Cheshire Food Blog

Campfire Gourmet Challenge: British Macaroni Cheese

I was recently asked by Park Resorts to create a gourmet, campfire-inspired recipe using British produce; something a family could easily rustle up on a camp site holiday in the UK.

My initial thoughts were of a family sat around a campfire in the middle of the woods, toasting marshmallows on long sticks, singing along to a gentle guitar-strummed rendition of kumbyyah… Then I thought, hang on a minute, nobody actually does that any more… and did they ever?!

These days, a more common way to get all gourmet when camping is to make use of gas camping stoves. I take them with me whenever I go camping, as they are a safe and easy way to cook up favourite staples like pasta, but still with the fun novelty of outdoor cooking. Win win!

For my take on the ‘Campfire Gourmet Challenge’, I decided keep it simple with a British take on the all American family classic, “Mac and Cheese”. This is a stove-top version, so no need for an oven and it really tastes just as great (if not better!)

Using a generous mix of Welsh cheddar and English Red Leicester, British pancetta rashers, English mustard and some hearty oregano to season, this recipe is delicious, easy and cost-effective. Making a Mornay sauce (Béchamel with cheese) using the French roux technique in front of your fellow campers is sure to show off your gourmet skills, and might even get you out of doing the washing up. I should hope so anyway!

If you prep your ingredients before you leave and arrange them in your cool bag, once you’ve set up camp getting started couldn’t be easier. For a really quick and easy gourmet campsite dinner, cook the pasta at home before you leave and take it along with you in an airtight container. Then all you have to focus on is cooking the pancetta and getting the cheese sauce perfect to feed all your hungry campers after a long day of fun and adventure ❤

Serves 4, 30 minutes.

Recipe: Camp stove British Macaroni Cheese


  • 300g dried spirali pasta (cooked beforehand)
  • 60g Welsh cheddar, grated
  • 60g Red Leicester, grated
  • 50g dried mushrooms
  • 12 rashers pancetta
  • 500ml semi skimmed milk
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 50g butter
  • good handful fresh oregano, roughly torn into small pieces


  1. Fire up your stove and first of all, cook the pancetta over a low heat in a frying pan. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, but cook until crisp then set aside on some kitchen paper. Heat a cup of water to the boil, and pour over the dried mushrooms to rehydrate while you make the Mornay (cheese, to you and me) sauce.
  2. Gently heat the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and mustard powder and stir until combined and you have a smooth paste-like consistency. Cook for 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and continue to stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Give it a bit of elbow grease as it thickens, you don’t want any lumps! Season to taste.
  3. As the sauce comes to the boil, drain and squeeze out any moisture from the mushrooms and add them to the sauce. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes over a low heat. Take off the heat and add the grated cheese. Stir until the cheese has completely melted.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce along with the pancetta (break the crispy pancetta into small pieces so it distributes evenly throughout).
  5. Just before serving, stir through the torn oregano and check the seasoning. Serve immediately with extra oregano to garnish, if desired.


The Italian Awards come to Manchester


So, the day is almost here. Tomorrow is the day I finally get to meet Michael and the team in person – the organisers of The Italian Awards UK. In their own words;

“Italian Communities across the UK are a vital and integral part of our hospitality industry; everyone has their own personal favourite Italian, and here at The Italian Awards we aim to recognise the true favourites across the country.

We strive to recognise excellence, and pick out the very best in categories ranging from “Best Pizza” to “Best Interior Design”. Giving initial voting power to the general public allows us to generate finalists that truly are the nation’s favourites, battling it out to become the best of the best.

Come join the family and help us decide this year’s worthy winners.”

Exciting concept, right? Well, this year, 2015, is the very first time The Italian Awards are coming to Manchester. Usually based out of Glasgow, the awards are a spectacular event celebrating all things Italian food in the UK. I’m am delighted to tell you that I have been chosen as an official blogger for the awards. I will be helping Michael and the team along with Taste Today and a few other great bloggers from the Manchester area. The awards themselves are set for September this year…Very exciting times!

Photo credit:
Aldo Zilli, photo credit:

I should also tell you that they have a celebrity judge on board, who joined them last year in Scotland and will again this year in our very own Manchester… The one and only Aldo Zilli! (@AldoZilli on Twitter). If you don’t already know, Aldo Zilli is an award winning celebrity Italian chef and restaurateur. He was the founder and chef-patron of some of London’s most exciting and innovative restaurants, Signor Zilli, Zilli Fish, Zilli Green, Zilli Café and Zilli Bar. He has also done consultancy work to help out other famous Italian restaurants such as Prezzo, and he has released many fantastic Italian cookery books. He’s also done countless TV appearances, and in 2012, he helped launch the upmarket Italian restaurant San Carlo Cicchetti in Manchester and London’s Piccadilly. He is now in partnership with San Carlo Group, who have 14 restaurants in the UK and four overseas. IMPRESSIVE!

Please keep posted for more regular updates on this wonderful affair. After tomorrow’s initial meeting, I will be able to tell you much more about our plans. If you think you can add value to the awards in any way, please feel free to contact me on, and I will be happy to see if there is something you can assist us with!

Ciao for now!

Sophie -x-

Mushroom & ‘Smokehouse’ Smoked Streaky Bacon Risotto

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

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

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

What you need:

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

What to do:

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

Hope you enjoy this one, love Sophie -x-

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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