Saturday 30 June 2012

Calendar Cakes Challenge - June 2012 Round Up

Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012
So folks, here we are! The round up of the first ever Calendar Cakes Challenge. England turned out to be a bit of a damp squib but your entries were fantastic! There's no judging going on here, it's just a bit of fun. Our theme for June was Euro 2012, and asked our participants to think about:
  • Football decorations
  • The logo
  • Pick a country and use it as your theme (see a list of teams here)
  • Incorporate food from a chosen European country
  • Use colours from a chosen European country
Please feel free to join us for July's challenge, which will be hosted by the lovely Laura from Laura Loves Cakes.
Euro 2012 Logo

On the very first day of the challenge we received these from Caroline at Caroline Makes. In 2011 she did some fundraising to rebuild a school in Namibia for the Bobby Moore Fund, and produced these little beauties in the process!
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - Caroline Makes
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - Caroline Makes
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - Caroline Makes
Can you guess who make this one...? Self confessed bundt-o-holic, this one is mine. I'd been dying to use this tin for months! This was an orange flavoured bundt cake, with inspiration taken from the old tradition of orange segments at half time for the players.
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - DollyBakes
The next one is Laura's from Laura Loves Cakes. These are lime and vodka syrup Russian doll cakes. I adore them! Such intricate detail on their little faces. Stunning.
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - Laura Loves Cakes
This patriotic little number comes from Kate at What Kate Baked. It's a strawberry and vanilla Victoria sponge. It looks amazing with the fresh fruit on top. That wouldn't last long in our house!
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - What Kate Baked
The next one is another entry from Caroline from  Caroline Makes and is a French Valrhona chocolate fondant. I love this picture. It just catches the light glistening off the chocolate. Yum!
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - Caroline Makes
This one is a Spanish Valencia orange and lemon Victoria sponge by Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker. Lemon is my absolute favourite type of cake!
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - The More Than Occasional Baker
This Russian Sandwich is from my good friend Dawn at Mummy's Little Peeps. I love the story behind this one! Dawn found the recipe in her grandma's hand-written recipe book and actually remembers eating it as a child. 
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - Mummy's Little Peeps
These cheeky chaps come from Laura at Laura Loves Cakes. They were made to celebrate England's first victory in the tournament. But a distant memory now...
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - Laura Loves Cakes
These meatball and spaghetti cupcakes from Cat Haslam are so much fun! She has used a vanilla cupcake and piped vanilla buttercream on to look like pasta. The 'meatballs' are actually Ferrero Rochers covered in a bit of strawberry jam. Very creative!
Calendar Cakes Challenge June 2012 - Cat Haslam
Thanks to everyone who got involved for the month of June, we hope to see you all on the July one as well! Don't forget to tell your friends too, the more the merrier!

We would love you to leave your comments below... x

Gorilla, Manchester

Gorilla Manchester
Gorilla this, gorilla that... it's all I've heard on Twitter for the last couple of weeks. You know by now that I'm a right nosy parker. I had to go. There was a small group of us, so the OCD within made me want to book a table. Denied! You cannot book. I'm still not sure that I'm down with this 'no booking' malarky. It makes me nervous, and feels very unorganised when you want to eat at a specific place on a Friday night. I understand it in London, but not Manchester. No. There, I said it. I do not like this process.

We got there about 6.30pm thinking it would still be nice and quiet. Wrong. Every Tom, Dick and Harry who owned a naff hat were in there looking 'cool'. I asked if there was a process for waiting for tables, to which I was informed 'no, you just have to wait and pounce'. Ace. No-one actually seemed to be eating because the tables had been commandeered by post-work drinkers. I bet the kitchen staff love it!

Anyone who knows me well will be more than aware of what my next step was. I was getting a table if it killed me. I was on form. Eyes peeled, nose to the ground and soldiers around me ready with their next move planned. This was a covert operation, as to the unsuspecting onlooker we may well have appeared 'casual with drink in hand' when we were actually a well oiled machine...

Tactic 1: Move to the Gin Parlour. This is the smaller bit upstairs. There were a few booths where people had already eaten. They could leave at any minute...

Tactic 2: Get inside info off the barman. There was a big table reserved despite 'no reservations'. It even had a proper sign... Apparently this was a corporate table. I asked the barman if we could reserve the next available table. We were told that wasn't possible but we could speak to the manager. Although he did say that 'in an hour this lot'll f*ck off to Stone Roses'. Insightful.

Tactic 3: Spread out. We positioned ourselves in a spot with easy access to all tables.

Tactic 4: Fend off the enemy. A group of people walked upstairs and eyeballed the table we knew was next to leave. One little madam even went and put her coat on a chair where people were still sat. I walked over to said table and loudly asked if they were leaving, as we had waited for an hour. I maintained a 'ladylike' demeanour despite the four letter rant going on in my head...

Tactic 5: Befriend the table about to leave. I came across as friendly, little madam came across as very rude indeed.

Tactic five was a belter. As the couple at that table were about to go, one caught my eye and beckoned us to the table. Result. Nice big table. This was my greatest achievement since the train to Edinburgh incident of 2010.

However, our luck was to run out a little. Actually ordering food turned out to be a bit of a nightmare too. We asked at the bar if we ordered there or waited for someone to come to us. He didn't know. We had to ask for menus and were actually in the middle of writing out our own order when a waiter finally appeared. By now it was about 7:45pm. At this point a waitress came and put a sign on our table reading 'Reserved from 8.30pm'. I'm not going to go into detail about the conversation that my husband had with her, but I can summarise it as something like this... 'I'm sorry, we have only just ordered so I doubt we will be finished by then. We were not informed of this when we sat down. Plus, I am sure that someone said you cannot reserve tables?' Let's leave it at that. She put it on another table.

Anyway, when our food came it looked wonderful. Thick juicy burgers with crispy fries. Unfortunately we did have to send one back because despite asking for no salad or sauce, it came with gherkins. They did bring it back quickly though, sans-gherkin.

The food itself was nice and tasty. The burgers were cooked well (mine was actually a little pinker than the photo below suggests) and the bacon was really crispy. The fries had a lovely crunch to them, but we all agreed they were way too salty. We all found ourselves with stinging lips afterwards. The food was good, but I think it was a little overshadowed by the ordeal of actually getting it!
Gorilla Manchester - Burger
Gorilla Manchester - Burger
Toasted sesame brioche bun, pickles, butterhead lettuce, Trof recipe burger sauce, 
aged cheddar, smoked streaky bacon & seasoned fries
Now I can't do a full review without testing the desserts. I was rather excited by the thought of brown sugar cheesecake! I've been eating like a bird for most of the week (with the exception of the pie and mash misdemeanour...) so I was well up for puddings. I have to say this was a disappointment. The first mouthful was devine, but then the further I got in, the soggier the base was and the stronger the alcohol in the filling became. I couldn't decide whether it was brandy or not? It completely overpowered the whole thing and I had to admit defeat.
Gorilla Manchester - Brown Sugar New York Cheesecake
My husband had the sticky toffee pudding. This again was pleasant, but nothing special. The texture suggested it had been warmed for a little too long in the microwave, as the edges were bit firm. The sauce was nice though and the ice cream was thick and creamy. A decent dessert. 
Gorilla Manchester - Sticky Toffee Pudding
I can imagine that when Gorilla is a little quieter, it's a much better experience. We got the impression that the staff were not used to being asked questions and really didn't know how to answer when we requested anything other than a drink. Additionally, we found it quite irritating that we were told you cannot book yet we saw evidence of it when we arrived. This made us suspect that it's okay for mates, but not for us. It didn't really feel like we were valued customers I'm afraid.

Disclaimer: Gorilla did not pay me for this review. I went with some friends because we had heard great things and for no other reason.
Gorilla on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Ma Simms Pie and Mash Shop, Bolton

So, the diet was going exceptionally well. Eating healthily with only one misdemeanour in the shape of a Tunnock's Caramel Wafer bar. That was until a chance encounter occurred this morning. My friend Emma and I were too late for a cup of tea in the staff canteen, so we went for a wander. It was then we saw it. A sandwich board which read 'Ma Simms Pie & Mash Shop'. Yes please! I nipped in to get a menu and a visit was arranged quick sharp.

Ma Simms is the brainchild of the people who brought us Mr Simms sweet shop, and is situated in a quiet spot in St Andrew's Court, opposite the Crompton Place.

The menu is simple. Pies, mash and other accompaniments. Pie choices include:

  • Trotters Pork Pie, Apple , Cider and Stuffing
  • Steak and Ale Pie
  • Steak and Stilton Pie
  • Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie
  • Steak and Kidney Pie
  • Chicken and Mushroom Pie
  • Steak and Onion Pie
  • Cheese, Potato and Onion Pie (v)
  • Lamb Hot Pot Pie
  • Steak and Potato Pie

I had to opt for local favourite, the Trotter Pork Pie. This came as part of a deal which included mash, mushy peas and gravy for a ridiculously cheap £3.95. My friends picked the Lamb Hot Pot Pie and the Steak and Kidney Pie.
Ma Simms Bolton - Trotters Pork Pie, Apple , Cider and Stuffing
Portion sizes are huge! All pies are home made by the people who own the shop, the pastry is crisp with a buttery texture and fillings are generous. The sides weren't bad either. The mash is smooth and buttery and the gravy is packed with flavour. There really is no-where else like it nearby that I can think of. 

We were all really impressed with the quality of the food for the price they were charging. Special merit was given for the pastry, the big chunks of meat in the pies and for serving dandelion and burdock.
Ma Simms Bolton - Steak and Kidney Pie
Our only criticism was the length of time we had to wait. We were on our lunch break from work so only had an hour. We were told that they were busy when we arrived, but there were only two members of staff on to both cook and serve the food. One of our colleagues went later that day after we referred them, and was unable to get served within her lunch period for a take away. However, I think some of this was also down to the fact they take telephone orders for both takeaway and to eat in. I'll be doing this next time!

The food itself is fantastic value and very tasty. It reminded us of the good old days when the Hen and Chicks' pie was a force to be reckoned with. I'm sure the issues with service are just teething problems, and this will ease as the staff get used to the flow of customers and the equipment they are working with.

A very enjoyable lunch, followed by one of the worst PLLs* we have experienced. Ever. Food is very reasonably priced and the staff were friendly. We liked it here and will definitely be going back.

*Post Lunch Lull - a very technical term used by professional people...

Monday 25 June 2012

Meal Planning Monday

Today a truly heinous thing occurred. The lovely Jackie from Bolton Market sent me some pictures that had been taken on Saturday for Love Your Local Market. Now, I'm not totally daft as a brush, and I knew I had put a few pounds on with all my cake testing (all in the interest of the general public...). However, today's pictures prompted:
a - a quivery lip
b - a good whinge to my friend Emma
c - rage at my own gluttony
d - new jogging pants
e - a visit to the gym. That's right, I did not say tea shop and I didn't mention restaurant. The gym. Place of horror and misery. 

Do you see the progression I have made this afternoon? Having not set foot in a gym for over two years I decided it was prudent to do 'Legs, Bums and Tums' and then (in my infinite wisdom) I announced I was staying for 'Body Combat'. 

Two hours later I have arrived home looking like I have just been on the receiving end of a badly executed chemical face peel, a perm and with legs that are made of something of a similar structure to tagliatelle. If you follow me on Twitter, please expect much whiney behaviour tomorrow, as I'm sure my calf muscles are already half an inch shorter than they should be, and my face is stinging. 

However, this level of pain makes me more determined to eat well this week. I'm not wasting this effort by scoffing contraband. I'll allow myself little treats at weekends, but for the foreseeable future, I'm behaving. So here goes:

Monday: Vegetable cous cous with chargrilled chicken and a dollop of low fat coleslaw (it's from M&S so doesn't taste like wallpaper paste)
Tuesday: Chicken breast with vegetables and gravy
Wednesday: Low fat sausage butties on wholemeal rolls with brown sauce (husband - sans brown sauce...)
Thursday: Simon Rimmer's turkey burgers with sweet potato fries. I learned how to make these when I went to his cookery demo on Saturday!
Friday: Hehehehehe!!! Much excitement followed by a helping of eating out. We are Manchester bound!
Saturday: I have no idea whatsoever. I'm being honest! Not sure what plans we have yet.
Sunday: I'm thinking some sort of healthy roast with some nice vegetables. Might even do a couple of roasties. Crazy mother...

Here's to a week of saint-like behaviour... If any of you have any healthy suggestions, please share... you might have gathered, it's not my forte... 

Sunday 24 June 2012

Interview with Simon Rimmer for Love Your Local Market Bolton

Simon Rimmer at Love Your Local Market
As part of yesterday's Love Your Local Market celebrations at Bolton Market, I was lucky enough to meet and interview Sunday Brunch's Simon Rimmer. He had spent all morning meeting people, talking on BBC Radio Manchester and doing free cookery demos. He's is genuinely a really nice chap, and made time for everyone who came to see him. My apologies for the god-awful photo above, this is my 'smile on demand' face. I'm not as well practiced as Simon. 

After his second demo, he made time in his schedule for us to have a chat. Nothing was off limits, and he gave me some great local recommendations!

What do you think of Bolton's Love Your Local Market Event?
I'm interested because I’m a massive advocate of local produce, regional produce, seasonal produce. I think it’s the way we should eat. I think we’re fortunate in the North West that we do have good markets; obviously we have Bolton, Ashton, Bury is nearby, Preston has a fantastic market too. I think we’re already doing what this event is all about. We have really good local markets, what we don’t have is a lot of people that are aware of them. I think people imagine that it’s the much older generation like your nan who shop here - and maybe that’s true! Maybe the best thing that could come out of this is the next generation of shoppers should be returning to markets rather than supermarkets!

What’s your favourite local ingredient available here on Bolton Market?
I think the best thing that we do in the North West that no-one does better is black pudding. No-one betters us on black pud. Also in the North West we are tremendous cheese makers; we’re a dairy region. Lancashire cheese, Cheshire cheese, there are some amazing artisan cheese makers who make interesting and unusual cheeses, and goat’s cheeses are available now as well. Then of course we have tremendous asparagus which when it comes it such an exciting thing! We also have some great fish off the coast of Fleetwood; sea bass, cod off the Irish coast, great beef, great pork - statistically the North West has the most diverse agriculture in Western Europe.

Other than your own, where are your favourite local restaurants?
Places that I continually go back to are Sangam curry house in Didsbury, Sher Akbar in Chorlton, Sutton Hall in Macclesfield is a good pub and Sam’s and Thomas’ Chop House in town. 

Who are your favourite British chefs?
Wow. In terms of people I find inspiring, whenever I watch Rick Stein, he makes me want to go in the kitchen. That’s the thing with him, he makes everything look so incredibly simple! He demystifies food. If I think about what I do on telly, that’s one of my big aims to make people think ‘I can do that’. That’s why I love Rick. The I think of Nathan Outlaw who used to work for Rick and now has a fantastic place down in Cornwall. Tom Kitchen, Tom Kerridge, Glynn Purnell for left of centre molecular gastronomy. Too many! I get excited by lots of British chefs!

What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
It was only three weeks ago! I ate in a restaurant called Azurmendi near Bilbao. It was the most incredible food I’ve ever eaten in my life. They’ve taken that modern, semi- molecular cuisine to a different level. Using loads of local and regional produce, just absolutely amazing. It’s worth spending the money to go to Bilbao just to eat there!

Sweet or savoury?

In that case... your favourite cheese in the world?
Ooh that’s always tricky! I have to go for Cheshire!

After all these years in the industry, where do you find inspiration?
I don’t think you ever stop being inspired. I was just saying today when I was wondering round that they guys on the fish stall have some tilapia. I’ve not had that on the menu for a while, so I think I can do something with that. I never ever stop being surprised. Like I said before, a few weeks ago I had the best meal of my life. Last summer I was in California and I ate in a great restaurant called the Slanted Door. A bergamot and orange candy floss on the desert menu. Genius! Absolute genius! So you never know where you’re going to get inspiration from.

If you could pass one recipe to your children, what would it be?

Where is your favourite foodie holiday destination?
California. Without a shadow of a doubt. They have tremendous restaurants and produce, a great variety of cultures. Britain does the most diverse food that you can get anywhere in the world, but as a destination San Francisco Farmer’s Market on a Saturday, (I excitedly tell Simon we are going there in September...) Oh you have to eat at the Slanted Door! You need to book now! It’s brilliant!

What are you having for your tea tonight?
It’s Saturday so I’ll be in London with my nine year old son so I’ll be eating pulled pork in Bodean’s in Soho!

Thanks to Jackie and Philippa at Bolton Market for being such enthusiastic wonderful ladies and to Simon for taking time out of his schedule to have a natter to me.

The Rose Garden, Didsbury

The Rose Garden Didsbury
From time to time I ask my Twitter pals for recommendations. They come back with all sorts of weird and wonderful places, both locally and further afield. I love a recommendation. Places where people I know have been and had such a good time, that they wanted to pass it on to other people. 

I'd been rabbitting on about The Rose Garden for a while, after my Twitter friend Helen had waxed lyrical about the chocolate tart she had eaten there. It was on the ever expanding list of things to do, places to go, food to eat. I may publish this list one day, but for now it's mainly in my head!

Last week my husband booked us a table. We've both had a bit of 'a week' so we knew that a lovely treat was awaiting us on Saturday evening. We've spent quite some time perusing the menu, and we were pretty much decided before we even got there! 

It's about a 25 minute drive from Bolton, so not that out of our way. I've never been to Didsbury before, but first impressions were good! The restaurant is situated on Burton Road which seems to be a main high street. On the same road there are other trendy restaurants and bars, and cutie pie home shops and tea rooms. We are definitely going back when they are open! The Rose Garden wasn't open yet, so we had a drink in a bar called Folk opposite. It was the sort of place that we describe as 'different, but not too quirky'. Imagine the Northern Quarter in a village setting. They even serve cake. They get points for this.

First impressions of The Rose Garden can be summed up in three words; 'excited belly ache'. The front of the restaurant is glass, which allows you to see the entire restaurant. It's minimalist with a homely touch. White walls and chairs are offset with fuchsia roses on the tables, a lime green feature wall and warm lighting. Hell, there's even a couple of polar bears on the wall. A very pretty place indeed! It's a family affair, with the chef's father designing the interior, his brother making it into a reality and his younger siblings serving tables. This business is cared for, and it shows.
The Rose Garden Didsbury - Interior
What better place to drink rose lemonade? This was lovely! It reminded me a little of gin, but with a cheeky little fizz!
The Rose Garden Didsbury - Rose Lemonade
I would say that both of our starters were the best course by far. My husband said the sauce served with his scallops was as good as the (now legendary) parsley sauce from St John's. This makes it a sauce super-power! The scallops were small but a perfect portion size.
The Rose Garden - Samphire scollops - seared scallops, english samphire, white wine, bacon crumbs
Samphire scollops - seared scallops, english samphire, white wine, bacon crumbs
I had the coronation chicken. Our waitress told us that it had been a special over the Jubilee weekend, and had been so popular they kept it. Do not underestimate how much I mean this next statement. This is one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. Anywhere. The flavour on the chicken, the texture of the charred edges, the spice and crunch of the coleslaw with plumped up sultanas and the sweet toasted almonds. This was a match made in heaven. I could eat this every day and never tire of it! If you go - have it. I insist. Praise indeed was sent to the chef.
The Rose Garden - Coronation chicken -  spiced free range chicken breast, coronation coleslaw, toasted almonds
Coronation chicken -
spiced free range chicken breast, coronation coleslaw, toasted almonds
My husband had the two way guinea fowl, which came with game crisps. He was very impressed with the contrast between the aniseed infused confit leg and the rich glazed breast. A summer take on a gamey dish. He ate every scrap. 
The Rose Garden - Two way guinea fowl - redcurrant glazed breast of guinea fowl, confit leg, celeriac fondant, savoy cabbage, bacon, redcurrant reduction
Two way guinea fowl - redcurrant glazed breast of guinea fowl, confit leg, celeriac fondant, savoy cabbage, bacon, redcurrant reduction
I had the zesty ribeye. The meat was of superb quality, and cooked to perfection. It took very little effort to cut and was beautifully pink. The combination of the pea and spring onion hash brown with the salsa made this a very light dish. 
The Rose Garden - Zesty ribeye - 28 day hung cheshire rib-eye, lemon & english mustard marinade, pea & spring onion hash brown, spring salsa, dressed leaves
Zesty ribeye - 28 day hung cheshire rib-eye, lemon & english mustard marinade, pea & spring onion hash brown, spring salsa, dressed leaves
We couldn't resist a side of home made chips. These tasted just like the ones my grandma used to make in a chip pan when we were little. Packed with flavour with a soft, fluffy inside. At the end of our mains, our waitress asked if we would like to keep the chips we had left, and even offered to bring some Ketchup for dipping. Nice touch. Although the restaurant feels suitably refined, the service is warm and friendly.
The Rose Garden - Chips
Home made chips
We had heard a lot about this dessert from Helen, so we had to try it. We shared both desserts as we couldn't decide what to pick. The filling in the tart is not firm as the picture may suggest, but light and almost like a moussy cake. It was chocolate orange flavoured, and came with a citrus ice-cream. This was a perfect accompaniment to the rich tart.
The Rose Garden - Chocolate orange tart - warm dark chocolate tart, shortcrust pastry,  candied orange peel, orange honeycomb ice cream
Chocolate orange tart - warm dark chocolate tart, shortcrust pastry,
candied orange peel, orange honeycomb ice cream
The egg and soldiers was actually a duck egg brûlée. This was so rich that I only managed two spoonfuls! I think I have caught my friend Vicki's brûlée phobia! It was a beautifuuly rich custard inside, but I feared I would die on the spot if I ate any more! At this point, we swapped desserts. My husband is a fan of anything brûlée-like and polished it off! I soldiered on with the tart and ice-cream...

My only criticism of the dessert menu was that it was lacking something a little more fruity or cakey. There was a rhubarb panna cotta, but this was similar in texture to the egg and soldiers.
The Rose Garden - Egg and soldiers - duck egg brûlée, strawberry jam yolk, shortbread soldiers
Egg and soldiers - duck egg brûlée, strawberry jam yolk, shortbread soldiers
We were both suffering with a bit of post meal lethargy at this point so decided coffees were in order. That was until I saw the hot chocolate and fancied that instead. This is the girl who moments before was dying from a suger overdose! Warrior-like behaviour... Our waitress explained that they had run out of whipped cream, but reassured me that she would foam some milk for me instead! It even came served with a wee jammy dodger.
The Rose Garden - Hot Chocolate with Jammy Dodger
My husband (now suffering terribly after snaffling my jammy dodger as well...) got an Americano. This cam with a jaffa cake and came in a matching orange Pantone mug! Many brownie points given by husband...
The Rose Garden - Coffee with Jaffa Cake
We will definitely be going back to The Rose Garden. We hadn't quite expected it to be as good as it was, so we were pleasantly surprised at both how nice the restaurant was and how well the food was cooked. 

The Rose garden menu.

Disclaimer: The Rose Garden did not pay me for this review. I went because I was curious after it was recommended and the name drew me in...

Please leave your thoughts or own experiences below... 

The Rose Garden on Urbanspoon

Saturday 23 June 2012

A Day at Bolton Market for Love Your Local Market

I've been excited about this event for weeks. A chance for Bolton to showcase its wonderful market and for people to get involved; either as shoppers or traders. When I posted information about the event last week, there was a hive of activity on the post, Twitter and Facebook. People all over the country were keen to know what Love Your Local Market fortnight was all about.

So, in preparation I made a massive lemon drizzle bundt last night. I couldn't go under the guise of Dolly Bakes and go empty handed! The first thing on my 'to do' list was an interview with Becky Want from BBC Radio Manchester on her Retail Therapy show. We chatted about Clandestine Cake Club, the cake I had brought with me and my blog in general. 

I then sat and listened to Simon Rimmer being interviewed by Becky whilst we all tucked into some cake with a new cup of tea from Shanghai Pings. Simon was quite happy to sit and chat, and have his photo taken with bemused passers by!
Bolton Love Your Local Market - Simon Rimmer
Bolton Love Your Local Market - BBC Radio Manchester
Simon Rimmer being interviewed by Becky Want from BBC Radio Manchester.
The show's Producer, Cathy is  tucking into some cake. Brain food...
During the day Simon did three free cookery demonstrations from the kitchen in the market. At the one I went to he made some healthy 'street food' which was easy to recreate at home. He made turkey burgers with yogurt, tomato and bean salad, then duck meatballs with salsa and finally sea bass with patatas bravas. 
Bolton Love Your Local Market - Cookery Demo
There was quite a turnout, especially at the afternoon show which I also caught the tail end of. The market was absolutely packed! I also saw a cheeky Adam Crolla nicking a bhaji from Simon's stand... I'll be posting my interview with Simon soon...
Bolton Love Your Local Market - Cookery Demo
The Apprentice's Adam Corbally was running small workshops on how to start your own business. He gave a brief outline of how he had started his grocery business on his local market, his time on the Apprentice and gave advice for anyone wanting to start up their own business. 

His own inspiration was the urge to earn enough money to live his desired lifestyle. He knew that was never going to happen working for someone else. Adam showed a real tenacity when it comes to being successful, and it was clear that he has masses of enthusiasm for everything he does. 
Bolton Love Your Local Market - Adam Corbally from The Apprentice
Some of Adam's top tips for budding entrepreneurs were:
  • Find your niche
  • Don't worry about other people 
  • Have enthusiasm
  • Be prepared
  • Smiles make sales - be nice!
When I got a bit of free time, I had a ganders at some of the brilliant market stalls. Some of these people had never even traded before! One person I spent a bit of time with was Brian from Signature Soaps. He's a real advocate for local markets and is a loyal attendee of the produce market. 
Bolton Love Your Local Market - Brian from Signature Soaps
Two of my favourite stalls (because I'm a right greedy piglet) were Purdon's cheese stall and All You Knead. All You Knead  had the most fabulous real ale bread. My husband is well into his ales at the moment, so I snaffled some toot sweet. I then bobbed next door to Purdon's for a big block of strong Snowdonia cheese. Match made in heaven. Strong cheese with soft, flavoursome bread. Hopefully both will be attending Horwich Summer Fete in July! I had some leftover cake at this point, so was happily giving it out to the traders!
Bolton Love Your Local Market
Bolton Love Your Local Market
I had a brilliant time, ate some great food and talked to some truly passionate people. Show your own support for your local market and traders by buying local and shouting it from the rooftops! Thanks to all the organisers and to everyone who came. Roll on next year! However, if you can't wait that long, the Bolton Food Festival is just round the corner...

Monday 18 June 2012

Meal Planning Monday - Pay as You Go

Meal Planning Monday
Hell fire today has been pants. I promised myself I wouldn't eat as much crud too. I stopped myself from buying treats from Marks and Spencer's this morning only to snaffle a four-fingered Kit Kat from the work vending machine ten minutes later. I didn't even wait to get back to my desk. I ate it en route. Pig of the week strikes again...

I've crept back into old habits a bit recently, and found myself not sticking to the plan as much as I had hoped... (don't hit me! I'm just being honest...) Inevitably, this means food is still getting wasted or stuck in the freezer. It has also meant a few takeaways after a bad day...

So, I have two challenges this week! 

  1. Try to keep it half way healthy... I'm a realist. My aim is to keep the saturated fat to a minimum but not eat a leaf per day.
  2. Only buy what I need. When I need it. This is meal planning pay as you go!
This week I have a plan, but I acknowledge it may change. The difference it, I'm buying almost daily. This means I have a walk at lunchtime too! Two birds, one stone.

Monday: Chicken, skinny fries, broccoli and gravy. A nice comforting meal with few calories. The fries are low in fat too, but give the illusion of something bad! I'm all about the mind games folks...
Tuesday: Some sort of curry, rice and cheese naan bread. This has become a bit of an England match tradition!
Wednesday: My husband is out, so I might end up baking. This generally means a quick sandwich followed by heartburn. 
ThursdaySirloin steak, carrots and thick cut chips. This steak has been in the freezer for a couple of weeks, so it will cost nothing extra! Cash-back. Again the chips are of the low in fat too.
Friday: I'm off work on Friday so I'm a little tempted to make a chilli and let is cook slowly all afternoon. My chilli is quite healthy so I'll serve it with brown rice and some chilli fajitas. I will be having sour cream. My husband will not. I won't share what he calls it. 
Saturday: I'll be picking up something from Bolton Market as I am there as part of Love Your Local Market. I'm sure I'll have no problem finding something!
Sunday: We were thinking of trying the Old Forge at the Bob Smithy, so perhaps there!

On that note, I'm off to make tea as I'm starved!

Sunday 17 June 2012

Crazy Coloured Sweet Encrusted Cupcakes

Crazy Coloured Sweet Encrusted Cupcakes

A while ago, a friend of a friend asked me to do some cupcakes for his son's birthday party. The brief was something suitable for boys. Turns out he actually fancied monsters! After making these, my friend Sarah saw the pictures and decided she wanted some custom made cakes for her son's confirmation party. His brief? Lots of different colours. There were going to be lots of children at the party, so she asked me to do a mixture of cakes suitable for girls and boys.

So here we have it. Inspired only by a trip to the Mr Simms Sweet Shop in Bolton, and a few things I already had hidden in my box f tricks. No two cakes are exactly the same. 

I created these by making 24 plain vanilla cupcakes (use your favourite recipe) and two quantities of vanilla buttercream frosting. I then split the buttercream in four and dyed them different colours. I then used a variety of piping techniques using grass, rose, round and star piping nozzles. I also dipped some in bright sherbets. The sweets I bought included popping candy, laces, chewy sweets, cables, multicoloured rats (!) and chocolate shapes. 

They were great fun to make and I was lucky enough to be given 10/10 from the man of the moment. Robbie and his siblings spent the evening deciding which ones they were planning on devouring first, but I am assured they all made it in one piece until the party this afternoon. I accept no responsibility for a herd of children who will be on the ceiling at bedtime tonight...

Please leave your thoughts and comments below x

Simon Rogan's Great British Menu at Rogan and Co.

Great British Menu
We've watched the Great British Menu since day one. We cheered on our favourite chefs, and have sampled their 'Great British Menus' back in their restaurants. Can you imagine our excitement when one of our favourite chefs, Simon Rogan was to appear on the show? 

We are huge fans of L'Enclume, and hoped that he would bring something a little more exciting to the show. After winning the North West regional heat, Simon's dessert was picked for the banquet. We only had one option. We had to go and try this creation! So, my partner in crime, Mrs Petticoat (aka Vicki) booked us a table pronto. The Horwich Fine Dining Society were once again on tour. 

I hope you now understand the level of excitement we are talking about here? We were a little disappointed to hear that the Great British Menu was being served in L'Enclume's sister restaurant Rogan and Co. This also meant that we couldn't stay over in their rooms, and everywhere locally was booked up. So we booked a lunch reservation instead.

Yesterday Vicki called to check our reservation, and was informed that there was nothing there, and nothing that could be done. After a trip to work to retrieve the confirmation email, only then were we given a guarantee of a table. A table we booked weeks ago. This wasn't a great start, but we tried not to let it dampen our spirits. 

On arriving at the restaurant, we were seated and menus were brought over. It was Father's Day, so a special menu was also available. Unfortunately, this is where our experience started to go rapidly downhill. Please understand that I am not in the business of writing scathing reviews, and always try to remain constructive. I will therefore give you the facts. 

We were left almost twenty minutes without a drinks order being taken, whilst other diners were seated and theirs taken immediately. No apologies were made when it was taken, and the manager proceded to take our food order soon after that. About ten minutes later, some canapes arrived. I have to say these were lovely, if not a little hot! We didn't quite catch what they were, other than that they contained eel and had a smoky taste. I really liked these!
Simon Rogan Great British Menu Canapes
Then came some bread rolls. The bread itself was tasty, but we weren't actually told what flavours they were. One was clearly a crusty white roll, the other darker one had a treacly taste. These were a pleasant little filler as we were all starving!
Simon Rogan's Great British Menu - Bread Rolls
I was particularly excited about the starter, as it had been so well received by Marcus Wareing during the filming of the Great British Menu. It was a warm salad, which reminded me a little of the Satio Tempestas which we had at Frantzen/Lindeberg in March (which was phenomenal). I can only describe this dish as 'nice'. The leaves were crispy compared to the smooth custard and there were lots of little additions on the plate which added a certain something. However, having eaten at L'Enclume several times, this felt a bit like a watered down version of what Simon normally serves. 
Simon Rogan's Great British Menu - Grilled Salad
Grilled salad smoked over embers, ragstone, custard and cobnut
It was the fish course next. I'm not a huge fan of fish, but this one was lobster which I love. When this came, we all looked at each other in disbelief. Where was the lobster? There were two tiny pieces hidden under some yellow beetroot. When I got home I Googled a picture of what the dish had looked like on the TV. This reaffirmed what we had all thought. This dish was considerably smaller, and part of mine was overcooked.
Simon Rogan's Great British Menu - Lobster
Native lobster soaked in its own juices, with pickled beetroots,
sweet apple and cuckoo flower
Below is an image from the BBC website of the same dish. Considerably more lobster is served with this dish.
At this point the service slowed down considerably. Our waitress walked past our table several times, acknowledging that we still had plates in front of us and no drinks. In the end, we went and ordered drinks at the bar. It was nearly twenty minutes before our plates were removed. I would normally welcome a break before the main course, but we were all still ravenous!

We had been eyeing up the roast beef going past us which was on the Father's Day menu, and were looking forward to the suckling pig main. When it arrived it was tiny. Our hearts sank! The piece of pork belly was only twice the size of the canapes we had when we arrived. I have to say that the pork itself was obviously of high quality and was rich in flavour. I liked this. I would have just preferred to have slightly more of it. This amount is fine when you are in the middle of a fifteen course tasting menu, but in this instance was just not substantial enough for a main course.
Simon Rogan's Great British Menu - Pork
Suckling pig cooked 24 hours with northern mead and nasturtium 
After the main course, again we had a lengthy wait before our plates were removed and our desserts arrived. Unfortunately, this time we had no cutlery to eat it with. My husband asked at the bar and it arrived promptly. I enjoyed this dessert. The hazelnuts were made into a sweet brittle and the ice-cream was smooth and creamy. The pears were tangy and it worked well as a combination of flavours.
Simon Rogan's Great British Menu - Dessert
Hazelnuts and sweet cheese, rosehips and anise hyssop
After our meal, we all felt a little deflated. We had been really excited about going back to Cartmel for this special menu, and were about to leave feeling quite angry. I decided to speak to the manager in a quieter part of the restaurant. I explained that the portion sizes, the difference to what we had seen on the show and the poor service had meant that we had not had the greatest dining experience. He assured me that Simon had cooked the meals himself, and suggested that sometimes customers have high expectations because of what the judges say on the show. I explained that we were also judging today's food by the standards of previous meals at L'Enclume. He said he would feed this back to Simon. Although I appreciated the fact he was doing something with my feedback, I wanted some acknowledgement that front of house were just as much to blame. 

I really am a huge fan of Simon's, but I couldn't help but feel like this food was like seeing about 30% of what he is capable of. Likewise, we have had fantastic service in L'Enclume.

Please do not let my review of this one occasion put you off going to L'Enclume. We have had some fantastic experiences there and fully intend to go back. I think perhaps the concept of recreating the Great British Menu at Rogan and Co is flawed. I understand that there is a huge overhaul of menu and processes underway at Rogan and Co, so this may have contributed to the disjointed feel in the dining room.

The Great British Menu cost £59 per head for four courses. We did receive a discount based on our feedback.
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