Tuesday 27 October 2015

Mowgli, Liverpool

Mowgli, Liverpool
So we decided on a last minute trip to Liverpool. Having heard wonderful things about Mowgli's new Manchester site, plus one very enthusiastic recommendation from a friend, it was decision made. I'd also been having a chat to them on Twitter the week before, and it turns out they are pretty nice folk indeed.

Their Liverpool joint is set in my favourite part of the city, Bold Street. If you're a regular to my site, you'll remember me raving about Nolita a couple of weeks ago. It's the kind of place where you could have a different type of cuisine every weekend for a couple of months! It's packed with beautiful little independent cafes and restaurants, including Turkish, Lebanese, Indian, Italian, Mexican and even a decent chippy. There are many more, I just had to stop because I was making myself hungry.

We arrived just before the lunchtime rush, and were advised we could sit wherever we liked. I loved this laid-back approach. We felt lie we were being invited into someone's home rather than packed into a 'best fit' spot in a crate.
Mowgli, Liverpool
Just like Nolita, the front of house team were warm and chatty, and more than happy to recommend dishes. Drinks were quickly offered, and arrived a few minutes later. We had a really good feeling!

Anchor Californian Lager - 4.9%: one of the husband's faves.
Homemade mango lassi: I have to have it wherever I go! A very fine example indeed.
Sweet Delhi Diazepam: Gin, raspberries, green chartreuse, fresh ginger, lemon, passion fruit and apple juice. Clearly made by a cocktail lover, for cocktail lovers. 
Mowgli, Liverpool - Drinks
Gunpowder Chicken - Mowgli’s chicken poppers, ginger, garlic, garam masala and golden fried in a chickpea batter: Even my onion fearing husband was all over this. Beautifully crisp strips of chicken with a definite spicy aftershock!
Mowgli, Liverpool
Mowgli Paneer - Staff favourite. Tender cubes of soft paneer cheese simmered with velvet, sweet, spiced tomatoes, garden peas & fresh spinach: Dish of the day for me. I adore paneer, and this was an example worth bleating about. Genuinely couldn't leave the bugger alone.
Mowgli, Liverpool
Agra Ginger Chicken - Chicken breast cooked in bright fresh ginger, North Indian garam masala, sweet tomato, coriander & spinach: Really tender chunks of chicken breast in a rich tomato sauce. The ginger was just lovely in this.
Mowgli, Liverpool
Temple Dhal - The ultimate Indian home comfort food. Red lentil simmered with toasted cumin, coriander and lemon: Lentils... little bland yellow discs turned into something magical by the power of the Mowgli kitchen! You'll be wanting something to dip in these.
Mowgli, Liverpool
Mowgli House Keema - Succulent ground lamb, roasted cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, tomatoes and pulses: Oh lord. My own keema will forever taste rubbish in comparison. I think the secret here is time. This keema is simmered for hours to let the spices infuse into the meat and pulses. Definitely my husband's dish of the day.
Mowgli, Liverpool
Himalayan Cheese Toast - Coriander, red onion & green chilli dressing, sharp cheddar and served with Indian pickle: That's right, Indian rarebit. Look at it. My mouth is watering and separation anxiety has set in. Delirious.
Mowgli, Liverpool
Puri - Soft, fried, flat breads: The perfect receptacle for dealing with that dhal!
Mowgli, Liverpool
A little bit of everything: I was utterly stuffed after that feast! We left quite a lot too, but don't panic. Our chappie boxed it all up for us and we had the best toasties Horwich has ever seen later that night! Class act...
Mowgli, Liverpool
What a lovely little venue; outstanding food and wonderful service. I'm dying to try Manchester now! I can also highly recommend stuffing your leftovers into a toastie... snack of champions if you ask me. 

Apple Strudel Loaf Cake

Apple Strudel Loaf Cake
How cute is this shape? I bought this Nordic Ware loaf tin in New York, but there is a new version out this year which is equally as pretty.

I love food at this time of the year; warming, spicy and full of plump fruit. I've done a pumpkin flavoured cake before, so off I trot to my local supermarket in search of inspiration. There it was. Those crafty folk at Muller have only gone and created a new apple strudel flavoured yoghurt! It was mine... Such an easy cake to make, yet a massive office pleaser on a dull Monday morning.

I added a layer of demerara sugar to mine, which means the base is even crunchier. If you're using a regular loaf tin, this sugar crust will end up being on top, which is also fine. Do whatever makes you happy - no rules here folks. It does rise a bit, so whatever size tin you use, just make sure you only fill it 3/4 full.

Also, if you're one of those weird cinnamon haters, you might want to try ginger instead, it'll work just as well.

  • 75g sultanas soaked in hot water for at least an hour (I use apple juice heated in the microwave)
  • 110g butter
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 75g light muscavado sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pot of Muller Apple Strudel yoghurt (failing this 120ml/165g pot of apple yoghurt with 1/2 tsp extra cinnamon)
  • 1 tbsp apple sauce (optional)
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar

  1. Soak the sultanas in hot water or warmed apple juice for at least one hour, preferably over night. Cover in cling film.
  2. Drain the sultanas.
  3. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  4. Prepare a large loaf tin (minimum 2lb) with melted butter and dust with flour. I used the Nordic Ware pumpkin loaf tin. If it's a regular plain tin, tin liners are a good alternative. 
  5. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  7. Add the lemon extract.
  8. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spices.
  9. Pour the yoghurt into a jug, and stir in the apple sauce.
  10. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. 
  11. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  12. Stir in the sultanas.
  13. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
  14. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the cake. 
  15. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  16. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  17. I decided to serve mine naked because it's so pretty!
Where to buy this stuff:
Cake Release

Nordic Ware Pumpkin Patch Loaf Tin

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.

Friday 23 October 2015

Ning, Manchester

Ning, Manchester
I've become a bit partial to Asian cuisine recently. I told myself for years that I wasn't keen after a particularly heinous incident involving a Chinese restaurant and a four hour flight. Anyway, that's all a distant memory, and my new found bravery has meant that I've been sampling dim sum and rendang left, right and centre.

When Ning asked me to go and put their new Christmas menu through its paces, I was more than happy to oblige, and took my Malaysian food-loving homie for a trusted second opinion. We weren't really sure what to expect when we arrived, and were seated at a long table at the back of the restaurant. As others piled in, it became apparent that co-diners Beth and Adam were our sort of people! Over the course of the evening we shared some wonderful food, funny stories, avoided photos (almost successfully), and laughed lots!

We sampled all the options available to festive diners (yes, we really did take one for the team!). I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

Drinks - Rioja Tinto, Passion Fruit Mojito and Strawberry Mojito: A fantastic drinks list with some interesting tropical themed cocktails. We opted for a nice bottle of red and some fruity mojitos.
Ning, Manchester - Drinks
Mixed plain and spicy prawn crackers: I'm not a huge fan of prawn crackers, but the spicy ones were really tasty. Life hack... save some of these to help deal with the leftover satay sauce from the prawns. You'll see.
Ning, Manchester - Drinks
Sate Udang Berempah | Spiced Prawn Satay - skewered prawn satay marinated in spices: I don't do fish, especially the type with an actual face. I was feeling brave, and it paid off! These were utterly delicious. Drenched in warming spices and very moist. That bloody sauce... Gorgeous.
Ning, Manchester - Prawns
Telur Rendang Ayam | Rendage Scotch Eggs - Eggs coated with minced rendang chicken and crispy breadcrumbs: One of the best things I have eaten this year. I urge you to order these. We all agreed on this!
Ning, Manchester - Scotch Eggs
Sup Asam Pedas Ikan | Spiced & Sour Soup - Pan-fried crispy salmon chunk with mangetouts in spiced and sour soup: A little too fishy for me, but a hit with my co-diners. Very pretty too.
Ning, Manchester - Soup
Jasmine rice: It's just rice right? No my friend, no. I loved this sticky jasmine rice. Perfect for sauce soaking.
Ning, Manchester - Rice
Achar Nyonya | Nyonya Vegatable Pickle - Medley of vegetables pickled in herbs and spices: Cold, crunchy and tangy, this was the perfect accompaniment to the warm chicken, beef and fish dishes to come.
Ning, Manchester - Vegetables
Siakap Halia and Limau | Poached Sea Bass - Fillets of sea bass poached in ginger, lime, lemongrass and coriander marinade: Delicately spiced fish with a subtle lemongrass flavour.
Ning, Manchester - Seabass
Ayam Goreng Kemangi | Chicken and Sweet Basil Stir-fry - Wok fried chicken pieces with sweet basil leaves and beans: Loved this... The depth of spices worked beautifully. This sauce over jasmine rice rocked my world.
Ning, Manchester - Chicken
Kerutup Saging | Braised Beef - Chunks of beef braised in Malaysian spices and herbs with roasted coconut: Our favourite main by far. All four of us agreed this slow cooked beef was a huge winner.
Ning, Manchester - Beef
Sayur Goreng | Stir Fried Vegetables - Wok fried fine beans, carrot and spinach with a hint of herbs and spices: Nice and refreshing after the meat-fest.
Ning, Manchester - Stir Fry
Trio pf Pandan - Glutonous rice balls with palm sugar filling & coated with desiccated coconut, dark chocolate brownies with cashew nuts and pandan flavour, and rich ice cream made of pandan extract with roasted and glazed walnuts: A platter of purest green. A nice way to sample a few little desserts.
Ning, Manchester - Desserts
Tropical Fruit Salad in lychee juice, cinnamon dust and fresh mint leaves: I was craving this after all the rich food we'd devoured. Those lychees sorted me right out.
Ning, Manchester - Desserts
Chocolate Lava Cake with orange compote and cinnamon dust served with vanilla ice cream: We left this to the boys; I'd have been asleep in the taxi home! Soft chocolate cake with a fondant centre.
Ning, Manchester - Desserts
Christmas Pudding with dried cranberries and nuts served with double cream or brandy sauce: I was the only Christmas pud lover in our group. I cursed my fullness for these were spectacular. Soft, spicy and packed with fruit.
Ning, Manchester - Desserts
We were pleasantly surprised with what Ning had to offer. Chef Norman Musa popped out at regular intervals to explain his food, and gather our feedback. He was happy to talk us through where he has learned from past menus, and what excited him about this one. General consensus was that all diners must order the Scotch egg and the beef dish, although we loved being able to sample all of it! I can't wait to go back already.

Disclaimer: We were invited to give feedback on the new Christmas menu at Ning. We were under no obligation to say nice things, and no-one had my arm up my back forcing me to eat prawns with faces. 

Giveaway - Tickets to the Manchester Cake and Bake Show

Manchester Cake and Bake Show

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Great British Bake Off fans are in for a treat as The Cake & Bake Show plays host to the first ever live bake off stage – with a few familiar faces whipping up a storm. That’s right, the show will be welcoming back amateur bakers from the most recent series as well as GBBO winners Jo Wheatley (2011) and John Whaite (2012).

There’s even the chance to bring your own show-stopping bake along to be judged live on stage in the Great British Bake Off: Showstopper Show and Tell. Ideal if you fancy yourself as the next Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry.

To enter the competition to win FREE tickets to this year’s Cake & Bake Show in Manchester, all you have to do is click here (hint hint), then fill in the Rafflecopter widget below. What are you waiting for?

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Image credit: bernashafo/ Shutterstock.com

Friday 16 October 2015

Apple and Cinnamon Slice

Apple and Cinnamon Slice
Yes, it's not a bundt. I know, it doesn't happen often. The other day I went to our local butty shop for a post-Dublin sausage on toast style remedy. She makes all her own biscuits, cakes and brownies, and I found myself unable to resist the apple cake. It was lovely, but when you're a baker, you constantly find yourself thinking how you would have done it differently. We all have our little preferences I suppose!

The cake I had was very soft and the apple wasn't in definable chunks, so I'm presuming it was grated. I was craving a sugar crust, large pieces of fruit, plump sultanas and lots of cinnamon. I remembered a recipe I'd written down in my recipe file years ago (unsure of source), which I knew I could adapt into the perfect bake. 

The different types of sugar give this cake real depth of flavour, as does the warmth of the cinnamon. You can put the sultanas in dry (or even leave them out), but I find that plumping them up in apple juice sky rockets this cake from something good to a very special bake indeed. It's not the prettiest cake in the world, but it tastes bloody cracking. Show me what you got Autumn.

    Apple and Cinnamon Slice
  • 150g sultanas
  • Apple juice (enough to cover the sultanas - about 300ml)
  • 225g unsalted butter - softened
  • 150g dark muscovado sugar
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 4 medium eggs - beaten
  • 350g self raising flour
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 sweet apples like Gala or Pink Lady
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar to sprinkle 
You'll also need some disposable foil baking trays (available online or from Asda)


  1. Cover the sultanas in the apple juice and pop in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring after a minute. Set aside and cover with cling film.
  2. Beat the soft brown and muscovado sugars into the butter until fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs slowly.
  4. Mix the flour, cinnamon and baking powder into a separate bowl. 
  5. Fold in to the butter mix in two stages.
  6. Drain the sultanas and fold into the mix.
  7. Pour half the mix into the tin.
  8. Cut up one of the apples into crescent shapes (see pic) and layer on top.
  9. Add the rest of the cake mix and repeat with the other apple.
  10. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.
  11. Bake in the middle of the oven for around 45 mins to 1 hr on gas 4/180 C.
  12. Note: the disposable trays are a sniff too small. This is ok... it's your friend. You'll get that nice crust I discussed. If it's catching too quickly round the edges after 45 mins, cover with foil with a hole in the middle. This allows the middle of the cake to bake through. 

Cane and Grain - The First Floor Bar, Manchester

Cane and Grain - The First Floor Bar
Before we start, I have a couple of questions for you. Do you like cocktails? Yes? Great. Now then, how do you feel about the kind of food where you end up with sticky hands, bits dripped on the table, and quite possibly a splatter on your top? You're down with that? Oh good. If you did answer 'no' to these, it's probably best that you stop reading now. Time is precious my friend.

Cane and Grain - The First Floor BarI first went to Cane and Grain around this time last year. It had just opened, and my friend Emma and I ate too many ribs and sides. No, there was no learning from this on the subsequent visit. Their hidden First Floor Bar has become a bit of a favourite of mine recently, with its ambient seating area, elegant cocktails and terrifying taxidermy light fittings. The staff are always an utter delight to have a chat to, and are well versed in the drinks and food they serve.

So then, off we trot the other day to check out some of the brand new cocktails, which were helped along with some of the tantalising meaty treats as mentioned above.

We were greeted by Jen; a lovely bubbly lady with a genuine enthusiasm for everything she described to us. We agreed that the best way forward was to remove any element of choice, as everything sounded far too wonderful to possibly choose between them.

I'm going to cover cocktails first, as the second you clap eyes on the food, you're going to be transported elsewhere for a bit.

1862 (left):  A strong bourbon based number with a peppermint kick.
Amaretto Sour (right): Sour but with sweet almond from the Amaretto.
The First Floor Bar, Manchester
Corn n'oil (left): Another strong one, this time rum based with a hint of lime.
Casablanca (right): More rum, but with tropical flavours. A bit cakey, this can only be a good thing.
The First Floor Bar, Manchester
Bees Gimlet (left): Gin with syrup and honey. Sweet and simple, again with dessert-like qualities.
Ramos Gin Fizz (right): Creamy cocktails turn my stomach as I'm not a fan of milk, however, this opened my mind! Gorgeous. Gin based with egg whites, citrus and sugar syrup.
The First Floor Bar, Manchester
So to the food. I should have taken pictures of our hands and the table afterwards. Sauce bloody everywhere! 

Beef Short Ribs with Dr.Pepper sauce: Why did I not take a picture of the inside of these ribs? Oh I remember why... because we were too busy eating them! So tender, sweet and sticky. Big old Jacob's Ladder style bones too. 
Cane and Grain - Ribs
Half Rack of Baby Back ribs with rum sauce: Smaller and sweeter than the short ribs, and smothered in rum sauce with soaked sultanas. My mouth is watering, and I'm considering making a trip there this very second. 
Cane and Grain - Ribs
C&G Burger: Nothing standard about this house burger. A quarter pounder with smoked pulled pork, Monterey Jack and pickles. It ran down my wrist. Gloppy burgers rock my socks.
Cane and Grain - Burger
Truffle Cheese Fries: Seriously, Cane and Grain do amazing fries. Never underestimate a good portion of fries folks. Recall how disappointed you are when you get a pale, limp chip? These are golden and crisp and salty. Yes. I didn't have these particular ones as I have a very melodramatic reaction to truffle, and my eyes were on the prize that was the 'Hot as F*ck' item below...
Cane and Grain - Fries
Hot As F*CK Fries: Christ alive. Happiness is hot as f*ck fries. Fries, Monterey Jack, Louisiana hot sauce, crispy onion bits and wait for it... bacon wrapped jalapenos! Anger has set in. I need these now. I'm having a Chinese for tea, but it's just not going to cut it.
Carolina Slaw: I've become very fond of this kind of 'slaw. This is what happens when your co-diners are generally adverse to mayo. Crunchy veg with a tangy dressing. 
Cane and Grain - Fries and Slaw
So I've upset myself horribly reliving my First Floor Bar experience. I have the most horrendous craving for ribs, which will not be satisfied by anything within a reasonable distance of my chair. Yes, I felt like I may never be clean again when I left, and I'm fairly sure I had hot sauce in my hair. Word of advice, go with someone who doesn't mind a clean up operation with 'Wet Ones' before you leave - those with cleanliness OCD will not enjoy it one bit!

Go to Cane and Grain if you love cocktails, bones covered in barbecued meat, and a belting chat with the folk who serve them.

Disclaimer: We were invited to the First Floor Bar to try the new menus. We were under no obligation to say nice stuff about them, or clean the table with wet wipes afterwards, but it was quite frankly a slip hazard. 

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Nolita Cantina, Liverpool

Nolita Cantina, Liverpool
I love Mexican food; the bits, the heat, the shedload of cheese, the gloppy sauces and tangy salsas. Love it. Nachos drenched in liquid cheese have to be one of my favourite things in the whole wide world. It's the kind of food that's best shared with your mates alongside a few cocktails or bottles of craft beer. So that's what we did.

We found Nolita Cantina in Liverpool when searching for a suitable pre-gig, face-stuffing establishment. The menu looked pretty good, so after a quick peep inside, we decided to give it a shot. Drinks were offered, and arrived promptly, and then came the horrific task of picking starters. I think we ordered everything on the menu bar one, which in hindsight I'm thinking we really should have got!

Sam Adams Boston Lager - 4.9% something half decent on draught, and came in an impressive glass.
Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale - 5.5% notice any similarities to the restaurant logo? All the cool kids seem to be using the Flying Dog typeface these days.
Mad Hatter Toxteth IPA - 6.4% a bit stronger but was received well...
Mad Hatter Drink Me Rye Pale Ale - 5.8% a nice change from your standard IPA.
Mystery cocktail- so they didn't do cocktails. Not to worry, our lovely bartender made one up! He uttered those hilarious words... 'do you like gin?' Oh how we chortled. He came back with some sort of gin meets ginger beer and lime wizardry. We'll love him forever. 
House white - we also had a bottle of the house white; a rather tasty Sauvignon Blanc. My only complaint was that it was served in tumblers, which always makes me feel a bit odd. I soldiered on though. 
Nolita Cantina - Drinks
Street Corn - charred skewers of corn with a chilli cheese coating: We left these to Mark as some of the other starters had been contaminated with one of his mortal enemies, tomato. The rest of us were down with the red things so we were happy to let him devour these, which he did. The chilli cheese coating is a brilliant idea.
Nolita Cantina - Corn
Chilli Pops - jalapeño peppers stuffed with cheese, breaded and fried: Jeez Louise, I adored these. Fiery jalapenos stuffed with cheese and deep fried. I can hear the local NHS Trust whimpering. If you go, I must insist you try these. I'll know.
Nolita Cantina - Chilli Pops
Baby Corn Dogs - baby frankfurters coated in a cornmeal batter, fried and striped with american mustard and spiked tomato ketchup: Not a fan of frankfurters; they make me think of abhorrent things involving left over bits. Like I wasn't going to try something that looked this good though? Good lord they were a thing of wonder. The sausage itself isn't an overpowering flavour, but the addition of the corn coating made me feel like I was on Coney Island.
Nolita Cantina - Corn Dogs
Nachos – crisp tortilla chips topped with cheese, spicy beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and jalapeño peppers: Nachos; they rock my socks. If they're there, I have to have them. They were beautiful, a real thing to behold. Lots of cheesy aceness with a good dollop of guacamole and beans. The salsa is usually mixed in too, but we got it separate because of Mark's distaste for the devil's fruit.
Nolita Cantina - Nachos
Chicken Wings - Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce: Again, I didn't try these because I generally end up wearing them. Strictly speaking, these are Phil's department. He dealt with them accordingly, with Sarah noting that they were rather large! (I noted 'that's what she said')
Nolita Cantina - Wings
Hush Puppies - small savoury donuts made from cornmeal, beer and cheese, drizzled with blue cheese dressing: Savoury doughnuts... I had to play around with it a bit in my head first. It's a doughnut, yet there is no jam or sugar involved. The verdict? One of the best things I've eaten in some time. A crisp exterior with a soft, fluffy interior, and more cheese.
Nolita Cantina - Hush Puppies
Brie and Bacon Grilled Cheese - Brie, mozzarella, cheddar, crispy bacon and caramelised onions, pressed and grilled: Apologies were offered to the chef for not finishing all of this. In all fairness, we did eat our bodyweight in starters, and I don't think any of us devoured a whole main course. It was genuinely massive, and had all the cheese on it.Nolita Cantina - Grilled Cheese
Hot Mess - single stack burger with cheese, maple bacon peanut popcorn crumb: Sarah and I both opted for the Hot Mess after flirting with several sandwiches. I've had messier burgers (the type you can't even pick up), but in terms of flavour ratio, they had it bang on here. The burger was pink as requested, and the maple bacon and peanut popcorn added an unusual sweetness which was very pleasant indeed. We should have shared as we managed half each. Poor show girls.
Nolita Cantina - Burger
Nolita Cantina - Burger
Brisket in tray gravy Po’ Boy - warm brioche sub, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion and homemade New Orleans style remoulade: There was no picking this big lad up! Tender brisket topped with everything they had to hand. Bread was abandoned in favour of finishing the filling.
Nolita Cantina - Po Boy
Nolita Cantina was a lovely little find. Quiet and unassuming from outside, but warm and welcoming inside with the loveliest waiter we've met in a while. He even drew us a map of other bars we could try later. Granted, we ended up off piste and landed somewhere else entirely!

There were lots of little restaurants on Bold Street, but I'm really glad we stayed with Nolita. Go here with the type of pals who you can have a laugh with, and who won't mind at all if you have wing sauce and cheese all over your face...
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