Monday, 16 April 2018

Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut, Manchester

Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut, Manchester
Oh Fat Tony, whoever you are, here we are again to sample your wares with a sense of glee. The last time I was asked to review Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut, I was very sure indeed that I had developed gout over the course of the meal. Feeling invincible after successfully avoiding it, I threw caution to the wind in a triumphant return.

This time it was the turn of the roast. I was already hoping that the beef would be somewhat like that beautifully pink steak on the poutine from last time, glistening in the er... spotlights above the booth we sat in. Anyway, enough about whimsical memories, and to the food.

There we were, successfully parked nearby and feeling like winners because we were not drenched. We were greeted by Louise who it turns out is utterly wonderful in every way. No surly Sunday afternoon stares from this one, she was chirpy and friendly, despite mentioning she had been on shift the night before. She was only too happy to make some brilliant beer suggestions too, based on a few preferences I gave to her. I have it on good authority that Fantasma by Magic Rock, and Heathen by Northern Monk were great choices. We liked her a lot.

Beef roast - served with cabbage, carrots, broccoli, stuffin, roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding: This is more like a massive steak on a pile of potatoes, stuffing and vegetables, crowned with a Yorkshire pud. It was what I had been dreaming of since booking the table. I took a close up of the beef because I didn't feel the picture below really showcased its magnificence. Major points for those sweet rosemary roasted carrots.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut, Manchester
Behold.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut, Manchester
Chicken roast: A chicken version of the above, with the same accompaniments. The chicken was moist and well seasoned, and came with a tasty chicken gravy. Only comment is that he would have liked a little more of this liquor.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut, Manchester
Cauliflower cheese: The only sides available on Sundays are sweet potato croquettes and cauliflower cheese, however croquettes were off the menu on this particular day. Not to worry though, as you can see, we had more than enough food. Served al dente and smothered in cheese.
Fat Tony's at Kosmonaut, Manchester
I may not be a food critic, but I eat a lot, and frequently, so I am declaring myself qualified to tell you that this roast is pretty darn good. We've done quite a few country pub style roasts recently, which still have a special place in my heart (well arteries anyway), but we both commented that this felt more 'restauranty' without the formal atmosphere.

Go to Fat Tony' at Kosmonaut for a chilled Sunday afternoon, filled with comforting food, great beers and friendly staff. I feel at home here.


Disclaimer: I was asked to review Fat Tony's and they knew I was coming. However, I have eaten here when not reviewing, and I can confirm it's consistently great. I was under no obligation to say nice things, or befriend Louise.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Chiquito, Middlebrook

Chiquito, Middlebrook
I am no food snob. I've eaten in some of the best restaurants in the world, in hidden dining rooms with a handful of tables, flown to European cities for my tea, driven two days out of my way in America in the name of food, and once made over 1500 redial phone calls and spent £68 on hold to San Francisco. All that being said, I bloody love a 'build your own' fajita.

I was recently asked to pop down to my local branch of Chiquito to put them through their paces, which I had absolutely no hesitation in agreeing to! Luckily for me, I have Ellie to assist me in such tough ventures, a role which she takes very seriously indeed. I was stuck in the most heinous of Chorley New Road rush hour madness, but like a true soldier, she got the Margaritas in.

Speaking of Margaritas, I want to tell you a little tale about their cocktails first. In the interest of honesty, I imagined their offerings to be similar to those you get on a Canaries all inclusive holiday; brightly coloured, watered down, three umbrellas, and tasting somewhat like radiator coolant. Not so. These cocktails were very pleasant indeed. So much so, we had quite a few, encouraged by our chirpy waitress who was a total cocktail enabler during happy hour.
Chiquito, Middlebrook
To the food.

Halloumi skewers - onions and peppers, baked and served over a citrus dressed salad with salsa: Eyes straight to halloumi, as always. Light and fresh, which is perfect for occasions where you and your dining partner plan to stuff their faces with fajitas and desserts. Presentation could do with a little work if we're being picky, but delicious all the same.
Chiquito, Middlebrook
Fajitas: These were huge, and came with unlimited wraps (I didn't get through the ones they gave me). These pictures in a dimly lit restaurant really don't do this food justice. We both had fajitas, so had prawns and steak. They are served with a choice of sides, which come in a little tray on the side. Big fan of these.
Chiquito, MiddlebrookChiquito, Middlebrook
Chiquito, Middlebrook
Bearing in mind that neither of us could finish the fajitas, you would think that most reasonable humans would call it a day. Not us, we battled on.

Toffee popcorn brownie - chocolate brownie topped with toffee popcorn and served with honeycomb ice cream: Ellie was massively impressed with this brownie, noting how light it was, and how well the toffee and popcorn flavours went with the chocolate.
Chiquito, Middlebrook
Churros: They are one of my favourite desserts in the world. I rarely go to a Mexican restaurant without ordering these. Who doesn't love deep fried strands of doughnut, dipped in chocolate sauce? Good portion size too, as I often find I'm over-faced with too many, and saddened when I can't eat them. Polished this lot with ease.
Chiquito, Middlebrook
Do you know what? We had such a nice time. Chiquito might be a well known chain, but they offer value for money, good fresh food, a great range of cocktails, but just as importantly, the staff were lovely. Our waitress gave some great menu advice, and was an absolute pleasure to speak to, despite the fact she was eight months pregnant and dead on her feet.

Go here for a midweek feast with friends or family, and enjoy a few cocktails without breaking the bank.


Disclaimer: I was asked to review Chiquito Middlebrook, and given a budget. We put our own money to this because we were having such a good time, we decided not to leave!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Blow Ltd Review

Blow Ltd
As a general rule, I'm a food blogger, but I seem to get myself involved in all sorts these days, as most folk do the whole 'lifestyle' thing. Blow Ltd had asked me a few times to do a review, and after a bit of a tough week, my friend Ellie and I decided to take the plunge before our afternoon of fun in Manchester. 

Bright and breezy, we were off to the big smoke, where it was so cold that my nose was like a beacon and my toes were frozen for at least 24 hours. We arrived safely at Debenhams Market Street to have a toot at what Blow Ltd was all about.

The concept is simple. You make an appointment for your desired treatment, choosing from hair up, a blow dry, make up, nails, or a combination of the lot. You book online or via the app, and choose whether you want to come into the salon, have it done at home, or even at the office! What an amazing concept! We were talking at work about pre-work's do hair and make up in the break room... Imagine folks' faces? Brilliant idea though.
Blow Ltd
I'm a lifelong lover of the classic red nail, and can usually be spotted wearing one of about 50 shades of the same colour! I decided to put an OPI gel version through its paces, to see how it compares to my usual polished look. Ellie went for the total opposite of a beautiful baby pink. Big fan of OPI.

The salon in Debenhams is like an Aladdin's cave of amazing hair products, make up, and styling tools. I feel like I could walk in here looking like a windswept goat, and appear an hour later feeling like a Disney princess. I clearly had high hopes!
Blow Ltd
My nails are like actual talons, but I decided to have them trimmed down after an unfortunate incident involving an ill advised hard punch to a pad, in an ill fitting glove, left a crack in my thumb nail... I was so pleased with these beauties.
Blow Ltd
What a lovely experience we had. The ladies in the salon were chatty, but super quick, and we left feeling a million dollars. An OPI gel manicure is £40, and although we booked, if they have availability, you can just walk in too. So if you find yourself with manky chipped polish, you could nip in and get a manicure done in a jiffy. We're definitely going back here. Also, if you sign up to the mailing list like we did, I've noticed that you get regular money off offers too.  

We followed our lovely morning with lunch out and cocktails in our favourite gaff. What a heavenly little day.

Disclaimer: This is a review, and we were invited for manicures free of charge. We were under no obligation to say nice stuff.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Bosch 'Kitchen Machine' Mixer Review

Bosch 'Kitchen Machine' Mixer
Bosch 'Kitchen Machine' Mixer
So Debenhams asked me to put a mixer through its paces. Yes, I can do that. I feel like a bit of a mixer testing veteran these days! This came in the biggest box you have ever seen in your life, so I was pleasantly suprised that they hadn't sent me some huge industrial contraption for making 10,000 loaves of bread. Nope, the Bosch 'Kitchen Machine' is a wonderfully compact machine, but also comes with a feast of goodies which make it far more than a stand mixer. Here's the low down.

What's in the box?
  • Mixer
  • 3.9L brushed stainless steel bowl
  • Liquidiser
  • Lid/splashguard
  • Continuous shredder
  • Stainless steel mixing bowl
  • Metal kneading hook
  • Balloon whisk 
  • Cake beater
  • Plastic blender attachment
  • Reversible shredding disc
  • Bag for accessories
  • Instructional DVD

Functions

  • Beating
  • Stirring
  • Kneading
  • Shredding
  • Grating and slicing
  • Mixing

It does everything you would expect, plus a little more. I really like order, and things having 'their place' so I loved how easy this was to unpack, put together and store when not in use. I have to admit that I didn't read the instructions! It's also incredibly easy to move around if you need to as well. Moving my, 'other mixer' is a bit like power lifting at times, so this felt incredibly easy in comparison. 
Bosch 'Kitchen Machine' Mixer
Reasons to love this mixer:

  • Easy to set up
  • Compact
  • Shiny, sleek design.
  • Retractable cord
  • Comes with a blender and chopper
  • Illuminated speed wheel
  • Not overly noisy
  • Handy bag to keep attachments tidy
  • Lightweight
  • Pads underneath to stop it moving around
  • Whips cream quickly with the balloon whisk attachment (I have no patience)
  • Great value for money in comparison to other mixers on the market (see details below).


Possible improvements:

  • Wider range of colours (this also comes in a nice teal colour, but I will always be team pink).
  • The bowl is slightly smaller than other stand mixers, however I have to say it accommodated a large cake with ease.
  • Cake mix does stick to the sides a little, so needed clearing down.

Bakers will always ask the question about how it compares to the other mixers out there, so I have done you a quick overview. I have used both these other mixers, and in terms of performance, found no difference whatsoever in the quality of the cake they produced, because let's face it, much of that is down to the recipe and your kitchen skills.

Quick Comparison

Bosch
Power 1000W
Capacity 3.9 litres
Weight 6.4kg
Dimensions 28.2H x 28W x 27.1D
Cost £330

Kitchenaid
Power 300W
Capacity 4.83 litres
Weight 10.65kg
Dimensions 35.3H x 22.1W x 35.8D
Cost £450

Kenwood
Power 1400W
Capacity 4.6 litres
Weight 7.7kg
Dimensions 29.7H x 22.7W x 40.0D
Cost £500

In conclusion, I would most definitely recommend this mixer. It would look at home in any kitchen, but I'd say it's particularly well suited where worktop space is limited. Stand mixers are great and look the business, but they also take up an awful lot of kitchen real estate. The Bosch model seems to cut out wasted space, without losing functionality. Cracking bit of kit.

Buy it here

Disclaimer: I was sent this mixer to do an honest review. I was under no obligation to say nice things or admire its shineyness for so long.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Comptoir Libanais, Manchester

Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
'Bits' are the best. The art of convincing yourself 'oh look at me, I'm eating little tiny things like a dinky bird', where in reality, it's the joy of not being tied to one main, then staring furiously at someone else's whilst cursing yourself for not ordering the same. No my friend, mezze is the future.

Lebanese food lets light into the soul; spicy, warming and lots of 'bits' which make you beam. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Ellie and I got ourselves involved in a bit of Veganuary at Comptoir Libanais. This was going to be interesting, as I am a full on carnivore and she's pescatarian, so we wanted to see just how full can two hungry girls get with no meat or dairy? Challenge set.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Comptoir Libanais has to be one of the prettiest restaurants in the city. Lebanese restaurants are usually full of colour, with vibrant tiles, extravagant teapots and the most wonderful ingredients to buy to take home. The restaurant is spacious and light, and there's even a bar tucked away at the back for those in need of pre-dinner drinks, or a cheeky glass of something with nibbles.

So then, this mezze I was on about. I was determined not to make a pig of myself after the great 'Pre-Sum 41 Disaster of 2017', where I was so full after eating Lebanese food, that I went to the bar during the gig and had to ask for a glass of squash. Party hard. Would history repeat itself?

The promotional picture below really does not do the volume of food justice. Looks okay hey? Colours as dazzling as their home, it really is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for your belly.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Here's how we got on.

Drinks: Great range of wines, cocktails, beers, and homemade soft drinks, with extra brownie points going to our hostess who found the ingredients list of a discontinued cocktail Ellie had fawned over online. It's also essential that I mention (and stand by) my original description of the rose tea we were served too; 'magical'.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Mezze to share:
Hommos - smooth rich chickpea purée with tahini and lemon juice, served with pita bread: The original hommos listed on the menu was beetroot, which is fine if you like soil. I do not, therefore this was easily swapped for the regular version. I really must impress upon you that this stuff makes the pots from M&S taste like beige nothing. This is so rich and full of flavour, there's a definite difference with the authentic stuff.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Baba Ghanuj - smoked aubergine, tahina and lemon juice with pomegranate seeds, served with pita bread: Drenched in the most beautifully scented olive oil with pomegranate seeds, this dip is like a little glimpse of lunch in Heaven.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Freekeh - smoked green wheat, wild rocket, vine tomato, spring onion, apple vinegar and mint dressing: Not keen on rocket, so why was this so wonderful? I often find it drowns the taste of anything you serve it with, so I can only presume that the combination and balance of flavours here were just bob-on.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Falafel - chickpea and broad bean pate, coriander, parsley, garlic and peppers, served with tahina sauce: They always look so dry and uninviting, but once cracked open, these little balls of delight are a taste sensation, especially when drowned in tahina and eaten with those bright pink pickles. Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Quinoa and Pumpkin Salad - quinoa, chickpeas, vine tomato, fresh mint, topped roasted pumpkin, apple vinaigrette and pomegranate dressing: The first time I ate quinoa was in porridge with protein powder. This is not like that porridge. Soft and spicy with texture for days. This went down very well indeed.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Aubergine Tagine - baked baby aubergine in a rich tomato and chickpea sauce: By far my stand out dish of the day. There's something about a warming tagine served with fluffy rice that wraps me in a big blanket and makes me feel safe from the cold outside.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
Rose Water Mouhalabia - coconut milk and rose water Lebanese milk pudding: A little like a very light blancmange with a subtle rose flavour. Ellie was a big fan of this one.
Comptoir Libanais, Manchester
What an amazing afternoon! It was howling a gale outside, and there we were, feasting, drinking cocktails and declaring tea 'magical'. In all honesty, you would barely notice that everything was plant based, because it was just so unbelievably delicious, and we left feeling incredibly full indeed. Many of the foods served like chickpeas, aubergine and quinoa take on the flavours of the spices when cooked well, so feel hearty and soothing. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm never going to change my meat eating ways, but will happily reorder ay of these items in the future. They are on the normal menu all year round, so you can still sample them all.

Go here for a slow afternoon of chit chat, cocktails, and the most beautiful food.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the restaurant to complete an honest review. I was under no obligation to say nice things!

Monday, 15 January 2018

Exchange Lounge, Manchester

Exchange Lounge, Manchester
Evening all. I've been gallivanting again. I found Exchange Lounge through Instagram last week, one minute I'm admiring their pies, then a few days later I was there! Funny one this. So it's part of the Novotel, and is accessible from their lobby, but if you access it through the Exchange front door, you may never even know it's part of a hotel.

I've stayed at some really swanky hotels where they haven't got this balance right. You know the type, bars that feel like an extension of reception, folk milling about with luggage and suit carriers, and fellas drinking a single malt on their own to numb the pain of another mundane night away with work. You can spot them a mile off.

Exchange is a bit different. Whilst it's still got the feel of a restaurant, there are also great people watching spots by the window on tall stools, a comfy zone to sit and chill with a drink, a well stocked bar with friendly staff, and large screens that show the news and sport.

We had a nice little mix of house cocktails and beers, with highlights being the spicy 'dark and stormy', and a rather unusual ABC breakfast stout, which had a little hit of coffee, without being treacle thick like a standard stout.

Croquette of the week - cheese and chorizo: When is deep fried cheese and chorizo ever bad? I'd advise letting them cool before shoving them in your mouth, but my own gluttony aside, these were really rather good. Quite a large portion for a starter, but you'll never hear me complain about too much food.

Fish Taco: Not what I expected, but a lovely spiced fish on a bed of fresh, crunchy salad.
'The Mill' burger - double patty with cheese, bacon and gherkins: I'm not keen on ordering burgers outside of 'proper burger joints' for fear of a soul-less, tasteless, overdone, dry patty served in a barm* (*bap/batch/roll/flour cake - delete as appropriate). Simplicity won the day here. No fuss, but the basics done well. Extra points for the big pickle.
10oz rib eye steak with skinny fries and garlic butter: The type that comes with little charred bits... I have to say, despite this being a sniff overcooked, this is one of the best steaks I've had in a pub style setting. The flavour on the outside from the grill was fantastic. Well worth £19.

Bread and butter putting with custard: I love a good pudding, especially with custard. Best bit about this dessert was the abundant demerara sugar baked onto the top of the pudding for a sweet crunch. It could have done with being a little warmer, but I was still a big fan of this.
Trio of crème brûlée - coffee, chocolate and vanilla with shortbread fingers: Although these little pots are only small, there's plenty of brûlée here. I struggle with this dessert as I find it a bit too smooth and samey, so three different flavours were a nice touch

As we sat and scoffed this lovely food, we chatted about when and why you might visit Exchange Lounge, as it's not immediately clear. It's near the end of Portland Street which is close to Oxford Road, so I'd say it's a good, slightly quieter venue for pre theatre/gig food and drinks. If you're not eating, that's fine as there's a comfortable bar area too. Similarly, it's a decent place to go and watch whatever sport is on too, owing to the large screens which had the cricket on whilst we're there, although this is not at an offensive volume.

I'm not sure what I was expecting of Exchange, I just know that the food was a pleasant surprise, the staff were friendly, they took time to talk to us despite clearly being rushed off their feet, and the atmosphere was nice and calm. Very enjoyable indeed!

Disclaimer: I was invited to the restaurant to complete an honest review. I was under no obligation to say nice things!

Friday, 5 January 2018

Terrible Cat Bundt

Terrible Cat Bundt
This bundt is an utter masterclass in bad taste. Imagine the scene... I'm sat at work, about to finish for the day and get the ingredients for my mum's birthday cake, with zero inspiration. When you've been baking them for pure time like me, you start to run out of ideas. I turned to my pal Richard, who asked what my mum likes in general; 'cats, pink, and glitter'. 'Do that' was the reply. I did as well you know.

Our Kaz loves anything that's a bit over the top. She has at least 275 cushions on each couch, and even her Christmas decorations are pink (read 'evil'). I already had a bag of amazingly naff plastic cats (as you do), and loads of glittery, shimmery, and all round twinkly items in my bundt cupboard. I was off!

I'm not going to post the recipe for this one, as it could be done to any bundt, although I am 100% convinced that not a single one of you will ever recreate this monstrosity. Served on a Cath Kidston tablecloth, and gazed upon her own felines Nellie and Ruby, she adored this cake. She asked if they helped, I advised no, as they are cats. I filled it with Dolly mix, as my mum is the one who gave me the name Dolly so many moons ago.


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.

Pretzel and Salted Caramel Bundt

Pretzel and Salted Caramel Bundt
Bundt nerves... I was off to meet Mr Nordic Ware, Marcus for our annual catch up at the Cake and Bake Show. I realised the week before that I had never actually made him a bundt, which seemed almost perverse, so I sorted myself out and got my pinny on. As if he had never actually tried my cake before... I could have been an utter charlatan who made things that taste of muck and dust.

I have never been so nervous whilst baking before! I decided to make a pretzel and salted caramel bundt after spotting a bag of giant pretzels in M&S, and being quite smitten by the idea of decorating with them. I then went on this mad spree of finding all sorts of pretzel related items, most of which I didn't actually use, and had to dispose of by eating them. Tough gig.

Second task was to get said bundt to Marcus in one piece, whist travelling to Event City, over the heinous Barton Bridge, in rush hour traffic. He then had to get it home to the Midlands without it looking like an utter wreck! I'm reliably informed that it got there just fine, albeit missing a few pretzels... luckily he had quite a few.

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g Homepride plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250ml toffee yoghurt (I used Muller Light)
  • 12 medium sized pretzels

Topping:
  • Carnation caramel
  • All the pretzels. I used Giant (M&S), salted caramel (Tesco), and popping candy ones (M&S).

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. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
  6. Pour the yoghurt into a jug, and add the vanilla extract.
  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. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. 
  10. Poke in the 12 pretzels in the formation of the hours on a clock. Ensure they are just covered.
  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, warm the caramel slightly in the microwave until it's slightly runny. 
  14. Tip it over your cake and let it drip down. 
  15. Decorate you have to use every pretzel you excitedly found whilst shopping. Hell, throw some glitter on too!

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.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Elf Bundt

Elf Bundt
I effing love Will Ferrell. On the flip-side, my mum despises him, and hates Buddy even more. I have no idea how this is even possible, and if I didn't look just like her, would be perhaps questioning my parentage. I obviously made this a couple of weeks ago, I'm not some January pervert, but the post has been delayed slightly owing to an unfortunate bout of pleurisy. Nasty.

I'd wanted to make this for an age. I decided to base it on the Elf four main food groups of 'candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup'. So it went a little something like this... maple syrup flavoured cake, covered in icing, glitter, sweets, candy canes, and Poptarts (obviously). The smell when I removed the lid from this one was enough to knock an elf off his shelf! Gee wizz, it was quite something.

So if you fancy making an understated Elf cake, this is how...

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g Homepride plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 250ml maple syrup yoghurt (I used Yeo Valley)

Topping:
  • Icing sugar
  • Water
  • Enough sweets to make you puke

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 sugars 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 mixed spice.
  6. Pour the yoghurt into a jug, and add the vanilla extract.
  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. Pour the mix into your prepared 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 completely cool, add enough water to the icing sugar to make a runny icing. 
  13. Tip it over your cake and let it drip down. 
  14. Decorate like a lunatic in a sweet shop.

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.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Gingerbread Latte Bundt Cake

Gingerbread Latte Bundt Cake
I meant to do this one last year, I just ran out of festive baking time. Plus, there's only so much cake my lot can eat. I'm not actually a fan of coffee flavoured cakes, but this one's a bit of an anomaly. If you like coffee cakes, you'll be just grand, if you don't, it's not an overpowering flavour because of the spices. You could make this at any time of year, but it's a nice festive alternative to the muck that is Christmas cake.

It might seem like sacrilege to use instant coffee, but there is method in my madness. I wanted a slightly stronger flavour than what was in the yoghurt alone, and the freeze dried granules stay like coffee 'chips' or flecks in the cake, and look nice!

Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp gingerbread coffee syrup (I used Monin)
  • 350g Homepride plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 250ml latte flavoured greek yoghurt (I used Muller)
  • 3 tsp good quality instant coffee 

Topping:
  • Icing sugar
  • More gingerbread syrup
  • Water

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 sugars 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 spices.
  6. Pour the yoghurt into a jug, and add the vanilla extract and syrup.
  7. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. 
  8. Add the coffee granules.
  9. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  10. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. It will be quite thick.
  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, add enough syrup to the icing sugar to make a runny icing. You can use a bit of water if you like.
  14. Tip it over your cake and let it drip down. 
  15. Decorate in a festive fashion.

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.

Parliament Tattoo Speculoos Bundt

Parliament Tattoo Christmas Bundt
Photo credit: Barba VanDømd
I adore Rebecca Vincent. She loves Harry Potter, has the most accurate moral compass of anyone I have ever met, is full of wisdom, and happens to do the best tattoos ever. Forever ever. I travel to London to have her scratch me with ink, which never feels like a chore. I love Parliament Tattoo and the other folk who work there, especially that little cutie Barba, who takes the best photos!

After a shit-house year, I decided to have a tattoo which represented comfort. When things were particularly bad, I started seeing robins everywhere; looking through the window, sat beside me as I ate lunch, one feeding another a foot away from me, in my work car parking space etc... They always made me smile because they reminded me of my legendary rabbit boy, Robin. I knew I had to have a little lad on my arm, so he'd be with me all the time. I've put the before and after pictures below just so you can see how amazing she actually is!

Whether I'm day tripping to London, or Rebecca comes to Manchester, I always take baked goods. It's the law. I've done a couple of Harry Potter themed cakes for her already, but this was Christmas time, so I decided it had to be 'Parliament Tattoo Christmas' themed. The studio is full of animal skulls, crazy foliage and religious paraphernalia, so I had to make something along those lines. I made a spicy Speculoos flavoured cake, with Jack Daniels Honey icing. Festive like.
Parliament Tattoo Christmas Bundt
Ingredients:
  • 225g butter
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 100g dark brown 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
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 4 tbsp Speculoos spread. Lotus and Lidl both do this. If you can't find it, regular Lotus Biscoff spread will work just fine. 
  • 250ml honey flavoured low fat yoghurt 

Topping:
  • Icing sugar
  • Jack Daniels Honey bourbon (optional - you can use apple juice or water instead)
  • A shitload of cake glitter (optional)

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 sugars 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 spices.
  6. Pour the yoghurt into a jug, and add the vanilla extract.
  7. Sift in a third of the flour mix followed by half the yoghurt. Repeat this until everything is combined. 
  8. Dollop in the Speculoos spread.
  9. Give everything a quick mix on a low speed for about 10 seconds.
  10. Pour the mix into your prepared tin. It will be quite thick.
  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, add the bourbon to the icing sugar, and mix to make a runny icing. You can use a bit of water if you like.
  14. Tip it over your cake and let it drip down. 
  15. Blast with glitter like you're decorating a grotto.

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.

Grand Pacific, Manchester

Grand Pacific, Manchester
I had bloody pleurisy. Over Christmas. Before that, my pal Ellie had some sort of bubonic plague type thing during her 30th birthday week. Luckily for us, we had a window of opportunity between both lurgies where we were able to have an idyllic afternoon being pampered in Grand Pacific in Manchester.

We had been invited to try the afternoon tea, which was Christmas themed throughout December. I'd not been in this building since it was Room a few years ago, so was an eager beaver to see what the magic touch of the Living Ventures fairies had created. Pineapples, that's what. If you've ever been to my gaff, you'll know that I love a golden pineapple! They're everywhere in Grand Pacific, from beautifully styled cocktail receptacles, to the cake stands. It feels opulent yet comfortable, and the bar team are warm and friendly, despite one suggesting my green Christmas dress was an elf outfit... I told him I can get him off that naughty list, if he behaved.
Grand Pacific, Manchester
We were seated quickly and offered drinks almost immediately. I'm really rubbish at picking cocktails, because I'm the type who gets over excited by everything I read, so we asked our waiter for surprises. Not a single drink was a disappointment, and one even had a peacock feather in it! Bonus points. 
Grand Pacific, Manchester
I love the idea of serving the savoury and sweet items separately. When I spoke to the manager, he said it's much more of a faff this way, but they feel it adds something to the dining experience. Afternoon tea is one of those things where I always think 'ah that doesn't seem like too much food', only to be corrected mid way through a scone whilst gasping for air, and almost choking on some jam.

There was a lovely selection of savoury treats, ranging from the usual sandwiches, to blinis, savoury scones, and sweet salads served on spoons. The variety tricks your subconscious into thinking you haven't really eaten that much after all, and limits the amount of bread.
Grand Pacific, Manchester
After a short break (and another cocktail), we were presented with the sweet platter. Feeling a little cocky from our successful first round, we still decided to pace ourselves with the sugary stuff. Beautiful home made meringues, Lamington lollypops, trifles, Irish cream truffles, mince tarts, Christmas cake... can you see where this went wrong for us?  Minor death seemed to occur somewhere between the lollypop and the Christmas cake. Truffles were taken home.
Grand Pacific, Manchester
We were presented with a medicinal pot of reviving tea, however my feet felt like lead as we were taken through to the bar to enjoy the rest of our day, people watching on King Street.

What a beautiful afternoon of lovely food and delightful service in decadent surroundings. I can't wait to go back to try the dinner menu at some point. I'll wear something stretchy next time...

Disclaimer: I was invited to the restaurant to complete an honest review. I was under no obligation to say nice things!
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