Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Eton Mess Bundt Cake

Don't get me wrong, I love a bit of cake, as you well know. However, puddings are my first love. I very rarely make them, because it would be a horrible, ugly scene, involving me, a spoon, a full pie and a vat of custard. Possibly a trip to A&E. Definitely a total disgrace. It's best that I stick to making bundts, which are then taken to public places and shared by many.

I've mentioned this before, but I get my full set of sweet teeth from my dad, and my grandad, Bob. Father's Day is always laced with cake in our family, and this year someone had the genius idea to make them pudding based. Cake puddings. Pudding cakes. Hell yes.

So I set about it. First up, Eton Mess Bundt Cake. This is suck a simple cake to make, but has that wow factor for all to behold! My dad sent pictures of this cake to pretty much everyone in his phone book. Proud as punch, he was.

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 350g Homepride plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml strawberry/raspberry yoghurt 
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
To decorate:
  • Berries
  • 1 tub of whipping cream
  • Meringue nests broken into pieces

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with Cake Release spray/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. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  6. Pour the yoghurt and vanilla extract into a jug.
  7. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined.
  8. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  9. Tip your batter into your prepared bundt tin.
  10. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  11. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  12. When the cake is fully cool, whip the cream until it sits in peaks, and dump it on top of the cake. No faffing with it please, it should look like a big cream nest.
  13. Decorate with berries and shards of meringue.
  14. Look smug and bask in its glory.

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.

Monday, 10 July 2017

The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester

The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Well good afternoon you little lot. I've been a girl about town recently; baking cakes, drinking cocktails and of course, eating lots of food. It's all part of 'Operation Choose Happiness', and I have to say, it's working. I've been to some lovely places with some of my faves, medicated with laughter, and surrounded myself with people who make me incredibly happy. 

Once such trip was an afternoon of fun on Spinningfields with that cocktail drinking tinker of mine. Partial to an Aviation and a gin or two, she was the perfect person to accompany me to the Alchemist. We had a bloody delightful afternoon of wonderful service, chips which were as moreish as crack, and genuine cocktail alchemy. Smoke, bubbles and colour changes are just an average Tuesday afternoon at the Alchemist... Yes, you should be hearing the Harry Potter theme tune in your head. Wands and Potions books at the ready please.

Once again, she wanted to write this one up, so here's what she thought. Over to Lee... I'm off to brew my own Felix Felicis.

So Rachel and I found ourselves again wagging work for the afternoon (obvs not actually wagging, booked the afternoon off, we are too goodie two shoes for genuine wagging) and travelling into Manchester for food and cocktails. I have been to Alchemist on Spinningfields many times for cocktails and have always been impressed, genuine sorcery goes on behind that bar and the drinks are a sight to behold. But I had never eaten there and was really excited to try it.
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
The restaurant area at the back is very calm and luxurious. We were seated in a big booth, which was lucky considering the amount of shopping I had managed to do in the short time we had been in town before we ate.
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Popcorn chicken: The waiter suggested we have some nibbles before choosing our meals and I was initially hesitant, I've got form for over eating on nibbles and starters and then not being able to eat my main, but he managed to convince us to try the popcorn chicken which did not disappoint. Hot and crispy coating on delicious tender chicken, a great start.
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Vegetarian sharing platter: Having spotted nachos on the starters I needed to have these, and we reached a happy compromise in ordering the vegetarian sharing platter which included edamame, red pepper houmous, padron peppers, nachos, falafel and dips. This was an absolute triumph and we scoffed the lot. I suspect we will enjoy many of these in the future when we need a post drink nibble.
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Fajitas: For mains Rachel chose fajitas and was delighted to find out she could have half and half on the meat choices so went for beef and Cajun chicken. This came beautifully presented on a sizzling skillet ready to be made up exactly as you like.   
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Chilli and rice with nachos: Keeping the Mexican theme going I went for the chilli and rice which was again presented in a fantastic way, in a tiffin tin with chilli in one level, rice in another, tortilla chips is another and finally one filled with salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cheese.
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Quick interlude from me... these are the above mentioned salt and pepper fries, or as I like to call them 'crack fries'. They are so addictive, I continued eating them way beyond my own cries of 'oh Lord, I'm stuffed', and later 'please don't ring Maury Povich and tell him I'll need air lifting out of the restaurant' (although it would have made an excellent episode). They are covered in soy sauce, but remain crispy. They are the kind of alchemy that Nicolas Flamel would have been proud of. I'm off again... 
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Both our meals were absolutely delicious. We powered through the mountain of food and even managed to share some Belgian waffles for pudding which finished the meal off perfectly, we were ready to be rolled out of our seats.

Throughout the afternoon we tried a variety of the amazing cocktails on offer, I won't list them all in case our mothers read this and realise we aren't responsible grown up women at all! However they were all incredible, good quality spirits mixed with inventive flavours and presented in a fun way. We were particularly pleased with our hip flasks (look out for the cocktails with a symbol next to them on the menu).  
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
The Alchemist Spinningfields, ManchesterThe Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Thrilled to bits this one!
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
The Alchemist Spinningfields, Manchester
Thanks to all at the Alchemist for taking such good care of us, we will be back soon.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Grill on New York Street, Manchester

Grill on New York Street, Manchester
There isn't much that steak can't fix, right? Especially when it's on a well poignant day, and you're mixing it with the other best medicine, laughter. The Grill on New York St was one of the few steak gaffs that I was yet to try, so it was about time really. 

First thing I noticed when we walked in was how busy it was. Although New York Street is a bit tucked away, it wasn't putting folk off. We were greeted by a sea of smiles, and despite the fact our booking appeared to have gone West, it was sorted tout suite and we were seated before it had even been entered onto the system. 

We were given a lovely booth by the window, which quickly transports you to people watching paradise. Our server Philippa came and introduced herself, and ensured drinks were in our hands within minutes of arriving. Soothing. 
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Rhubarb Sling - Rhubarb syrup, Tanqueray, lemon, rhubarb liqueur and soda: I adore rhubarb. As soon as we are in season, I cannot get enough of that pink, sweet, tangy stuff. My grandad used to grow it in a part of his garden that I didn't trust one little bit. Rhubarb and gooseberries side by side. One pretending to be celery, the other masquerading as grapes. It's only as an adult that I realised I preferred both of these things to their doppelgängers. Rhubarb mixed with gin was beautifully refreshing on a warm day.

Rioja ‘Lagrimas’, San Martin: I'm not a red wine drinker, mainly because it gives me terrible headaches whilst drinking it, but I have it on excellent authority from my own Oz Clarke that this was an excellent match to the steaks we enjoyed.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Wandering round the restaurant, I happened across a large glass fronted fridge, which houses the Himalayan rock salt dry aged beef, ready to be cut into steaks. It's impressive to say the least.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Warm baked loaf with wheels of salted and chorizo butter, and olives: We were both starved, so delicious nibbles were in order whilst we waited for our steaks. You know what? I'm there... I'm almost a proper adult because I enjoyed those olives! That's right, not just 'tolerated them with a sour-puss look on my face', but genuinely enjoyed them. It's also worth mentioning that if I were able to buy standard sized packs of that chorizo butter, I'd be dead within a month.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Smoked haddock and poached egg on a bed of sautéed spinach and leek with a lobster sauce: Very delicate flavours with an ever so slight smokiness; rich and creamy yet fresh, and somehow light. Unsure how this is achieved, but the balance of flavours in this dish were bob on.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Chicken Skewers - sesame coated skewers, peanut and coconut dip: This was my choice. Conscious that I was about to have a very filling steak, I opted for chicken (which marginally makes me less of a pig). That dip was scrumptious, and I'm confident that whilst I could drink a pint of it, that this would be a mistake. Quantities here were just perfect.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Australian Aberdeen Black fillet: Behold for a moment, if you would. Look at it glistening in the sunlight. Its height. The charred edges. Yes, this is £46 worth of steak, but I assure you it's worth every single penny. I rarely order fillet, favouring something with a bit more flavour like ribeye. We left both steak choices to our wonderful server Philippa, as we thought she would have insider info. We did the right thing. Trust in Philippa.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Galician sirloin with a pan fried prawn skewer: Another phenomenal cut of steak. The Galician cattle are ex-dairy cows who are allowed to roam the pastures until they are at least 15, which is why the fat is so yellow, and the meat is so tasty.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
We both enjoy our steaks rare, and that's exactly how they came. I've put these side by side to highlight the difference in texture and colour. I think I preferred the fillet, but only by a whisker. I'd happily have either again. We also ordered peppercorn and blue cheese sauces, which some fool forgot to photograph (I blame the excitement). Whilst peppercorn will always be my favourite, I have to say that the sweet blue cheese sauce is (insert fervent expletive) phenomenal.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Chips, buttered mash potato, steamed broccoli and creamed spinach: Those wonderful sides... We picked very very well. If you're not a fan of butter, I suggest you stay away from that mash, and have a stern word with yourself. That mash was an utter delight. I mean, heavenly.
Grill on New York Street, Manchester
Warm apple and blackberry pie with custard: They bring the whole pie to the table and serve you a slice. Mere mortals may be over-faced by the sight of a whole pie. Not me... Who am I kidding? My greed and my ability to polish that pie in one go are worlds apart. It would take at least two sittings over around 45 minutes. Good pie, very yellow custard. I approve.

Disaronno amaretto chocolate: A nice alternative to a dessert, if you are so inclined. Sweet enough for a post steak perk-up, but is less likely to fill you to the point where you cannot leave unassisted.

What a lovely little evening we had at Grill on New York St. I really cannot fault a single thing. It was a double whammy for me; not only were the food and drinks excellent, but the service we received from Philippa was first class too. A genuinely lovely girl with a real enthusiasm for food.

If you like your meat, go here.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Harry Potter Butterbeer Bundt Cake

I am a massive Harry Potter fan. I've read, and reread the books many times, been to the studios, dressed up as a death eater, and literally bought the t-shirt(s). At some point there will be a tattoo, but I'm still plotting that one. That leads me onto my other obsession; tattoos. Had my first tattoo at 33 and there was no stopping me from that point! I had no intention of having a tattoo until I found the most remarkable lady through a fiend on Instagram. She was based in London, but this mattered not - I was going.
Loser on a broom

Rebecca has been covering me in flowers and berries for the last two years. I adore that woman. She gets me. She made allowances for my mental OCD when I had my first tattoo, seems to know what I want, even when I don't, and is just bursting with love for others. She's one of the kindest people I have ever met, she's remarkable at her art, and shares my love for all thing Potter.

I adore baking for folk I like. It makes me incredibly happy to make something I know they'll love. I was always plotting a Potter themed bundt for Rebecca. Her little girl, Rosie is a superfan too, so it had to be something for both of them.

Did a bit of Hermione style planning... So, I when I tried actual butterbeer, it tasted of very little, although I got the gist of what it should be like from the description in the books; sweet butterscotch, with a slight spice to it for warmth. Merlin's beard! I'd cracked it. The best bit was the decoration. You do not tone Potter down! I threw everything at the bugger... Bertie Bott's Every Flavour beans (watch out for earwax ones though), jelly slugs, a chocolate frog, a snitch, and a shedload of glitter.

I had the best time making this cake. My last tattoo was a very special one for me, as it marked a massive change in my life, which had not been easy. But in the words of Albus Dumbledore:
'Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light'
Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g Homepride plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 250ml toffee yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp butterscotch syrup (the type you use in coffees - I used Monin)
  • Tin of Carnation Caramel

Method:
  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 vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spice. 
  7. Pour the yoghurt into a jug.
  8. Stir in the syrup.
  9. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. 
  10. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  11. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
  12. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
  13. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin.
  14. When the cake is fully cool, tip the Carnation caramel into a jug and give it a stir. It's runny enough to pour. 
  15. Tip it over the cake with the same urgency as catching the elusive snitch. Quickly is best.
  16. Decorate with all the Harry Potter related stuff you can get your wand on. More is more in this case. 
  17. Sprinkle with gold cake glitter and utter your favourite spell. 

Lumos... 

Lounge on 12 at Manchester House - Afternoon Tea

Lounge on 12 at Manchester House

She had been very well behaved, so that little cocktail drinking homie of mine accompanied me to sample a rather glorious champagne afternoon tea at Lounge on 12 at Manchester House the other day. We had a cracking little time, and it was quickly declared by Lee that she was going to write this review. I've been relegated to the bench. Luckily the bench is a great place, where I have a cocktail in hand, and I'm basking in the sun. Meanwhile, she can tell you all about what we got up to!

I love Manchester. I love the variety of places to visit, and gorgeous food to eat. A couple of places however are very close to my heart, and Lounge on 12 at Manchester House is one of them. I have been known to describe it as my spiritual home (second only to Selfridges beauty hall of course). I have the best memories of times spent here with special friends, in particular one long boozy afternoon on the terrace in the sunshine after a particularly good Jo Malone shop. So when Rach asked if I would like to accompany her to try the afternoon tea, I was beyond excited.

As always the luxurious experience of Manchester House starts the second we walked out of the lift, as we were greeted and escorted to a table with beautiful views over the city. Our server Dennis recommended we start with a cocktail, and who are we to disagree? I went for my all time favourite cocktail ever... anywhere....an Aviation. It didn't disappoint, it never does.
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Now onto the afternoon tea, and I must point out that this is the first one that Rachel and I have finished totally. We normally get over-faced and end up taking cake home.
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
The afternoon tea is beautifully presented, with a delicious selection of sandwiches; including coronation chicken wraps, beef and coleslaw, cucumber, and cheese and pickle.
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
The array of sweet offerings was amazing, fennel eclairs (I know they sound weird but eat them, you won't be sorry), salted caramel macarons, panna cotta, scones and Eccles cakes. The macarons in particular were a stand out item for me. We demolished the lot.
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
We enjoyed this with a glass of champagne as recommended by the lovely Dennis, who was absolutely wonderful at looking after us. He took the time to sit and talk us through the food and drinks, and recommend cocktails based on what we liked.
Lounge on 12 at Manchester HouseLounge on 12 at Manchester House
After the food we relocated to the terrace into the sunshine for more cocktails, and were delighted to be told we could put our own music through the terrace sound system (apologies to anyone we subjected to Blake Shelton!)
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
Please note reclined al fresco feet...
Lounge on 12 at Manchester House
It was a perfect afternoon, and I honestly think if we hadn't had another engagement to get to, we would still be on that terrace now!

Thanks to all at Manchester House, we can't wait to see you soon
Disclaimer: We were invited to review afternoon tea at Lounge on 12 at Manchester House. We were not asked to befriend the front of house team (again), and we certainly were not challenged to eat and drink everything, we did this of our own accord.  

Monday, 12 June 2017

Artisan, Manchester

Long time no see. It wasn't you, it was me. 

So my world fell down, and I had to climb out of a proper dark hole. It was a rubbish hole, filled with obstacles and monsters, which made me feel a bit like Sarah in Labyrinth in so many ways. I was just missing a talking worm (things aren't that bad, just yet).

I decided I wasn't keen on the oubliette I had found myself in, so needed to do something about it. Cue my decision to be happy. How did Sarah beat the baby stealing Goblin King? That's right, she remembered the last line of the book; 'you have no power over me'. Sadness has no power over me either, so I'm kicking it in the pants. I have a freakishly strong kick, for an old bird. 

My next few posts are examples of just that. Getting out into the real world, and remembering who and what makes me smile. 

First stop, Artisan in Spinningfields, Manchester. Artisan is an old friend. My first trip was on a very hot day, not long after it opened a few years ago. They've just had a bit of a menu revamp, and asked me to trot along to give it a whirl. With pleasure. 
Artisan is massive, with around 250 covers in the restaurant, plus two large bar areas. However it doesn't feel overbearing or loud in the slightest, with each area of the restaurant segregated to create a cosier feel to what is actually a beast of a restaurant. Apologies in advance for some of the photos turning out a little 'warm', but it was the giant light over our heads, which amazingly, neither of us head-butted (a first).
Artisan Manchester - drinks
Drinks (clockwise) 
Passion Fruit and pomegranate sling - pomegranate seeds, passionfruit shrub, Tanqueray, passoa and lemon juice
Raspberry and thyme sour - raspberry and thyme shrub, Ketel one, chambord and apple juice
Kiwi cooler -kiwi, lemon juice, apple juice and soda water (alcohol free)
All Living Ventures establishments do a bloody good cocktail. We were told by the charming front of house chap (whose name we forgot to ask - curses!), that all fruit cocktails start with something they call a 'shrub'. This is basically a sugar syrup infused with fruit. The difference is a much deeper flavour in the drink, rather than a few raspberries bobbing around.

I was driving, but didn't feel overly deprived, as their mocktails are just as lovely, albeit sans alcohol. The kiwi cooler is a perfect alternative, especially on a warm day.
Wood fired garlic bread with cheese
Wood fired garlic bread with cheese: The powers that be at Artisan saw fit to call this a 'nibble'. It was huge, but hell fire, it was amazing! They've replaced their sourdough version of this with a soft pizza dough type. We ate the lot, despite planning on saving some to dip in our starters...Prawns, roasted garlic and coriander, tomato, chilli and lemon
Prawns, roasted garlic and coriander, tomato, chilli and lemon: Prawns used to be one of my mortal enemies, as was most seafood and shellfish in all honesty. Check me out now, fully enjoying prawns like some sort of cat. They were beautifully cooked, drenched in a sweet tomato sauce. All that was missing was some sort of bread to mop up the rest up. If only we had ordered some... oh...
Braised chorizo, cipollini onions, cherry tomatoes and granary toast
Braised chorizo, cipollini onions, cherry tomatoes and granary toast: Little spicy balls of joy, served with soft onions and roasted garlic. This did come with bread, but we nicked that for the prawn dish.
Mussels mariniere baked in a pizza crust with fries
Mussels mariniere baked in a pizza crust with fries: Bit of a star of the show this one. Genius really. So you have the mussels cooked in a velvety sauce, which creeps into the shells, infusing them with this lovely rich flavour. But wait... all that sauce pooled at the bottom can be soaked up with that soft pizza crust which has just kept them moist whilst cooking. You think I'm obsessed with the sauce/bread combo now, don't you? You were right...
7oz Fillet steak - 28 day aged Lancashire beef with fries
7oz Fillet steak - 28 day aged Lancashire beef with fries: Thought a nice lean steak might be a lighter option after all the carbs. I suppose it is, before you add a big pile of fries and peppercorn sauce. Cooked rare, just as I had requested, it was perfect.
7oz Fillet steak - 28 day aged Lancashire beef with fries
Sticky toffee pudding with ice cream
Sticky toffee pudding with ice cream: Medicinal sugar to combat all the lovely carbs. Soft, sticky, and incredibly light. Ate it all bar one mouthful. Some say warrior, others say greedy...
Selection of ice creams - Eton mess, pistachio and salted caramel
Selection of ice creams - Eton mess, pistachio and salted caramel: Who said ice cream is boring? These sparked quite the debate as we tried to rank them. Think we both agreed in the end that the Eton mess one was a tour de force. Our only criticism was a soft brandy snap, which we decided we could live with. Luckily for Artisan, Mary Berry was nowhere to be seen.

We ate from the standard menu, but it's worth mentioning that they have a brilliant deal on during the day, where you can get two courses plus a 125ml glass of wine or half a pint of draught beer for £9.95. That garlic bread with cheese is one of the starter options. Just saying. Have a look here.

I went back to Artisan expecting a pleasant evening. We left having been filled with superbly cooked food, lovingly crafted drinks, and the sense that the service we received was possibly some of the best in Manchester. We were blown away. A special thank you goes to our waitress Issy; she was knowledgeable, funny, and accommodated our every request with a the kind of sincerity that makes me think she's a natural at giving truly great service. Give the girl a pay rise.

Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, remember the best remedy is fun with your friends and loved ones. I have been incredibly lucky to have been showered with love from almost every direction. You have no power over me.
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