The Portly Grocer, Knutsford

I recently received a wonderful artisan food hamper from The Portly Grocer, a Knutsford-based company who work to support Britain’s finest artisans. Always one to support local businesses, I was delighted to learn that they wanted to send me some of their offerings to try, so I didn’t hesitate to get stuck in.

The hamper itself was packed full of goods – from Prince & Sons Tea Co. Jasmine Pearls tea bags to an array of Spice Entice Spice Kits (Thai Green Curry, Jamaican Jerk and Rogan Josh to be precise). Also packed in was the most delightful array of C&B CHOCOLATE BISCUITS, which really went down a treat with a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon and on a dull Tuesday in the office. I can also now say I’ve tried Wild Boar Game Pâté (delicious), and that Aubergine and Basil Paste is sooo the new pesto and if you haven’t tried it, you should… It’s heavenly.

The Portly Grocer is a husband and wife team who operate an online fine food & drinks business specialising in new up-and-coming, mainly British artisan foods.  They started nearly 12 months ago and aim to help small food producers launch their products and provide free business advice. They also don’t charge the producers to sell on their (lovely) website. Whatsmore, they have a rather wonderful story that dates back to 1884, which explains how and why they came to be in the business of sourcing and selling fine food products. If you fancy a nice little read, find the full story here.

Artisan Food Hampers

When the box promptly arrived, I was first impressed by the sheer range of goodies inside. Other things it contained included Amaretto flavoured ground coffee, luxury breakfast granola, a salad dressing vinaigrette, some chutneys and a range of rather ‘grown up’ crackers made by Cartwright & Butler. So to save this being the longest blog post in the world, here’s my thoughts on a few key products.

Spice Entice Thai Green Curry

This little spice kit promised ‘lovingly selected herbs and spices with a recipe to make a delicious dish of Thai Green Curry, to serve four’. The shopping list was quite long, but luckily I had most of it in; soy sauce, fish sauce, stock, coconut milk, palm sugar… that sort of thing, plus some fresh ingredients like garlic, onions, birds-eye chillies, veg, and chicken. I was surprised not to see fresh ginger on the shopping list for this curry, but not all green curry pastes contain it. As I had some monkfish in I was eager to use, I substituted this for the chicken. I would highly recommend this, just reduce the cooking time a little to suit the fish instead.

The recipe was really easy to follow, you do need a blender to whizz up all the ingredients for the paste (it perhaps should say that on the outer packaging) but that’s my only gripe as it was quick, simple, nutritious and delicious. Just how I like it.

Mellow Yellow Classic Vinaigrette

Apologies for the photo of the half empty bottle, but I think that goes to show how much I am enjoying this item! The main ingredient is Rapeseed oil so it’s lighter than olive oil dressings, which it really nice. And very convenient for my ‘health kick’. It’s scent and flavour is tangy as you would expect from a classic vinaigrette, and it seems to have the perfect balance of oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, herbs and seasoning. Below I have served it with a simple couscous salad with baby spinach and cherry tomatoes. Very easy to put together for a working lunch and absolutely maximum flavour with very little effort.

Olive Branch Aubergine & Basil Paste

This stuff came as a real surprise as it was wrapped so beautifully, which is part of the service if you wish, complete with cute personalised labels! At first I was a little unsure of what to make of it. Was it a pesto, a dip, a sauce? Turns out it’s all three… Such a versatile little jar of deliciousness. So far I have used it as a dip with the Cartwright & Butler Linseed and Sesame Flatbreads which worked really well. I’ve also used it in a simple pasta dish, instead of pesto and it made a really creamy, yummy sauce to coat the pasta.

Olive Branch Paste
Olive Branch Paste

Sweet Treats – Breakfast Granola and Chocolate Biscuits

Other highlights were these delicious sweeter items in the hamper. Sensible Dave’s Strawberry Granola with White Chocolate shavings is a real delight. I wouldn’t eat this on a regular basis for breakfast, but, on a Saturday morning after being good all week it’s the perfect treat and much quicker to put together than a bacon sarnie!

The Chocolate Oat Crumbles were also a firm favourite. Beautifully rich and creamy chocolate, and the biscuits were buttery and crumbly and very, very morrish. The wafers and dark chocolate and lemon varieties were also lovely, but the oat crumbles stole the show for sure.

Packaging & Attention to Detail

As The Portly Grocer’s story dates back to fine foods during the 1920’s, they are keen to replicate the attention to detail of that era; by hand-wrapping each product in luxury brown paper, and tying each one with twine in a vintage style. I must admit, the products look as good as they taste and it really makes it clear you’ve got something special on your hands.

Overall, I am really impressed with The Portly Grocer’s range of products, packaging and the service in general. Their website is also beautifully simple and very easy to navigate. It also has a lovely blog and some fantastic recipes ideas. They seemingly sell products to suit everyone – teas and biscuits for Grandma, Curry Kits for Dad’s and a huge array of everyday products that are bound to jazz-up your experience in the kitchen, all whilst supporting independent artisans – the ethos at the very heart of what they do.

If you’re looking for a gift idea for literally any type of person and for any occasion – then I would highly recommend you give these guys a whirl!

They also have an alcohol licence and have started retailing British produced spirits, with plans to expand into British gins, cassis and wines later this year. Also, you can look out for their pop-up stalls at various food & drink events in the North West.

Visit their website at www.theportlygrocer.co.uk and make sure you follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and give them a Like to show your support on Facebook.

The Home & Fine Food Co.
T/A The Portly Grocer
Booths Hall Estate
Chelford Road
Knutsford
WA16 8GS

0161 241 2791
info@theportlygrocer.co.uk


The Portly Grocer sent me this hamper to sample on a complimentary basis, but, as always my review is as honest and objective as possible ❤
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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 – Duncan 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 – one 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 🙂

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.


 

Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

It’s really easy nowadays to create authentic tasting Thai curries and broths with very, very little effort. Obviously you can’t beat the real deal, and there is nothing better than a homemade curry paste to really inject your food with fresh, full and pungent flavours. But, for a mid-week dinner to rustle up after a long day a work, Thai curries are one of my super easy, quick, no-fuss dinners to whirl together in next to no time. The classic Thai red/Thai green flavours are delicious with chicken, king prawns or just veggies. I either serve them with steamed basmati rice or very thin rice noodles (the noodle version is more like a broth as opposed to a curry – the perfect warming dish for a cold, wintery night).

I like to add lots of fresh chilli, ginger, lemongrass, basil/coriander and lime juice to really give the flavours a boost, without too much effort.

Thai Chicken Noodle Broth
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

Here is the recipe for my classic Thai Chicken Noodle Broth, which serves 2 and takes about 30 mins from wok to bowl.

What you need:

  • 2 skinless free-range chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 3cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 fresh limes
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, outer layer removed
  • a teaspoon of fish sauce
  • handful of fresh coriander (leaves removed and stalks finely chopped)
  • 1 400ml can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Thai Red curry paste (I use Taste Thai which you can get in most supermarkets and some delis)
  • 2 nests of rice noodles (I use Sainsbury’s)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • prawn crackers, to serve

What to do:

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large wok over a high heat. Once melted, add the chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes until slightly brown on the outside
  2. Add the sliced garlic, half of the sliced chilli and all of the chopped coriander stalks and continue to stir fry for another minute
  3. Once the ingredients start to release their fragrance, add the curry paste and continue to stir, coating all of the chicken
  4. Add the fish sauce and stir-fry for another minute whilst you bash the lemongrass stalk with the handle end of a knife to help release its fragrance
  5. Add the tin of coconut milk and the bashed lemongrass to the wok, and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer
  6. Simmer the broth for about 8-10 mins until the chicken is cooked through
  7. Whilst your curry broth is simmering, prepare the rice noodles as per the packet instructions (I use Sainsbury’s nests of rice noodles which cook in 3 mins)
  8. Drain the noodles and divide them into 2 warm bowls
  9. Take the broth off the heat and remove the lemongrass stalk. Squeeze in the juice of one whole lime and stir well
  10. Use a ladle to divide the broth into the two bowls of noodles
  11. Top the bowls with the rest of the sliced red chilli and finely chopped coriander leaves
  12. Serve with prawn crackers, and a wedge of lime!
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth
Thai Chicken Noodle Broth

Hope you enjoy this one! Sophie -x-