Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mixed Bag

“Basically, though, I believe in eating well, not too much but eating a variety of foods.” Joan Collins

A weekend – somewhat of a mixed bag.

While visiting a local food market The Hungry Mrs and I happened upon Las Paelleras serving up Spanish stew and Paella which seemed perfect to begin what was to turn out to be a Saturday afternoon visiting some of the local hostelries in the area.  TKA having decided he didn’t fancy it!

And tasty it was too.  We were told it was past it’s best but if that was the case then I’ll be sure to get to them earlier in the day next time.  Cheers fellas.

We also then met a great bloke called Ian who was selling some of the vegan and vegetarian food he makes.  His food is featured at the Topaz Cafe in Ashton-Under-Lyne which is soon to begin opening on a Saturday.  More to come on this.

Having relaxed slightly too much on Sunday morning it then dawned on me that I had agreed to make lunch for some friends.  Slight panic done I got to it – ably assisted by you know who.

Half an hour later a delicious dish of Penonni with Mushroom Sauce and Garlic Bread was all cooked up and we were good to go.

Nothing too intricate or complicated. Just that little “kiss” which Italian cooking hands to good ingredients and then puts in front of loved ones to enjoy.

Simple. Try it. You will like it.




Tea and a Biscuit

“I got bad habits.  I take tea at three.” Mick Jagger


Bag, loose, green, fruit or herbal. There’s been a lot said recently.  No surprise really, we drink a lot of tea.  All day. Everyday.

Well except in the morning.  For me that is solely the domain of tea’s caffeine laden cousin.

Tea is definitely a big thing for us Brits and so it has been for some time, raised to such heights that I even remember my sister receiving a Brownie Badge for brewing up a pot.

In our house it was always loose leaf in a pot.  Adhering to a particular post evening meal routine.  Five or six good spoonsful of tea, then just enough water to make one mug.  This was allowed to brew and would be poured for my dad.  Yes, he loves a strong brew.  Once his was poured the pot was filled and we’d all help ourselves when it had brewed.

Visitors were not always warned (mostly by accident) of the loose tea that was waiting at the end of their brew and they would invariably almost choke on it – sometimes funny, sometimes a little embarrassing.

So with the ritual of the brewing routine, which I’m sure will differ from house to house and person to person, dealt with (and I’m not going to get into the milk first argument!!) we move to the vessel. Unimportant to some:

“Architecture is basically a container of something.  I hope they will not enjoy so much the teacup, but the tea.”  Yoshio Taniguchi.

However, and I suspect most people do, I have a favourite tea vessel.  It is my plain white, almost sea through china mug.  Tea just does not taste the same out of anything else.  The simplicity of it just allows the tea to shine.

I have followed in my dad’s footsteps in enjoying my tea strong, although I’m not sure I will go as far as having two spoons of loose tea directly into the mug as has become his habit.  Therefore, and along with 96% of all the tea drunk in the UK I use a teabag.  Not being a tea snob this generally does the job for me but occasionally, when there is time, I do like to enjoy a proper brew, brewed in a proper pot.  Poured in my favourite mug. Accompanied by a biscuit.

Which is NEVER, EVER dunked!!

Chin chin


Child’s Play

“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves”  W.C. Fields

Shrove Tuesday.  Pancake day.

As a kid the day was genuinely exciting.  All day long spent in anticipation of those sugary, lemony rolled beauties, wolfed down as quickly as possible with glasses of milk to aid the process.  I was a skinny kid with hollow legs and could eat a surprising amount of these things.  With 6 of us kids my mum would be at the stove with three pans on the go, usually assisted by an elder sibling or two.

As the years rolled on new toppings found their way onto the menu, chocolate spread, marshmallows, maple syrup and various fruits with ice cream.  As my own journey through food went further still the addition of alcohol infused flavours, nuts or the multitude of savoury options came knocking on the door.

But STOP. And this is a purely personal thing. It need go no further than lemon and sugar. The only thing that has changed since my youth is that instead of waiting for each individual pancake, 3 or 4 are now rolled together to make a greedy pig satisfying pancake cigar!

Now don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem with any of the plethera of available options to accompany, fill or top a pancake. But keep them for another day.  For me Shrove Tuesday is about rekindling that feeling of excitment that I felt as a kid. Goodness knows that as we grow up we lose it elsewhere.

Tip Top Thai-Pies

“When someone asks if you’d like cake or pie, why not say you want cake AND pie?” Lisa Loeb

Birthdays. We’ve all got them and yesterday was mine. However after celebrating to excess on Saturday evening there were to be no lavish meals on Sunday.  So what to eat when feeling slightly delicate and terribly lazy?

The bright blue sky and sunshine helped get me on my way down to  Altrincham Market to see what might feature on the menu.

So off we went, The Hungry Mrs, TKA and me.

Having wandered the market hall, tried a few samples and purchased some Tiresford Guernsey Golden Brie we stumbled on an outside stall with an aromatic air.  We had found The Real Thai-Pie Company.  A husband and wife team from Lancashire with a family tradition of baking pies and a love of Thai food.  Dean handed over a sample of the Beef Massaman curry pie and it was not only delicious but just what the hangover doctor ordered.  Dean went on to explain that all the food was sourced locally and that the pair made their own curry pastes for the fillings, there was a Red Thai Chicken Curry to sample as well.

That was it. On the eve of National Chip Week birthday dinner would be Thai Beef Pie and chips. 

Proper homemade chips with a glass-like outer and soft fluffy inner.

What can I say?  Simple, quick and very tasty.

I’ve spent birthdays in nice restaurants, eating expensive food but on this occasion, a twisted pie and chips was perfection.  Well I am a northerner after all.

Dean at The Real Thai-Pie company can be contacted via e-mail at

Take it easy


Back to Basics

“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage”  Erma Bombeck

I am one of 6 and my dad one of 12 so large family gatherings are commonplace.  Thursday nights round my folks have become something of tradition.  While evolving over the years as my own siblings families grew, the main concern has always been to enjoy a good, home cooked family meal.

So roll on sausage and mash with onion gravy!!

Lovely oven cooked Cumberland Sausage from W.B. Bewley, a butcher in Bootle, Cumbria. Soft, creamy, buttery mash and a dark, slightly thicker than normal onion gravy.

A mountain of potato and enough sausage to worry the local pig population meant that, as always, there was enough for seconds.  However I had to resist as unbeknown to yours truly my wonderful sister had been busy in the kitchen baking up an early birthday cake.  A vanilla sponge all light and moist and smothered in buttercream, this was a delightful reminder of proper homemade cakes and birthdays as a kid. Gorgeous.

Thanks sis.  No candles though?

Simple food made extraordinary by the company and the closeness of family.  Perfect way to begin the birthday festivities.

Happy eating


Leftover Love

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers.  The original meal has never been found.”  Calvin Trillin

Yesterday was just such a day.  Leftover Curried Carrot Soup for lunch and leftovers from the day before incorporated into dinner in the evening.

I can’t really put a recipe together for what occurred but basically the remainder of the Chorizo Stuffing was combined with what was left of the mash potato, some flour and a beaten egg.  Turned into little patties and baked in the oven at about 180 for about 40 minutes.  The resulting potato cakes were served up with some sliced chicken breast, which had been fried off with some peppers, mushrooms, garlic and fresh tomatoes.  Topped off with some watercress.

What a case of cobbling stuff together.  But absolutely delicious nonetheless.

As a slight aside, but still food related, the conversation with The Kitchen Assistant  over breakfast this morning went as follows:
TKA “I want to be a mushroom when I grow up”
Me “What happens if you turn into a mushroom?”
TKA “You’ll put me in the mushroom soup!!”

Keep smiling


Valentine’s Heat

Today being the Boxing Day to Valentine’s Christmas I thought I’d share the meal which The Hungry Mrs and I sat down to last night.

Curried Carrot Soup – all perfumey, spicy and velvety.

Chorizo Stuffed Poussin served on creamy mash potato with a white wine sauce.

Red Velvet Cup cakes courtesy of Sweet Tooth Cupcakery.

The meal was delicious and relatively inexpensive. So with The Kitchen Assistant tucked up for the night we enjoyed the food with a couple of glasses of fizz.

The chorizo came from the Barbakan Deli in Chorlton and was brilliant.  Just the right amount of heat but with plenty of smokey flavour to make the bird sing.

Not a scrap left on the plates apart from the bones but the extra mash potato and stuffing look tempting as some sort of rosti/potato cake for this evening – I ruddy love left overs!!

Be back tomorrow with an update!!

More details on the Recipes page.


You don’t have to be ill for soup.

“I live on good soup, not on fine words” – Moliere.

I remember being a kid and if I somehow managed to convince my mum that I was ill, no mean feat in our house, then lunch was guaranteed to be soup.  For me it was chicken, preferably my mums homemade broth but more often a Cream of Chicken out the can.

A prolonged spell with Glandular Fever when in my teens – nothing but liquid for three months – lead me to fall out of love with soup of any kind.

However just recently I have rediscovered soup.  Of all kinds; chunky broths, thick, velvety varieties, crystal clear, spicy, creamy, exotic, traditional – but always, where possible, homemade.

The reasons for the re-engagement with soup are threefold.  Firstly it is in some way my effort to try and eat a little less lunch each day.  Secondly in these wallet crunching times I can make soups in bulk for pennies and feed myself for days.  And lastly there are hundreds of different recipes to try – no need to stick to the same old favourites.

So over the last few weeks me and The Kitchen Assistant have spent Sunday afternoons cooking up soup. We started by sticking with the familiar.  Having had roast chicken for dinner on the Saturday the natural choice was my mums traditional chicken soup.  My mum has always called it soup but I guess you’d say it was a broth.  Lots of lovely chicken flavour and a good amount of vegetables, potato and pearl barley.  Not a blender in sight. 

Soups were definitely back on the menu!!

So, we’ve so far cooked up Nigel Slater’s Thai Spiced Roast Onion Soup, my own inventions of Curried Carrot Soup and a Mushroom Soup and Heston Blumenthal’s Roast Onion Soup.  All were lovely.

The heat and spice of the Thai soup warmed up the cockles in the recent cold weather.  Heston’s soup although a tad long winded in the making was stunning and taught me some lessons about sweating onions with star anise to enhance the flavour.  My own two inventions I enjoyed and without being too bold were well received by others.

So soup it is.  I have been converted.  And somewhat ironically with the goodness you can pack into a soup the chance of falling ill in the first place seems less likely – good job there are other great reasons to enjoy the stuff.

Details of all the recipes can be found on the recipes page.


Coming Soon!!

A new blog about all things food will be here shortly