we had room for pudding, but again, we opted to share. We went for this delightful little chocolate and coconut mousse with coconut shavings, strawberries and big shards of thin, dark chocolate that just melted in your mouth. It was light but delicious and a great way to end such an absolute feast.

Cheshire Food Blogger

Overall I was really impressed with the exciting and well-executed menu that The Railway Cafe has to offer. These guys also own two excellent Indian restaurants in the area (Mughli in Knutsford and Rushholme – the latter being my favourite of the two because of it’s more laid-back style). Find details on them both and Railway Cafe at them at www.mughli.com or tweet them @mughli. ❤


Note: We paid for our meals and Railway Cafe did not know I was reviewing their food.
Cheshire Food Blogger

Sunday round up. 17/01/2016

Ok so I forgot to post my weekly round-up yesterday, whoops. Here it is, in a nutshell, with pics. ❤ #HappySunday

  1. In the news this week experts suggested labels be added to food packaging to show how much exercise is required to burn the calories consumed. In all honesty, this idea shocked me. Can’t people be trusted to find out for themselves?! And what if someone generally lives a healthy lifestyle but eats the odd pizza on occasion. Do we really need to be guilt-tripped into an oblivion? No. We do not. LEAVE US ALONE!!
  2. My fluffy eggs recipe got featured in a proper recipe eBook which features “Breakfast in Bed” recipes from nine food bloggers from around the country! Exciting times indeed. Download the FREE eBook here.
  3. I ate black cod for the first time, at a wonderful pub in Claughton, Lancashire. It was delicious. More on that on the blog later this week!
  4. I discovered Evelyn’s, a new restaurant in Manchester and it was stunning. The menu is full of deliciousness, but I tried their Korean fried chicken and seafood ramen and mdog.me has added it to the #JanuarySales section on his site…. Check it out and grab 50% off their amazing food while you can!
  5. I went to the Lake District. It was proper snowy up there. Real, crisp, bright white snow. Everywhere. It was a wonderland ❄️ and must have made a welcome change to the sodding rain for the locals.
how many calories........? WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!
how many calories……..? WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cheshire Food Blogger
Black cod. What a thing of beauty ❤
Cheshire Food Blogger
delicious seafood ramen at Evelyn’s – get 50% off in January whilst you can
Cheshire Food Blogger

Thai Street Food at Chilli Banana’s Sunday Buffet

I have been eating Thai food until I pop, again. And this time was even more fun than last time. This time, Chilli Banana Wilmslow were shaking things up at their regular Thai Sunday buffet; introducing more street-food dishes including authentic Thai street carts to serve them up in! I got invited along to sample the whole lot and take some photos of the experience. Here’s how I got on….

We arrived just after 1pm and the place was almost full. Busy across both floors with hungry families, groups of friends and couples (old and young) meandering around the place with full or empty places getting their fill of tasty Thai treats. As we looked at the menu we were amazed at the variety on offer. Our table was upstairs on the terrace (that was covered up, with heaters on) directly opposite a cute Thai cart serving up fresh pork noodle soup… I knew what I was going to try first!

The list of dishes on offer featured an impressive 5 starters, 8 main dishes and 3 desserts plus traditional Thai coffee, all of which were being served up throughout the building. Each serving station had plates and an array of appropriate condiments/seasoning’s to enhance and personalise each dish to your liking.

You guessed correct, we started with noodle soup. Each bowl was made fresh to order by a lovely Thai chef. The dish comprised of a stunningly seasoned broth, pork meat balls, strips of pork, bean sprouts, cabbage and rice noodles.

Once chef had served you a bowl of hot soup, it was then time to top and season. Crushed peanuts and sliced spring onions added lovely texture and even more flavour to the dish. Sugar, fish sauce and chillies added an extra depth of flavour that you could tweak until you got it just how you like it.  This was such a stunning dish and I really couldn’t recommend it enough! A great was to whet the appetite!

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Goyteow Moo Namtok (pork noodle soup) the stunning finished product ❤

Downstairs, in front of the kitchen all of the starter dishes were laid out, being readily topped-up by chefs on the busy shift. We sampled the vast majority of them, and there were a few real stand-out dishes. The Kanom Gui Chai was dim sum stuffed with chives and marinated in sweet soy. They were also referred to as ‘chive cakes’ and they really were delicious.

Another great dish from this selection was the Si Ooah – Northern Thai spicy sausage. This was served in chunky slices, and it was spicy. It was packed full of Thai flavours like lemongrass, chilli and spring onions. I’d not tried this before but I really, really enjoyed it.

The marinated pork and chicken skewers were also gorgeous and the peanut sauce served with the chicken was particularly good. There was also salad bits to choose from if you wanted to keep things light. The only disappointing dish I tried was the vegetarian spring rolls, the filling was a little thin on the ground so all you could really  taste was the pastry.

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selection of Thai starters ❤

By this point, we were starting to get a little full. But there was still sooooo many dishes to taste, so we soldiered on. I wanted to try something a little different so went for the Kow Man Gai – steamed chicken and rice served with cucumber and a rich, fragrant sauce.  The chickens were steamed whole on a rotisserie, which made them unbelievably juicy and tender. I’d not tried a Thai dish like this before but I really enjoyed it and it did feel like quite a clean, healthy option that was still packed full of flavour through the sauce.

Back upstairs, and Bradley was getting stuck into ‘the curry shop’. A stall in the upper floor restaurant that was serving up Raan Kow Gaeng – a selection of Thai red, green and a pork stir-fry curry. We tried the Thai red curry and the port stir-fry… The curry was packed full of bamboo shoots and chicken and had a really nice creamy texture and was mild on the spices. The pork was a little on the salty side for me but overall it was a nice dish and the green beans were really crunchy.

As if that wasn’t enough, we still had some more dishes to try. This was one of my favourites, and I think another lighter option for those wanting to watch the calorie intake. The Pad Thai was stunning. This is one of my favourite Thai dishes, but to have it made fresh to order by a Thai chef and to watch him make it in front of your eyes in the middle of the restaurant is really special. I went for the vegetarian (tofu) option, but they also had chicken.

The finished product was stunning, and again you could add bits and season yourself to get the balance just how you like it with crushed peanuts and fresh lime. It was steaming hot, the tofu and egg tasted fresh and the veggies were crisp and delicious. The chef was a really nice chap too 🙂

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Traditional Pad Thai ❤

So after this epic feast, there was just puddings to go. I must admit, Thai puddings don’t really have anything on English, French or American. But we tried all options with an open mind and were in some cases, pleasantly surprised. First up was the Kanom Krok (coconut cakes) which were again being made fresh on a large purpose made hotplate that gently cooked the coconut milk, rice, sugar and spring onion (yes you read that correctly!) and the other dish we tried was the i-teem Kati (coconut ice cream with traditional Thai toppings). The coconut cakes were nice, quite light and sweet. However, I wasn’t keen on spring onion as a topping, I found this a little too savoury for a dessert!

The coconut ice cream however was delicious. The toppings were a little strange (diced sweet potato in a sweet syrup!) but overall this was a lovely way to end traditional Thai feast, particularly when washed down with a cup of kaffee bolan – Thai coffee served with sweet condensed milk. Naughty, but very nice indeed:-)

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed this culinary adventure and enjoyed the vast majority of all the dishes we tried. I think the introduction of street food to the Sunday buffet is fantastic. It adds a new sense of adventure and makes the whole thing a really fun thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.

There were lots of families there with young children, so I’d say the buffet was a great place for families and a good way to introduce kids to the exotic flavours of Thailand by allowing them try little bits that they like the look of.

This epic feast has also got us planning our trip to Thailand! Thanks very much to Steve and Mai for inviting me 🙂

Find out more about Chilli Banana on their website here, and to book a table at the Wilmslow Sunday Buffet, contact below:

The Chilli Banana Thai Restaurant,
71 Water Lane,
Wilmslow,
Cheshire,
SK9 5BQ

T: 01625 539 100

E: wilmslow@chillibanana.co.uk


I was invited to the Chilli Banana to sample the new menu and as such the meal was complimentary, However, as with all of my reviews, my thoughts and opinions are as honest and objective as possible.
Cheshire Food Blogger

Flat Iron steak with rocket, Parmesan & potato wedges

So it’s nearly the first ‘proper’ weekend after the Christmas and New Year break… How is everybody feeling? Are you ready for another feast yet? If not, fear not, as this might just get you in the mood…

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This recipe is a real weekend treat – Flat Iron steak with all the delicious gastro-pub style trimmings. Consider it a big, fat WELL DONE to you if you’ve been watching what you eat this week. It’s now time to treat yo’ self. This meal also really does make you feel as if you’ve just eaten out at your favourite pub or Italian eatery but for a fraction of the price too, which is even more brilliant in January of all months.

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400g Flat Iron steak from the butchers at the Cheshire Smoke House.

Flat Iron steak is also known as butlers’ steak or shoulder top blade roast. It’s from the top of the front leg of the animal (hence the name shoulder) and is packed full of flavour and marbled with a fair bit of fat. Make sure you ask your butcher to remove any excess fat or gristle so you can just get on with cooking and enjoying it.

I get mine from the Cheshire Smoke House (just outside Wilmslow) and at £5.99 for 400g that EASILY feeds two, this is such excellent value for money as well as down right delicious.

I cannot stress the importance of rest time in this recipe, so do not skip it and you should end up with something really tender, pink and juicy.

What you need:

  • 400g Flat Iron steak (at room temperature before cooking)
  • sea salt flakes
  • black pepper
  • chilli flakes
  • 2 medium potatoes (I like Maris Piper)
  • olive oil
  • balsamic glaze (I use this one)
  • half a punnet button mushrooms
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • half a pack of ready-to-eat rocket
  • 15-20g freshly shaved Parmesan cheese

What to do:

Lightly rub both sides on the meat with olive oil then season generously with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and chilli flakes. I find one pinch of chilli flakes per side of the steak gives enough ‘heat’ but if you like it fiery, add more.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.

Cut your potatoes into even sized wedges. Add to a large pan of salted, boiling water and par-cook for 8 minutes. Drain well in a colander and allow the moisture to evaporate from them. Transfer to a roasting tray and drizzle/toss with plenty of olive oil, then season well with sea salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 30 mins – turning once to ensure they cook evenly.

Half the mushrooms and add to a small frying pan with the ghee, garlic paste and dried thyme. When the wedges have 15 mins cooking time remaining, turn on the heat beneath the mushrooms to the lowest setting. These will now cook slowly until everything else is ready. Keep and eye on them and stir/toss when necessary.

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Mushrooms with ghee, garlic paste and dried thyme

Heat a heavy-based griddle or frying pan read for the seasoned steak. When the pan is nice and hot, add the steak and cook for 2 mins on each side. And no more than that for a nice, rare and juicy steak.

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steak on the griddle with the mushrooms sizzling away.

Immediately remove the steak from the pan and wrap in tin foil to rest and keep warm for up to 10 mins (but at least 5 mins). This bit is the key to epic steak – so don’t skip it!

Arrange the rocket on each plate, sprinkle with Parmesan shavings and drizzle with the balsamic oil. Add the wedges and mushrooms to the plate and slice your steak diagonally with the sharpest knife you own.

Dig in & enjoy.

Sophie -x-

Cheshire Food Blogger
Brad’s juicy portion with plenty of wedges and loads of garlic mushrooms!
Cheshire Food Blogger

What the Pho?!

Before Christmas I ate out at Pho, Manchester, with my little sister Hannah B. We had a bit of a feast. Plus wine. We were catching up, it was a Saturday. It was all very fun indeed. Here’s a little more about the scran…

Pho brings Vietnamese food to Manchester’s Corn Exchange

Set in the newly refurbished and very stunning Corn Exchange, this place is a true delight. Over 3 floors, the ground floor welcomes you to high ceilings, super-cool decor (including trendy neon lights) and a little bar in the corner that serves some great wines, cocktails and beers. We tried their version of a mojito, rather aptly named the ‘Phojito’ and it was sharp, refreshing and delicious. I also highly rated their sauvignon blanc, and Hannah enjoyed the pinot grigio blush as we hungrily scanned the menu…

The starter collection is extensive “dipping, rolling and sharing is what our starters and sides were made for” it reads… Chicken wings, meatballs and summer rolls, to name a few.

We opted for the rather healthy fresh rice paper rolls (aka Gỏi cuốn) – king prawns meticulously wrapped in sticky rice paper with coriander, vermicelli noodles and pickles. You can choose from either ‘nước chấm’ or peanut sauce – we opted for ‘nước chấm’, a sharp, slightly sour chilli sauce that absorbs into the contents of the perfectly stuffed rice paper as you dunk.

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fresh rice paper summer rolls with herbs, vermicelli
& pickle

Being seafood lovers, we also shared the ‘Muc chiên giòn’ – tender fried baby squid with a salt, pepper & lime dip. The dip arrives separately and you get to mix it up yourself at the table, adding to it as you wish the array of table condiments (Siracha, soy or fish sauce). The squid was piping hot, juicy and fresh. We thoroughly enjoyed it.  The portion size was also very generous, so if you’re sharing like we were there is plenty to go around.

For the mains, Hannah went for prawns, again. Yes, there is a theme occurring. She chose the ‘Xào’ which was described on the menu as a ‘stir fry of chilli & greens in a mild gingery sweet sauce’. We both enjoyed it – but I would not, in any way, describe the sauce as ‘mild’. The sauce was in fact rich, light in its consistency (pictured below) and absolutely slapped you in the face with a fist full of tangy ginger and dark soy. It was amazing. But, I fear, possibly slightly misleading when described as mild!

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king prawn Xào stir fry of chilli & greens in a rich, gingery sauce

I, of course, decided to go for the Pho. I went all out and chose a house special; Pho dặc biệt: king prawns, tofu & flash fried steak with garlic in beef broth. The broth itself was full of flavour, piping hot and contained loads of fresh herbs and veggies which was delicious. The prawns were also really big, plump and juicy. The flash-fried beef however, was a little on the tough side. And I thought the tofu overtook the dish a little so I had to leave a load of it out. But apart from that the dish was tasty, filling, warming and fresh. Next time I’m going to try one of the spicy seafood broths instead! No tofu!

Overall we really enjoyed our meals and I am looking forward to returning to try more dishes. The staff were very attentive, although it wasn’t too busy as we visited at 4pm on a Saturday, so in between the lunch and dinner rushes.

Have you been to Pho yet? What did you think? Would you recommend any other  places to eat in Manchester’s Corn Exchange?

I was invited to Pho to review some options from their menu, as during the launch I didn’t get any food as there wasn’t enough to go around. 🙂 However, all opinions are my own and I have tried to be as objective as possible throughout my visit and review.

Sophie -x-