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-

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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

The Railway Cafe, Alderley Edge

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

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

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

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

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

We ordered/devoured:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Note: We paid for our meals and Railway Cafe did not know I was reviewing their food.
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Thai Street Food at Chilli Banana’s Sunday Buffet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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selection of Thai starters ‚̧

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

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

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

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

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Traditional Pad Thai ‚̧

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T: 01625 539 100

E: wilmslow@chillibanana.co.uk


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

What the Pho?!

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

Pho brings Vietnamese food¬†to Manchester’s Corn Exchange

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

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

We opted for the rather healthy fresh rice paper rolls (aka GŠĽŹi cuŠĽĎn) – king prawns meticulously wrapped in sticky rice paper with coriander, vermicelli noodles and pickles. You can choose from either¬†‘n∆įŠĽõc chŠļ•m’ or peanut sauce – we opted for ‘n∆įŠĽõc chŠļ•m’, a sharp, slightly sour chilli sauce that absorbs into the contents of the perfectly stuffed rice paper as you dunk.

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fresh rice paper summer rolls with herbs, vermicelli
& pickle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie -x-

Cheshire Food Blog

Review: new PERK!ER Bars

In theme with my healthy approach to eating and lifestyle, I decided to review these lush new snack bars from PERK!ER.

Packed full of 100% plant-based, natural ingredients such as goji berries, chia seeds, cashew nuts and cacao I thought I would give them a go as part of my daily scoffing and snacking routine. Here’s how I got on…

I was sent the full range of 4 flavours;

  • Cashew, Chia & Pumpkin Seed Quinoa Bar
  • Goji & Cranberry Quinoa Bar
  • Cacao & Cashew Quinoa Bar
  • Cranberry & Cashew Oat Bar Enhanced with Sprouted Buckwheat

and I decided that the best way to try them was either as part of my breakfast, mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack game (which I must admit, is already pretty strong!)

As I commute to work for approximately 45 minutes in the car each morning, my breakfast needs to be quick, nutritious, tasty and easy. My favourites are porridge oats with either chia seeds and honey, goji berries and honey or linseeds and, you guessed it, honey. I just love the stuff! Another common breakfast I turn to (particularly if I’m in a rush, or literally need to eat on-the-go) is an oat protein shake with instant oats and a scoop of flavoured whey protein.

On the day I opt for an oat protein shake – I am always full up until lunch time as the early morning dose of protein really does help keep you fuller for longer. Teamed with the slow-release carbs from the oats, it is a match made in heaven if you need to power through your morning and not be distracted by the need to nibble. However, drinking your breakfast and not eating it can leave you feeling a little hard done by – so I substituted a few oats for a Perkier breakfast bar on the commute to work, and it worked a treat. I opted for the ¬†Cashew, Chia & Pumpkin Seed¬†and¬†Goji & Cranberry Quinoa Bars when doing this and they really balanced well. It was so nice to have something equally as good for me and that tasted fantastic. They also don’t leave you on a sugar high at all like many other breakfast bars do!

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

Next up was replacing my mid-afternoon snack. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know my usual suspects for my afternoon snack are grapes, almonds, sliced plum with almond butter, a rice cake with either almond butter or low fat hummus on top or a small avocado scooped straight out of its skin. Mmmm. Or, if I am totally disorganised and craving sugar – it’s a quick trip to the vending machine for a Twix or a Cadbury’s Snack Bar (you know, the shortbread biscuits ones? Yep. #guiltypleasure.

But these sugary snacks aren’t exactly sustainable. They perk you up momentarily but soon comes the sugar dump – not what I need on the long(ish) drive home so I try to stick to what will give me sustained energy. The Cacao & Cashew Quinoa Bar was my absolute favourite for an afternoon snack. The cacao satisfies the choco-craving whilst still being free of sugar and instead packed full of vitamins and antioxidants. The cashews give a perfect balance of crunch and nuttiness that afternoon snacking is made for! Win-win.

Cheshire Food Blog

Cheshire Food Blog

The Cranberry & Cashew Oat Bar with Sprouted buckwheat was also really delicious. All the bars seem to have a nice mix of texture, chew, crunch and natural sweetness that are balanced really well.

Although the Perkier bars were sent to me on a promotional basis, I would genuinely recommend them to anyone who is looking to enhance their breakfast or to slay their afternoon-snack game with something really satisfying, nutritional and enjoyable (without the hip-hugging calories of chocolate!)

You can buy Perkier bars from Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco, Ocado, Amazon and Wholefoods Market stores nationwide. They start from 75p per bar or £1.90 for multi-packs so seem good value for money too!

Follow Perkier Foods on¬†Twitter @Perkierfoods and¬†Facebook: PerkierFoods. ‚̧

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Brunch at No. 12 Easton, Bristol

A couple of weeks ago, Bradley and I went on one of our road-trips to Bristol to visit close friends. It was a bit of a Glastonbury reunion and also an opportunity to see our friends’ really cool new house. It was a weekend of epic proportions; they were amazing hosts and we really did enjoy ourselves… probably a little bit too much judging by the enormity of the hangover that was to follow! But, hey, it was all worth it…

We arrived on the Friday evening, ready bright and early for Saturday’s antics. Our hosts, Becky & Craig, know how much we like cool and quirky places to eat, so they picked out somewhere to take us for brunch on the Saturday morning. We needed something tasty, hearty and filling to keep us going throughout the day… So we headed to No. 12 Easton.

A cool, down-to-earth little coffee house and Deli, situated in the Easton area of Bristol, not far from Stapleton Rd station. The place was busy when we arrived (always a good sign) and the girls on shift were quick to welcome us. They helped us find some seats (as there was 7 of us) outside in the, bright, sunny little courtyard.

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Impressive selection of free range cured bacon, pork sausages, chorizo and free range chicken ‚̧
Cheshire Food Blog
Healthy selection of fine cheeses, butters, cooked meats and pickles ‚̧
Cheshire Food Blog
A stunning selection of cakes – the short bread was absolutely gorgeous ‚̧

We ordered a range of brunch/breakfast style dishes, and some of the guys opted for more ‘lunchtime’ options with sandwiches.

I opted for the sausage sandwich with mustard & red onion marmalade. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I have an unadulterated obsession with sausages. The bread was incredible, soft but sturdy slabs of white, bouncy bread Рperfect to fuel a day of drinking alcohol in the sunshine! The onion marmalade was sweet and sharp, and the mustard was wholegrain which gave it a lovely, savory kick. The sausages themselves were thin, sliced chipolatas, but very meaty indeed. Delicious.

Brad opted for the waffles and bacon with maple syrup, of course! He tells me it tasted as good as it looked (amazing), even though the table was wobbly and he dropped it on the floor, quickly preceded by him picking it up and devouring the whole thing anyway… strictly adhering to the 3 second rule… of course.

Becky and Craig went all out for the sandwich option and both got the house smoked chicken and gammon sandwich with Pitt Cue sauce and pickles. It looked lush.

The cakes on offer also looked absolutely divine. We had a big slab of shortbread and it tasted amazing – chunky, sweet and buttery. It crumbled perfectly then just melted in your mouth as you washed it down with a cup of their delicious coffee, which they source from Extract Coffee ¬†and Round Hill Roastery. I don’t know much about coffee – but compared to the usual Starkbucks or Costa, this stuff had such an epic depth of flavour somehow and really gave you a nice little wake-up buzz from the caffeine.

Cheshire Food Blog
Epic sausage butty and door-stop bread
Cheshire Food Blog
house smoked chicken and gammon sandwich with Pitt Cue sauce and pickles
Cheshire Food Blog
Coffee with a added art, which does look a little bit like a willy! ‚̧

Overall this place was great for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee or cakes. If you’re in the area I would highly recommend!

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No. 12 Easton, Bristol, 12 High St, BS5 6DL.

Cheshire Food Blog

Review: Recipe Kits

My life has been a little hectic as of late. I won’t bore you with too much of the detail, but there’s been a fair bit going on. So over recent weeks, I have found myself looking for a little help in the kitchen, with a view that I could put a little review together of each item for you all. Yes, I’m talking about those handy little ‘recipe kits’ you can buy in the majority of supermarkets these days… And I’ve had quite a bit of fun doing it too!

I’m not talking about those fajita kits… Although they always were very popular in my University digs. The sort of recipe kits you can get now are much more adventurous, and along this mini home-culinary journey I’ve created some really authentic flavours from Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Jamaica, all reasonably (fairly) priced and easy to put together. Some I’d recommend higher than others, and below is a summary of them all in terms of taste, ease and value for money. I have scored them all out of 5 ūüôā ¬†1 = worst, 5 = best. I hope you enjoy!

Waitrose Cooks’ Recipe Katsu Chicken Curry Kit, ¬£3.99, serves 2

Contains: 1 pouch of katsu curry sauce, 1 pouch of panko bread crumbs and 1 sachet of gochujang chilli paste.

Shopping List: 1 egg, 2 chicken breasts, rice and oil to cook.

Verdict: Overall, this¬†was a fantastic tasting dish. The katsu curry sauce is fruity, spicy and really authentic (I’m comparing to decent restaurant versions). The¬†gochujang chilli paste is an excellent, sweet yet spicy addition. In terms of value for money, I think ¬£3.99 is a little steep, as other supermarkets (such as Tesco) do a version which also includes the rice for only ¬£2.99. However, based on the quality and authenticity of the katsu curry sauce and addition of the¬†gochujang chilli paste, I’d say overall this is a fantastic, cost-effective alternative to a Friday night takeaway for you and ‘bae’ ūüėČ

In terms of ease, it couldn’t be simpler. The instructions, although brief, are easy to follow and the results looked and tasted great. The chicken breasts I used were quite large, I cooked them for about 7.5 minutes on each side over a medium-high heat, and used Rapeseed oil to shallow fry them. Just make sure you check the chicken is fully cooked through before serving!

Score 4.5 / 5

Tesco’s Vietnamese Spring Roll Meal Kit, ¬£1.99, serves 2

Contains: 6 rice paper wrappers, vermicelli noodles, peanut dipping sauce.

Shopping List: Cooked prawns or meat, fresh crunchy veg and coriander.

Verdict: Overall, this was easy and they did taste good. The peanut dipping sauce, however, was a little on the tangy-side for me. But then again I was recently spoilt at the launch party of¬†Vietnamese restaurant¬†Pho, in Manchester’s Corn Exchange, so I might just be being a peanut-dipping-sauce-snob.

The instructions were simple, with little illustrations to demonstrate each stage. In terms of value for money, the price  is OK to just serve 2, and only 2 (makes 6 rolls) but if you wanted to make any more buying the ingredients separately is much better value.

I wouldn’t buy this kit again, as rice paper sheets and vermicelli noodles are so cheap. If they don’t sell them in your local shop you can easily order them online. The best thing that came away from this experience was the desire to create my own peanut dipping sauce that rivals that of Pho restaurant. Yuuuum.

Score  2 / 5

Spicentice’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken, ¬£2.00, serves 4

Contains: 1 pouch Jamaican Jerk Spice Mix.

Shopping List: Chicken (12 Wings or 8 drumsticks or 8 thighs), 1 small onion, 5 spring onions, 1 lime, 2 garlic cloves, 1 inch piece ginger, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 2 tbsp cooking oil.

This isn’t really a recipe kit, it’s a spice kit, but I am including it anyway because it tasted amazing. It probably tasted amazing because you add so many fresh ingredients to it, but hey-ho, it tasted great and was actually pretty healthy so it’s worth a mention! You do need a food processor or blender to prep the paste, which I guess is a downfall if you don’t have one. The instructions are thorough, clear and include handy tips and extra information which is a nice touch. I got mine via the Portly Grocer, ¬†but you can also purchase them direct from their own website.

The instructions are to skin and wash the chicken and score it several times, so the marinade really penetrated the meat perfectly, and you lost all the fat content of the skin. Win win. The paste clung to the chicken and it says to marinade for at least 30 minutes, I left it for 3 hours or so which worked well. Overall, an easy bit of Jamaican sunshine right into your own kitchen. Highly recommended.

Score  4 / 5

Taste Thai’s Easy Pad Thai Kit, ¬£2.29 in Tesco, serves 2.

Contains:¬†Rice Noodles, Pad Thai Sauce and ‘Peanut Mix’.

Shopping List: King Prawns or Veg, 1 egg, fresh coriander, a lime to serve.

Verdict: I do really like the Taste Thai range, their curry pastes are delicious and so is their palm sugar. So I had quite high expectations for this Pad Thai sauce to be authentic and delicious. And it was. The rice noodles were a decent portion for 2 on a weeknight, but Bradley was pretty hungry about an hour later, so next time I would bulk it out a little with more veggies.

The instructions were thorough and straightforward and I guess the best thing about this experience is that now I’ve tried this recipe out at home, next time I’m going to re-create my own ‘pad Thai sauce’ by combining tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar and chilli. Overall though, a cracking little recipe kit!

Score 4.5 / 5

What sort of recipe kits have you tried recently? Have I missed any which you would recommend trying?

Drop me a note in the comments box below or use the hashtag #sophiesscran on Twitter / Instagram to show me your creations!

Yard & Coop, Manchester

If you live in Manchester, you’ve probably already heard – there’s a new kid in town in the uber cool Northern Quarter. You may already know from my own recipe,¬†I LOVE Buttermilk Fried Chicken, so when I heard about this place I was so clucking eggscited I just had to go see what all the wing flappin’ was about… SORRY, I’m bad at that, I will stop now I promise!

Yard & Coop is the brain-child of Carl and Laura Morris, the co-owners who are actually¬†not married, or even related for that matter! Carl has a background in¬†Sales & Marketing¬†having worked for Revolution for over 10 years, and Laura has formerly worked for Northern Quarter’s Terrace and Simon Rimmer’s Greens in Didsbury. The pair saw the trend of quality fried chicken taking off¬†in America, and wanted to bring the hype back to the wonderful city of Manchester. And boy are we thankful for it.

Carl has spent the past year perfecting the recipes – from the signature seasoned crumb, Buttermilk frying technique and all the homemade speciality sauces and sides that go with it. On the launch night I also met the lovely Clair, Carl’s wife and also front of house manager for the new fried-chicken shack. She’s also in charge of their social media, so chicken-puns-a-plenty: and yep, she’s really clucking good at it ūüėČ

The Food Menu

Let’s waste no time and get straight to it, the chicken. The menu itself is easy to navigate and¬†starts with their main offering – Buttermilk Fried Chicken with their secret crumb recipe. First you chose from Breast or Thigh (¬£6 and both boneless, yay!) or for veggies you can opt for ‘Not Chicken Nuggets’ – crumb coated nuggets of halloumi cheese which are absolutely delightful. I tried both the thigh and breast varieties and I must say both are super-succulent, although I think the thigh pips the post everso slightly. Next up you chose your ‘style,’ you can keep it simple with the Yard & Coop classic, or chose from their extra seasoned varieties; Chip Shop Curry, Cajun or Afrika Bombaataa which are all seriously good and distinctive in their own ways. Personal fave is the classic, followed by the curry-style for something a bit different. It just works really well (pictured below coating a fat, juicy thigh!)

For the finishing touch – you choose your speciality sauces. On offer is Bourbon BBQ (a surprise favourite for me), The Bee’s Knee’s (which is Cayenne pepper, lime and honey) or the classic Blue Cheese. All the sauces are light, packed full of flavour, shiny as you like but without being sticky. Absolutely nailed it.

Next you pick from ‘Small Plates, Sides, Bits and Things‘ which is a deliciously colourful mix of light and tasty side orders to accompany your chicken. A few noteworthy options we tried were ‘Peas and Love’ (¬£2.5); garden peas with fresh mint and chilli, ‘Thai Street Salad’ (¬£3.5); red cabbage, cauliflower, carrot and red chilli, ‘Heritage tomato salad’ (¬£3); chunky heritage tomatoes, red onion and fresh basil in their home dressing, Chips (¬£3) which come with a topping choice of Chip shop curry, Monterey Jack cheese or gravy. And finally ‘Battered Salty¬†Jalape√Īos’ –¬†salty, pickled peppers lighted coated in crispy batter.

I must say, the peas are delicious. My sister and I totally fell in love with them and found them very addictive. They are served cold, the mint is super fresh which is nice between the bites of chicken. The Heritage tomato salad is also deliciously fresh and sweet, and the slaw is crunchy, vibrant and healthy. Really nice to see such fresh sides with such a variety too.

Another stand-out section of the menu is the Wings and Balls section (personal fave) but don’t be alarmed, it’s not an entire section dedicated to deep fried chicken offal. The Wings come in 2 varieties (both ¬£4.50) Bourbon BBQ and Bee’s Knee’s. The ‘Monkey Balls‘ are in fact¬†one of their bestsellers and are their take on the American ‘monkey fingers’ dish (tender bits of chicken deep fried and apparently popular on Halloween!) Yard & Coop style they are balls of buttermilk fried chicken served with 2 of their speciality sauces for dipping (¬£6.5). Originally intended as a bar snack, these balls were merely meant to be nothing but a nibble between friends over a pint, but the chicken-lovers of Manchester have insisted they are a firm favourite as a sharing side to accompany main dishes! WHY NOT!

Monkey Balls with Bee's Knee's and Bourbon BBQ speciality homemade sauces
Monkey Balls with Bee’s Knee’s and Bourbon BBQ speciality homemade sauces

Other offerings are their Large Plates which includes a range of Burgers, Wraps and Salads (¬£8.5-9.0), all complete meals so no side orders required. But I BET you order the Monkey Balls anyway… it would be rude not to. In true chicken-restaurant style they also have a sharing bucket, complete with beers, which I think it a great option and awesome alternative to a KFC or a Maccies.

The Drinks & Cocktails

As well as a totally epic food offering, these guys have also properly thought out their entire drinks selection. I will soon be returning to sample more of their cocktails – but for now I can tell you that the following ones are awesome;

Jimi Hendrix; invented by Paul the barman and I must note what an absolute GENIUS he is. El Jimador Blanco tequilla, Hendricks Gin, Fevertree Elderflower tonic garnished with cucumber and watermelon. So refreshing and summery and LOVELY.

Mini Jimi Hendrix Cocktails
Mini Jimi Hendrix Cocktails

Rule the Roost; Lychee and rose liqueurs with Lychee Rubicon topped with Prosecco and garnished with rose petal. A very lady-like and pretty tipple. Sweet but not overly so and very pleasing on the eye!

IMG_2662
Rule the Roost ‚̧

Juice Springsteen; Vodka and Blue Curacao with lemon juice and cherry bitters topped with apple juice. Extreme refreshment and very thirst-quenching which was delicious.

They also have a range of Hard Shakes Рalcoholic milkshakes all served in their signature Yard & Coop paper cups with a straw. We tried the Pina Colada and and Salted Karamel, each feature lashings of silky smooth vanilla ice cream, spirits, juice and/or syrups. They are light and fluffy in texture but pack-a-punch in terms of alcohol content which is perfectly balanced to make them very slurpable indeed. Three words: Who needs pudding?!

I haven’t yet tried the wine, but fell in love with the simplicity of the menu and its options. Dependant on your budget, simply choose ‘Great, Better or Best’ and check the board for the most recent wines available. Simple, effective, helping indecisive wine-pickers since 2015. Nice work, guys!

Visit Yard & Coop’s website¬†and give them a¬†follow on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook¬†by chickin’ these links ūüėČ

37 Edge St, Manchester M4 1HW
0161 710 2570


I was invited to review Yard & Coop on a complimentary basis, however, all opinions are my own and are completely honest.

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 РDuncan 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 Рone 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 ūüôā

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.