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Birthday Breakfast

5 May

Just a short piece on Matt’s handiwork from first light on my birthday; I must put this in because it is a memory to treasure. I – thankfully – was able to ease into wakefulness (admittedly slightly pieced by an impatient stomach) with a cup of tea, while he scampered around the kitchen in a mild agitation at the mission ahead of him. 

I watched this slightly chaotic spectacle for a while, intent solely upon being an observer (it was my birthday) until I surrendered with a smile. It was better this way – we ended up kicking ‘eggs royale’ ass. 

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Eggs Royale; Birthday Breakfast.

Hollandaise – it’s not impossible; be patient with it… Don’t rush the yolks turning to spaghetti-like ribbons by putting them over too high a heat – it will scramble. Whisk constantly, gently, lovingly…! Do not re-heat and make sure you add some lemon and black pepper in at the end. Saying this, I made the hollandaise because Matt’s prior attempts had been, in his own words, ‘disasterous’, so as the egg poaching king he concentrated on creating spheres of golden-yolked goodness. 

Swapping the smoked salmon for gravlax was definitely a winner – its sweet sharpness and dill curing wreathed through, cutting through the buttery hollandaise (hence why you need the lemon for a little more lift) without jeopardising the silken unity of the ingredients together.   

Serve with ciabatta and asparagus, and fall in love. 

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Levenshulme’s New Market

24 Mar

First check-in to topnotfodder in a while, namely because of cruel beast that is the norovirus (that link will explain, graphically, I’m sure) knocking us for six… Food was suddenly scary! A danger! This was a phenomenon that left me flustered; previously, I would have been able to assure you that my appetite is wonderfully resilient – the last land to be conquered – but not this time. For a few weeks I was left wondering whether I would find the same enjoyment from food that had formerly been developing.

However, they do say good things come to those who wait, and I’m pleased to have waited this long to report on the Levenshulme Market. After the noro, relighting a passion for food had been slow progress (slower, as I am not the most patient individual out there) – but yesterday it was kicked back into action with some serious gusto.

I would like to say that the Levy Market is not just food – it had some non-edible gems for sale as well, I was eyeing up the homemade soaps and musical goodness – but I was drawn  out from the warmth of my homely woodwork by the promise of foodstuffs. It shows our commitment, I think, to say we walked the full 1.8 miles in the bitter cold (not quite snowing yet, but the air was like ice), wrapped in layers, to an unknown place, purely to sample some treats – I only wish I had worn thermals.

We did get lost. We had found Levenshulme but within it, we had been cast adrift by the maps on our phones… And while we were wandering (a good half an hour) the blizzard started up. We sought refuge in the town’s ASDA and luckily for us, a friendly security guard pointed out the way to the train station – of course it was the exact opposite to the way we had been headed. At last! With numb hands and frozen faces, we arrived at the market.

The first we bought were some intensely fabulous pork scratchings from The Moocher, along with their stunning wild garlic paste (which I sampled properly this morning with a black pudding sausage omelette) – a fresh, foraged ingredient designed to be combined in sauces. I loved their selection of potted game, especially the hare! I’m severely regretting not buying the scotch bonnet chilli sauce, so I may have to rectify this mistake in the future…

Next we moved on to the BBQ beauty of Fire and Salt – something I’ve been dying to get my chops round for a while. The brisket cob in their own smokin’ sauce was calling my name and, not one to refuse a challenge (it was a healthy portion), I complied. WOWSAH. We had to sit down to truly appreciate this magic – how we managed to find a seat is a marvel in itself, but having done so, the meaty goodness bathed us in its heavenly waves of joy.

Lastly on the food front was the BarnHouse Bistro. We’ve already learned today that good things come to those who wait and this, readers, is absolutely no exception. The burger the BarnHouse was serving up was beef and coriander ground down and served medium, topped with a lime mayonnaise and jalapenos. What the magic was that was being wielded in those flavours is beyond me but I have been once and for all converted to a ‘burger lover’ – even if it is just the BarnHouse’s burgers – it eclipsed any I’ve had previously, and without a doubt the best eat of the day.

To top off the enchantment of my tastebuds, we warmed up with a chilli hot chocolate (served with cream, marshmallows and cinnamon) from the sensational Margo and Rita – Mexican street food at its best.

A stunning selection! The Levy Market surpassed my expectations from the first bite. Manchester, I love you…

 *The market’s on the fourth Saturday of every month guys – the next on the 27th of April – get down!*

Yours,

Joss. 

Manchester Foodie Quiz @ the Gaslamp.

19 Feb

Last night we had our first crack at a foodie quiz. Having never been to that part of Deansgate (it wasn’t Deansgate Locks, as I thought, not knowing the difference) our taxi-man took it upon himself – as is his job, though not all in Manchester seem to realise this – to get us to the Gaslamp just in the nick of time for the quiz to start. After discovering the Manchester Foodies on twitter, I’d been excited about this all weekend as Monday nights are habitually lifeless… As it was only their second time, we thought we’d give the young, sprouting night a go.

The Gaslamp, for years a kitchen that served food for homeless children, has been converted into a quirky, underground pub serving interesting ales and some unfamiliar drinks (in the fridge, I spotted a couple of bottles of De Molen beer – ‘Engels’ and ‘Hamer and Sikkel’, oooh).  Two pints of Dishy Debbie – a light, zingy beer which even I enjoyed drinking – and two gin and tonics between us, we were ready to take on the rest of the quiz-players.

Ushered into the  back room, we were seated on leather chintz chairs and turning to face the other players, I felt we were in for a chance – I had, in my mind, last months prize of artisan cheese… a golden halo around it…

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Homemade snacks; Foodie Quiz at the Gaslamp, Manchester

Our hosts walked in, introduced themselves as the Quiz Masters and offered round bowls of homemade snacks. We tried the (delicious) root vegetable crisps and the spiced, sweet popcorn. Apart from a mischievousness popcorn kernel that attacked my left molar, both were a huge success.

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Quiz at the Gaslamp, Manchester

Being dreadful at on-the-spot-puns/witty names, our team for the night was called ‘Red Leicester’ because well… we are from Leicester. I absolutely adored how the quiz was set out in a menu format, complete with courses and thick parchment paper. After devouring our snacks, the quiz commenced.

Having lured us in to a false sense of security, we were ambushed by questions which surpassed our (evidently minute) knowledge of the food world. Scoring a mere two in each round, we were baffled by chefs, places, facts and, in the end, our own lacking awareness! Our enlightenment was flawed! Tail between legs, we persevered.

Pork scratchings; Gaslamp, Manchester.

Pork scratchings; Gaslamp, Manchester.

Half time brought us perfectly prepared pork scratchings that had been rustled  by the hosts themselves. Who was to devour the last one almost descended into a fight to the death; gladiator-style. Societal constraints eventually overcame appetite as the quiz began once more.

All I will say is this (and I needn’t go any further), for us, the second half was worse than the first. Yes, it was possible.

The outcome of this ego-shattering experience is that we came joint last (which was third; a bronze medal, I’ll have you know) with a crushing all-round score of 12.5 out of around 40. I think it’s safe to say we’ll need to get in some serious foodie revision before attempting the next one.

And perhaps I’ll retire from writing about food – they do say the good die young.

What a wonderful night, and just a pound each! Seeing as we are still bitter about missing out on any-place-but-last, we will most definitely be returning to reclaim our dignity.  (In Matt’s words, “high-five for taking part!”)

Yours,

Joss

Tried and Tested – Salmon Burgers

15 Jan

In a panic after the inescapable Christmas weight gain, ‘healthy’ is the new tag word for my diet; or it should be, I am ever-tempted… So, last night we decided to try our hand at Good Food’s Superhealthy Salmon Burgers – salmon, thai red curry paste, ginger, loadsa chilli and garlic (we threw these in, ignoring the recipe – DON’T, the curry paste has more than enough as we found out) and a whole bunch of coriander.

Whizzing it all together with a hand blender, it was a peach coloured, sticky mess. I ummed and arred about this strange mix and began to wonder if it would be best to abandon ship, rather than to endure what was fast turning into a culinary disaster. When moulded into their prospective ‘burger shapes’ our salmon burgers seemed even more peach-like. I was concerned.

Into the pan! Finally a ray of hope as the strong Thai flavours hit the heat and began to smell amazing. Four minutes on either side – they really do need to be cooked through – and these little beauties (ugly duckling story, I tell you) were complete. Wrapped in a sheet of nori instead of a burger bun, a squeeze of wasabi  and a grilled, spiced salmon slice on Imagethe side. Definite success.

Yours,

Joss.

Covert Scrutiny, Round 2 – Umami

14 Jan

I must admit I’ve been eyeing this place up for a while; dying to exploit its lunchtime student offers…

Escaping from the torrential rain (this is Manchester) and descending down the winding stairs into the depths of the Umami Noodle Bar, I shook off my coat and took preparation to seem like a studious student instead of taste assassin – out came the copy of Frankenstein and a grotesquely luminous highlighter. Here we go.

Firstly, I was pretty horrified by how HOT it was in there – a combination of the sheer amount of people crowded onto the tables and the fact that the kitchen had an open hatch connected to the restaurant (I dread to think how blistering it much have been in the actual kitchen, let alone outside). Patting myself on the shoulder for taking my coat off prior to entering, I was seated at the table closest to the direct heat source.

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Chicken yakitori; Umami, Manchester

I gave my order to a very flustered woman and my chicken yakitori arrived instantly (how?). Two little skewers of chicken with a teriyaki sauce were placed in front of me without so much as a look or an ‘enjoy’. I’m putting this down to the constant surge of would-be diners flowing into the restaurant at this time but it certainly left me feeling a little ‘out of place’. No formalities of polite conduct here… As for the starter, it was tasty enough for a minimal lunchtime combo offer but I was struck with jealousy as I peeked at next door’s sashimi platter that had just alighted. I could tell that the sushi selection on the menu far surpassed my meager choices – it absolutely was art on a plate.

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Sing chow vermicelli; Umami, Manchester

I was still green with envy when my sing chow vermicelli arrived. This was an enormous bowl of honey roast pork chunks lost in a nest of vermicelli, with a couple of king prawns lazing on top. Against my valiant efforts the dish was too large to be consumed in one sitting and I sat back, defeated.

I will add this – for a quick bite to eat after lectures, I do trust Umami to hit the spot. Don’t expect gourmet though, unless you’re ordering from that sushi menu. Which I will be… soon. Watch this space.

Yours,

Joss

Umami on Urbanspoon

Conned by the Mughli!

13 Jan

Onward to the first restaurant to be reviewed! Donned were the heels, the lipstick (I even glittered my nails) as we went to sample the tastes of ‘one of the finest Indian restaurants in the north-west’… Very excite.

Hit by the buzzing atmosphere of a typical Saturday night and hidden away inside by the Rainforest Cafe-esque decor (orange tinted windows, whittled walls of vines, plant foliage brushing the table…), we were sat in our seats instantly – having booked. Amusing and conversational staff took our order and the pre-starter arrived momentarily; what can be said about poppadums, apart from they were perfectly round and satisfyingly crisp? The array of toppings was more plentiful than expected and each flavour held its own – however, the raita was of a taste that I have yet to come across other than within the walls of Mughli (perhaps I am used to that of the Leicester raita-masters? Hmmm…)

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Accompaniments; Mughli, Manchester’s Curry Mile

Swiftly – surprisingly, as the restaurant was fully booked – our  drinks and Prosecco appeared, served  with our waiter’s extensive yet heartwarming attempts to rid the bottle of its cork, as did our starters. The shami kebab was a strange concoction of egg and minced lamb; deep fried, that resembled something along the lines of a spiced cornish pasty with an omlette replacing the pastry… (let’s just say it needed  a wedge of lemon) While the aloo tikki was dainty and delicious alongside its tamarind raita.

In between courses a quick cardio up the long, labyrinthine (mercifully shallow) stairs was needed to burn off the shami kebab. Outside of the toilets was a damp, lingering tea towel next to one of the radiators – …why? The toilets themselves however. were decked out stylishly and perfectly clean – even with hand lotion! You can’t expect a Dyson Airblade in every establishment, so if you can see past the leaking tap a trip to the loo would be very much enjoyed.

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Aloo Tikki; Mughli, Manchester’s Curry Mile

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Main courses; Mughli, Manchester’s Curry Mile

The mains were fabulous! The chicken tikka makhanwala was succulent and intense with sweet cardamon tones. Our second choice was the desi gosht; meat which literally fell off of the bone and tasted like ‘sweet baby Jesus’. The saag paneer was rich, the paneer within had a delicate depth of flavour from the spinach – expertly done. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to see into the ‘angithi’ charcoal pit and watch the chefs create the vibrant main dishes. Unfortunately our bubbly high came to a drastic end as we saw these fateful words hidden on the back of the drinks and desert menu…

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Horror.

 Student horror! Conned by the Mughli! Readers beware to always check your ‘terms and conditions’ BEFORE placing an order!

Sadly there was nothing our friendly waiter could do and we coughed up the extra 15% in despair.

Yours,

Joss.

Mughli on Urbanspoon

2013 – Epiphany on food.

12 Jan

So we’ve survived the End Of The World – I for one didn’t lay awake on that fateful night wondering if I wasn’t going to wake up in the morning (or wondering if I was going to wake up in the midst of fiery comets raining from the heavens/ seawater gushing through my window/ any other catastrophe) ‘though I have to admit, my toes did tingle slightly when I realised that the predicted end of the calendar hadn’t done … well, anything… And I have to say, I was relieved.

I then started thinking along the lines of the cliche, ‘would I have done all that I wanted to do if the world HAD ended?’ Have I, in fact, eaten at all of those places I crave to eat at? Have I sampled the foods that I am dying to sample? Have I tried my hand at the many recipes stored in my cookbook collection? Because you see, food is the greatest part of my enjoyment on this earth and I do think it’s time that it started to take a few more little steps closer to the limelight of my life…

Enter the Foodie Blog. 

Yours,

Joss.

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One hell of a beauty; Cow and Plough, Leicester

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