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).

 

Has it really been a year?

A few weeks, Mr W and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. We can’t believe that it has been a year since we said ‘I do’. It’s crazy. Although it has only been a year, I am starting to feel like ‘an old married woman’. Only because I was the first of my group of friends to get married and now I have one friend who has passed the 100 day countdown for her wedding (the hen party is in five weeks!!!!) and I have another friend who has recently gotten engaged (congratulations!!). It seems like ages ago when I was doing this and now I’m offering the advice (the bride is always right).

Mr W and I spent our ‘actual’ anniversary in the Lake District. Mr W proposed to me in Keswick and we decided to spend a couple of days back there enjoying the ‘country life’ (enough to feel like we were having a relaxing break away from the city without feeling stuck in the middle of nowhere). We’ve always loved going to Keswick and this time we made a point of eating at and drinking in places we’ve never been to. The highlight for us was a first night meal at The Square Orange. A very small bar that serves tapas and pizza. We didn’t realise until the next morning (after talking to our B&B owner) that we had stumbled across a local hidden gem. Well worth a visit if you are ever in Keswick. They don’t take bookings so you have to hang around and grab a table as soon as it is vacated.

But the highlight of our anniversary celebrations was a meal at Manchester House. This is somewhere I’ve been wanting to go for ages and couldn’t think of a better excuse to go. We went for lunch on a Saturday and was given the option of two menus, a 14 course taster menu or a 10 course taster menu (which can then be broken down into a two course menu). We both decided to go for the 10 course taster menu. Although it is still a lot of courses, we figured that if this was our only visit, we wanted to experience as much as possible (without being sick). You also get the option of having a wine flight with it but I felt I wouldn’t be able to finish the meal so stuck to the one glass of wine. Below is the menu we had.

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The first three courses were served to us on one board which made the fact it was 10 courses a little less daunting. The Razor clam was served with a mushroom consommé which was presented in a champagne flute. Of these three, the nori rice cracker was our favourite. The poached scallop was one of the ‘starters’ and was lovely. The crispy texture of the chicken wing skin complimented the soft, velvety scallops. The rose veal tartare was the last of the ‘starters and was probably our least favourite of the two. Mr W and I have never had tartare before and we found the texture too chewy but we loved the fermented turnips. The next two courses were the ‘mains’ and were both delicious. As we were eating the poached turbot, we both agreed that it was our favourite course so far. Then we got the lamb, which was cooked three ways and was a close contender. The next course was the first of the desserts and was a winner for me. It was a small piece of sweet potato cake and sweet potato crumb with different flavours of orange, in the form of a parfait, a jelly and a gel with some sugar decorations. The next dessert was flavours of vanilla, chocolate, lychee and caramel with milk crisps. The final course of macaroons and madeleines nearly finished us off but we were determined to eat everything (which, I’m not afraid to admit, we did).

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If you are a bit of a foodie, I would definitely recommend a visit to Manchester House. I was worried that we were going to one of the few tables in there but by 2pm, the restaurant was nearly full. The kitchens are open plan and Aiden Byrne was helping plate up the starters. Although the service was very good, I liked that it wasn’t in your face. You could see that the different members of staff were there to help different areas when needed.

Chocolate Orange Mousse & Cornflake Cookies

Time for a long overdue blog post. August has been such a hectic month (with two weddings, a F1 Grand Prix weekend in Belgium, numerous birthday celebrations for Mr W, a job interview, and completing an online diploma to name just a few) that I just haven’t had time to sit and blog. I’ve only now just started to settle back into a routine (I knew I liked my routine but I didn’t quite realise how stressed and out of control I would feel not being in one. I now understand why it gets brought up so much at work. Out of routine Jenny = bad news). I can now get back into doing my regular baking. I mean, I have done a little bit in my absence but forgot to take pictures of the finished product. Instead, I am going to put up a recipe for a dessert that I have been promising my friends for months. It’s a recipe I’ve adapted from the Good Food website (click here for original recipe). But before I get into my recipe, I just wanted to mention a couple of places I’ve been to around the Manchester area.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Tattu in Spinningfields, Manchester with people from work. I was a bit sceptical at first because of the price but it was definitely worth it. I shared the venison won tons (the dipping sauce was little too sweet for my liking) and then had the chilli glazed smoked aubergine with steamed rice. My sister had the lobster and prawn noodles which looked amazing. The place itself is lovely. It did take us a while to find as it has no obvious signage but inside they have a number of little booths with a living cherry tree on the first floor.

Chilli Glazed AubergineLobster and Prawn Noodles

A number of people might be aware that one shop I am reluctant to go to is Ikea. I don’t like that you have to follow a particular route taking you through all the different departments to get out. I want to go straight to the area that I want and then go straight to the till. But this week, Mr W wanted to go to buy some furniture for the loft. He thought about how to get me to agree to this carefully and suggested we have tea at an American chain called Five Guys in Ashton (right next to Ikea). Now, I’m not a particular fan of fast food chains like McDonalds or Burger King but this was on a completely different level. You pick your basic burger or hot dog (4 of each type, nice and simple) and you then request your toppings (all free, as many as you want). Mr W went for a classic beef burger with lettuce, fried onion, mayo and ketchup. I went for a hot dog with fried onion, pickle, ketchup and mustard. Now, I’m not a big fan of hot dogs but this was good, so good but so bad. To make that even more better, they have unlimited soft drinks where you pick your base (coke, diet coke, coke zero, sprite, sprite zero, fanta, fanta zero, fanta still and lemonade) then a flavoured syrup (I think it was a choice of 8-10). AMAZING. I’m now thinking of things I need from Ikea for an excuse to go back.

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Finally, as a birthday treat for Mr W, I booked us in at the Hawksmoor today for some lunch. I’d read that it had the best Sunday lunch in the UK, Mr W had heard that it was known for it steaks. I chose the slow roast Sunday lunch and Mr W had the rump steak with triple cooked chips. To finish I had the salted caramel rolos and Mr W had the sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice cream. We can see why the roast and steak are such highly recommended, they were cooked to perfection and tasted great. Mr W managed to eat the majority of his dessert (I had to have a few spoonfuls to make sure it was up to standard). We did find the salted caramel rolos a let down as they were a bit too sickly rich for us and left a strange after-taste. I would love to go back with my sister and try the Ambassadors Reception pudding. Watch this space….

Now, back to the recipe. To begin with, I halve the recipe as I make it for me and Mr W. The first time I made it I used the recommended 70% dark chocolate and decorated it with raspberries and blueberries and it was yum. I’m not normally a fan of chocolate mousse (in particular shop bought which is quite airy as there doesn’t seem to be much to it and isn’t worth eating) but this version was light and rich with no aeration. This version is the picture I have used for my main blog page. Below is the latest version I made, chocolate orange mousse.

Serves 2

40g dark chocolate with orange

1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting

1/4 tsp coffee granules

1/4 orange blossom water

1 egg white

1/2 tbsp caste sugar

25g Greek yogurt

Orange zest and grated chocolate to decorate

  1. Chop the chocolate very finely and put it into a large bowl that will fit over a pan of simmering water. Mix the cocoa, coffee and orange blossom with 1 tbsp cold water, and pour over the chocolate. Place the bowl over the gently simmering water, give it all a stir, then remove from the heat. Leave with the bowl of chocolate still over the water, stirring occasionally to check when melted.
  2. Stir the melted chocolate, it will be quite thick. Stir in 1 tbsp boiling water and the chocolate will immediately thin down and become silky smooth. Leave to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk the egg white to fairly soft peaks, then whisk in the sugar until thick and glossy. Beat the yogurt into the cooled chocolate. Fold about one-third of the egg white into the chocolate mix using a large metal spoon, then very gently fold in the rest of the egg white until they are evenly mixed in – being careful not to over-mix or you will lose the volume of the mousse. Spoon into 2 small cups or (125-150ml) ramekins and chill for a couple of hours, or overnight.
  4. Place each mousse on a saucer or small plate. Top with some orange zest and grated chocolate, then dust with a little cocoa powder. Will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge.

Chocolate & Orange Mousse

I also wanted to provide a recipe for some cookies that I made for Mr W’s birthday BBQ. I was surpised at how well they went down and want to give the recipe so that people can give them ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of this bake but if you click here you can see what they should look like. I did adapt the recipe slightly as I couldn’t be bothered making the cornflake crunch they suggested, I just used good old cornflakes. I baked some of the cookies after I chilled them for the minimum amount of time. They were okay but not as good as the ones I baked after having them stored in the fridge for 4 days. These were moreish. If making these, make sure you are baking them from chilled and not baking more than 6 per baking sheet as they do spread (they might look like they won’t but they will).

Momofuku Milk Bar Cornflake Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies Makes 15-20

225g butter, at room temperature
250g granulated sugar
150g light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
240g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
150g cornflakes
100g mini chocolate chips
65 g mini marshmallows

1. Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.

2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

3. Still on low speed, paddle in the cornflakes and mini chocolate chips just until they’re incorporated, no more than 30 to 45 seconds. Paddle in the mini marshmallows just until incorporated.

4. Using an ice cream scoop, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature—they will not hold their shape.

5. Heat the oven to 190C or 170C fan oven.

6. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets (I did 6 per baking sheet). Bake for 18 minutes. the cookies will puff, crackle, and spread. At the 18-minute mark, the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown toward the centre. Leave them in the oven for an additional minute or so if they aren’t and they still seem pale and doughy on the surface.

7. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheets before transferring to a plate or to an airtight container for storage.