Friday 28 August 2015

Yard and Coop, Manchester

Yard and Coop, Manchester
Yard and Coop was a bit of a last minute decision, but we needed brain food. I had to go anyway, because their strawberry milkshake was on my 'to do' list for the post Charlie and I are doing on Manchester's best milkshakes. It was practically essential... 

It had a pleasant vibe about the place, they were playing half decent music, and the front of house folks were friendly types. I'd clocked an odd looking bottle of blue stuff, which I was later informed was blue Curaçao by my learned amigo. Although there isn't a huge selection of cocktails, the two I had were pretty, pretty good. 

Juice Springsteen - vodka and blue Curaçao with lemon juice and cherry bitters topped with apple juice: Yes, I did buy it because of the name, what of it? This was a bit like sherbet in a bottle, and made me feel a bit giddy. Good stuff!

Paulaner Heffe-Weiss Dunkel (5.3% ABV): A decent selection with a tick in most beer boxes. This was a pale wheat beer which wasn't overly strong for a craft type. This was later followed by a Kona Firerock (5.9% ABV) IPA.

Strawberry milkshake: I'm not giving too much away here because there is a list pending. I shall say this though; it was awesome. 
Yard and Coop - Drinks
Jimi Hendrix - El Jimador Blanco tequila, Hendrick's gin and Fevertree Elderflower garnished with cucumber and watermelon (sans cucumber): Cucumber is the devil's fruit, so I asked them to lose it. This drink was huge! I loved the delicate elderflower flavour and chunks of watermelon.
Yard and Coop - Drinks
I warn you, this is what happens when your friends love sides as much as you do. I can't decide whether that look on our waiter's face was saying 'bravo!' or 'you horrendous greedy pigs'. I can't say that I consider either to be an insult...

Buttermilk fried chicken - boneless thigh, Yard and Coop original dusting with Bourbon BBQ sauce: Thigh was definitely the bet decision. More flavour and beautifully tender. I love the idea of mixing and matching the cut, dusting and sauces though. Have a different combo every time you go!
Yard and Coop - Chicken
The Bee’s Knees wings - cayenne pepper, lime and honey, served with blue cheese sauce: These are pretty big wings! I was a proper lightweight and only tried a bit of that delicious sauce, but I was assured that they were 'bloody lovely'.
Yard and Coop - Wings
But what if I want wings!?
Massive Cock Burger - full buttermilk chicken breast, chorizo, salty battered jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, mayo and siracha chilli sauce in a brioche bun, topped with dill pickle and served with chips: Slightly prone to exaggeration... I wouldn't say it was massive, but then again I'm used to huge burgers like Jon's Steeplejack at The Farmer's Arms. It was pretty darn good though, and the chips are no afterthought either; beautifully crisp and perfect dipping material for the magnificent sauces.
Yard and Coop - Burger
Gravy and chip shop curry: So to the sauces. I was hoping that the gravy might be the (dare I say it) KFC type which is pale and viscous and spicy and tremendous in every way. Sue my ass. I like it. Anyway, it was not, but was still so good we practically dealt with every drop. Chip shop curry... genius idea. I'd like to take this home and eat a vat of it in my pyjamas with a bowl of chips. Dirty bird.
Yard and Coop - Sauces
Onion petals with chorizo - onion pieces in crispy tempura batter with crispy chorizo sausage, horseradish and beetroot salsa: I was blinded by the word chorizo and didn't read the rest of it like a buffoon! Petals, perfect. Chorizo, champion. Beet-rot?! Mortal enemy number two right there. I accidentally ate it too. I'm sure it's wonderful for those beet loving perverts amongst you, but I'll be sticking to the petals on their own in future. Close one that.
Yard and Coop - Onion petals
Battered dill pickles in tempura batter: Oh yes, these were more like it. Tangy jalapenos deep fried in batter? Yes please. Although they had a little warmth, they weren't so hot that you couldn't taste the loveliness within.
Yard and Coop - Jalapenos
Thai street salad - red cabbage, cauliflower, carrot and red chilli: Gee whizz, this had a kick to it! A lovely change to coleslaw, this salad was sweet, crunchy and had a considerable amount of fire in its belly!
Yard and Coop - Thai Salad
Yard and Coop wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I imagined something a little more fast-foody. What we actually got was a friendly place which was comfortable to sit in, with options stretching beyond chicken, chips and spicy beans. The menu has a fantastic range of sides and accompaniments, which is perfect for lovers of 'bits'. It's the perfect place to go with your pals to have a little chat over a few drinks, with some rather nice food.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Summer Fruit Salad Bundt Cake

Summer Fruit Salad Bundt Cake
Last weekend I went to my friend Jayne's surprise baby shower. Her mum made the most magnificent fruit salad I have ever seen! It was in this colossal punchbowl and was probably enough to feed 50 rather than 15. I'm sure it was self filling when someone removed a portion too...

Anyway, it was my friend Lucie's birthday party yesterday afternoon, and initial plans for a barbecue were binned off after the clean-up operation took all day last time.  She decided afternoon tea was a more sensible option, which wouldn't be complete without a bundt. She asked for 'something fruity', so I took inspiration from Kathy's impressive fruit salad.

The cake itself is full of chunky tropical yoghurt and lime zest, which is complemented by a rather zingy icing. Making it with just lime juice gives it quite a kick, so if you're not fond of limes you could use lemon juice or water instead.

  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 250ml tropical fruit yoghurt (I used mango, lychee and lime from Tesco as it's nice and chunky)
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 500g icing sugar
  • Lime juice (I used bottled)
  • Yellow food colouring gel
  • Strawberries and blueberries to decorate

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with melted butter and dust with flour.
  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 extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and ginger.
  7. Pour the yoghurt into a jug, and add the lime zest and juice.
  8. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. 
  9. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  10. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
  11. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  12. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  13. When completely cool, mix the icing sugar with enough lime juice to make a thick yet runny icing. I also added a tiny bit of yellow food colouring gel. 
  14. Tip it over your cake.
  15. Decorate with strawberries and blueberries.
Where to buy this stuff:
Cake Release

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.

Matcha Green Tea Review

Matcha Green Tea
A couple of weeks ago, The Tea Makers of London asked me to review their Matcha green tea. I don't do many product reviews anymore, but I'd had such good results with it in the past, that I thought it was worth exploring once again. It's one of those things that you buy, rave about its benefits, only to forget to order another pot and become unintentionally estranged. I've already promised myself this will not happen again.

Matcha tea is a bright green powder which smells like tea, but you don't drink it in the usual way. It comes from Japan, and is and extremely high quality version of the stuff you get from the supermarket in teabags. It's a bit like the real gold version of costume jewellery. These leaves are grown away from direct sunlight, which slows down their growth and packs them full of super amino acids; the little wonders which help us to repair our bodies, possibly stop us from building too much fat, and boost our immune systems. It also has caffeine to perk you up, antioxidants to banish those ageing free-radicals and reportedly also boosts your metabolism.

These vibrant green leaves are ground to a fine powder which can then be mixed with liquid to make a very different brew to that which you are used to. I tend to have it whisked into apple juice as the flavours just seem to complement each other. It might be healthy and very green, but it doesn't have to taste like hell on Earth!
Matcha Green Tea
I've totally rekindled my love for Matcha green tea. I'm much brighter in the mornings (I get up at 5:45am so that's pretty good going...), and I don't get that mid afternoon lull like I used to. My colleagues must have noticed a difference, as two of them have ordered some within the first week of me using it!

It's £19.95 for 40g which seems quite expensive, but you only use half a teaspoon per day, so it lasts for quite a while. It's worth it not to be quite so grumpy in the morning...

Friday 21 August 2015

Tomfoolery at 34

Tomfoolery at 34
I love going to Alderley Edge; a place full of sunshine, pretty boutiques and sausage dogs. I'm convinced it never rains here, and that flowers are in bloom all year round. Don't burst my bubble. Tomfoolery at 34 is on the main street in the heart of the village, sitting on a corner like a beautiful multicoloured beacon amongst the other 'standard' shops.  

We were greeted by a cheery chap who sat us at a table with Mortal Kombat 3 already set up and ready to play... Unfortunately, I didn't get chance to whip Sub-Zero's ass à la 1995 as we were whisked off upstairs to meet Head Chef, Brice. The decor is as mad as a dog in a bungalow. Look around and you'll see traditional paintings adorned with anachronisms such as a little Gene Simmons going to war, or Wally in classical Rome. 
Tomfoolery at 34
Upstairs has some of the best wallpaper you'll ever see, ranging from tigers to Star Wars. Despite its 'shabby' feel, it's obvious that everything in there has been considered, and nothing is an accident. It feels more like a time warp than a junk shop. I'm pretty sure we didn't speak to each other for about five minutes whilst we took everything in!
Tomfoolery at 34
Tomfoolery at 34
I'm going to cover drinks first, purely because they deserve their own special mentions - they have floral straws... they're doing this right!

Guns n' Roses: this was a one of the soft drinks on the specials menu. Pineapple juice with rose syrup and coconut, scattered with dried buds and floral straws. The prettiest drink you ever did see.
Tomfoolery at 34 - Drinks
Chocolate milkshake: This was Paddy's choice. Topped with whipped cream (not the squirty kind from a can) and chocolate covered popping candy, this was a slightly different take on a classic. The only amendment I would make here is to make it thicker by using more ice cream. I'm a milkshake purest...
Tomfoolery at 34 - Drinks
Lemon-Thyme Lemonade: The best soft drink I have ever drunk, ever. This was seriously good. Imagine that lovely zingy crunch you get on top of a lemon drizzle cake - that. I'm pretty sure there was enough sugar in it to give me diabetes, but hey, it did the trick.
Tomfoolery at 34 - Drinks
And so to the food... 

Totally winging it - hot sauce, buttermilk fried with celery and blue cheese: I can take or leave hot wings. Generally preferred by those boy types (I think they just enjoy getting messy...), these were something else. We've declared them some of the best we've ever eaten. Yes Hooters, they're coming for you!
Tomfoolery at 34 - Starters
Chargrilled baby gem lettuce with cheesy bites and Hollandaise sauce: Everything I know tells me this is wrong. Dipping bits of warm lettuce into chopped up egg sauce. Seriously, it worked a treat!
Tomfoolery at 34 - Starters
Swayze Burger - steak patty, beef bacon, Emmental cheese, dill pickle, onion, lettuce and tomato with parmesan and truffle fries: Paddy does not do salad or sauce. Personally I see this as an utter travesty, but it's what he likes. This simple request often causes carnage in the kitchen, and the burger appears with some sort of confused half attempt at 'plain'. This was perfect and got devoured within just a few minutes.
Tomfoolery at 34 - Burgers
Black Sheep burger - pulled lamb shoulder, BBQ ketchup, halloumi, pickles, lettuce and tomato with fries: There is nothing about this combination that I didn't absolutely love. The homemade brioche bun, that deliciously sticky BBQ lamb (wonderful change from pork), the salty halloumi and those crispy chips! I adored this.
Tomfoolery at 34 - Burgers
Lucky road: That's right, rocky road made with Lucky Charms. This was surprisingly light and snaffled by Paddy in about two minutes flat. That's some good going from someone who was full.
Tomfoolery at 34 - Dessert
Cherry frangipane: Christ alive, this was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Those who know me will be well aware of my penchant for all things related to a Bakewell tart. This was just wonderful. 'I won't eat it all' I said. 'I don't want to overdo it' I bleated. I scoffed the lot like a big greedy pig.
Tomfoolery at 34 - Dessert
Macchiato - coffee crème brûlée, milk foam and cinnamon doughnuts: This is more Paddy's bag than mine, but yes, of course I whipped two of those doughnuts. Again, very light despite having a big kick of flavour from the coffee and cinnamon. Those doughnuts were warm too...
Berry messy - mixed berries, cheesecake custard, meringues and mint: I'm good at grazing (some have said 'world class'), but I'm rubbish at eating a lot in one go, yet here I was, devouring my second dessert in ten minutes. This was utterly gorgeous; a perfect balance between sweet and tart. Lovely to see the use of gooseberries too. Every scrap - gone.
Tomfoolery at 34 - Dessert
Brice is clearly loving his work. He enjoyed chatting about his creations, and seemed genuinely excited for us to sample new things. I really liked the different feel between the 'tea and cake' floor downstairs, and the 'restaurant' upstairs, yet it seems they are happy for you to sit wherever you like.

Tomfoolery at 34 got a massive seal of approval from us. Faux-chintzy tea shops are ten-a-penny these days, but they seem to have a bit of a unique edge. In all honesty, I can't quite put my finger on what that is yet. The menu isn't massive, but this helps them to concentrate on doing a few things really well. Cakes downstairs change on a daily basis, so there'll always be something new to try too. I urge you to go here; beautiful location and a feast for both eyes and belly.

Disclaimer: I was invited for some Tomfoolery but was under no obligation to say nice things about them, get excited by a plastic shark, find Wally or consider lifting their T-Rex cut out. 

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Ply, Manchester

Ply, Manchester
One of the things I adore about blogging is that I get the chance to share my many escapades with some of the people I hold dearest. On Sunday, poor Paddy was hutch-bound doing some work, so our pal Lee kindly stepped in like the total pizza devouring warrior that she is. She adored Ply from the moment we walked in the door, so much in fact that she requested to write this review herself. Take it away Teller... 

So part way through a delightful cheesenfilled Saturday evening Rachel informed me that she had a reservation at Ply the following day. 'Unfortunately' her husband was busy, 'fortunately' I was not; my Sunday ironing marathon could wait!

After a very dramatic car journey which definitely didn't involve turning the wrong way down a one way street, we arrived at Ply. The restaurant is cool and airy and full of little corners to squirrel away in. The bar is huge and offered an impressive array of spirits, wines and beers; we will definitely be back for an evening session!
Ply, Manchester - Cocktails
Our lovely waitress,whose name I sadly forgot to note, found us a perfect people watching spot in a high window. We ordered some drinks, and as Rachel was the designated driver she enquired about soft drinks and requested a 'surprise' mocktail, which turned out to be a delicious raspberry mojito style drink - very fruity and refreshing. As I total gin fiend I went for a Georgetown Tea, made with Beefeater gin, apricot, elderflower, ginger and tea. This was amazing, light enough for a lunch time drink but with enough kick that I could have happily sunk a whole pot of it.

For starters we shared the Heritage tomato salad and Coppa ham and burrata. These were perfect; the tomatoes were so fresh and tasty and the ham with mozzarella was so morish I didn't do a very good job of sharing.

Tomato Salad - heritage tomatoes, sourdough croutons, aged balsamic, basil
Ply Manchester - Tomato Salad
Coppa Ham and Burrata - coppa ham, burrata, confit tomato, rocket
Ply Manchester - Coppa Ham and Burrata
Then it was pizza time. I had ordered my favourite, goats' cheese. This was very tasty and peppered with little pockets of basil pesto. Rachel ordered the brunch special which included smoked pancetta and fennel sausage. The pizzas are on sourdough bases which is a lovely change, and seeing them cooked to order in the super snazzy pizza oven at the bar was very cool. Both pizzas were gorgeous, not much left but we did take that home too. We couldn't leave without a take out pizza for Rachel's husband who had missed out, I believe he destroyed this in minutes!

Brunch Special - (available Sundays) tomato, mozzarella, smoked pancetta, fennel sausage, portobello, egg (sans egg)
Ply Manchester - Brunch Pizza
Goats' Cheese - tomato, goats' cheese, confit tomatoes, basil pesto, rocket
Ply Manchester - Goats' Cheese Pizza
We had a very relaxed and fun lunch at Ply, the service was fantastic; where else would your waitress come over to tell you that Cilla Black had sadly passed away?!? We will certainly be back en masse for more pizza and cocktail fun. Thanks Ply for brightening up what would otherwise have been a very dull Sunday indeed!!

Square Meal
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