Live A Little

As much as I enjoy my meat free days, healthier recipes and exercise, I also love afternoon tea and meals out with friends and family. It’s not something I do all the time (although meals out are becoming a regular feature, I do try and make healthier choices as much as possible) but I do have those times where I want to indulge. This week has been one of those weeks.

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First up was a visit to a garden centre in the middle of nowhere with Mr W. A Facebook friend put up a picture of an afternoon tea here (near Clitheroe). It looked so cute, all presented on a mini picnic bench with flowerpot cakes and wellington boot milkshakes. Who couldn’t resist it? The menu changes on a regular basis (an excuse to go more than once) and has a theme. Mr W and I visited when they were doing there ‘Winter Wonderland Picnic’ menu. Although there were a couple of things that Mr W wanted to trade (cheese scone and chocolate milk) I said he needed to try them all as I wasn’t willing to part with any of mine. The funny thing being he enjoyed the cheese scone and I didn’t (FYI Mr W dislikes cheese and scones). Although when you looked at the menu, it sounded like a lot of food, they were miniature and wasn’t as over-facing as some afternoon teas can be. On offer was butternut squash and sage soup, cheese scone with red onion chutney, mini sausages and mash, chicken and stuffing sandwich, chocolate and marshmallow milkshake, mini blueberry muffin, Victoria sandwich cake, Bakewell slice and apple crumble with custard. Yum yum. Although we were a bit disappointed by the ‘garden centre’ the winter picnic and little food shop more than made up for it. Mr W has suggested we go back again in the summer when hopefully they will have more plants and a different afternoon tea menu. For anyone interested, Holden Clough Nursey.

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Next up was a catch up with the girls. It has become a bit of a tradition that we go out for food after work and take advantage of the January food offers in Manchester. We normally go to a restaurant that has 50% off but we decided this year we tried somewhere different. We decided on Bakerie, a small restaurant near Stevenson Square that prides itself on its selection of homemade breads. We shared food boards, numerous bread baskets and some bottles of wine. The bread baskets were difficult to resist and we all nearly ended up in carb induced comas, but it was worth it. We would love to go back and try some of the main meals (majority of these come with your choice of bread. BONUS!). We took advantage of their January offer of two food boards and a bottle wine for £25 and tried the fish, vegan and cheese boards. Not only do they do goof food and wine, they also offer bread making courses which we thought sounded interesting.

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Finally, a January Manchester event that Mr W has started to take a liking to is the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. This is our third year of going and this year has probably been my favourite so far. 2015 was held at the Manchester Velodrome. Although it was a unique location, you were able to watch the cyclists training whilst enjoying the festival, it was poorly laid out and was a bit of a trek to get to. This year and last year have been at Manchester Central which, as the name suggests, is central located and all the areas are easy to access. Mr W and I normally take the afternoon off work and head over at lunchtime, staying until 5-6pm. This gives us time to get some food and try a number of the beers (or ciders in my case). We like the Friday afternoon as it is a little quieter and more of the beers/ciders are still available. It is a case of when its gone, its gone (which happened with three of Mr Ws beer choices). An improvement on this year was the food options. They had different street food vendors as opposed to the standard venue catering last year.This was one of the reasons that I decided to go again, the prospect of a fancy cheese toastie (mmm…Viva La Toastie was there and the recommendation of the chicken and pesto toastie gets a thumbs up from me). I sampled four different ciders and two stood out as favourites for me; Red Bank Autumn Orchard and Kent Spiced cider. I did try a gin spiced Perry but it got a bit sickly after a while, although it wasn’t as bad as a chilli cider I tried last year (serves me right for trying to be adventurous).

 

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GBBO weeks 3 and 4

So, the third week of this year’s Great British Bake Off was bread week. Now, as I’ve admitted on here before, bread isn’t my strongest baking area. I never seem to get a good rise. But, I had seen in a recipe in one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks that I’d been wanting to try, so week 3 theme seemed a good time to try. It didn’t fit in with any of the categories (a sweet dough, a steamed bake or contain three flours) but who cares?

The recipe was for a ‘Figgy Banana Bread’ from Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food cookbook. It’s a suggested breakfast idea so we actually had our first try of it before the bake off episode (yum yum yum). The recipe is relatively easy with everything going into a food processor. It also doesn’t contain any yeast so does not need to be proved and can be ready in under an hour and a half. Rather than being a typical bread, it comes out looking more like a cake. I don’t think it helps that it is baked in a cake tin. I found it easier to slice the bread into the recommended number of wedges so you can grab a piece each morning. Jamie suggests serving it with a dollop of nut butter and a dollop of natural yoghurt. I did this and loved the combination of salty peanut butter with the sweet figgy bread.  I sliced my piece of bread in half, topping one with the peanut butter and the other with yoghurt. I also had it with home made strawberry chia jam instead of the peanut butter and it was still yummy. Mr W had his with sliced banana instead of the nut butter so the combinations are endless. I strongly recommend having it with something to make it more into a meal rather than a snack. Although the recipe doesn’t mention anything about freezing the bread, I froze a couple of pieces for about a week and they were just as good as fresh once defrosted. The bread until stays fresh for a few days in a tin and I didn’t want to have to throw away the leftovers (I liked it too much). Below is the recipe taken from Jamie’s book.

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Serves 12

  • 250g dried figs
  • 75ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • 125g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 eating apple
  • 50g whole almonds
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a 25cm cake tin with a scrunched sheet of wet greaseproof paper. Place 200g of figs in a food processor with the oil, yoghurt, vanilla extract, peeled bananas and eggs then blitz until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, ground almonds, poppy seeds and turmeric and pulse until just combined. Be careful not to overwork the mixture. Coarsely grate the apple and stir into the mixture.
  2. Spoon the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly. Tear over the remaining figs and chop the almonds, scatter over the top of the mixture, pushing them down slightly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little. N.B. I found it difficult to remove from the greaseproof paper. Don’t panic if it sticks, just slowly peel it away.

This is definitely a  recipe I want to bake again. It was slightly indulgent having essentially cake for breakfast but it made a nice change.

Now, GBBO week 4 was batter week with the making of Yorkshire puddings, lace pancakes and churros. The obvious option for something to make was pancakes. This year, I never made the traditional pancakes for Shrove Tuesday so took this week as a chance to do so. Now, what a disappointment. Maybe I’ve gotten too used to having slightly thicker, flavourful breakfast pancakes. These crepe style pancakes were plain, bland and boring. Even the addition of lemon, sugar and ice cream didn’t help matters. Not something I will be repeating anytime soon.

 

 

Spiral Bread

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be invited on two masterclass sessions ran by Luis Troyano (finalist in last years GBBO) at work. In one session I joined a number of food bloggers in a watch and follow for a chocolate hazelnut and orange tart. The other session was a cookery demonstration with fellow colleagues on bread making where Luis showed us how to make some flavoured spiral muffins. It was this session that I enjoyed the most and was the recipe that I wanted to try and make at home. Well, this weekend was the chance I got to do exactly that.

Last month, I suggested that me and the girls should have a girls night in where we each brought a cocktail to make and some food to go with it. Straight away, the flavoured spiral muffins mentioned above came to mind. But instead of putting them in muffin tins, I wanted to make as a share and tear style loaf. The cocktail choice was easy. Mai tai.

Here’s the recipe that I used Spiral Bread Muffins – Luis Troyano

You might think it a bit strange to put bread in the fridge overnight for its first proving but it works. I normally find that my bread never doubles in size when I follow the traditional method of leaving it out for a couple of hours. It just isn’t warm enough. But following the method for this recipe worked a treat. Being able to start it the night before was also a bonus. When preparing the olives and peppers for the filling, dry them out on some kitchen roll as you want the filling to be as dry as possible or it will hinder the second proving. It does take a bit of time to prepare the filling (chopping up the olives, peppers and cheese) but let me tell you, it’s worth it. The saltiness from the serrano ham, manchego cheese and olives is complimented by the sweetness of the peppers. The melted manchego cheese adds a gooey texture and seems so naughty. The filling could easily be changed for something else. I’m considering using pesto or sun-dried tomatoes next time so that Mr W will try some (he’s not a big cheese fan). It was a big hit with the girls and I was able to give some to my parents for them to try (they shared with friends before a Chinese takeaway. Weird combination but it still went down well).

Spiral BreadCocktails and Tapas

I just wanted to include some pictures from the girls night. Of the food and cocktail combinations. The first drink of the night  was sangria. This tasted like the sangrias I remember from my holidays to Spain. Imagine my surprise when I was told that they had added Pimms to this batch!! This was paired with some crispy chicken kebabs. By the way, that’s the serving bowl, not my glass!!

Sangria with chicken kebabsUp next was my serrano ham and manchego cheese with olives and peppers spiral share and tear bread (bit of a mouthful). As mentioned above, my cocktail of choice was a mai tai. Boy, was this lethal. The recipe I was using didn’t included any fruit juice to dilute it down. Although, the more you drank the more it grew on you.

Spiral tear and share

Round three involved two dishes and two cocktails. The first pairing was a paella with a rum punch. The rum punch was my favourite cocktail of the night. It was a mixture of pineapple juice, orange juice, white rum, dark rum and coconut rum…holiday. The second pairing was patatas bravas with a bramble. A tapas dish that always goes down well. The cocktail, for me, was a bit too heavy on the gin but still managed to finish it.

Paella Patatas Bravas

And the grand finale, chocolate fondue with a raspberry Bellini. Can’t go wrong with chocolate and cava. Only thing missing was marshmallows but I don’t think we would have had enough room for them.

Chocolate Fondue