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.

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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! ūüíďūüėćūüíď

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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.

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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‚Äôd –¬†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‚Äôd –¬†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‚Äôd –¬†Hickory BBQ Flavour Crisps
  10. The Day Sweet and Sour Became Friends -Sweet & Sour Flavour Crisps
  11. Cousin Maisie‚Äôs Fennel and Lemon Popcorn –¬†Fennel and Lemon Flavour
  12. Ambrose Popperley‚Äôs Wasabi Popcorn –¬†Wasabi Flavour
  13. Aunty Winifred‚Äôs Sweet and Salty Popcorn –¬†Sweet and Salty¬†Flavour
  14. Captain Theodore‚Äôs Lime and Sea Salt Popcorn –¬†Lime and Salt Flavour
  15. Cornelius Popperley‚Äôs Sour Cream and Chive Popcorn –¬†Sour Cream and Chive Flavour
  16. Lucia Popperley’s Cappuccino Popcorn- Cappuccino Flavour
  17. Cousin Penelope‚Äôs Strawberry & Cream Popcorn –¬†Strawberry & Cream Flavour

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Cheshire Food Blogger

Fluffy Eggs and Mushrooms on Toast

Scrambled eggs on toast is a wonderful veggie option for brunch, especially at the weekend. Here is my recipe for a quick, simple and satisfying breakfast that you can rustle up in no time.

#bestofthebrunch
#bestofthebrunch

Weekends are all about a lie-in and a decent brunch – if you ask me. Here’s a weekend breakfast classic which is quick, easy and not all that unhealthy. Fluffy scrambled eggs with herby mushrooms on granary toast. Mmmm. A splash of Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce at the end tastes great and helps if you have a hangover!

You’ll need a wok or a large frying pan for the scrambled eggs, and a little separate frying pan is perfect for the ‘shrooms.

This recipe serves 2, and takes about 10-15 minutes in total.

What you need:

  • 5 free-range eggs
  • a dash of milk
  • a small handful of finely chopped, flat-leaf parsley (or you could use thyme or coriander – whatever you fancy)
  • a big handful of sliced chestnut mushrooms
  • a shallot, very finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • ¬†2 knobs of butter or spreadable Lurpak
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • 4 slices of granary bread
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

What to do:

  1. prep your work station – get the wok and frying pan ready on the hob, toast in the toaster (but don’t toast just yet) and get your plates and cutlery out ready.
  2. crack your eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork, adding the dash of milk and salt and pepper. Mix in half of the chopped parsley.
  3. put one of the knobs of butter into small frying pan with the olive oil, and wait until it starts to foam. Then, add the sliced mushrooms and chopped shallots (if using). Leave them to fry gently, tossing every 30 seconds or so.
  4. add the other knob of butter to the wok and again, wait until it starts to foam (a medium heat should do it), pour in the eggs and using a wooden spatula start to stir them immediately, continuing to stir until they start to come together.
  5. pop the toast down in the toaster!
  6. as the eggs cook – turn down the heat, but keep folding them over with the spatula.
  7. check your mushrooms to make sure they are going nice and golden, and add the chopped garlic and the rest of the fresh parsley for the last 30 seconds or so.
  8. by this point you should be ready to bring it all together, get your toast buttered and serve the scrambled eggs on one slice, then a generous pile of the mushrooms on the other.
  9. season to taste with freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of Tabasco hot sauce to taste! Enjoy!

Cheshire Food Blogger

Recipe: Courgetti with lean beef Bolognese ragu

I was recently inspired by Taste Today and their use of Spiralizers (read about their reviews of different products here, plus 10% discount code to purchase), so I thought I would dust off my own Spiralizer and get to work on a new healthy mid-week dinner recipe.

Obviously you can eat this meal at any time. But I find with meals like ‘spag-bol,’ its great to make a large batch then portion-up and freeze, ready for those evenings when you get in from work and have no energy other than to press ding on the microwave. As I tend to indulge a little more at the weekends (who doesn’t), I have made this recipe as healthy as possible, without compromising on flavour. It’s low on the carbs, low on fat and contains no Gluten* but still really tastes delicious and so, so satisfying!

This recipe makes 6 hearty portions of Bolognese ragu – but you can split it up into smaller portions if you wish (it makes up to 10 if you count 1 portion as 1 ladle full). It takes 60 minutes to make in total. Use 1 large courgette per person for the courgetti.

What you need:

  • 2 medium onions, very finely sliced or whizzed in a food processor
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2-3¬†tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 400g extra lean beef mince (I use this one from Muscle Foods)
  • 125g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 100g red lentils
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes (I use Cirio)
  • 500ml good quality beef stock*
  • 1 tbsp dried Oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried Basil
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 large courgettes, or 3 medium ones
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • a handful of fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • a sprinkle of finely grated Pecorino cheese, to serve

*for a gluten free recipe, GF stock can be used.

What to do:

1. Heat 2 tbsp of the Rapeseed oil in a large heavy-based sauce pan with a lid. Add the onions and sweat them over a low-medium heat for 3-5 minutes until just translucent. Add the garlic and stir, cooking for a further 2-3 mins – but don’t let onions or garlic brown. Add a tad more Rapeseed oil if needed.

2. Break the lean minced beef into chunks and add to the pan, stirring well until the beef begins to brown (about 6-7 minutes).Once the meat has just cooked through (no longer pink). Next add the red lentils and the mushrooms and continue to stir everything together whilst the mushrooms begin to wilt (about 3 minutes).

Lean beef mixture cooking, with the lentils and mushrooms just added
Lean beef mixture cooking, with the lentils and mushrooms just added

3. Add the beef stock and the two tins of chopped tomatoes, stir everything together, then mix in the dried basil and oregano. Season well with freshly ground black pepper.

4. Bring to the boil, and simmer with the lid on for 40 minutes.

5. Whilst the ragu is cooking, ‘Spiralise’ your courgettes. I prefer the thin noodle setting, but I have taken a picture of both settings so you can decide which you prefer (see below).

5. After 40 minutes, remove the lid and check the consistency of the ragu – if it’s a bit thick, add a little boiling water and continue to cook without the lid for a further 10-15 minutes over a low simmer.

The Bolognese ragu after 40 minutes, add a splash of hot water if the sauce is too thick
The Bolognese ragu after 40 minutes, add a splash of hot water if the sauce is too thick

6. Whilst the ragu is finishing off, heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over a low-medium heat. When the pan is warm, add the ‘courgetti’ and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly so they don’t catch. Add the fresh parsley at the last 30 seconds and stir through.

7. Divide the courgetti between warm bowls, then top with a ladle of the ragu Bolognese. Top with more freshly ground black pepper and some Pecorino cheese to taste.

<3 Voila - Courgetti with lean beef Bolognese ragu! <3
‚̧ Voila – Courgetti with lean beef Bolognese ragu! ‚̧

If you try this recipe at home, please send me a tweet (@sophiesscran), Instagram tag (@sophiesscran), Facebook mention or use the comments box below! ‚̧

Urban Burger Bar, Altrincham

I recently joined a couple of workmates in a local burger bar for dinner.  We chose the Urban Burger Bar in Altrincham, as the reviews were pretty good, and of course, we all love burgers.

Photos of our visit are quite limited (to just 2!) as my phone battery was running low and I was driving to Liverpool that evening and needed it as a sat-nav. So, instead of going wild and taking copious amounts of photographs, we sat down, relaxed and got to choosing our burgers from their rather extensive range!

Located on Greenwood Street, they are just a 5 minute walk from Altrincham Station, and very close to Altrincham Market. The place has been decorated well with a rustic, laid-back vibe which I really liked. We didn’t book, so we opted for a window seat where we settled ourselves on high, grey metal stools and high wooden tables. Other seating options included regular tables and chairs and some comfy looking, bright cushioned booths towards the back of the restaurant. The bar is situated in the middle of the dining space.

The staff were very friendly and attentive, offering to talk us through the menu and explaining that all their beef burgers are served pink, unless you wish to have them cooked otherwise.

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The Wellington

Having saved ourselves all day, we were hungry. So (2 of us) we went for the double-stack options, which I thought were really reasonable in price. Lucia ordered¬†the “The Wellington” which was a double beef patty, toasted bun, truffle mayo, saut√©ed mushrooms, maple mustard, spinach, double Jack cheese and dill pickle. I know, right!? A FEAST IN A BUN! She really enjoyed it. Ate every last bite. Little fatty!

The Firecracker
The Firecracker

Being the spice-lover that I am, I could resist in going for “The Firecracker”. This one was also a double beef patty (also a fatty), toasted bun, jalape√Īo and chilli’s, Jack cheese, tomato, salad and ‘Urban’ sauce. The meat itself was tender, juicy and absolutely full of flavour. Well seasoned and cooked as described – ‘just through’. The chips were also delicious, freshly cooked and crispy, as well as lightly seasoned with some salt which was nice. The garlic mayo was also a highlight, it came served in mini glass Kilner-style jars, which was a little awkward, but I can see what they were trying to do and it does fit in with the ‘trendy’ theme.

Aimee, my not-so-greedy friend, went for the “Urban Chick” Chicken breast burger, toasted bun, urban sauce, salad Jack cheese, bbq sauce, bacon & salad. She really enjoyed it and went for the grilled chicken option, as opposed to the ‘Urban fried chicken’ version. I know, good on her. She healthy!

As we were nearing the end of our meal (around 7pm), the place started to fill up. To my surprise, the clientele was very mixed in age, which I think is a good sign. There were families with children aged about 10-12 years old, all seemingly enjoying chowing down on a proper beef burger. Goes to show this place is popular with local families, for a reasonably priced treat for the kids after school.

Overall, I would recommend the Urban Burger Bar to anyone who is a fan of a decent burger. Their restaurant is cool and the menu is pretty extensive. They also have an ice-cream bar where you can choose your own sweets and chocolate toppings – probably very popular with the kids (and the big-kids, of course!) The only thing I would say is that with burger’s becoming (and staying) increasingly popular, especially in Manchester, it would be good to see some more adventurous options on the menu, to ensure they keep up with this well-established trend.

I paid full price for my meal at Urban Burger Bar, and they did not know I was going to review their food.

30-32 Greenwood St, Altrincham WA14 1RZ

Follow Urban Burger Bar on Facebook and Twitter.

Miyagi’s, Bold St, Liverpool

Liverpool is a place I am very fond of. I lived there for 3 years, in Wavertree, whilst studying a Psychology undergraduate degree at Liverpool Hope University. Many, many memories were made there. But when it came to Graduation (I graduated with a first!) it was time to leave the city as my housemates (all Irish and heading back across the pond) were doing the same. I was too much of a wimp to brave it alone.

Looking back, sometimes I wish I had stayed – but I have no regrets. The life I live now is amazing, and honestly, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I do however keep an eye on the Liverpool food scene as much as I can, and my ‘Liverpool List’ is becoming increasingly longer! And I happen to know a few MCR foodies who’d agree!

So as my Irish best friend was back in lovely Liverpool for a few days this weekend, how could I not go and reminisce with her over food & cocktails. After a bit of Twitter research, I decided it had to be MIYAGI’S.

Hannah & I enjoying our cocktails upstairs in KYO bar
Hannah & I enjoying our cocktails upstairs in KYO bar

MIYAGI’S is set at the top-end of Bold Street (number 77, to be precise). They serve up a wonderful range of sushi, yakitori, hearty bowls (including Laksa), Japanese ‘soul food’ and some impressive sounding ‘big plates’. Their menu is Japanese inspired and it’s honestly stunning – I could have closed my eyes and cast my finger on the menu and literally eaten anything from it. ‚̧

They don’t take reservations for less than 6 people, so as we arrived just after 7:30pm (on Sunday evening)¬†it was a short 20 minute wait for a table for two. We had the choice of having a drink in the bar downstairs or upstairs, and as we were intrigued by upstairs… up we went. To our surprise, the first floor had a completely different look and feel to downstairs, and we later found out this is KYO, their sister late-night bar serving a smaller food menu (until 1am!) and a load of #GuiltyPleasures which sounded epic. Basically a mix of puddings, cocktails and milkshakes with sweets and chocolates and ice-pops and all sorts. We ordered a cocktail up here and the nice bar lady whipped us up a treat – I chose the Ghetto Geisha: pineapple, coconut water, lychee, Havana 3 year Rum & coconut rum – beautifully garnished with a flower and a pink sugar rim. Honestly the best cocktail I have ever tasted, and it looked gorgeous too. You could certainly taste the rum but it married¬†so well with the other fresh, delicate flavours. Hannah went for the Cho Cho San: fresh mint, grapefruit, cranberry, green tea syrup, Giffard pamplemousse & Finlandia grapefruit vodka. Another absolute cracker.

When our table was ready we were escorted downstairs by (another) lovely member of staff. We were seated on a nice table with a low-hanging light above it, with a stunning Japanese-style lampshade. We decided to order a mix of things to share between us both. Our lovely waitress (also named Sophie) was happy to talk us through the menu and also made some great recommendations.

I was really keen to try the Miyagi Fried Chicken with Kimchi mayo, so we ordered 6 pieces which was great value at ¬£9.95. Also from the ‘Soul Food’ menu we chose the Fried crispy duck gyoza with hoisin,¬£5.75. Keen to try their sushi offering, we ordered a portion of the Yellowfin tuna Nigiri (¬£6.95) and the Salmon California Rolls (¬£5.95). Last, but by no means least, we opted for a portion of Mr M’s Tempura, the vegetable option as recommended by Sophie (asparagus, courgette and broccoli, ¬£6.95).

We were told the food arrived when it was ready, so we got straight to catching up on old-times, when only about 20 minutes later the food started to arrive. First up was the sushi, and Sophie came across to the table and asked if we liked wasabi. Yes, was the definitive answer from both of us, so she proceeded to serve up some freshly grated wasabi using traditional (and stunning) Japanese utensils. She told us that there’s only 1 place in the UK who produce proper wasabi – and that’s where this stuff was from. It was barely green, more so a creamy-beige colour and the taste was hot yet milder than other varieties (which are commonly Horseradish dyed green to imitate real wasabi).

The sushi itself was delightful. It was served, of course, with pickled ginger and soy, and the quality of the tuna was absolutely fantastic. It was so tender and just melted in your mouth.

Next came along the duck gyoza with hoisin. The duck parcels were hot, crispy and packed full of delicious, meaty duck. The sauce was smooth and light and tasted so fruity. Sometimes hoisin can be heavy and sticky but this was neither, it was yum.

Crispy duck gyoza with light hoisin
Crispy duck gyoza with light hoisin

We were able to have a short break after these three dishes, but then shortly after came out the vegetable tempura. I really liked how it was served as long batons, obviously complimenting the natural shape of the tenderstem broccoli and asparagus, but the courgette was cut to match and it just worked really well. It came with a creamy/seasoned/mayo-like sauce which was also delicious.

Mr M's vegetable tempura (asparagus, broccoli & courgette)
Mr M’s vegetable tempura (asparagus, broccoli & courgette)

Next to adorn our table was the Miyagi fried chicken. A great mixture of thigh, (huge) wings and drumsticks. It arrived with a plate of something we had never seen before –¬†pickled watermelon rind! It sounds strange but it was really tasty, it was sweet and sour and went with the spicy chicken surprisingly well. The chicken itself was crispy on the outside and absolutely tender and succulent in the middle, the meat almost fell off the bone. The kimchi mayo was spicy, which was great, and dunking the chicken in it was so satisfying!¬†A really great dish.

Soul Food: Miyagi Fried Chicken with spicy kimchi mayo
Soul Food: Miyagi Fried Chicken with spicy kimchi mayo

Overall, this was a fabulous meal and very reasonably priced in my opinion. The staff were so lovely, chatty and helpful too which was great (especially Sophie!) The only downfall is that the menu is so brilliant I will have to take many trips to Liverpool and back just to try the rest of it! Next time I want to try their amazing sounding steamed hirata buns, one of their big bowls of Ramen or Laksa AND one of their big plates e.g. Teriyaki rib-eye steak! Gonna have to wear my stretchy pants!

Follow Miyagi on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. And check out their full food menu here. ‚̧


I paid for my meal in full and Miyagi’s did not know I was going to review the meal.

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 Tart.¬†All 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.


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 Caf√© 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

HUSSS Sandwich Co. Liverpool – Plus Exclusive Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

BACON JAM

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

What you need:

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

What to do:

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

GRILLED CHEESE

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

What you need:

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

What to do:

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Splendid Kitchen, Manchester

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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