Cheshire Food Blog

Chilli Banana Thai Street Food, Bramhall, Cheshire

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.

Cheshire Food Blog
One of Chilli Banana’s talented street food chefs, making Pad Thai to order

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!

Cheshire Food Blog
The slow-cooked Thai pork belly ❤

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.

Cheshire Food Blog
Spicy Thai red chicken curry with green beans

We also tried the Thai green curry – much more mellow and coconut focussed but still light and packed full of flavour.

Cheshire Food Blog
Thai Green Chicken Curry with Thai sticky rice and Aubergine curry on the side ❤

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.

Cheshire Food Blog
Pad Thai with tofu ❤

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.

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.

Cheshire Food Blog
Glass Noodle Dish ❤
Cheshire Food Blog
Crazy-good Thai street food makes us pull funny faces… ❤
Cheshire Food Blog
THAT PORK and the Thai Green Curry in all it’s glory…
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What is healthy eating?

Looking after yourself is important, we all know that. The mantra that ‘you are what you eat’ is becoming increasingly apparent to me as I get older, and so recently I have been favouring an intake of more lean protein, ‘good fats’ and fibre, and in turn less sugar, saturated fats and unnecessary carbohydrates.

All the big dogs seem to be on the health-hype too. Deliciously Ella promotes a healthy lifestyle with her “clean-eating, gluten free” recipes. The Hemsley and Hemsley sisters also promote a healthy approach with their #TheArtOfEatingWell campaign, and I have recently taken to following @TheBodyCoach (Joe Wicks) on Instagram, as I love the way he is revolutionising quick-and-easy meals for gym buffs with his “#LeanIn15” recipes.

Jamie Oliver has also recently released his Everyday Super Food book, along with a full series on Channel 4; really promoting a healthy approach to food to the masses. Another firm favourite of mine is Gizzi Erskine, she’s always promoted healthy eating and her newest cookbook, Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite, shows us how healthy can be delicious and doesn’t always have to be rabbit food!

I love all of the above chefs and foodies and have taken tips from all of them (as well as recipes, of course) over the past 12 months. My version of the Hemsley sister’s light cottage pie makes use of cauliflower and sweet potato mash instead of the usual mashed white potatoes. And Gizzi’s roast duck and noodle soup is low on calories but doesn’t compromise on flavour whatsoever.

My approach to healthy eating is simple, I try to follow a sort of 80:20 rule (eating more considered 80% of the time, and relaxing it a little for the remaining 20%). When I first started my blog, there was a split between ‘Mid-week rustle up dinners’ and ‘Weekend gourmet’ dishes – so I am going to be focussing more on this approach going forwards. It works for me and can work for you too!

Below is a short list of some of my favourite bloggers who promote a healthy lifestyle:

www.spamellab.com – Pamela focusses on gluten-free, high protein, healthy AND tasty recipes, made from clean ingredients. Her #IndulgingInnocently campaign proves that you can have your cake and eat it, its shows that sweet treat don’t need to be packed full of sugar and additives.

www.tessward.com – Tess says ‘Count colours not calories and goodness not grams with simple, unprocessed, stripped back dishes.’ Her ‘naked’ recipes are vibrant, simple and gorgeous.

www.thebodycoach.co.uk/blog – I mentioned him earlier, and I will again. You can catch most of Joe’s amazing #LeanIn15 recipes on Instagram for now, but I mean it when I say his recipes are SO QUICK, SIMPLE, LEAN and taste fantastic.

www.minimalistbaker.com – these guys are so cute, and their ethos is simple: easy-to-make, delicious food, all recipes either require 10 ingredients or less, 1 pot, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. Many are vegan and/or gluten-free too.

How do you define healthy eating, and which approach do you prefer? Who are your favourite bloggers, cooks or chefs that inspire you to eat well and use fresh, quality ingredients? 

In my next blog post I will be sharing my key tips for keeping your diet healthy, fresh and interesting. Make sure you stay posted our subscribe so you don’t miss it ❤

With love, Sophie -x-

The Portly Grocer, Knutsford

I recently received a wonderful artisan food hamper from The Portly Grocer, a Knutsford-based company who work to support Britain’s finest artisans. Always one to support local businesses, I was delighted to learn that they wanted to send me some of their offerings to try, so I didn’t hesitate to get stuck in.

The hamper itself was packed full of goods – from Prince & Sons Tea Co. Jasmine Pearls tea bags to an array of Spice Entice Spice Kits (Thai Green Curry, Jamaican Jerk and Rogan Josh to be precise). Also packed in was the most delightful array of C&B CHOCOLATE BISCUITS, which really went down a treat with a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon and on a dull Tuesday in the office. I can also now say I’ve tried Wild Boar Game Pâté (delicious), and that Aubergine and Basil Paste is sooo the new pesto and if you haven’t tried it, you should… It’s heavenly.

The Portly Grocer is a husband and wife team who operate an online fine food & drinks business specialising in new up-and-coming, mainly British artisan foods.  They started nearly 12 months ago and aim to help small food producers launch their products and provide free business advice. They also don’t charge the producers to sell on their (lovely) website. Whatsmore, they have a rather wonderful story that dates back to 1884, which explains how and why they came to be in the business of sourcing and selling fine food products. If you fancy a nice little read, find the full story here.

Artisan Food Hampers

When the box promptly arrived, I was first impressed by the sheer range of goodies inside. Other things it contained included Amaretto flavoured ground coffee, luxury breakfast granola, a salad dressing vinaigrette, some chutneys and a range of rather ‘grown up’ crackers made by Cartwright & Butler. So to save this being the longest blog post in the world, here’s my thoughts on a few key products.

Spice Entice Thai Green Curry

This little spice kit promised ‘lovingly selected herbs and spices with a recipe to make a delicious dish of Thai Green Curry, to serve four’. The shopping list was quite long, but luckily I had most of it in; soy sauce, fish sauce, stock, coconut milk, palm sugar… that sort of thing, plus some fresh ingredients like garlic, onions, birds-eye chillies, veg, and chicken. I was surprised not to see fresh ginger on the shopping list for this curry, but not all green curry pastes contain it. As I had some monkfish in I was eager to use, I substituted this for the chicken. I would highly recommend this, just reduce the cooking time a little to suit the fish instead.

The recipe was really easy to follow, you do need a blender to whizz up all the ingredients for the paste (it perhaps should say that on the outer packaging) but that’s my only gripe as it was quick, simple, nutritious and delicious. Just how I like it.

Mellow Yellow Classic Vinaigrette

Apologies for the photo of the half empty bottle, but I think that goes to show how much I am enjoying this item! The main ingredient is Rapeseed oil so it’s lighter than olive oil dressings, which it really nice. And very convenient for my ‘health kick’. It’s scent and flavour is tangy as you would expect from a classic vinaigrette, and it seems to have the perfect balance of oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, herbs and seasoning. Below I have served it with a simple couscous salad with baby spinach and cherry tomatoes. Very easy to put together for a working lunch and absolutely maximum flavour with very little effort.

Olive Branch Aubergine & Basil Paste

This stuff came as a real surprise as it was wrapped so beautifully, which is part of the service if you wish, complete with cute personalised labels! At first I was a little unsure of what to make of it. Was it a pesto, a dip, a sauce? Turns out it’s all three… Such a versatile little jar of deliciousness. So far I have used it as a dip with the Cartwright & Butler Linseed and Sesame Flatbreads which worked really well. I’ve also used it in a simple pasta dish, instead of pesto and it made a really creamy, yummy sauce to coat the pasta.

Olive Branch Paste
Olive Branch Paste

Sweet Treats – Breakfast Granola and Chocolate Biscuits

Other highlights were these delicious sweeter items in the hamper. Sensible Dave’s Strawberry Granola with White Chocolate shavings is a real delight. I wouldn’t eat this on a regular basis for breakfast, but, on a Saturday morning after being good all week it’s the perfect treat and much quicker to put together than a bacon sarnie!

The Chocolate Oat Crumbles were also a firm favourite. Beautifully rich and creamy chocolate, and the biscuits were buttery and crumbly and very, very morrish. The wafers and dark chocolate and lemon varieties were also lovely, but the oat crumbles stole the show for sure.

Packaging & Attention to Detail

As The Portly Grocer’s story dates back to fine foods during the 1920’s, they are keen to replicate the attention to detail of that era; by hand-wrapping each product in luxury brown paper, and tying each one with twine in a vintage style. I must admit, the products look as good as they taste and it really makes it clear you’ve got something special on your hands.

Overall, I am really impressed with The Portly Grocer’s range of products, packaging and the service in general. Their website is also beautifully simple and very easy to navigate. It also has a lovely blog and some fantastic recipes ideas. They seemingly sell products to suit everyone – teas and biscuits for Grandma, Curry Kits for Dad’s and a huge array of everyday products that are bound to jazz-up your experience in the kitchen, all whilst supporting independent artisans – the ethos at the very heart of what they do.

If you’re looking for a gift idea for literally any type of person and for any occasion – then I would highly recommend you give these guys a whirl!

They also have an alcohol licence and have started retailing British produced spirits, with plans to expand into British gins, cassis and wines later this year. Also, you can look out for their pop-up stalls at various food & drink events in the North West.

Visit their website at www.theportlygrocer.co.uk and make sure you follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and give them a Like to show your support on Facebook.

The Home & Fine Food Co.
T/A The Portly Grocer
Booths Hall Estate
Chelford Road
Knutsford
WA16 8GS

0161 241 2791
info@theportlygrocer.co.uk


The Portly Grocer sent me this hamper to sample on a complimentary basis, but, as always my review is as honest and objective as possible ❤

The Kitchens, Leftbank, Spinningfields

So it’s about time I got my head down and wrote about this wonderful event. What with a holiday to Tunisia and then Glastonbury Festival, things have been a little hectic of late, but finally, here goes!

The Kitchens is situated at Leftbank, Spinningfields, Manchester – a retail and residential development which is home to some of Manchester’s biggest names on the Food & Drink scene (Tattu, The Oast House and Iberica – to name a few).  The company behind the development, Allied London, have given 6 of Manchester’s best street food and pop-up traders an opportunity to have their own ‘bricks and mortar’ for 12 months.

After twelve months there will be a winner – the prize will be the backing and partnership of Allied London, so assumedly they will be able to open their very own place, somewhere else. One question this springs to mind is; where will that leave the other 5? No idea, but rather than dwell, let’s focus on the here and now: Six completely awesome indie food-traders have their own space to create fantastic menus and dishes to feed the masses. And based on what I’ve tried so far, the food does not disappoint.

The Area

Leftbank is the canal side of Spinningfields, not far from Scene Indian Street Kitchen and next to The Dockyard pub. The layout of The Kitchens is pretty simple, but not quite what I expected (although I can’t put my finger on exactly what I did expect). The 6 traders are divided straight down the middle, with 3 on one side, 3 on the other, facing each other. In the middle, there is a fairly large (outdoor, but covered) area which includes some grass, and some sand for kids to play in. There is also some outside seating, in the form of beer-garden style benches. Inside, the three traders’ kitchens sit adjacent to each other, and there is some indoor seating in the form of high-stools and window tables (think Starbuck’s style, looking out towards the courtyard).

The Food

Now you hopefully have a feel for what the place looks like overall, let’s get to the main point. The food. At the launch, they were running a special deal where you could dine at one trader for free – you just had to delve your hand into a tub of wooden knives & forks and unwrap them – whichever traders’ name was on the back of the cutlery was your freebie for the event. The one I chose, rather awesomely, had no name. This meant I could choose. So I headed straight over to YAKUMAMA…

YAKUMAMA serve Latin American inspired street food that is all homemade by the lovely Hannah and Marcy – a couple duo who make everything from scratch. I first met them at Altrincham Market and I must say they are a very down-to-earth and genuinely nice couple. Their food is infused with ‘colour, fire and creativity’ according to The Kitchens website, and I cannot disagree with this statement. Their dishes are full of bold, hearty flavours and they have really gone to town to make their kitchen standout. It features a vertical, tropical garden on each side which really fits in with their Amazon forest-like theme.

YAKUMAMA's space at The Kitchens
YAKUMAMA’s space at The Kitchens

I chose the Honey and Lime Chicken Wings with Papaya, Mango and Coconut Salad with Palm Sugar, Roasted Peanuts and a Lime, Chilli and Honey Dressing. OMG. It was as good as it sounds, it was as good as it looks. So fresh, zingy, a hint of spice from the chilli and sweetness from the honey and palm sugar. It came with a huge pile of chicken wings which were so fresh and succulent the juicy meat just fell off the bones. Loved every bite. I also tried a generous portion of their signature Chicharrones homemade Latin spiced pork crackling with Guacamole – crispy, salty, crunchy and delicious. Looks impressive too!

YAKUMAMA Pork Crackling
YAKUMAMA Chicharrones Pork Crackling

At the time, their gas wasn’t working (which was a huge shame – I hope Allied London have pulled their finger out and got this sorted now!) – as the other dish I was desperate to try was their Crispy Calamari with Cayenne & Paprika, Whole Fried Chillies, Lemon Aioli and Maldon Sea Salt. I know. Are you drooling yet? Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

BANGERS & BACON's space at The Kitchens
BANGERS & BACON’s space at The Kitchens

In true foodie style and determined not to just try one of the 6 vendor’s offerings, I decided to visit Bangers and Bacon as I had heard so many good things about them, including their Chef’s Table events. Their kitchen is directly opposite Yakumama, across the courtyard.

BANGERS & BACON do awesome things with pigs. Sounds wrong, but trust me, it is so, so right! Run by trio James and Heather Taylor and Richard Brown –  these guys really do know what they’re doing in the kitchen when it comes to celebrating the wonder that is all things PORK. According to The Kitchen’s website, they are “bacon bandits, sultans of sausage, back bacon billionaires,” enough said, really. On the night of the launch I tried a variety box which showcased some of their signature dishes: Porchetta – Rolled and stuffed Porchetta (middle of pork marinated in herbs garlic and stuffed ) served on a toasted Pletzel Roll with salsa verde and mixed leaves. Mutha Porka – Italian infused pork patty wrapped in homemade dry cured streaky bacon and mature cheddar cheese, on a bun with Slaw and homemade Mustard Pickle. All of which tasted completely divine!

I also tried their Sausage Nuggets – which speak for themselves, Manchester Calamari – which is crispy pig’s ears and Bacon Browniesyes, you read correctly, the most awesome brownies with bacon pieces made by Ginger TartAll of their food was delicious, especially the Mutha Porka burger which was so succulent tasty.

My friend and company for the evening, the lovely Jo from Taste Today, picked out CHAAT CART for her freebie option. These guys serve ‘real Indian street food’ so I think she was pretty impressed with her choice (loves a bit of spice). Chargrilled spicy chicken Kati roll with mint and yoghurt dressing and rainbow salad, which she really enjoyed, and looked delicious…

On this occasion, I was (clearly) too full to feast at any of the other traders stalls. Below is a background of them all, and some pictures that I (probably rather annoyingly) took of friend’s food…

HIP HOP CHIP SHOP are an ‘un-traditional’ fish & chip shop inspired by the inventive ethos of hip-hop culture. You can follow them on twitter here. And feast your eyes on some of their yummy offerings below:

MUMMA SCHNITZEL serve ‘Schnitzel love in a bun‘, put simply as per the Kitchen’s descriptions. I have tried their chicken burgers before at other food events, are they are the Schnitz-niz.

WHOLESOME & RAW according to The Kitchen’s, these guys serve “fruit and veg ALIVE with enzymes and nutrients prepared and juiced before you”. Sounds kind of boring, right? Well let me tell you, on the launch night they were serving up a storm. Their kitchen seemed really popular, and on the specials they were serving up Raw Pad Thai and it honestly looked so fresh and vibrant. It’s great to see such a healthy street food vendor on board too, showing that flavour doesn’t always need to be full of calories!

Overall I really enjoyed the launch of The Kitchen’s and I really wish the guys all the best in finding their ‘bricks and mortar’ feet. Having had a chat to a few of the traders, I think it has taken some getting used to, but hopefully they are being supported by Allied London in any way possible!

Irwell Square,
Leftbank, Spinningfields,
Manchester
M3 3AG

Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.


Luke’s Eating House, Chester

Last Friday, it was date night. So Bradley and I popped on our best frocks (ok, he was wearing trou’) and off we went to dine in our County’s capital, CHESTER. We dressed up a little more than usual, as we knew it was the weekend of Chester Races, so we didn’t want to appear out of place.

Luke’s Eating House is located on 10 St John St, Chester, opposite the Roman Amphitheatre and just down the road from nightclub Cruise. Head chef is Luke Thomas, a young, ambitious and and successful chef who I believe is only in his early 20’s. Luke is Britain’s youngest head chef, and he and a team of talented young individuals aim to “cook rustic, honest, elegant food that takes your senses from classic, old school and nostalgic flavours to reinvented modern dishes”. Having read this on his website and having drooled over the food photography on the site, I couldn’t wait to try some of his food for myself.

Luke's Eating House, Chester
Luke’s Eating House, Chester

On arrival to the Eating House, the downstairs bar was in full swing (our reservation was for 8:30pm on a Friday evening). Downstairs is Gin Rickey’s – a specialist gin and cocktail bar who serve all the drinks for Luke’s Eating House. We were guided upstairs by the host via a lift to the first floor, and there we arrived at the mezzanine floor restaurant.

The Drinks

We were seated in a lovely half-moon booth, with a great view of the kitchen, which is open for diners to see. We first of all took a look at the drinks & cocktail menu which was impressive in it’s choice, descriptions and well-taken photos of the drinks. You really would find it difficult to make a bad choice from this cocktail menu, as the key flavours, ingredients and key flavours are all cleverly mapped out for you.

Bradley opted for the Dark Passion PunchKraken Spiced Rum, fresh raspberries and strawberries, sugar syrup, lime juice, apple juice and ginger ale.  He said it was one of the best cocktails he’s ever tasted, I had a taste to confirm and it really was delicious. The balance of flavours was so well thought-out, you could still taste the alcohol and the fresh fruit was plentiful and just delicious.

I went for the Ron Zacapa Cuzco – Ron Zacapa Rum, Aperol, lemon juice, grapefruit juice and simple syrup. Again this had a great balance between alcohol and fruit juice, and the same for tangy vs. sweet flavours. It was beautifully served and went really well as a palate cleanser between bites of my delicious starter!

The Food

It was tricky to choose a starter from this menu. And I say this, in all honesty, because I would have happily have ordered any one of them. There are about 8 to choose from, plus an option to go for ‘Sliders,’ which was either Smoked Beef or Seared Tuna served on grilled brioche buns with some amazing-sounding accompaniments.

After a little umming and ahhing, I went for the Pan roast scallops served with Katsu curry, mango, coriander & toasted almonds. I’d never heard of scallops served this way before, with Katsu curry (something I love) so I simply had to try it. Bradley opted for the Salt & pepper fried squid with wasabi aioli.

We both thoroughly enjoyed our starters. My scallops were tender, juicy and the Katsu curry was a light and delicate purée beneath them. It wasn’t until I’d finished the dish I realised it was spicy. That gentle, warming kind of spice that builds up to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bradley’s squid was a delight too: hot, crispy and perfectly cooked. Presentation was also lovely for both dishes, Brad’s was served with chopsticks and on a piece of brown paper (which reminded me of the street-food element behind this dish) and mine was served on the most elegant plate topped with baby coriander leaves, which was lovely as it kept the coriander flavour at-bay as to not overpower the dish.

Onto the mains, and as we had also finished our cocktails it was time to order more drinks. Bradley opted for the same again (he liked it that much), and as I was having lamb for my main I opted for a glass of red. From memory I chose a Cabernet Sauvignon – which came served in a beautiful huge glass, and was poured at the table even though I only order it by the glass. I thought this was a really nice touch.

For the main course, Bradley went for the Satay  – twice cooked chicken, peanut & honey, satay sauce, golden raisin and tender stem broccoli. I opted for the Welsh Lamb – a 250g Harissa infused rump, grilled fennel, olive oil mashed potato, tapenade and piquillo pepper ketchup. Both dishes were presented beautifully, the satay chicken piled atop the smooth satay sauce with the vegetables neatly placed on the side. Mine was more a work of art, the mash in the middle with the lamb placed around the edges. The plate elaborately decorated with the bright colours of the vibrant red piquillo pepper ketchup, tapenade, fennel and some greenery.

The Welsh lamb was pink all the way through, and it tasted amazing. It literally melted in my mouth. I honestly don’t think I have tasted lamb rump so flavoursome and tender. The Harissa infusion was delicate but more prominent on the edges of the meat, it was mouth-wateringly good. The tapenade was sharp and rich, and the ketchup was sweet with a hint of spice. The olive oil mash was dreamy, so smooth and rich but it carried the other big flavours really well. Overall, one of the best main course dishes I have had recently.

Brad’s chicken was tender and juicy and the satay sauce was really delicious. The raisins added an extra element of sweetness to the dish, which we were not sure it needed (as it already contained honey), so he didn’t eat all of the raisins to avoid this. Another slight downfall to this dish was that is was also served with a large helping of blanched ribbons of cucumber. This was not in the description of the dish on the menu, so came as a surprise. The steamed tenderstem broccoli was delicious however, so more of this would have been welcomed! Overall though, the chicken and satay parts of the dish were fantastic.

To accompany our meals we also had some side orders ‘For the Table’ (as the menu encourages): Lobster Mac & Cheese and Hand Cut Chips with Truffle & Parmesan.

The Mac & Cheese was delicious, it was a hearty serving size and we couldn’t finish it – which shows it would be substantial enough to serve more than 2 as a side. The pasta was well cooked and the lobster pieces were bigger than I had expected, so overall we were impressed.  The dish did contain a lot of mushrooms – which I loved because, I love mushrooms. Mushrooms were not mentioned as part of this dish on the menu, but they did form a substantial element to the dish.

The chips were lovely too, crispy, soft in the middle and seasoned really well. Not sure the Truffle Oil and Parmesan was worth the extra £1 (taking the total cost of this portion of chips up to £4.50!) but they really did taste delicious.

Our final course of the evening… Desserts. After all this decadent food we feeling pretty full, but there’s always room for pudding (especially when they sound this good,) so we were not about to let that stop us! I ordered the Apple Panna Cotta, served with spiced brioche, salted caramel and stem ginger ice cream. It was amazing. Every bite of it. I couldn’t finish the whole thing, because the portion size was so generous, but in hindsight we should have shared this pudding between us and asked for 2 spoons. The ginger stem ice cream was light and not too sweet, the bites of brioche were really sweet and a little chewy which went with the ice cream well. The panna cotta itself was creamy and very indulgent, but the apple flavour was lovely with everything else going on. The popcorn garnish was fab too, this was a really good pud.

Brad opted for the Lemon Meringue which was Posset & Curd, Italian meringue, smashed raspberries and candied lemon. Overall, he found this dessert overly sweet to the point where is was a little sickly. However, the meringue pieces were deliciously chewy which gave the dish some texture. Next time, one pudding – two spoons, for sure!

Overall, we really enjoyed our meals and date night at Luke’s / Gin Rickey’s and it is certainly a food-destination I would recommend and return to in the future. Luke’s menu is vibrant, fresh and full of bold flavours and the setting is trendy and relaxed. The staff were also really friendly and tentative, so overall a great location for friends, family, dates or even colleagues if you work in Chester.

 

Luke’s / Gin Rickey’s, 10 ST JOHN ST, CHESTER, CH1 1DA

Follow them on TwitterInstagram & Facebook.


*I was invited to review Luke’s Eating House and did not pay for my meal. However, my opinions are my own and I have been as honest as possible throughout this review. 

Makers Market, Knutsford

On Sunday we visited the Makers Market in Knutsford, and I must say it’s one of the nicest markets I have been to for a while. They have so much stuff on offer. First and foremost, an amazing array of different food stalls, all seemingly quirky and charming in their own little way. From ‘cake in a jar’ made by Alex’s Bakery (yes, literally ready-to-scoff jars of sponge cake heaven – in a jar, with a spoon) to Thai-inspired pies from Orn’s Thai Fusions (who use authentic Thai flavours fused with classic British savouries). Other very noteworthy stalls were Hemingway’s Pasta – from whom which I bought the most delicious pesto which is so fresh, made from only 5 ingredients and it’s freezable. Wood’s Butchers stall also never disappoints, which is always situated right outside their shop. They sell some of the most delicious and succulent sausages I have ever tasted. We didn’t buy any this time as we’re fully stocked at home, but they are always very forthcoming with their pre-cooked (to perfection) samples!

An old time favourite of mine, The Great Northern Pie Company were also there, with some dashing new flavours on offer. It was also great to see some very friendly faces from Altrincham Market – Duncan from Bounceback Foods was there with a beautiful new stall, showing off his fantastic new branding and flyers. His stall is aptly located right opposite the Methodist Church – one of Knutsford’s main food banks. Nice and easy for him to just pop over there with his donations after a hard days graft at the market! Perfect!

After a long and relaxed walk up and down the stalls it was time to get our scran on. I was very excited to learn that Nasi Lemak had a pop-up stall at the Makers Market this weekend, so for me, the lunchtime choice was easy; Sambal King Prawn served with rice, peanuts, crispy anchovies and chillies. Delicious, as always. They were so popular, that by mid-afternoon they had completely sold out of everything. Nice work!

Sambal King Prawn
Sambal King Prawn, Nasi Lemak

My friends opted for pizza, and they were not disappointed. Sourdough bases are hand-rolled in front of your eyes, topped with fresh ingredients and popped in the oven – Wood Fire Smoke do make wonderful pizzas, I can confirm 🙂

Funghi Pizza
Funghi Pizza, Wood Fire Smoke

Just to give you a little insight into what we bought and ate, below are some pictures to whet your appetite. I have tried to link you up to each supplier, but in some instances (rather annoyingly!) these guys don’t always have a website or a social media page, so I have done my best!

Orn's Thai Fusions
Orn’s Thai Fusions

The featured image above is one of these gorgeous Thai-style scotch-eggs, made by Orn’s Thai Fusions. Meaty, totally flavoursome and with a hint of spice. They use duck-eggs so the yolk was lovely and big. It even came with a yummy Thai-style dipping sauce. All for £2. Delicious.

Alex's Bakery - Cake in a Jar
Alex’s Bakery – Cake in a Jar

If you hit the market you simply have to buy one of these little ‘cake in a jar’ things from Alex’s Bakery, who I believe are based in Stockport. Only one photo of the little thing as it was enjoyed with a cup of tea as soon as we got home, and it was honestly delicious. So much nicer than a cupcake, great idea and you get to keep the pretty jar! Lovely.

Bounceback Foods
Bounceback Foods

Bounceback Food sell high quality, staple ingredients on a ‘One for you, One for Society’ basis. That means, every time you purchase a product from them, they donate one of the same quality to your local foodbank. I have worked with Bounceback Foods before, so read more about their amazing cause here.

Above are some snaps of the delicious pizza’s being knocked-out by Wood Fire Smoke. We tried the Funghi (Tomato, mozzarella, basil, portobello mushrooms & white truffle butter) and the Nduja (Tomato, mozzarella, basil & nduja) varieties, and were not disappointed by either. Delicious, fresh and they look amazing too.

I am a huge fan of Nasi Lemak, their Malaysian street-food food is authentic, fresh, vibrant and fast. They are always so busy and all of their signature dishes taste incredible.

Next we bought this awesome pesto from Hemingway’s Pasta. With only 5 ingredients, it really is as fresh as it gets. I love making my own pesto, but this week these guys saved me a job. We teamed it with The Cheshire Smokehouse’s bacon offcuts and spinach for an easy mid-week pasta dish.

After our delicious Pesto pasta dish, we treated ourselves to Jo’s Cheshire Kitchen Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. You get 2 (big) portions from the box which cost £3.95 which is pretty good value for something completely homemade. As you can imagine it is really sweet, but a big helping of double cream helps to tone it down a little. She has gluten, wheat free and vegan versions available too which is a great idea.

I paid for all of the products/food featured in the above article, and none of the sellers knew I was going to review their products.


 

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

Ultimate Tabasco Menu: #FunWithFlavour

After the success of Tabasco’s #BestOfTheBrunch campaign (check out my brunch recipes here, and here) I was recently contacted again by the lovely people at Tabasco, but this time to be a part of their newest challenge #FunWithFlavour. This time, the bar has been raised and the focus is now about celebrating Tabasco’s uncanny ability to transform almost any dish.

In true food-blogger style, of course I agreed to become a #FunWithFlavour ambassador, and in doing so agreed to the challenge to create my very own ‘Ultimate Tabasco Menu’ – incorporating Tabasco Sauce into a Starter, Main Course and Dessert. An additional aspect was to throw in a cocktail concoction too, which I honestly couldn’t do on my own – so roped in some help from good friend and Bar Manager Nick Whitby, of the award winning New World Trading Company (yes, the company behind awesome bar/restaurants The Botanist and The Oast House). Nick is the genius behind the cocktail creation to accompany my menu. Nice work, Nick! -x-

I decided on a South American theme to my dishes, recently inspired by my visits to local food events and markets. Below is a summary of my Tabasco #FunWithFlavour menu, just click the links for the individual recipes! I hope you enjoy!

Cocktail: Red Chilli Caipirinha with Tabasco Original

Red Chilli Caipirinha created by Nick from @TheNWTC
Red Chilli Caipirinha created by Nick from @TheNWTC

If this doesn’t wet your appetite for a spicy Tabasco infused meal, I don’t know what will! For the full recipe and spec, click here. Thanks, Nick!

Starter: Spicy King Prawn Empanadas, infused with Tabasco Habanero

Spicy King Prawn Empanadas made with Filo pastry & Tabasco Habanero
Spicy King Prawn Empanadas made with Filo pastry & Tabasco Habanero

Empanadas are a staple dish in South America. They are a sort of pasty and are usually filled with minced beef, veggies or cheese and are more than often spicy! I have decided to use a filo pastry here, to keep them nice as light as a starter. For the full recipe, click here.

Main Course: Sirloin Steak with Tabasco Jalapeno Chimichurri

Flat Iron Steak with Tabasco Jalapeno Chimichurri, Spiralized Courgetti & Parmesan dusted chips
Sirloin Steak with Tabasco Jalapeno Chimichurri, Spiralized Courgetti & Parmesan dusted chips

For the main course I decided on the simple yet effective chimichurri sauce to enhance a standard steak and chips recipe! The Tabasco Jalapeno adds the perfect kick to the chimichurri, which also goes well to liven up the courgetti and pea side dish. For the full recipe, click the picture or here.

Dessert: Smoked Chilli Chocolate Brownies with Tabasco Chipotle 

Cinnamon & Smoked Chilli Chocolate Brownies with Tabasco Chipotle
Smoked Chilli Chocolate Brownies with Tabasco Chipotle

Finally, an easy brownie recipe with a hint of Tabasco smoked spice! The Tabasco Chipotle is certainly one of my favourites – it is has a smoked BBQ flavour which almost has a sweetness to it. Very yummy indeed, for the full recipe, click here.

Please Like & Share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if you fancy trying these recipes at home, and remember to use the @Tabasco_UK hashtag #FunWithFlavour! -x-


 

Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

It’s really easy nowadays to create authentic tasting Thai curries and broths with very, very little effort. Obviously you can’t beat the real deal, and there is nothing better than a homemade curry paste to really inject your food with fresh, full and pungent flavours. But, for a mid-week dinner to rustle up after a long day a work, Thai curries are one of my super easy, quick, no-fuss dinners to whirl together in next to no time. The classic Thai red/Thai green flavours are delicious with chicken, king prawns or just veggies. I either serve them with steamed basmati rice or very thin rice noodles (the noodle version is more like a broth as opposed to a curry – the perfect warming dish for a cold, wintery night).

I like to add lots of fresh chilli, ginger, lemongrass, basil/coriander and lime juice to really give the flavours a boost, without too much effort.

Thai Chicken Noodle Broth
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

Here is the recipe for my classic Thai Chicken Noodle Broth, which serves 2 and takes about 30 mins from wok to bowl.

What you need:

  • 2 skinless free-range chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 3cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 fresh limes
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, outer layer removed
  • a teaspoon of fish sauce
  • handful of fresh coriander (leaves removed and stalks finely chopped)
  • 1 400ml can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Thai Red curry paste (I use Taste Thai which you can get in most supermarkets and some delis)
  • 2 nests of rice noodles (I use Sainsbury’s)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • prawn crackers, to serve

What to do:

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large wok over a high heat. Once melted, add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes until slightly brown on the outside
  2. Add the sliced garlic, half of the sliced chilli and all of the chopped coriander stalks and continue to stir fry for another minute
  3. Once the ingredients start to release their fragrance, add the curry paste and continue to stir, coating all of the chicken
  4. Add the fish sauce and stir-fry for another minute whilst you bash the lemongrass stalk with the handle end of a knife to help release its fragrance
  5. Add the tin of coconut milk and the bashed lemongrass to the wok, and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer
  6. Simmer the broth for about 8-10 mins until the chicken is cooked through
  7. Whilst your curry broth is simmering, prepare the rice noodles as per the packet instructions (I use Sainsbury’s nests of rice noodles which cook in 3 mins)
  8. Drain the noodles and divide them into 2 warm bowls
  9. Take the broth off the heat and remove the lemongrass stalk. Squeeze in the juice of one whole lime and stir well
  10. Use a ladle to divide the broth into the two bowls of noodles
  11. Top the bowls with the rest of the sliced red chilli and finely chopped coriander leaves
  12. Serve with prawn crackers, and a wedge of lime!
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

Hope you enjoy this one! Sophie -x-

Mushroom & ‘Smokehouse’ Smoked Streaky Bacon Risotto

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As some of you may know, I wrote my first article for Taste Today last week, and it was based on the wonderful Cheshire Smokehouse, their history, their food and their amazing shop based just on the outskirts of Wilmslow, Cheshire.

As part of the article, I chose a product off their shelves and with the help of the Smokehouse’s owner Darren Ward, told the readers all about the full life cycle of their wonderful smoked streaky bacon. I then put it in this wonderfully indulgent, satisfying and creamy risotto.

You can read the full article on Taste Today’s website by clicking here, but for now, please enjoy the recipe from it! This scrumptious dish serves 4 people, and takes about 35 minutes.

What you need:

  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 6-8 rashers of The Cheshire Smokehouse Smoked Streaky Bacon, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1L good quality chicken stock
  • 300g risotto rice
  • Handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 100ml dry white wine (plus extra, for sipping whilst stirring, if desired!)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated to serve

What to do:

  1. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or ceramic casserole dish and cook the onion and Cheshire Smokehouse Smoked Streaky Bacon for 5 minutes until soft.
  2. Add the mushrooms, garlic and bay leaf, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes – until the mushrooms really start to release their juices.
  3. Stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the wine, and continue to cook (and stir) until all the liquid and juices from the mushrooms have been absorbed.
  5. Next, add the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring well and waiting for most of the stock to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful. This process with take about 20 minutes – so I recommend you grab yourself a glass of wine as a reward for all this laborious activity!
  6. Continue until all the stock is added and the rice is cooked.
  7. Once the rice is cooked, removed the risotto from the heat and add the lemon zest, fresh parsley and season to taste with the black pepper.
  8. Serve with a little extra parsley and some grated Parmesan.

Hope you enjoy this one, love Sophie -x-

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