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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Baltic Cellar, Manchester

When I was lucky enough to be cordially invited to the exclusive launch party of Baltic Cellar, Lloyd Street, Manchester – I felt honoured. I only started my food blog in August this year, and the response I have received from the foodie world so far has been fantastic. So as you can imagine, I was looking forward to this one. And, I have MDOG_MANCHESTER to thank – so thanks dude 😉

The invitation promised flames, grills, vodka on-tap and a mind-bending surprise… How could I possibly refuse?! Well, I couldn’t of course, and I was so eager that Bradley and I were the first ones there and had to be told on arrival (red carpet and all) by the Tuxedo-clad bouncers to come back in 5-10 minutes when the hostess had arrived! I was excited, to say the least. Lesson learnt – next time ‘fashionably late’ is perhaps the cooler option.

It is safe to say – Baltic Cellar delivered on all that was promised, and then some. These guys truly know how to eat, drink and entertain you. Basically, they know how to party – and I am now told they are taking bookings for Christmas – so if you’re looking for something with a bit of a twist, I would highly recommend this place.

Set just down the road from Albert Square (the Christmas-capital of Manchester), Baltic Cellar is exactly that – the entrance is on the street, with windows and steps looking down towards their main seating area and large bar. To entertain us in the queue was the amazing performer Beth Sykes (pictured above), who put on a flawless fire show, complete with actual flame swallowing. Very impressive.

Once inside, we were greeted with ‘Champagne’ and canapes – a simple yet very effective collection of Latvian and Lithuanian cheeses, cooked meats (Polish smoked sausages, smoked hams), olives and grapes. All were fabulous, very morish – but my favourite had to be the perfectly hand-crafted smoked salmon and creamed cheese eclairs…  a super light and fluffy filling encased in a pretty little choux pastry parcel. So, so good, I think I ate about 15…

Then was time for a short entertainment interval – the wonderful Beth Sykes again, but this time a change of costume and style completely. It turns out Beth is an incredible, mesmerising and extremely talented contortionist. A true artist, ‘mind-bending’ indeed, I couldn’t take my eyes off her – neither could Bradley… Ahem.. OK, now back to the food 😉

Next, we were to be seated for dinner: a traditional Russian ‘Zakuski’ (Russia’s answer to Tapas) whereby you sit together, drink vodka and eat a traditional selection of salted herring, Russian salad (like a chunky coleslaw), pickled and marinated cucumber and Salo (cured fat, I wasn’t too keen on this, but I did give it a go!) As we were seated, the Russian drinking rules were explained to us, something along the lines of: the person who wears the Russian hat must pour the drinks. They must always pour one for themselves when pouring for others. They must hold the bottle by the neck… Thank fully, being the designated driver, I managed to stay sober and avoid the hangover… This also meant I remember all of what happened next!

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On to the Mains… Well, as you can imagine, we were all rather full by now. The main feast however was yet to begin – as now followed a beautifully presented small-servings platter of homemade savoury delights:

  • Beef Goulash, a tender and slow-cooked warming stew with paprika, carrots and onions.
  • Chicken & Mushrooms, served with hand-picked forest mushrooms in a sharp creamy sauce.
  • Bigos, a traditional Polish dish which stews the rich flavours of sauerkraut, smoked sausage, smoked ribs, cabbage, onions, plums and wild mushrooms – so incredibly tasty.
  • Chicken Cedar, chicken in a light creamy sauce topped with cedar nuts.
  • Vegetable Ragu of braised cauliflower, carrots, peas, potatoes and tomatoes.
  • Pork Stroganoff, a traditional 19th century Russian dish served with lean pork strips and a rich, tasty sauce.
  • Grilled Meats – Chicken or Salmon Shashlik,  we tried the salmon only, which was cooked on an authentic Baltic charcoal grill. Marinated and ‘slow grilled,’ it tasted incredible. This  was my favourite dish of the evening, as the fish was mouth wateringly succulent and cooked to perfection.

The the side-dishes were also excellently seasoned; creamy mashed potatoes, spicy rice and skinny, crispy fries. Yum.

Then, this happened…

Possibly THE most decedent, varied, sweet and indulgent (and biggest!) dessert selection I have ever seen in a restaurant (not counting my nan’s pudding spread a family Christmas buffet…) Although we were full to the brim, there was no way we could refuse trying these little beauties – all homemade: Cheese Cake, Honey Cake, Chocolate Cake, Napoleon Cake (Polish variation called Kremowka). Just divine. The berries helped cut through the sweetness with a little sharpness and bite – the perfect end to a true Baltic Feast.

All in all, the dishes were hearty, authentic, homemade and very morish. The party was swinging, the staff extremely attentive and knowledgeable about each dish and the vodka (so I am told), was excellent quality. I will leave you with a few images which capture some other highlights of what was altogether an excellent evening. Thank you.

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If you would like to make a reservation at Baltic Cellar, please contact Inesa on 0161 971 6047 or click on!

East Z East Manchester: Christmas Menu

It was a pleasure to be invited to East Z East’s launch of their Christmas menu a few weeks ago; as you are well aware I love all things spice and can’t resist a decent cocktail. This place has plenty of both – as well as wide range of milder curries & mocktails for the more faint-hearted (or designated drivers!)

Their Riverside branch is in a great city-centre location on Blackfriars street. They even offer a convenient valet parking/concierge service free-of-charge, which is a great asset if you’re a non-city dweller. The building is modern, trendy, well-lit and has a sophisticated feel to it. It’s not your average curry house, it kind of has an elegant, luxurious twist to it which I liked.  We were greeted by the manager and shown to our table, seated in the large private dining room upstairs, where we could play our own choice of music through the sound system – great to add an instant party atmosphere!

To drink, I decided on a mocktail, (sadly), as I was driving… but I must say, it was deliciously fruity, refreshing and hand-prepared in no time. The rest of the cocktails all looked really impressive, each featuring different fresh fruits and funky shaped straws (pictured above, top left: the East Z East Touch Mocktail – Strawberry, raspberry and blackberry shaken with elderflower and cranberry juice).

So – the food. First of all I think 3 courses for £21.95 is excellent value for money from a Manchester city-centre Christmas menu. To start we were greeted by the BIGGEST tray of chutneys, pickles and yogurt selection I have ever come across, along with a couple of poppadoms each – just enough to get the taste-buds tingling.  There were 8 different chutneys to choose from; and the plum chutney and chilli pickle were amazing. The lamb chops were meaty, well spiced and morish, the chicken tender, juicy and had just the right amount of charcoal grilled goodness on the outside. Yum.

Next were the curries… Pictured below are the two curries I tried; the Balti Seafood and the Murgh Tikka Makhani. The seafood curry featured huge king prawns and was in a medium-spiced balti sauce, similar to a bhuna in heat and intensity. The Makhani was like a tikka-massala but without the coconut. Instead it featured the more ‘grown-up’ flavours of cream, pistachios, almonds and tomatoes. An altogether more delicious answer to the overly-common ‘tikka masala’ – and I liked it. Garlic naan breads, cooked to perfection, thin, bubbly, crispy – just how I like them (as the last thing you want o do is fill up on thick bread, especially if you’re on the cocktails!)

Finally, the puddings. I must admit, I don’t usually go for puddings when I go for a curry. I usually find I’m too full so don’t bother. However, when the place has it’s very own ice-cream bar, featuring flavours such as Ferrero Rocher… I could not resist. Pictured below are just two desserts from the Christmas Menu;  Gulab Jamun (a sort of sweet dumpling, served warm with madagascar vanilla ice cream (a really delicious, sweet, light option – I would highly recommend) and a Swiss Chocolate Cheesecake served with (any) scoop of ice-cream from the ice-cream bar… 😀 both desserts were an absolute delight. They have both made me think twice about desserts in an Indian restaurant, the perfect end to a mini-culinary adventure!

Click here for more information about East Z East and to enquire about Christmas bookings, contact 0161 834 3500.




Lunchtime trip: Chapati Cafe, Chorlton

Fabulous, friendly service
Fabulous, friendly service

If you have an appreciation for good homemade food, Indian/thali cuisine, different flavours, textures and spices all on one platter – this place is a must-try.

It’s laidback cafe style, quick, super-friendly service and value for money are all second-to-none for a lunchtime jaunt or a bite to eat with your buddies. They are open from 11:30am – 7:30pm, so it’s ideal for lunch or an early dinner. This place is awesome.

Their mint and coriander sauce was a highlight for me amongst all their other amazing flavours and textures. It is refreshing and sharp and really works well to cleanse the palate between bites. You can have any combination of tender meat and lovely veg dishes, I went for the one meat 2 veg option, which worked really well. We were in-and-out within about 25 minutes, perfect timing as we were on our lunch break from the office. It is safe to say we all loved it, and at an average price of £5.50 per Thali (steel plate pictured below) we will certainly be back for more!

Here are a few snaps of our visit there a couple of weeks ago:

Spiced lamb curry, bombay potatoes and a dahl (lentil) dish, served with a samosa, chutney, rice & chapati
Lightly spiced minced lamb curry, bombay style potatoes and a tasty dhal (lentil) dish, served with a veggie samosa, pickles, rice & chapati
Authentic, simplistic decor and wall art
Authentic, simplistic decor and wall art really caught my eye. The mismatched tiles on the wall look great, I want them in my kitchen!
If you like to turn up the heat...
If you like to turn up the heat… a handy bowl of freshly chopped chilli on the counter – a nice touch and an easy way for spice lovers to turn it up a notch!
Aimee went for the chick pea veg option, extra pickles and no extra chilli's!
My buddy Aimee went for the chick pea veg option, and the chicken curry instead. Both of which were highly commended by her. She had a cold too, so the she welcomed a bit of spice to help!

For more information, please visit: and if you’re in the Manchester area, make sure you pay them a visit!

Bistro 1847, Manchester

Bistro 1847, Manchester: Amazing food, super-cool decor, warm & intimate atmosphere
Bistro 1847, Manchester: Amazing food, super-cool decor, warm & intimate atmosphere

To sum it up, Bistro 1847 is a true delight. It’s modern, yet warm, friendly, intimate… and the menu pretty much speaks for itself – culinary vegetarian innovation served in an ambient, super-cool setting. I even took away some decor tips for my new house!

That aside, it’s the menu options that truly are a breath of fresh air. You can either choose a ‘Taste of 1847′ – the perfect introduction to Bistro’s most popular and distinctive dishes, offered as a set menu (there is a 5 course and a 7 course option). This menu showcases the chefs’ pinnacle dishes, and effectively means the ‘foodies’ of Bistro 1847 have done the hard work for you, making this menu choice a ‘tricky decision‘-free dining experience. The most difficult choice you’ll have to make is which scrumptious cocktail to start with 🙂

The second menu option is to ‘Graze, Share and Explore’ – pretty much what it says on the tin. This menu features a range of smaller tapas-style dishes, which are all ordered at once, and arrive when they are ready. In my experience, this is similar to the ‘wagamama’ style of dining, it’s more informal; dishes arrive when ready, so not necessarily all at the same time. I love the element of surprise behind this modern style of dining, and these guys really do it well. I’d say this is the perfect option for a group of friends, who want to wine, dine and chatter – whilst sharing a varied feast of delicious small plates. Just one tip: order extra beer-battered halloumi, as you may not be as inclined to share this one!

His & Hers Cocktails - the Maple & Orange 'Old Fashioned' and the 'Bistro Bastillia'
His & Hers Cocktails – the Maple & Orange ‘Old Fashioned’ and the ‘Bistro Bastillia’

I am a big believer that we eat with our eyes, as well as our taste-buds, and these guys have both presentation and taste down to a fine art. I took some foodie snaps of our dishes from their ‘Taste of 1847’ menu, for you to feast your eyes upon:

Perfectly bite-sized spelt & rye crispbread, baba ghanoush (aubergine dip) with pomegranate seeds
Spelt & rye crisp bread, baba ghanoush with pomegranate seeds

Baba Ghanoush is an aubergine based ‘dip,’ which is served here on perfectly bite-sized pieces of crisp bread. It was nice to start with informal ‘finger-food,’ which tastes amazing and looks great too.

Beer-battered halloumi, seashore herbs & plants, mushy pea emulsion, smoked lemon curd & gin pickled shallots
Beer-battered halloumi, seashore herbs & plants, mushy pea emulsion, smoked
lemon curd & gin pickled shallots

This was the second course, I was told by Manager Rebecca that this is one of their most popular dishes, and I can see why. I have never tasted halloumi like it. Often dubbed ‘the squeaky cheese’ for its rubbery texture (as so many people over-cook it), this version was spongy, yet firm and almost had a meaty-texture to it. I wouldn’t hesitate to say it was cooked to perfection, and accompaniments compliment it so well. Hats off to the chef!

Heritage carrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero, herbs, flowers & carrot top oil
Heritage carrot, farmhouse curds, pearl barley, wilted cavolo nero, herbs,
flowers & carrot top oil

This is a risotto style dish using barley instead of rice, which makes it lighter, fitting well with the two different menu options. The flavours are delicate and the presentation super-pretty, a highly seasonal dish using locally sourced heritage carrots. Yummy.

Chocolate, lime & sea salt brownie drizzled with coconut cream
Chocolate, lime & sea salt brownie drizzled with coconut cream

I think this photo speaks volumes to be honest. Chocolate brownie is the ultimate pud, and this one was nothing-short of heavenly.  Tasty, delicate hints of additional flavours from the sea salt, lime and coconut cream give this pud an elegant, more ‘grown-up’ feel, which I liked a lot.

Petit fours and tea or coffee's to finish (these ones were vegan chocolate truffles!)
Petit fours and tea or coffee’s to finish (these ones were vegan chocolate truffles!)

To finish, a choice of tea or coffee with petit fours. A great way to finish this wonderful, distinctive dining experience. I shall definitely be back for more, hopefully next time to Graze & Share with a few close friends, both veggies and non-veggies! If you’re even slightly curious, I urge you to try it as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Featured here is just a snippet of their wonderful menu, a full copy of which is here:

If you want to find out more about Bistro 1847, their website is:, and they are located:

58 Mosley Street
(Entrance on Booth St)
M2 3HZ

0161 236 1811