The Italian Awards come to Manchester

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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: http://scottishitalianawards.co.uk
Aldo Zilli, photo credit: http://www.scottishitalianawards.co.uk

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 sophiesscran@gmail.com, and I will be happy to see if there is something you can assist us with!

Ciao for now!

Sophie -x-

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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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An Introduction to Taste Today

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Hey foodies, it’s been a little while since my last post. The past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest, but I have some news for you…

I am now a writer for Taste Today, which is a brand new website promoting everything to do with food in the North West and beyond. It’s an online magazine style site which promotes, praises and publicises all things food in the region, and really celebrates local produce and independent producers.

Taste Today delivers the latest food and comment from across the whole industry, plus features recipes, offers and competitions. I am so glad to be part of a team which champion local produce and aim to get it into the shopping baskets and onto the plates of local people. We want to raise awareness that everything we need is locally available, and more often than not is produced with love, care and pride!

I will be writing a range of features for Taste Today, mainly falling into the Dining In and Dining Out categories. Here is the link to my bio on the website: tastetoday.co.uk/about, please keep your eyes peeled for my first article featuring the wonderful Cheshire Smokehouse! I will be posting regular updates from my Twitter account (@sophiesscran) and you can also follow Taste Today directly – so please do (@TasteTodayHub)!

I sincerely hope you enjoy taking a look around the site, please let me know what you think. If you think you know of a story which would feature well on the site, you can contact Jo Cooksey (Editor and Founder) on hello@tastetoday.co.uk, or drop me an email direct on sophiesscran@gmail.com.

Thanks for all your support!

With love, Sophie -x-