Thursday, 22 November 2012

Our Vampiric Trip to Whitby

A few weeks ago Louis and I felt like we had denied ourselves a little trip away (in 4 years the only trip we have had together was too Ireland with family and Louis proceeded to bite my on the flight due to his fear of flying - as you can tell I've not quite forgive him for that one!)
So we decided to go to Whitby, my firends all rave about the place I had been dying to go to Bats and Broomsticks - which is a vampire themed hotel (I'm a huge lover of all things vampiric..... except Twilight - vampires should NOT glitter)
So we booked it and went on our merry travels.. I say merry travels... it was a horrific 3 hour drive to Whitby from Manchester - arghhhhhh. Anyway we got to the hotel and was greeted by Kev who is a wonderfully welcoming gentlemen with a fabulous sense of humour - he showed us round the hotel and pointed out a few essentials in case the undead came a-knocking....


The room was absolutely stunning, the Victorian four-poster bed came complete with vines and a hanging bat! He showed us the breakfast area which was in the cellar, you get to have breakfast by candelight (aww) and all the tables are adorned with adorable trinkets including a vampire and glamourous victim salt and pepper shaker set - which very nearly got taken with us!(pictued below) We decided to go for a walk (not that we could see much as it was rather misty!) and we went for a bite to eat. We stumbled upon an absolutely gorgeous cafe called Sherlocks Coffee House and was full to the brim with old books, old telephones, record players and many many teapots.
 
We went for a meal at Bagdale Hall Hotel and Restaurant which had been recommended to us, but to be perfectly honest I was rather deflated at the meal, there were a few touches that I loved however. As an appetiser we were given a warm oatie loaf with a chilli and oil dip, garlic butter and plain butter - which was rather delightful.
 
For starter Louis and I both chose the crab and lobster fishcakes sitting on a thermidor sauce - there are no pictures of this dish as it did not stand a chance - oh gosh if I could have one of those bad boys right now i'd sell my soul. For main I chose steak that had great flavour but was such a bad cut that I was basically sucking at fat and gristle to get the succulent meat, Louis had beef wellington which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. The vegetables that came with it were lovely, but nothing to right home about and my steak came with a diane sauce that had nice subtle flavours but I was left wanting more of an impact.
 
Now dessert, ooooo, dessert... a white chocolate and raspeberry cheesecake practically drowning in a reservoir of cream. It was creamy, sharp, sweet and tangy and satisfied me to no end (well until I got the £70 bill!)
 
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Whitby with Louis, because it's important to make time out of your crazy life for the love of your life (cheeeeeeese)
 
Love you Louis
 
No Drama xxx

Best cakes I have ever made

Okay so I've been rather busy recently I've had my partners step-dads birthday and also my lovely mums. My mother in law commissioned me to make John (partners step dad) a tractor cake for his 60th birthday. John is an absolute tractor enthusiast and owns several. After looking at some tractor shaped cakes (please feel free to look on google images) I was extremely disheartened most of them are good but were suited to more a 6 year olds birthday and the rest were either perfection or...well... a bit pathetic looking. I hate nothin more than failure and my anxiety meter had gone sky high. I wanted John to be impressed and happy with his grown up tractor cake, but how to achieve the outcome. A few nights of drawings and ripping up drawings and filling my living room with many many swear words I finally came up to a design I felt I could achieve whilst making it impressive- the idea was approved by MIL and the baking began!!

Recently I have discovered a FABULOUS cake supply shop in Prestwich called "Sparkling Sugarcraft Supplies" the shop has everything including cake pan rental. (ingenious!!) Whilst at Sugarcraft supplies I spotted sugarpaste in different colours and I had a spur of the moment idea and I decided I wanted to add little pumpkins on the cake as Johns birthday was in October.


The way I made my pumpkins was I added a few pinches of tylo powder* to a large chuck of the sugarpaste, divided the sugarpaste in to different sized amounts, rolled the sugarpaste into a ball, flattened it slightly, then with a cocktail stick added the grooves by rolling the cocktail stick down the sides (not dragging it). After I had added a green stalk (no tylo powder added) I left the pumpkins to set in the fridge. I made the curly vines by rolling out small amounts of green sugarpaste into thin sausage shapes, wrapping them around a cocktail stick and sliding them off and letting them set in the fridge.


With a cyrly wurly fence, few plastic cows and a fulling working toy tractor, which is now pride of place on John's mantelpiece, we were finished! You can see how the cake turned out and it was safe to say John (and myself) was very pleased with the outcome. (I also made an eggless chocolate cake for Julie to eat as she has an egg allergy and I felt bad creating a cake for her to watch us all eat.)

Now my mums cake. This was a surprise arranged by my dad and he basically gave me free reign. My mum loves simple, clean, classic flavours which is why I chose to make my whisked vanilla sponge I was going to be like a Victoria Sponge, but I wanted to make it a bit more special so I decided to brush each layer with a Disaronno sugar syrup (one of the spirits she likes that is perfect for cakes) and instead of filling it with my usual buttercream filling I made a mascarpone mix of;
  • A tub of double cream
  • A tub of mascarpone
  • 4 tbsp of caster sugar
I spread the mascarpone filling on the bottom layer and dotted it with some raspberries, I added the top layer and piped some leftover mascarpone mixture ontop with some raspberries and some chocolate hearts I have left over, dusted with icing sugar and voila!!


To go with the cake I heated up the leftover disaronno sugar syrup, threw in the left over raspberries and added a glug of lemon juice to make a compote which my dad wanted all to himself!

So I've been a busy little cake-making bee over the past month or so. Have you made any creations recently? Or have you tasted any creations that you need to share? Comment and let me know.

No Drama xx

*Tylo power (CMC) is vital for transforming sugarpaste/fondant into florist paste. This versatile powder will work at firming up your sugarpaste, just sprinkle into sugarpaste and mix. Great for modelling flowers and leaves as your sugarpaste will dry hard.
Also used to make edible glue, just add a teaspoon of tylo powder to cooled boiled water and mix.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Compelling reading...

No picture of food today folks, instead I wish to share with you some books that have inspired me, have been bought for me and have a little place in my heart.

Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey by Alice Vollenweider. This little gem is my tasting guide to Italy. I have always wanted to go to Italy and myself and my fiancé will be honeymooning there.
The book goes through different parts of Italy and what produce reigns supreme in each region (ricotta from Umbria, artichokes from Sardinia, white beans from Florence, bread from Tuscany etc). The only thing wrong with this book is that I'm not there tasting the wonders.

Favourite Welsh Recipes by Sheila Howells. My family are Welsh, I grew up with my Nanna June making welsh cakes(Pice Ar Y Maen) a kind of drop scone cooked on a hot griddle and my dad makes the best Welsh Rarebit in the land. So being a girl brought up on the good old welsh recipes my gorgeous mother in law saw this adorable recipe book and knew it was for me. I can't wait to make the Caerphilly Cheese and Chive Scones!

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore & Brian Bolland. Ok definitely off topic but this graphic novella is stunning. I'm a massive Alan Moore fan (dressed up as original Silk Spectre from Watchmen for my 21st) and his creative writing ability never ceases to amaze he is able to capture the darkness at the heart of a character and twist and present it in a unique way that shows some humility and vulnerability. This is ferociously backed up by Brian Bolland's meticulous attention to detail and elegant drawings making each page a work of art.

The Pooh Cook Book by Katie Stewart. This appeals to my childish side and gives me a great sense of nostalgia. Anyone who knows me knows that my dad is my hero- he taught me how to bake, how to ride a bike, how to pitch a tent, self-defense, how to make the perfect cheese sauce, he indulged in my weird imagination, steals my recipes, has a wicked sense of humour, still tries to hold my hand when I cross the road and is THE BEST at reading stories. Here is where Winnie the Pooh comes in. I had a HUGE book of all the Winnie the Pooh stories and poems and every night my dad would come home and read from this book- expertly putting on voices for different characters and inventing his own tunes for songs (and sometimes ad libbing lyrics) and it was perfection. I went to sleep happy and smiling from giggling at my dad's silliness. So when my partner spied this cookbook in a charity shop he knew I would adore it. I did, so much so a few tears of joy escaped from me. Recipes are split into different chapters; "Smackerels, Elevenses and Teas", "Provisions for Picnics and Expotitions", "Lunches and Suppers", "Dessert and Party", "Christmas Specialities" and "Hot and Cold Drinks" (how twee!!??!)

It's chock full of beautiful, heart-warming recipes that bring guarantee smiles. The recipes aren't exactly challenging your technical ability or pushing your culinary boundaries but for me its perfect- its nostalgia hitting me in the face, reminding me of my dad reading stories and teaching me how to bake. This book is my treasure.

Excuse me I'm off to make Hot Chocolate for a Blusterous Day.


No Drama xx

Hello my little dumplings

One of several things can puzzle a kitchen hoarder. How the hell did that set? Why won't you come out the pan? HOW MANY EGGS? But a delightful question is how does suet, flour and water taste soooo good? I am referring to of course the dumpling.

A forgotten food staple that every grandad and grandma is a culinary expert in (cue in a story about how said grandparents when they were children would have stew and dumplings. They would save the dumplings until right at the end when they would smear jam on the gravy soaked little blighters and have that for their pudding- shudder)

As the weather is considerably crappy stew and dumplings are on the menu. Now there are many many many different recipes for dumplings but I prefer a simple one (no grated frozen butter for me!);
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 50g shredded suet
  • 2 tsp of thyme

1. In a bowl mix flour, suet and thyme together with a pinch of salt.
2. Add 3 tbsp of cold water and stir. If the dough is too dry add more water until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.
3. With floured hands divide the dough and roll into balls (8-12 depending on size)
4. Add dumplings to your stew in your casserole dish and cook on 180c for 20 minutes.

I apologise there is no picture of the finished product. We were starving.

What do you add to your dumplings? Do you have a different method? Comment and let me know, I'm all ears.

No drama xx

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Meatballs meatballs meatballs

I am a lover... No..... An enthusiast of Italian cooking. I adore pasta and it's versatility. I have massive respect for anyone who makes their own pasta (I never have the time) and its usually my cuisine of choice when choosing a restaurant.

My dad showed me how to make Spaghetti Bolognese and Spaghetti and Meatballs from a very early age. My job was rolling the meatballs whilst my dad tended to the sauce, spices and spaghetti. There's is something beautifully therapeutic about moulding mince and adding spices and herbs to create something completely different to its original state. Bliss.

So below I have given you my recipe for meatballs as its a family favourite. My version does have added sausage meat but every bite provides that the effort is worth it.

Ingredients;
6 sausages (I used Debbie and Andrews Harrogate 97%)
1 kg beef mince
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Large pinch of chilli flakes
50g grated Parmesan
50g fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Plain flour sprinkled on to a plate
Olive oil
Spaghetti (100g per portion)
5 garlic cloves
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
Small glass of red wine
Large pinch of caster sugar
1/2 tbsp of basil
1/2 tbsp of oregano
1 tbsp of tomato purée
Large splash of Lea and Perrins sauce
1 beef stock cube
120ml water

1. First make the meatballs. Take the sausage meat out of the skins and put into a mixing bowl. Add the mince, onion, parsley, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, 2 minced cloves of garlic, chilli flakes, beaten eggs and seasoning. Use your hands- there are no airs and graces here the more you mush the meat the better the spices are incorporated and the meatballs will be nice and tender.
N.B PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE WASHED YOUR HANDS.

2. Heat the oven to 220c/200c fan assisted/gas mark 7. Roll the meat balls and set to one side. (it's up to you what size but this recipe makes lots of meatballs- I like having larger meatballs just a bit bigger than a golf ball size) If you are freezing any meatballs now is the time to do it.
Drizzle oil into a large roasting tin/baking dish and put in the oven to get hot. Whilst waiting for the oil to get hot, roll the meatballs in the plain flour. Once done pop the meatballs in the hot baking dish (listen for the sizzle) shake the dish/tray around so the meatballs are coated in the hot oil and leave to bake for 20-30 minutes until browned.

Now make the sauce. Heat some oil in a pan and add the remaining garlic cloves and cook for a minute. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, stock cube, water, sugar, Lea and Perrins and tomato purée. Simmer for 10 minutes then add the herbs and seasoning, simmer for a further 5-10 minutes until thickened. Add the cooked meatballs to the pan and keep on a low heat whilst you cook the spaghetti. Once cooked, serve with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan. Yum!!

Louis took the left overs to work with a white roll and had his very own homemade meatball sub for his dinner. He told me he was the envy of the office.

What's your family favourite??

Let me know....

No Drama xxx



Thursday, 23 August 2012

Heirlooms

As a child and also as an adult I always wanted some sort of traditional, ceremonious passing down of an apron or a recipe book. Unfortunately in our family we didn't have that kind of thing. We had the passing down of my Grandma's welsh cake recipe but that's it.

I really wanted this for my children and their children, so I started to write a family recipe book. Filled with recipes that my father, mother, partner and I loved with space for my children to add their own.

I had obviously expressed these feelings with my family and they love the idea. Now my lovely Mother In Law had surprised me and took me yesterday to a beautiful little fabric shop in Prestwich called Ellie Magpie. They have reams of materials, thousands of buttons and they make stuffed animals, cushions, bunting, pin cushions, dresses - you name it.

For my Christmas present my MIL has commissioned the owner to make me my very own pinny to be passed down and I got to choose my material, what shape I wanted, how many pockets I wanted, the style, the flow of the pinny. Everything! I was so excited and overwhelmed its safe to say I took a while. The longest material to choose was the material for the trim- I opted for a pink with white polka dot trim.

I cannot wait for Christmas to see what my pinny is like so I can wear it with pride.

Do you have any family heirlooms, recipe books or kitchen tools?

No Drama xx

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Great British Bake Off

It's that time of year again!!!! I don't know about you but last Tuesday I was at my lovely MILs and we had both completely forgotten that GBBO was returning triumphantly to our screens until it burst onto the TV. I squealed with delight- Julie (MIL) and I have a kind of ritual where we either watch it together or we'll text each other during. I don't watch a lot of television as I'm such a book worm but I LOVE LOVE LOVE Great British Bake Off. I absolutely ADORE Mary Berry, she's such a sweetheart and a personal idol of mine as the first recipe book my mum ever bought me was the 1997 "Mary Berry's Best Desserts". (pictured below) As you can see from the pictures it's been well used and is well loved as still used to this very day. I remember (and i'm sure my parents will remember the mess)making the chocolate mousse for my family and my mum providing me with small glasses as we didn't have any ramekins and I had no clue what a bloody ramekin was at 10 years old!

Mary Berry educated me I knew what Baklava was, I learned how to make my own ice cream, I spent a day scouring the garden for good looking leaves so I could make "chocolate leaves"(paint melted chocolate onto clean leaves and leave them to set then peel the leaf away), I learned different ways of decorating a pastry edge and I was always excited when my mum was making a pie and asked if I want to do the edging.

Looking at this book now there are a few recipes that I still haven't tried or i would like to do again. I'd like to make the chocolate mousse cake for Louis' birthday!

Most of my dessert recipes will have something from Mary Berry whether it's her coffee fudge icing, vanilla custard, praline sauce or brandy butter. They are always fitting and I will treasure this book for a long time.

Thanks mum xx


N.B I will be blogging soon about a Banana Bread experiment I will be doing. I have been given several different banana bread recipes and I'm going to find the perfect one.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Sausages - getting enough meat for your money?

Sausages.. welll what can I say about sausages. My parents would tell you that from a very young age I was a difficult little beggar for eating sausages, some of them didnt taste meaty enough or they were too squishy, I also don't think being shown about getting food poisioning from a sausage on a barbecue in Primary School didn't help the campaign either.

I eventually found types I liked, some were "syn-free" from a local butcher, deliciously meaty and low in fat (even though I was only 10 and probably didnt give one about the fat content!) and Richmond sausages.

Now about a month ago there was a programme with the lovely Jimm Doherty(whom I think I may have a slight crush on) called "Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket". Jimmy was taking on Tesco's own brand cheap products and trying to keep the costs the same without skimping on quality. Fine, I say, good on him, I say, until he starts talking about what is inside a sausage. He picks up my beloved Richmond sausages and goes on to say that there is only 42% pork in the packet, 10% is water and fat and the rest is rusk (wheat), flavourings and preservatives.

Okay I could have looked at the back of the packet, but why should I? I trusted those sausages. 42%? In a world where even a bloody McDonalds burger boasts 100% beef we can only manage 42% pork in a packet of sausages? Further reasearch took me to an article by Felicity Lawrence who explains that “The food standards agency has proposed new rules to require clearer labelling of meat content, so that added fat, offal, gristle and rind would have to be separately identified and shoppers could tell more easily what they are getting. The move has been welcomed by consumer groups but they are also worried. The proposals will lower the legal minimum meat content, so that pork sausages would only have to contain 42% meat as newly defined.”

So myself and Louis have decided, no more bargain bangers and we would check percentages and sourcing of the meat we eat or off to the butchers we go! (we already do this with chicken, eggs, beef, but sausages were just never thought of!)

Anyway I have found some absolute gems of the sausage world - Debbie & Andrew's sausages. Click here for a link to their website. My favourite are the 97% Harrogate sausages they have a splash of balsamic vinegar in them, they are so tasty and delicious. Anyway all this talk of sausages is a gear up for my latest recipe. My Sausage and Butter Bean Casserole, it's a bit more of an elegant take on the typical sausage casserole as you will hopefully see.

Ingredients
Half a glass of white wine
Oil
pinch of chilli flakes or half a fresh chilli
chicken stock made to 200ml
2 garlic cloves
1 large leek, sliced
1 tsp of thyme
1 tbsp of parsley
1 tin of drained butterbeans
6 good quality sausages (it's nice to have a flavoured sausage sweet chilli are delicious but this time I tried pork and apple)
                                          

                                                   

1. Heat the oven to 200c
2. Brown your sausages in a little oil (grill if you are watching the calories) once browned take out and leave to cool slightly.
3. In the same frying pan add the leeks and the garlic and add back the sliced sausages once the leeks are starting to soften.

4. Tip the sausage and leek mix into a casserole dish and add the wine, stock, chilli, butter beans and thyme.

5. Cook for 20-30 mintues so that the butter beans are soft and the sausages are cooked through.
6. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve with either bread or like I did adding some herbs to left over mash from the day before. YUM!
N.B If you are watching your weight quorn sausages are delcious in this stew with one regular sausage for flavour- we gotta keep those tastebuds alive eh?

Whats bangers do you think are the best? Let me know.

Sorry for the long post!

No Drama xx

BlogLovin'

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/3968564/?claim=fzvd2bmrzt3">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

So I've decided to joing BlogLovin' I sometimes find it really hard to get to a computer and the BlogLovin' app seems to do the trick when used on my iPhone and keeps me informed and up to date better than any other blogging app. I've read great reviews and fingers crossed it with serve me well.

What apps do you use to upload your posts? Any tricks of the trade you wish to share? Let me know.

No Drama xx

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Faye's Perfect Baked Potatoes

I LOVE baked potatoes, they are the perfect i-can't-decide-what-to-have-for-tea solution and can be stuffed to the gills with a variety of delicious fillings or just simply naked with a slither of butter.

Now for years I have been disappointed with the turn out of my baked beauties as I had used the method of wrapping the potatoes in tin foil but they never got crispy or fluffy enough and if you put them in the microwave they turn out flabby and pathetic leaving you thinking what's the point?

Now this method has been given to me by my best friend Faye, ever since she cooked baked potatoes this way for me I've never looked back. They are wonderful. (photos of each step are below)

Get the oven roaring hot. First choose your potato; a floury potato like King Edward or Maris Piper is best, then thoroughly clean them- I know the packets say they have been washed but there is nothing worse than getting a mouthful of dirt. Dry them, stab them with a fork making sure you do a couple really deep ones. Then cover the potatoes in olive oil, you just want a light coverage so a put about a tablespoon or so in my hands, rub together and adorn the potatoes with it. Sprinkle salt on and cook at about 175-200 degrees for about an hour until the potatoes have a crispy skin and are soft and fluffy on the inside.

I have also recently been told that the best way to split your potato is to punch or "karate chop" it. You have to be quick but the result is a potato that splits and has a fluffy inside.

What fillings do you prefer in your spud?

No drama xxx

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Southern Eleven, Manchester

I'm catching up on my reviews!! I've eaten out a few times and I've only just had a spare minute to give them write ups. This review is about the new, shiny, hot spot on Spinningfields in Manchester- Southern Eleven. A bustling restaurant producing superb quality "home cooking" inspired from South America in a cosmopolitan area of Manchester.

Now me and my partner Louis have a deal, we have a date night once a month and on that night we eat at a new restaurant. This month it was my turn and with a hankering for American BBQ (we watch wayyyyy too much Man V Food) I pulled up the Southern Eleven website and my decision was clear. These guys put so much love into their food they even have Oklahoman wood smokers giving an authentic hickory smoked flavour (if ya gonna do it, do it right!) and the SMELL when you walk in?? I wish it could be bottled- it left my partner in a state of euphoria. His expression was thanking me eternally for choosing this restaurant.

Southern Eleven is on Hardman Street right next to a gym- the people going to that gym need medals or something as there would be no way I'd spend money on a gym membership with the intoxicating aromas from S11.

Anyway down to the food. For starters Louis and I shared a platter of hickory smoked chicken wings(pictured)- now usually I really do not like chicken wings, I find them fatty and a bit slimy. These however were tender, plump, crispy skin and infused with deep rich spices and a sweet sticky sauce. Eating them was a hilarious event in itself as the only way is to dig in with your fingers and get sauce all over your face- the waiter had provided us with a finger bowl and a good handful of paper napkins, he had clearly seen Operation Chicken Wings full force several times and was now an expert in preparation for defeating these delicious, messy mammoths.

On to main, where to be honest I was already struggling after shared victory over the wings (we had also ordered milkshakes- hands down best milkshake I've ever had but possibly not the best drink when dealing with belly-filling BBQ) I had chosen the BBQ glazed chicken with whipped potatoes and BBQ sauce and Louis had chosen the Southern Tasting Platter which consisted of - 18 hour smoked pulled pork, beef brisket, short ribs and skinny fries(pictured). Now when Louis platter came I actually squealed (me? Squealed!?!) in delight. His food was beautifully arranged on a wooden platter and in a little pot was BBQ glaze and a little brush to apply glaze where-ever he wished and his skinny fries came in a little copper bucket.. I thought it was so clever and a beautifully sophisticated twist on the home cooking of the south(and I also thought it was twee and adorable but that's just me). My dish came in a skillet the same as the wings and was still sizzling long after the waiter had gone. That first bite of my chicken was heavenly, the crisp of the skin, the deep heady scent of the hickory smoke, the juicy, tender meat and the combination of flavours was absolute perfection and don't get me started on the potatoes. I was ready for marrying the chef and when Louis asked me how my dish was my reply was what only could be described as the mating call of a moose.

Unfortunately we could not eat all of the food. I was extremely full to the point of I would be sick if startled; my stomach was full but my mouth still craved the caressing smoky BBQ tones. Luckily though Southern Eleven's staff will box up what you cannot eat for you to take home (SCORE!)

Louis and I had planned to go and watch a film but as we waddled to the car it was soon clear that it would not be wise to sit in the dark with such full tummies. We rode home- groaning at the restriction of clothing, got home, went straight upstairs, lay on the bed and fell asleep. At 7.45pm.

Best. Date. Night. Ever.

No Drama xxx

The Alchemist, Manchester

Those of you who are on my Twitter (@hampanther) will know that I took my sister to The Alchemist a few Fridays back and a night of drinking to celebrate her 18th birthday (they grow up so fast!)

I had been dying to go to The Alchemist as their cocktails are served with such skill and scientific precision that it appealed to my curious nature.

I had booked reservations for us for 8.30, we weren't seated until 8.45, but the place was absolutely rammed and it gave us chance to grab a cocktails so we didn't mind. The cocktail my sister and I chose was the Cherry Bakewell Martini- cherry liquor, amaretto, cranberry juice topped with cream and a cherry-DELICIOUS!!

For dinner my sister ordered the fried chicken wrap with BBQ sauce and I ordered a steak and mushroom sandwich- HOLD THE MUSHROOMS. Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot stand mushrooms. I will cook them, I will put them in a casserole but pick them off my plate- putting one in my mouth makes me physically sick, I am gagging as we speak. I had this conversation with the waiter who seemed to share my hatred of the fungi variety (I think it's the texture- reminds me of a slug)

Our meals came (rather super quick may I add) and we started to tuck in. Now when my plate was put in front of me I was rather deflated, my meal did not look like anything special and I guess with the wonder and magic of the cocktails I was expected a little more in presentation, BUT, at the end of the day it's a steak sandwich- what else are you gonna do with it?

My sister seemed to thoroughly enjoy her dish as all she could muster was nods of approval. My dish had a little saucer of steak gravy that was to die for- I mean we could serve this at a gathering of world leaders and world peace would be announced within minutes. My steak was juicy and tender too and I was utterly in love with it until my teeth bit into a big, disgusting mushroom. Discreetly spitting out my food into a napkin as gracefully as I could I had to inspect the innards of my sandwich and there hijacking my beautiful sandwich was some evil mushrooms.

Now I am not one to make a fuss at all, I happily took all the mushrooms off and started to power through despite my tummy feeling a little queasy, unfortunately our waiter did the usual "Just checking if everything is okay" and saw the discarded fungi and offered to make another sandwich. Now we were on a tight schedule and had to meet my sisters friends at a certain time so I politely declined and stated that I was fine and didn't have a mad appetite anyway. So the waiter went away, but brought the manager over who offered me another steak sandwich. I again politely declined, so was then told to my surprise that they would not charge me for the meal as the waiter had not let the chef know I asked for no mushrooms and that the meal would be coming out of the waiters wage.

Talk about feeling bad!!! When the waiter came with the bill I told him that I wouldn't have kicked up a fuss and that he didn't need to tell the manager as I was perfectly happy and how guilty I felt that he would be paying for my meal. At which the waiter gave my hand a squeeze and said that he would have felt awful if he hadn't done anything and that he hoped it wouldn't spoil our thoughts of The Alchemist and that we would come again.

Talk about customer care! I will definitely go to The Alchemist again as the service was excellent, cocktails were delicious and the food was hearty... I just won't order anything with mushrooms next time- I don't want the guilt!

No drama....Okay maybe a little...

Xxxx

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup- Miracle cure???

Good evening all!

Is anyone else having a Summer cold? Or a sickness bug running around their household? My other half has fallen ill and I know it's only a matter of time until I am taken by the evil sickness.

So the only thing to have is Chicken Noodle soup taken from my family recipe book- it makes me feel million times better and is always demanded whenever Louis is feeling under the weather (man flu eh!?!)

Ingredients;
900ml chicken stock (or miso soup mix)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tsp chopped fresh root ginger
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
50g rice or wheat noodles
2 tbsp sweet corn (optional)
2-3 mushrooms, sliced
2 spring onions, shredded
2 tsp soy sauce, plus extra for serving
Mint or basil leaves and a little shredded chilli to serve

1. Pour the stock into a pan and add the chicken, ginger and garlic. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is tender (about 20 mins). Remove the chicken and shred.
2. Return the chicken to the stock with the noodles, sweet corn, mushrooms, half the spring onions and soy sauce. Simmer for 4 minutes until the noodles are tender. Pour into bowl and scatter over the remaining spring onions, herbs and chilli and extra soy sauce if needed.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Whisked Vanilla Sponge

As many of you may know I love cake. I love baking, I love eating and I love decorating cake. My go to recipe is my whisked vanilla cake- it's so good that it has made the family recipe book which is passed down generation to generation.

The cake is one that I use for birthday cakes, covering in fondant or buttercream frosting. Or I make it into almost a pudding covering it in raspberry jam and cream when it's still ever so slightly warm which is my best friend Faye's favourite way (pictured).

Ingredients;
175g/6oz caster sugar
175g/6oz self-raising flour
175g/6oz butter or marg
3 large eggs
2 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/Gas Mark 5 and butter a cake tin.
2. In a large bowl cream the butter/marg and sugar together with a wooden spoon until light and creamy. In another bowl mix the eggs and vanilla extract (I like kirklands) together.
3. Slowly add the flour and eggs alternatively to the sugar and butter mixture, beating between each addition until the mixture is well mixed and smooth.
4. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Happy baking! No drama xxx

Monday, 19 March 2012

Chestnuts, Chestnuts, Chestnuts

If you hadn't guessed this blog post is about chestnuts. Chestnuts for me are the essence of nostalgia, hunting around under trees for a fallen green casing containing a horse chestnut. Once a "winner" was found I'd go running to my dad so he could drill a hole in the centre, thread a shoelace through, paint it with clear nail varnish and attempt to beat my brother at "Conkers"

I have since developed a fondness for their taste not just the satisfaction of smashing them together. At Christmas I adore going to the German market and getting a bag o roasted chestnuts.

I find chestnuts to be rather diverse & regularly use them in sweet and savoury dishes. They are brilliant as they a lower in calories than other nuts, contain very little fat and no cholesterol.

I enjoy making chestnut cupcakes with a chocolate frosting topping as the nuts are perfect with chocolate but the recipe I'm going to show you is a chestnut stuffing that is now my mother in laws favourite.

50g pecans, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
1 packet cooked chestnuts , finely chopped
5 good-quality pork sausages
140g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp chopped thyme leaves
2 tsp finely chopped sage
Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, tip in the onion and garlic, and fry for a few mins until softened. Stir in the chestnuts and chopped pecans, then tip into a large bowl and cool. Squeeze the sausages from their casings and add to the bowl with the nut mixture. Add the breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, sage, lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.) Put stuffing mixture into a baking dish. Bake stuffing in the oven for 25-30 mins.

Give it a try with a roast chicken & let me know what you think!!

No Drama!! Xx

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Mississippi Mud Pie

Hello!! I decided on Sunday I was going to treat Louis and make a dessert. He asked if i could make him Mississippi Mud Pie as he had never had it. For those of you that aren't familiar a Mississippi Mud Pie is a pastry base with a chocolate pudding filling, topped with whipped cream (totally calorific!!!)

The recipe I'm giving you is for a 22/23cm pie dish. You'll need a hand whisk, a rolling pin, baking parchment, baking beans & 3 mixing bowls (one of them being heatproof) your ingredients are;
Pastry:
260g plain flour
110g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp of salt

Filling:
150g of good quality dark chocolate
2 tbsp of golden syrup
50g unsalted butter
6 eggs (I know I know)
300g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tub of whipping cream

1. Put the flour, butter and salt in a bowl and using the tips of your fingers rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Add a tbsp of water and mix until incorporated fully into the pastry mix. If the mixture has not combined add another tbsp (careful you don't want the mixture too wet)
3. Once the pastry has come together to form a dough wrap some cling film around it and put it in the fridge for an hour.
4. Turn the oven on to 170c/Gas mark 5. Roll out the pastry on a well floured surface until at the correct size to generously fill the pie dish. Put a sheet of baking paper on the pastry and fill with baking beans.
6. Put the pastry in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove the baking paper and beans, then bake for a further 10 minutes.
7. Put the chocolate, butter and golden syrup into a heatproof bowl and melt together over a pan of boiling water.
8. While the chocolate mixture is melting, mix together the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla extract with an electric whisk until fully combined.
9. Once the chocolate mixture has melted and cooled slightly add the warm chocolate to the egg mixture gradually, stirring constantly until both mixtures are combined.
10. Add the filling mixture to the blind baked pastry case and bake for 30-40 minutes. Check at 30 minutes, when the pie is ready it should be firm to the touch but have a slight wobble in the centre. Leave the pie to cool fully until putting in the fridge for at least an hour.
11. Add whipping cream to the pie when it is ready to serve.

I like to add chocolate curls to my Mississippi Mud Pie, but you can add your own decorations if you like!!

It's safe to say Louis ate the lot!!!

No drama xxx

Monday, 13 February 2012

Cakes, cakes and more cakes!!!

Ok so anyone who knows me know that I love cake. I also love making cakes, it appeals to my scientific, creative side. I ADORE experimenting with different flavours.

Anyway... Family and friends are always asking for my cakes & I've had quite a few requests and orders so I've decided to take what I'm good at and run with it. I have decided to start a little cupcake business and see what happens!!

Now I had to come up with a name and well... It's been difficult... Until Louis came to me (there's a back story... Bear with me!!!)

Last year Louis and I went to a tattoo convention and got cupcake tattoos for the help for heroes charity (check out the cupcake club) my tattoos is very girly with a bow and Louis' is one with a moustache who we have lovingly named Monsieur Cupcake ad thus the name was born!!!!

So since French patisserie is a major influence and we're making cupcakes ... You got it... My little business is called Monsieur Cupcake (@monsieurcupcake)

Phew!!!!

Have a look at my batches of random and Valentines cupcakes

No Drama xxxx

Friday, 10 February 2012

My kitchen

A few people have asked me what my kitchen is like and what I use the most.

Well to be honest I'm not really a huge fan I my kitchen as I want to rip it out and make it my own but living in rented accommodation kinda restricts that sort of action.

I really love my cookery bookshelf. It's full of my recipe books, magazines and my kitchen journal(which I plan to pass down from generation to generation)
Its the fuel to my passion and gets me up to create new dishes and try new things.

I also love my shelves which are full of spices, utensils and random memorabilia.

Enjoy a peek into my kitchen

No drama xxx

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Dream kitchen

Eugh! How horrid are some kitchens?? I mean, someone took the effort to put a particular kitchen in a house and it's offensive to every sense.

Ok, me and Louis are looking at buying a house, we're saving up, we're being sensible. We have a few things on the list that need ticking. 3 bedrooms(plan for children), nice area (not on a main road as current!), back garden (children and animals need to play!) but for my the deal is sealed with a great kitchen or great size for a kitchen.

A kitchen with potential.

That's all any cooking mad girl wants eh? I want to be one of those mums that teach my children to cook. The heart of my home is my kitchen. It's where my best memories are; where my father taught me how bake a cake, my sleeves rolled up and my Fireman Sam apron covered in flour eagerly awaiting to see if we had made "the best ever" & he always said I had every time even if it wasn't.

He even let me lick the buttercream off the spoon. I owe my love of cooking to my father. He showed me how to create something and sparked a passion in me for sharing creations with people you love.

Thanks dad.



No Drama xx

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Spaghetti carbonara - the PROPER way

Spaghetti Carbonara is a little favourite of mine and is very close to my heart in my little recipe book. It's the first meal I ever cooked for Louis (awwwwww) so its one that is used every so often and never fails to hot the spot (& gives me a little joyous nostalgia at the same time)

Ok so it's a restaurant fad that carbonara has cream in it. It guarantees the eggs in the sauce won't split and adds unnecessary calories!

So this recipe has no cream but requires a lot of stirring.

100g pancetta/streaky bacon
100g grated Parmesan
3 large eggs
350g spaghetti
2 plump garlic cloves , peeled and left whole
50g unsalted butter
salt and freshly grated black pepper

Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Finely chop the bacon, having first removed any rind. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, season with a little freshly grated black pepper and set everything aside.
Add 1 tsp salt to the boiling water, add the spaghetti and when the water comes back to the boil, cook at a constant simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until al dente (just cooked).
Squash the garlic with the blade of a knife, just to bruise it. While the spaghetti is cooking, drop the butter into a large wide frying pan or wok and, as soon as the butter has melted, tip in the bacon and garlic. Leave these to cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the bacon is golden and crisp. The garlic has now imparted its flavour, so take it out with a slotted spoon and discard.
Keep the heat under the bacon on low.When the pasta is ready lift it from the water with a pasta fork or tongs and put it in the frying pan with the bacon. Don't worry if a little water drops in the pan as well (you want this to happen) and don't throw the rest of the pasta water away yet.
Mix most of the cheese in with the eggs, keeping a small handful back for sprinkling over later. Take the pan of spaghetti and bacon off the heat. Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using the tongs or a long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture, which thickens but doesn't scramble, and everything is coated. Add extra pasta cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it). You don't want it wet, just moist. Season with a little salt, if needed.
Use a long-pronged fork to twist the pasta on to the serving plate or bowl. Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of the remaining cheese and a grating of black pepper. If the dish does get a little dry before serving, splash in some more hot pasta water to revive the sauce.


Yum!! No drama xx


Monday, 2 January 2012

Best cafe in Manchester

Okay I have to tell you about the best cafe in Manchester which is the Nexus Art Cafe.

Nexus is a creative community space in the heart of the city centre located in the Northern Quarter. They operate a not-for-profit café and arts venue where they showcase the work of emerging creative practitioners, facilitate local organisations and work with users towards sustainable community development projects.

The food there is absolutely delicious they have a variety of sandwiches, baked potatoes, pies, cakes, pastries and hot and cold drinks. My favourite dishes are;

Chicken of Aragon Pie (Free Range British Chicken, Smoky Bacon, Roast Garlic, Vermouth, and Fresh Tarragon in Fresh Pastry)

Heidi Pie (Goat’s Cheese, Sweet Potato Spinach, Red Onion, Roasted Garlic in lovely pastry)

Ciao Chicken Sandwich (Chicken, Pesto, Mozzarella, Sundried Tomato)

Working in partnership with local council, police, bars & clubs Nexus opens as a night cafe on Saturday nights. Between 2-6am every week, the night café offers a safe space for folks making their way home after a night out. By providing a warm, friendly, fun place and taxi ordering service, they help reduce the problems of bogus taxis and alcohol related crime.

The great thing about Nexus is the almost organised chaos layout. To get to the cafe you have to travel down stairs where the walls are christened with stylised graffiti, you follow signs to the main room where there are countless small sofas, mismatched chairs and wicker thrones. It looks like the owner went mental buying furniture on eBay which adds to the quaint, quirky, homely feel of the place. You place your order take it to wherever you feel like sitting and stay for as long as you please. At Nexus there is no jostling you along, no questions that don't need to be asked, no pushing you out the door. It's relaxed.
It's peaceful. It's my home away from home.

Please check out their website and promise me you'll give it a try and let me know what you had to eat.

No Drama xx

Poached eggs

Okay so we hit a culinary dilemma this morning. Louis wanted to taste the perfect poached egg. Now there's several methods; the frying pan that's designed for poached eggs, poach pods or the stick it in the pan and hope for the best approach.

The poach pan never works how you want it to- it produces clinical looking poached eggs with a slight rubber texture.

The poach pods aren't too bad but the smell of the pods are so plastic-ky, it slightly taints the eggs. I think after several boils it should be ok to use.

So several eggs later we've decided that the stick it in the pan and hope for the best method is the best, and here's how I did it;

Large pinch of salt
1 large fresh egg, preferably organic
1 drop of malt or white wine vinegar

1. Half fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add a hefty pinch of salt.

2. Meanwhile, crack the egg into a small jug or bowl/ramekin and add a drop of vinegar.

3. Stir the boiling water vigorously with a balloon whisk until you have a whirlpool then immediately slip the egg into the centre, lowering the jug a couple of centimetres into the water.

4. Turn the heat down low, and cook for three minutes – use a timer to prevent overcooking.

5. Drain the egg on kitchen paper, and serve immediately. If you're poaching it in advance, drop it straight into a bowl of iced water instead, or it will carry on cooking; to reheat, simply warm the egg through in a pan of gently simmering water.

Save to say Louis is currently tucking into eggs and says they're the best he's had!

What's your favourite tip for poaching eggs? And once your eggs are poached, what do you like to do with them?

No Drama xx