Tuesday 24 February 2015

Peachy Keen's, Manchester

Peachy Keen's, Manchester
I have two conflicting memories of buffet style restaurants. The first was some horrific Chinese place that made me horrendously sick. That was a low point in my culinary escapades. The second is the Wynn in Las Vegas; home to toffee apples for breakfast, a wondrous place that would have brought a tear to Willy Wonka's eye.

So to Peachy Keen's. There's no apostrophe in their name, but I'm running with one because that makes me feel wholly uncomfortable. When I first received the invite to test out their Manchester restaurant, I was haunted by the Chinese buffet memory, but decided to give it a go because there was promise of a dessert bar. What can I say, I'm weak.
Peachy Keen's, Manchester
My pal Lee and I took a random Wednesday off work and headed to the bright lights of Peachy Keen's. The restaurant is upstairs in the Printworks, but from inside looks like it could be night time in Vegas rather than 2pm in drizzly Manchester. It's much bigger than I expected, and although quite subdued at lunchtime, I imagine it's a hive of activity in the evening, with several live cooking stations serving food from around the world.
Peachy Keen's, Manchester
We were a bit overwhelmed on arrival, and did a bit of an investigatory lap before committing to any single cuisine type. We obviously started with Indian - rude not to!
Peachy Keen's, Manchester
There was a game plan. Little bits of lots of things. Don't overdo it, otherwise our plan to raid the Mr Whippy machine would have been done for. We had a delicious mixture of daal, Bombay potatoes, chicken curry, rice, chutneys, naan bread and onion bhajis. A natural follow up to this was Italian... This consisted of pizza, spicy wedges, chips (don't judge us...) coleslaw, tomatoes with Mozzarella and freshly cooked carbonara from the live station.
Peachy Keen's, Manchester
Our plans to eat more were somewhat scuppered by our earlier (and costly) decision to share a pastrami toastie in Proper Tea. Like we needed that. We had to have a rest before attacking the dessert counter, but we soldiered on in the interest of food blogging. I know, total warrior-like behaviour.

I managed a mini mango cheesecake, a jelly shot (sadly not alcoholic), some apple crumble and custard and a token piece of peach. Lee fared a little better, sampling numerous Jelly babies, some marshmallows dipped in the chocolate fountain, jelly and some undisclosed cheesecake of which I have no recollection.
Peachy Keen's, Manchester
We sat there, fit to burst with our eyes on the prize... The Mr Whippy machine. I've always wanted to pull my own ice cream (watch it...). Lee went for the 'giddy kippered - pile it on' approach, whereas my inner cake decorator forced me to do the 'icing a cupcake' routine. Either way, we had a bloody good time! Move over Softy's Hard Stuff...
Peachy Keen's, Manchester
Lunch at Peachy Keen's is £7.95 per person, which is a bit of a bargain considering the variety and volume of food on offer. Unlike some buffet restaurants, the food is of a decent standard and the dining room is clean and spacious. Granted, you can get a better curry or Italian in the city, but this is a bit of fun. I have to say that it exceeded my expectations, and both of us had a cracking little afternoon.

Peachy Keens on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Toffee Choc Bundt Cake

Toffee Choc Bundt Cake
I love baking for friends. It's my favourite reason to dust off a bundt tin and concoct something new. It's what bundts are all about. A massive chuffing cake that cuts into beautifully (OCD satisfying) even slices and tastes like a little piece of heaven. Did you know... apparently bundts can cure even the worst case of 'Bad-day-itis' and are even reported to deal pretty well with mardiness, melodrama and melancholy too. Oh yes. 

When my friend Rahila invited me round for tea, I of course offered to make an accompanying cake. Her kids are huge fans of chocolate cake, but I wanted something a bit different. So, I went armed with the award winning combo of toffee and molten chocolate. Much moister than a traditional chocolate cake, this cheeky number hides a lovely ribbon of goo just below the crust, and is crowned with enough chocolate to make anyone's day.

Don't be fooled by the weight of this cake either. Yes, it's a hefty number but the crumb is soft and moist, encased by a fanfare-worthy sugar crust. Despite having almost eaten my own bodyweight in homemade chapatis, I still managed a decent wedge with a cup of tea as we put the world to rights. 

  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml toffee yoghurt 
  • 1 jar of chocolate spread 
  • Chocolate curls

  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 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 salt. 
  6. Pour the yoghurt and vanilla 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. Pour 3/4 of the mix into your prepared tin. 
  10. Dollop 5 tbsp of the chocolate spread over the mix and smooth out - avoid the edges. Because this is smooth, it will sink - this is ok!
  11. Cover with the rest of the mix.
  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 cooled, warm the rest of the chocolate spread in the microwave until runny, and tip over the cake like you've only got 10 minutes until you have to leave the house - incidentally, this was the case... 
  15. Scatter with chocolate curls.

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.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Iron Maiden Trooper Beer Bundt Cake

Iron Maiden Trooper Beer Bundt Cake
So my good friends Sass and Mark are getting hitched. This is wonderful news for two reasons, the first being that they are blissfully happy, the second that their wedding is going to be amazing... They share our love of metal which means there will be no Agadoo, a veto on sugar coated pop and a plethora of storming tunes throughout the day.

There was only one option when making a cake for our wedding planning party; a beer bundt using Robinson's Iron Maiden beer, Trooper. Beer works wonderfully in bundts. You get a nice close crumb that is moist despite the fact it's reassuringly heavy. You'll get a pretty special sugar crust too. As with any beer cake, it's worth reading a little bit about the hops that go into them when choosing complimentary flavours. This one uses Bobec, Goldings and Cascade, so has a slightly lemony taste to it.
Iron Maiden Trooper Beer
    Iron Maiden Trooper Beer
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 100g of vegetable fat 
  • 650g golden caster sugar
  • 6 medium eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 250ml Trooper beer
  • 500g icing sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin (2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch).
  2. Soften the butter and vegetable fat and then cream in the sugar in stages.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time on a slow setting.
  4. Add all the remaining dry ingredients to a large bowl.
  5. Add the lemon extract to the beer.
  6. Sift in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the liquid. Repeat until all the flour and liquid is used up. Fold it in gently...
  7. Tip: at this stage it will look a right cock up. Breathe... it will all magically work when whizzed up.
  8. Give the whole thing a quick mix for about 10 seconds or until well combined. It will no longer look rank.
  9. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and give it a good whack on the worktop. Because the cake has fizzy stuff in, it will hold a lot of air bubbles. Too many may mean the tin design is lost.
  10. Bake at gas 3/160 C for about 2 hours. Just turn it after about an hour and a half.
  11. It should be shrinking from the sides and a skewer should come out clean.
  12. Let it cool in the tin for ten minutes then turn it out. 
  13. Allow to cool fully before icing. 
  14. To make the topping, add the lemon juice to the icing sugar, and enough water to make a runny icing. Tip it over like you're due down the aisle in five minutes.

BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and 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. 
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

El Capo, Manchester

El Capo, Manchester
I've been to El Capo three times in four weeks. You would think that I'd have lots of photos... Wrong. I had two incidents. 
  1. I upgraded my phone on a whim and lost loads of bloody photos. Foolish.
  2. I went on the night of the Slipknot and Korn gig. Photos - minimal, excitement - off the scale. Kiboshed.
Which brings me to visit number three. I got a grip, most of my act together and more importantly, some half decent photos. It is quite dark in there, so you may have to forgive me for not taking the clearest of pics!
El Capo, Manchester
El Capo is at the Piccadilly end of the Northern Quarter, up near Port Street Beer House. There's a cosy bar area on the ground floor, and the cantina downstairs, which feels a bit more restauranty. We've always opted for the bar. The walls are covered in Day of the Dead style art, which impressively even stretched to our server's tattoos! Dedication.

Needless to say we have sampled a number of their cocktails, tequilas and beers over the course of the visits, all of which have been amazing, however there were some little belters.

Underneath your Cloves - clove vodka, gomme, egg white and raspberries: Nice little nod to the stunner that is Shakira. Come on, clove vodka and egg whites? It's practically a cake. This is sweet and fruity but as pretty as its namesake. Who doesn't love a cocktail served with flowers?
El Capo, Manchester - Cocktails
Clockwise from top left...

  • Melancholy Holiday -  No.3 gin, melon briotett, lemon juice, honey and sage, peach bitters
  • Alahambra beer
  • Vodka Long and fruity - Stoli citros, triple sec briottet, strawberry purée, lemon juice, vanilla prosecco
  • Pistonhead beer
  • Tommy on Top - Sauza tequila, agave foam, lime sherbet
  • Many types of tequila...

El Capo, Manchester - Cocktails
There were others. However, I'll be honest with you. I have no idea what they were. Could have been anything. All I do know is that they induced a good time before the gig.

Although the drinks are pretty special, the food is equally brilliant. El Capo has a relaxed feel about the place. I'd generally recommend ordering some nachos whilst you peruse the menu, because it's going to take you at least twenty minutes to get through them!

Macho Nachos - shredded tender pork Colombian chicken: We've also had these with the pulled pork. Twice. I think they have to be my favourite nachos in Manchester. Also, they are the home made type rather than something that resembles a bag of Doritos from Tesco. There is one thing that could make them better... nacho cheese. I'm a total sucker for that yellow stuff.
El Capo, Manchester - Nachos
Chilli fries - topped with chilli con carne: Decent skin on fries with enough salt to make you consider whether they have been sprinkled with crack. Needless to say, quite moreish.
Cartel pollo - Baked chicken, garlic, onion puree, coconut milk and coriander: Packed full of marinaded flavour and smelled utterly divine.
Almojabanas - Puerto rican cheese and chilli fritters: I'm just angry that I didn't eat more of these. I'd forgotten how good they were until I saw this picture. Oh well, I'll have to go back.
El Capo, Manchester - Tapas style
Big cahones - sweet spiced meat balls, habanero chilli tomato sauce: I didn't even rearrange that chilli... Cheeky. These are the most wonderfully dense, cinnamon laced balls of meat ever. Big fans of big cahones.
El Capo, Manchester - Cahones
Burrito grande - Soft our tortillas filled with black beans, Mexican spiced rice, guacamole, shredded carne asada: This is one of my favourite things on the El Capo menu. I love a good burrito. I know something's good when I get that rage that can only come with reminiscing about how good it was, and then remembering that I don't have it in front of me now. That rage is very much present today.
El Capo, Manchester - Burrito
Los pollos El Capo buena vista - lime, mango puree, coriander: God these make a mess. It's because there is so much sauce on them though! Please don't think this is a negative, I'm an advocate of wearing your food. In the right setting. It seemed commonplace here. We were also told a story about 'wing night', where the floor ends up covered in sauce. Sounds a bit like a foam party, but without the scallies and pounding dance music. Not that I'd know. Honestly...
El Capo, Manchester - Wings
But what if I want wings?!
Slow low and slow - slow fried chorizo and habanero chillies: Do not - I repeat, do not think you're hard and bite a chunk of scotch bonnet before your chorizo. Unless of course you don't mind the end of your tongue being numb for about ten minutes. My pal Kev would be all over that red fella. You have to get this. I think we've had them every time!
El Capo, Manchester - Chorizo
With so much on offer in Manchester, I think it speaks volumes that we've been here so many times in such a short period. There's nothing fancy about the food, but it's well executed, the flavours are big, and the staff are friendly. I can see El Capo being a regular haunt.

El Capo on Urbanspoon
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