Monthly Archives: April 2012

Aumbry – Prestwich

According to one definition I found an aumbry is “a wall safe or cupboard that holds blessed bread and wine”

Now, without wanting to cause any offence to the religiously minded and hopefully avoiding eternal damnation for blasphemy – this is kind of a perfect description for this little gem.

Tucked away just off the main drag in Prestwich this converted pair of terraced cottages holds within its walls some fantastic food and wine which, while it may just fall short of being blessed, is certainly heavenly.

No church like reverence or hushed tones as you open the door to a warm and friendly welcome from staff that seem genuinely pleased to be working there but also equally as excited about sharing the food with new visitors.

The intimate dining room allowed for attention to each table from any of the three-woman team that is very often not possible in larger restaurants.  However I suspect that in such cosy surroundings if there were a larger group of 8 or so diners on one table they may somewhat dominate the atmosphere in the room.

Having been seated we awaited our first taste from this newly emerging Manchester favourite.

At this point I should mention that there were no photos taken for this post.  I left my camera at home and my phone in my pocket.  In such an intimate environment it simply didn’t feel right to be snapping away.  Well that and the fact that The Hungry Mrs gave me “the look” at the mere mention.

Anyway, I digress.  Following a serving of cheese pastry puffs and homemade crisps came the bread.

I remember my mum telling me stories of dripping butties and how nice they were.  Now, I put this down to post-war rationing , I mean surely butter just ticks all the boxes here? However, when our waitress removed the lid from the warm pot and declared “….and this is beef dripping” I was immediately keen to try it.  It was like having the best roast beef sandwich without the need to chew!!  Just goes to show – mother knows best!

But “man cannot live on bread alone”

The amuse bouche of wild garlic and potato soup with English truffle oil did exactly what it should in leaving me wanting more.  Next came the beautifully presented starter of wild rabbit terrine with rabbit consomme. liver parfait and sloe jelly.  The taste and texture surpassing even the appearance.

With a pause before the main course we were able to enjoy the wine.  A Xarel.Lo DO Albet i Noya which was delicious, light and fruity, “I can taste apricots” exclaimed The Hungry Mrs but without being too poncey this was actually one of those wines where you could identify individual flavours.

So………

The main course………

Milk-fed Cumbrian lamb.  Now I will be honest. When I read milk-fed my immediate reaction was that there would be a lack of flavour.  However I was happy to be proved wrong.  Although not the strong taste of lamb that I am used to, both cuts were sweet and melt in the mouth tender.  They were also, in keeping with every other dish, wonderfully presented with spring vegetables, white onion puree and pink fir apple potatoes.

On to dessert.  What to try? We had both overheard our neighbouring table discussing with relish the grapefruit posset but when our waitress informed us that she had incorporated the treacle tart into her wedding cake we were sold.  I mean that had to be some tart and with accompaniments of Earl Grey cream and lemon jelly the sweetness of the tart was perfectly balanced.

Aumbry is now reasonably well established and I regret not having visited earlier.  However while chatting to the team we have almost certainly been convinced to return to try the 9 course taster menu.

As stunning as the food was/is, it is the warmth and enthusiasm of the of the staff at Aumbry that will remain with me. Afterall even the most blessed of food could not have me coming back if I did not feel welcome.

Thanks to all at Aumbry for a lovely meal.

THM

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Levanter Fine Foods

From the mountains of Spain to the hills of Lancashire.

I did not mean to write this post. Yet here I am. Writing.

I’m not complaining though, in fact, quite the opposite.  I am very happy to be writing this post

So I’ll crack on.

Levanter Fine Foods, a husband and wife team from Haslingden – the “Valley of the Hazels”, notable for quarried stone and “The Big Lamp” but not, you’d think, for quality Spanish produce.

But this is exactly what Joe & Fiona Botham are sourcing and sharing with us.

I first met them at Turton Tower near Blackburn during that little hot spell we had (remember it?).  The sight of a full ham glistening in the sun while being expertly sliced by hand was certainly enough to pique my interest and grab my attention. This was their Serrano Curado Bodega, cured for 14 months 3,000ft above sea level by artisan producers. The heat of the sun made the meat sweet, tender and after a sample both myself and The Kitchen Assistant were hooked.

So home we went, returning to The Hungry Mrs with ham, a morcillo sausage and some Manchego Gran Reserva to savour in the sun with some fresh bread and a crisp white wine.  The morcillo was simply fried off and the combination of sweet ham, creamy cheese and hot spicy sausage was absolutely spot on.

The next time I saw the duo was in Preston.  TKA instantly spotting the ham and standing doe-eyed by the stall, reminiscent of Dickens’ Oliver awaiting “more”.  Cheeky as ever but Joe was happy to oblige.

Chorizo was the order of the day and the Bothams talked me through the different varieties and helped me to choose which would work best for a batch of Chorizo Stuffing. And once again they were bang on.  The stuffing being used this time in a loin of pork for my mums birthday.

The last meeting was at Accrington Town Hall for the Lancashire Food Festival.

At this point I would like to point out to them and you that I am not stalking Levanter Fine Foods – promise.

And so – as I approached the stall this time there was something different.  A rugby ball shaped orangey-red mass that I didn’t recognise. I was patiently but enthusiastically introduced to Sobrassada.  After a sample my limited powers of description came up with “mmmm – it’s like a spreadable chorizo” but I’ll stick with that. Apparently it is a favourite simply spread on some toast and placed under the grill but I am yet to try this.  Instead – off I went with my portion without really knowing what I was going to do with it.

After sleeping on it I decided I’d use the Sobrassada to offer a slight twist to the common all garden scotch egg.

So having tried a variety of their products I can honestly say that I am a fan.  The Serrano Curado Bodega would be enough to keep me coming back but all of those I’ve tried have been delicious and somehow imbued with an authenticity that is almost impossible to replicate.  But products aside, Joe and Fiona are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and a pleasure to chat to.

Now I just need to catch Joe playing the guitar!!

Normally I’d say good luck to them at this point but with goods like these it isn’t a matter of luck.

So if you’re out and about in the Northwest and happen to catch the name Levanter at a food event then get yourself over to their stall and tell ’em The Hungry Manc sent you.

But stop for more than just a sample – OK?

Via con dios,

THM


Beans doesn’t have to mean Heinz

I don’t like baked beans.

Never have. Now this is, I know, somewhat surprising.  There a very few of us out there who aren’t a fan of the things.  Chuckle if you like but we can feel a little left out!!

I can’t really put my finger on why I don’t like them.  I used to think it was a texture thing.  I was never too keen on the way that beans would mush up in my mouth. However as time has gone on this has become less of an issue and has been replaced by a dislike of the watery, sweet but otherwise tasteless sauce that the beans are drowned in.

So how to overcome this problem?  Afterall, I’d love to be able to get home after work and in 5 minutes have a tasty, nutritious snack of beans on toast in front of me.  Or cook myself a big weekend breakfast without having to forego the option of beans .

The best solution I could find was to bake my own beans – somewhat obvious, I know but sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees; and when browsing any supermarket or local store there seems to be forests of tins of baked beans.

By making my own I was also able to flood them with flavours I like. So armed with strong smokey bacon, lashings of Lancashire Sauce and a good helping of mustard powder I set about attempting to reverse a lifelong held opinion about beans.

As a starting point I again visited The Lone Gourmet (see blog roll) and adapted the recipe I found there for Boston Beans to suit my own tastes.  If you want to know exactly what I did click here.

And the result?  A thick, flavour filled sauce, lovely soft beans and a feeling that I could finally join the party!

So what to do with the beans? Well there was no sense in over complicating anything, so beans on toast anyone?  And on a day when the weather had returned to its wintery worst a few spoonsful of beans atop some thick granary toast smothered in butter, absolutely hit the spot.

Now, not being something I buy I cannot tell you the price of a tin of baked beans.  However this large batch was put together inexpensively and the comment from a friend,

“I’m not sure I could go back to eating Heinz baked beans again.”

made any extra pennies spent very much worth it.

I DO like beans – and made like this I always would have.  Looks like I’ve got some missed easy lunches and quick snacks to catch up on.

Ta tah

THM