Sunday, 31 August 2014

Salvi's Cucina, Manchester

Salvi's Cucina, Manchester
Every so often I find somewhere that blows my little socks off. I have been aware of the existence of Salvi's Cucina for some time, yet it had slipped under the radar because I am generally nonplussed with Italian food. This is partially my own fault as I always have the same thing whenever I go to an Italian restaurant. The only one to ever really wow me was the long departed Italia, and I have been bereft ever since.

Last weekend my friend Lee and I may have got a little drunk at the food festival gala dinner, and started grilling Gordo about his favourite places to eat. He recommended Salvi's Cucina, and despite being slightly inebriated, I remembered.
Salvi's Cucina, Manchester
Cue the line 'where do you fancy eating on Saturday?' And there she blows, Salvi's popped right into my head. We arrived nice and early and were given a pretty little spot in the window. We had drinks in hand within five minutes and a jolly chap with a strong Italian accent brought us some menus. I liked him. The dining room is small, but was filled with the scent of sauce and fresh bread, and is home to many bottles of wine, hams and vegetables in crates.
Salvi's Cucina, Manchester
Everything on the menu sounds delicious, but it didn't take us long to decide what we were ordering.

Carpaccio di Manzo Rucola e Grana - beef, rocket and parmesan  drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, finished with freshly squeezed lemon: So simple yet unbelievably heavenly.
Salvi's Cucina, Manchester - Carpaccio
Bruschetta con Taleggio: Home baked bread with beautifully melted Taleggio cheese. I could eat this all day.
Salvi's Cucina, Manchester - Bruschetta
Home made potato and ricotta gnocchi with Italian pork sausages in a light Mediterranean tomato sauce: Eat these if you are starving, hung over, cold or sad. As you chew the gnocchi imagine them spreading happiness from the inside, because that is what is happening.
Salvi's Cucina, Manchester - Gnocchi
Lamb ravioli: This was one of the 'ravioli of the day', the other being mushroom. I would never normally pick pasta from a menu, but I had to give it a bash. I can honestly say that this was the best pasta I can ever remember eating. Little parcels of fragrant lamb in a creamy tomato sauce with miniature lamb meatballs. I'm doing that thing again where I get angry that it's no longer in front of me. I ate every scrap.
Salvi's Cucina, Manchester - Ravioli
Almalfi lemon tart: Half cake, half tart, smothered in rich chocolate sauce. We shared this because the pasta nearly killed us, yet we still polished the whole thing.
Salvi's Cucina, Manchester - Lemon Cake
My husband has declared Salvi's Cucina to be his new favourite place in Manchester. I have to say that I agree. Go for a relaxed dining experience, and expect fresh, authentic Italian food served by people who love what they do. Adored it.

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bill's, Manchester

Bill's, Manchester
I've always fancied trying Bill's when we've been in London, but with so many exciting shiny restaurants, it's always been missed off the list. To be honest I've been pretty busy with work recently too, so didn't even know that they had opened a restaurant in Manchester until we drove past on our way to the Botanist. I had to give it a go.

Serving 'breakfast to bedtime' you'll be right at home whether you want a fancy fry up or a meaty burger. My husband is a big fan of the former, myself the latter. Luckily for us we could have both! The restaurant itself is huge, but has been split into smaller dining spaces so it's neither loud or invasive of personal space - I'm not a fan of either. 

Dried chillies hang on the walls, there's an array of oversized lampshades, and quintessential kitsch accessories fill every available space. Many of the shelves are decorated with the brightly coloured jars, packets and bottles of Bill's signature produce too. 
Bill's, Manchester
We were greeted by a friendly face and seated next to the window overlooking busy John Dalton Street. It was really weird, because despite being sat in the middle of Manchester city centre, we both got a feeling like we could have been in a burger bar in San Francisco. Not sure why...

Bill's breakfast - cumberland sausage, fried free range eggs, beans, black pudding, smoked streaky bacon and toast (sans tomatoes and mushrooms): It's a thing of beauty. As far removed from the greasy spoon with a milky brew as you can get. His only complaint? They forgot his sausage! However, this was dealt with swiftly and it had half gone before I even got change to snap the bugger.
Bill's, Manchester - Breakfast
Bill's hamburger with monterey jack cheese, red onion, tomato, lettuce, horseradish mayonnaise and skinny fries: Remember in 1999 when Burger King did ace fries? No? Maybe just the Middlebrook one then - you'll have to trust me, they were outstanding. Well these fries hit the nail on the head. Perhaps these legendary fries only exist in a clouded vodka-infused memory. Anyway, a rather pleasant burger with crisp, salty chips. My only criticism was it came well done when I ordered pink. Still tasted pretty good though.
Bill's, Manchester - Burger
Bill's is the ideal spot for a lazy brunch. In all honesty I'd still go to the likes of Almost Famous for a burger, but that breakfast was fantastic. I can't believe there are still enough punters around to fill all these new restaurants, but with a new food blogger springing up weekly, I think we'll keep them in business for some time yet! They're not doing anything groundbreaking or causing a ruckus on Twitter, but we enjoyed it all the same.

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Almond Butter Bundt Cake

Almond Butter Bundt Cake
When I set the theme for our last cake club, I was convinced that 'The Nutcracker' would be easy. The problem was choice. I had a few ideas in my arsenal, but was struggling to decide on just one. Then I remembered I had squirrelled away a jar of almond butter for just such an occasion. I like to collect nice ingredients because I know one day they will be transformed into something magical. 

It turns out that this cake is popular with the fellas. It's a big cake with a dense yet moist crumb, and has a decent weight to it when held. The cake itself isn't too sweet (despite 425g of sugar!) but the light icing and fruit on top just give it a gentle lift. Although it can also be made with peanut butter, I think the almond makes it that bit more interesting. 

Ingredients
Cake
  • 275g unsalted butter 
  • 425g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 150g almond butter (I used Meridian). Give it a good stir before using.
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp low fat plain yogurt

Topping
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Cherries and whole almonds to decorate

Method
  1. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin (2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch). 
  2. Soften the butter then add in half of the sugar and beat for about a minute. Then add the rest of the sugar and beat until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the almond extract.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time on a low speed.
  5. Using a spatula, blend in all of the almond butter. It will look a bit sloppy... 
  6. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  7. Fold in half of the flour mixture, followed by the yogurt, then the rest of the flour. 
  8. Give the whole thing a quick whizz for about 10 seconds just to combine everything properly.
  9. Pour the batter into the tin and smooth out. 
  10. Bake your cake at gas 4/180 C for 45 minutes, then turn the temperature down to gas 3/160 C for around another 25-30 minutes. As aways, you'll know it's done when a skewer comes out clean and the cake is shrinking from the edges of the tin.
  11. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out.
  12. Allow to cool completely before icing. I mean it. Unless of course you want a soggy mess.
  13. To make the icing add the almond extract to the icing sugar, with enough water to make a runny icing. Tip it over the cake with confidence! It knows... 
  14. Decorate with fresh cherries and a few whole almonds.
Almond Butter Bundt Cake
BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. 
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

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