Friday, 30 August 2013

Giveaway: Clark's Honey and Cookie Crumbles Baking Kits

Clark's Honey and Cookie Crumbles Baking Kits
My pals at Clark's Honey and Cookie Crumbles have sent me some fantastic goodies to giveaway! They even sent me a pack to road test too - very kind indeed. 

You could win one of three granola bar baking sets, which include two packs of granola bar mix, and a jar of Clark's Honey. That's enough to bake a substantial stack of granola bars... Last night I set about road testing one of these bad boys. It took approximately half an hour including greasing and lining the tin, mixing everything together and baking it in the oven. Easy peasy. All you have to do is melt some butter and honey together, then pour it over the nutty mix. Push it into a tin and hey presto!  It tastes pretty damn good too. 
Clark's Honey and Cookie Crumbles Baking Kits
This would be ideal for making with children (with a little 'hot stuff' supervision), but to be honest it's handy to have in the cupboard if you're partial to a nutty snack too. Don't think packet mix... It's as far removed from Thomas the Tank Fairy cakes as you can get. The mix includes oats, seeds, dried cherries and is all natural. More brill than Trill. 

How to Enter
    Clark's Honey and Cookie Crumbles Baking Kits
  • Simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below.
  • To be in with a chance of winning you must complete ALL the mandatory fields, and then can move onto the additional entries if you want to increase your chances of winning.
  • All entries will be checked and verified before a winner is announced.
  • You can increase your chances of winning by Tweeting on a daily basis.
  • Rafflecopter will pick a random winner.
  • The competition runs until 28th September 2013.
  • Please see the Terms and Conditions on the Rafflecopter widget for the rules and more
  • information.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was sent a free pack of Granola Energy Bar Mix and a jar of Clark's Honey.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

An Interview with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry

The baking duo return to Bolton Food and Drink Festival for a second year

So I interviewed the Great British Bake Off's Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry again. No biggy. Cool as a cucumber...

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to meet Paul and Mary for the second year running, but all hopes of remaining calm went out of the window the second I stepped into that tent. Hands clammy, cheeks cranked up to 'inferno' level, and yes... a total inability to speak in a coherent fashion. 

This year I had my baking buddy Jenny (of BakingBad fame...) taking pictures and generally steadying my nerves. Jenny is calm and collected, and generally renowned for getting the job done. Saying that, I had just plonked her feet away from Britain's most famous baking double act... We were poised.

Paul and Mary put on a fantastic show. They may be chalk and cheese, but they are both wonderfully quick witted and have the sort of chemistry which turns out a belting bake. Although they are there to demonstrate two of their signature bakes, the show is all about their personalities. Mary is ever the unshaken professional, oozing glamour from every pore, whilst Paul is the cheeky chappy cracking the jokes. 

Totally stone-faced, he convincingly told the crowd Mary is 105, that she wrote her memoirs just after the Great Fire and informed the crowd she was actually his mother. Although Mary did grass up a rather hung over Mr Hollywood for snaffling a pork pie from Bolton Markets at about 10am. Someone had been playing out with one Andrew Nutter the night before... Paul also referred to one of the Bake Off contestants as the 'bloke who looked like a turtle'. I spotted him on Tuesday. Yes.
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry at Bolton Food and Drink Festival
After the show, Paul and Mary sat signing autographs and posing for pictures. Paul looked like he may well combust at one point, which I am sure was the moment his hangover well and truly kicked in. It was a crying shame... Ish. 
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry signing autographs
Before the interview, I had asked my Twitter and Facebook friends if they had any burning questions for the dynamic duo, and well butter my butt and call me bread, you all came up with some corkers!

What is your baking nemesis?
Paul: ~looks deep in thought~ For me it's sourdough, but that means it's also my best. I had to master it, so it's my weakness, but now my strength.
Mary: I think all cake baking really.
Jenny and I sit aghast...
Rachel: Really?! But you're so good at it!
Mary: I know, but I can always get better! There are often new methods, new ingredients, so it's how you get round that and stay good!

What's the best way to avoid a soggy bottom?
Mary: You've got to bake blind properly. Make sure it's dried out when you take the beads or whatever off, then dry it out completely before you put the filling in.
Paul: And preheat the tray...
Mary: You can put an egg wash on to seal the base, particularly if you've pricked it.

The Bake Off is going strong, and it has been for a number of years now. How much longer can it go on for?
Paul: About a hundred and fifty years.
Rachel: A hundred and fifty years precisely?
Paul: Perhaps a hundred and fifty one... 
Mary: I think it will go on for quite some time yet. It's such a simple and happy programme. I think people want a family programme, and that's what you've got.

Other than the Bake Off, what's your favourite programme on TV?
Paul: I would say Bread by Paul Hollywood... Other than that, Top Gear by a mile.
Mary: My only favourite programme is Downton Abbey.
Paul: That's us together! Top Gear versus Downton Abbey... 

If you could only have one cake, pie or pudding for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Mary: Lemon Drizzle! (said with some vigour)
Paul: Definitely a pork pie.
Mary: He's had one this morning already...
Rachel: So I've heard...
Interviewing Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry
Paul and Mary were also asked a number of questions by the crowd during the show...

What would you have been if you weren't a baker?
Mary: I enjoy gardening. When the children were little they played football there, and now the grandchildren play there too. I love watching Gardener's World. To put it into perspective, Gardener's World get 2.5 million viewers, which I thought was a lot. Then I was told that the Bake Off has 5.6 million viewers!

Testing Mary Berry's Lemon Cake
Sampling Mary's Lemon Cake...
How do you judge a bake if you don't like the ingredients?
Paul: Mary doesn't like coconut, but you have to trust us. We know what it should taste like, and how the texture should be.
Mary: Paul doesn't like booze in cakes
Paul: She does... We've baked in some of the best hotels and kitchens in the world. We know what we're talking about. On last year's Bake Off we criticised Mary-Anne's syllabub because the alcohol was too strong. She got all stroppy about it! You have to trust our taste buds.

What percentage of the instructions are missing in the technical challenge?
Mary: It's the baking times that are left out, sometimes temperature.
Paul: There were over 10,000 entries for this year's Bake Off, so we expect them to already have good technical knowledge.

Which do you prefer? The adult or junior Bake Off?
Mary: The junior Bake Off is enchanting. There are no parents in the tent, and the children are full of confidence. It's the parents who are uptight! The children just enjoy it. There were over 2000 junior entries this year.
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry
A huge thank you to Paul and Mary for taking time out of their manic schedule to speak to me, and even bigger thanks to Jenny for doing such a cracking job with the pictures. She's the only person I know who would dare tell Mary Berry she wasn't looking at the camera! 

Here's to three years in a row eh?

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Cherry Bundt Cake

Cherry Bundt Cake
I've intended making this cake for a while now, but never quite got round to it. It was one of those that dances around as an idea, before blossoming into something wonderful. It's über moist with a deep cherry flavour, and conceals a ripple of sweet jam lying just below the surface. I did this for a bake sale at work, which went down absolute storm.

I used a really thick Turkish cherry jam infused with vanilla to give this cake a little extra luxury, and topped it with a splash of bright white icing and fresh, dark cherries. Delicious.

  • 225g butter
  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml cherry yogurt
  • 5 tbsp cherry jam (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 C
  2. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch. 
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Add the extracts.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  7. Pour the yogurt and compote into a jug and mix.
  8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yogurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. Don't over mix.
  9. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  10. Pour 3/4 of the mix into the prepared tin. 
  11. Smear over a layer of jam, avoiding the edges.
  12. Cover with the remaining mix.
  13. Note: the jam will sink. You want this to happen! Do not be afraid... 
  14. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. It should be shrinking from the sides of the tin slightly.
  15. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin. 
  16. Serve with either a dredging of icing sugar or glacé icing topped with a few fresh cherries.

Cherry Bundt Cake

Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic 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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Friday, 23 August 2013

Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2013

Photographs from the launch and Michael Caines' demo

Bolton Food Festival 2013
I'm exhausted. I've just got home from day one of the Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2013. The organisers have truly surpassed themselves this year. A few Twitter friends have asked me whether it's worth a visit... I'm going to predominantly shut my trap and let the pictures do the talking! Hopefully they catch the essence of the event: stalls manned by friendly folk, a wide variety of home made goods from local producers and some fantastic entertainment. Never a dull moment!

Once again the festival was opened by Michael Caines, who then did a fantastic lunchtime demo in the main tent. It smelled so good I had to hotfoot it to Margo and Rita's for emergency tacos! I can't recommend them highly enough. Dessert came in the form of Churtopia cinnamon drenched churros, and I took a huge bag of goodies home. Stall highlights include All You Knead breads, I Heart Jam, Saddleworth Cheese, Orchard Pigs and the Kro beer tent. Tomorrow also sees the return of the delightful Indian food heroes, Chaat Cart.

Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are strutting their stuff tomorrow, Sunday is Aldo Zilli's turn, and finally James Martin makes a return on Monday. There are also lots of smaller demos on across the town centre, including local favourites Jon Jones of the Farmer's Arms and Ernst van Zyl of the Wine Glass at Etrop Grange.

Like you didn't need any further persuasion, here are a few photographs of what's on offer...
Bolton Food Festival 2013
Bolton Food Festival 2013
Bolton Food Festival 2013
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Beer
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Jam
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Sausage Rolls
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Granny Turismo
The charming Granny Turismo
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Music
Well if you're in the mood for dancing...
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Margo and Rita
Margo and Rita - Tacos and Nachos
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Churros
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Music
Bolton Food Festival 2013
Bolton Food Festival 2013
Bolton Food Festival 2013
Bolton Food Festival 2013
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Michael Caines
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Michael Caines
Bolton Food Festival 2013 - Michael Caines
Same again tomorrow? 

If you go, be sure to tweet lots of pictures and use the hashtag #BoltonFoodFest so I can have a nosy!

Bolton Food and Drink Festival runs over the August Bank Holiday weekend, through to Monday 26th.

For more information, visit the official website at

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Saturday, 17 August 2013

Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn - Manchester

A return visit to fill an Almost Famous sized hole...

Luck, Lust Liquor and Burn
Some like it hot. But not that hot. What a ruddy bloody shame it was the day that Almost Famous burned to the ground. I think the whole of Manchester felt the pain of Beau and his team, as pictures appeared of firefighters tackling the inferno which would shut down the legendary burger joint. Bloody chip pan.

Like a phoenix from the flames, the Almost Famous team were not to be beaten by a few cindered beams. They concentrated on their pop up at Great Northern, their new restaurant in Liverpool, and found a temporary home in their sister restaurant, Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn. Always one for a witty moniker, the Liquor and Burn menu changed slightly, to include a few new options. Poking fun at their own misfortune, the menu is now host to the 'burning down the house' and 'towering inferno' burgers, as well as 'fire alarm' chilli. You've got to laugh, right? 

We loved the heady mix of Cali-Mex the first time we went, so a revisit was always on the cards. After a particularly heinous working week, we decided to pop along to sample some of this hot stuff. It was time...
Luck, Lust Liquor and Burn - Menu
We arrived about 8pm on a Friday night, when restaurant table real estate is fierce, and manoeuvrability in the northern Quarter is already minimal. They don't take reservations, so we had resigned ourselves to a long wait - we had a plan. Luckily so did they! There was an hour wait, so our names were put onto a list. We were told what time to return, so we nipped for a couple of drinks in Common and Marble first.
Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn - Manchester
We both ordered the 'burning down the house' burger with 'bacon bacon' fries. This is a double cheeseburger with hot sauce, dirty chicken, chipotle sour cream, fire alarm chilli and lettuce. The chips are topped with bacon mayonnaise and crispy bacon bits. Amazing. If you find yourself in need of belly busting, meat based, taste bud tantalising gloppiness, you're in the right place. It was impossible to eat with your hands, so I was forced to deconstruct mine! The perfect antidote to work educed melancholy.
Luck, Lust Liquor and Burn - Burger
Once again, the staff were attentive, and were managing the queuing system efficiently. My only complaint was that we were waiting near the pass. That is tantamount to actual torture. I cannot be held responsible for my actions if this happens again, and there is a very real possibility that I will leg up a waiter, and run off with a burrito like a spritely Jack Russell who hasn't had his tea yet.
Luck, Lust Liquor and Burn - Bacon Fries
These guys are on feugo. They have a winning formula for getting people through the door, coming up with absolutely crackers concepts, and keeping folk happy once they are in. I have never had a bad meal from either Almost Famous or Luck, Lust, Liquor and Burn. Consistency is key, but lunacy is clearly in charge...

A little bird tells me that the new Almost Famous Manchester is well into the planning stages, with a new location and a much bigger dining room. Rumour has it this will be in the Great Northern building on the site which used to be Relish. Exciting times...

First review of Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn.

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Square Meal

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2013

A Pre-Festival Catch Up with James Martin

Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2013
I adore the Bolton Food and Drink Festival. I go every year, and already had this year's festival booked off work before last year's had even started. It's the amazing food on offer, the shows, meeting the stallholders, and having a good time with friends.
The Hungry Gecko
Street food heroes... The Hungry Gecko
Every year the festival attracts a good crop of celebrity chefs to bring in the crowds. Mary and Paul are back this year, as are veterans Michael Caines and James Martin, with new boy Aldo Zilli coming along for the ride.  
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry
Paul and Mary
Me with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry
Me with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry - hyperventilates into icing bag...
Last year I had the opportunity to interview housewives' favourite, Mr James Martin. I always thought he seemed a bit of a cocky bugger on the quiet, but I couldn't have been more wrong. He's a genuinely nice chap with a love for cooking and dining. We chatted about our favourite restaurants, and where he likes to eat in his free time.

This year I have been lucky enough to ask James a few questions prior to the festival, and I had a couple of burning questions about his new gaff, Manchester235...
James Martin
You must really like Bolton... You're back again! I take it it's nothing to do with the abundance of different pasties on offer. What makes Bolton Food and Drink Festival so attractive?
The festival has grown massively since I started going there, and this is the reason I return year on year. There's always something new, something to try and suppliers with new products for chefs and foodies to find. Plus, I enjoy the demos, as when we started the food show many years ago it used to be in what looked like an office. It's been built into what we see this year, it's great!

I remember last year you were keen to do a bit of browsing around the stalls. Did you find any gems?
It's part of going to food festivals - you have to see what's on offer, as even when you think you know the produce of the area, there's always something new on offer. Even better when we can use it in the new restaurant...

A little bird tells me you're opening your own place in Manchester - tell me about it!
Yep - it took a while to find a site, but I think it's going to be fun. Manchester's restaurant scene is a buzzing place at the moment, and I'm glad to be a part of it. Interviews are underway as we speak, so it's all set for launch.

What makes Manchester so attractive?
There is so much to see and do there, plus the people make the city, and they are the ones who make the restaurant scene what it is. There's a buzzing nightlife, and now there's a top notch restaurant scene to match.

How often will you be cooking there?
I should be there once a week, and more at the start, but these things take time to bed in, and with Christmas coming I see it hopefully being a busy place. 

What can we expect from the menu?
We are still in then planning stage at the moment, so I'm unsure, but no doubt some of the stuff I find at the Bolton Food and Drink Festival may appear on the menu.

Which are your favourite restaurants in Manchester?
I think Simon Rogan is doing wonders, and the area needs someone like that to drive it forward. 

Bolton Food and Drink Festival runs over the August Bank Holiday weekend, starting at lunch time on Friday 23rd through to Monday 26th.

For more information, visit the official website at

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Monday, 12 August 2013

Whim Wham Cafe, Manchester

Whim Wham Cafe, Manchester
I've long been intrigued by the Whim Wham Cafe. It struck a chord for two reasons: firstly, I get the song 'wig wam bam' in my head (as will you...) and secondly I'd heard my fellow bloggers raving about the simple yet tasty food. My only concern was whether it was a bit 'down with the kids'. Just a stone's throw from Oxford Road train station, we picked a gloomy afternoon to sample the epicurean eaterie, and make up our own minds.

Situated in the railway arches of Whitworth Street West, the Whim Wham Cafe looks like it wouldn't be out of place in a western, with its very own gin saloon and late live music. William Morris style wallpaper is hung on the walls and tasselled lampshades sit on each table. It's by no means style over substance though.
Whim Wham Cafe, Manchester
Our drinks order was taken (the 'cocktail wizard' wasn't on site yet, but luckily I'm not a huge fan of gin) and we were left to peruse the menu. It's a reduced menu on Sundays, but we were there for a roast anyway, so it mattered not. 
Whim Wham Cafe, Manchester - Sunday Lunch Menu
Roast Beef: Although you can't really see on this photograph, the beef comes slightly pink with a crispy Yorkshire, well seasoned potatoes and a wonderful pile of mixed seasonal vegetables. We both loved the fact it came with slices of red chilli, and that the potatoes had a slight hint of star anise.
Whim Wham Cafe, Manchester - Roast Beef
Chicken Thighs: As above but with the nice addition of thigh meat rather than the usual chicken breast. This was beautiful. It was packed with flavour and was so juicy!
Whim Wham Cafe, Manchester - Roast Chicken
Sticky Toffee Pudding: A light pudding with a thick, sticky toffee sauce. This should have come with cream, but they were happy to swap it for Ginger's Comfort Emporium vanilla ice cream. The perfect combination.
Whim Wham Cafe, Manchester - Sticky Toffee Pudding
Pecan Pie: I'm not sure what trickery was going on with this pie crust, but it was damn fine indeed! It was generously filled with a sticky pecan pie mix, which was rich in flavour but light in texture.
Whim Wham Cafe, Manchester - Pecan Pie
A delightful time was had at the Whim Wham Cafe. Friendly staff, a decent roast, tasty desserts and a bit of personality to boot. We'll be returning to this pretty little place.

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