Saturday, 9 May 2015

Blue Sapphire, Denton

Blue Sapphire, Thai restaurant in Denton has only been here for around 9 months, and has only just recently been knocked down from number one on trip advisor for restaurants in Greater Manchester.
This small Thai restaurant serves the best Thai food we've had in a long time, if not the best Thai food we've ever had, the service is fantastic, and the whole experience is extremely good value for money.
Since its opening last year we have eaten there a quite a bit. We've taken the little one, who was welcomed and fussed over, we've had more extravagant meals there, and we've also had a takeaway. Every single time Donna and her team have made us feel welcome and always the food is excellent.

We read somewhere, but can't find where, that the chef may have previously worked at Chaophraya, but don't take our word for it - we may have dreamt it! The food certainly matches what we've eaten there, if not betters it. The service for sure is much more notable. Since this is a small restaurant, you are made to feel comfortable and at ease when you walk in. There is no alcohol licence, but if you have brought a bottle (rather than opting to try one of the mocktails, or exotic teas on offer), then it is quickly refrigerated for you if needed, and you're offered an ice bucket.
The menu includes some recognisable Thai dishes: red curry, Phad Thai, various stir fries and fish cakes etc, but some less familiar dishes for example Pla Rad Prik (Crispy Tilapia with chilli and garlic sauce), which is now one of our favourites.

Crispy fried Tilapia
The staff are always keen to help you with your choice and can explain anything on the menu you don't understand, and they are also interested to hear if you would prefer less heat in your dish, or you would prefer more of something. We understand that there is only one chef in the kitchen, and that everything is cooked to order. This is evident in the fact that everything tastes fresh and vibrant. No two dishes taste the same as if they've been put together from one pot of base-sauce.

Beef Penang
We really don't have anything negative to say about Blue Sapphire. The only thing that is picked up on trip advisor is that there is no children's menu - which is true, but the chef is able to prepare anything you'd like for kids. Unless if you want to order chicken nuggets and chips maybe - or maybe not. I believe that they are in the process of putting together a children's menu. We've always been able to find something for the little one to eat. Whether it is just noodles, or a small chicken stir fry. Surely, in a Thai restaurant, you go there to eat Thai food, even if you are 3!

Chicken and cashew nuts
We've eaten there when it first opened and we were the only people in, we've also been there on Valentine's Day when every table was occupied and the place was buzzing. On every occasion, the food, the welcome, and the friendly service has been exceptional. We even booked the whole restaurant for Tim's 40th birthday as we wanted to show it off to our family and friends.

Mee Grob
Anyway, I've gone on and on abut how great this place is. Please try it for yourself. It may not look much from the roadside, but you will not be disappointed.
Just a few tempting photos...

Table setting
Deep fried tofu

Pork toast
Grilled Squid
Party time
Ice Tea
Beef with mushrooms

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Stir-Fried Shrimp in Hot Sauce

Here's another recipe from one of the many recipe books in the house. And another step towards the goal of actually cooking something from each book which is something on The List of things I have set myself to do before I am 40.

The book it is from is Tastes of China by Jacki Passmore. I can't find out much about the book, or about the author but it seems that the book is quite rare now, although it does seem that second hand versions are available from various sources.

We've never actually cooked from the book, possibly because that upon reading there are a number of ingredients that seem scary and not available in a normal supermarket, and I think this book has been on the shelf a while. More recently, we've discovered the joys of China Town and the various oriental supermarkets in town so we regularly have more of the exotic sounding ingredients in the cupboard and fridge like shaoxing rice wine, thai fish sauce, shrimp paste, sriracha chilli sauce and chilli bean paste.

We were looking for something exciting to cook from this book, and to be honest, pretty much every recipe seems quite exciting and out of the ordinary for us. Perhaps because it listed real ingredients rather than just "chicken, peppers, and a jar of sauce" as so many Chinese recipes seem to from certain sources. We chose the Stir-Fried Shrimp in Hot sauce as we fancied something a bit spicy, and pretty much had all the ingredients in.

The recipe involved deep frying the prawns after they had been marinated and then coated with egg white and cornflour, so it was a little bit of an epic one. But the finished dish was worth it. The recipe said 1-2 tablespoons of chilli bean paste and we used just the one. This made the dish borderline in it's heat. Any more and it would have been too hot for us - so we'll know not to be tempted to add more next time. And there will be a next time - it was lovely, very tasty indeed. We served it with very lazy straight-to-wok noodles. They were a bit odd, a bit bouncy, and a bit clumpy, but worth a try if only to satisfy curiosity.
The only thing that bothered us is the rubbish photo, but hey ho, nevermind.



375g raw shrimp, peeled
3 teaspoons rice wine, ginger wine, or dry sherry
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, well beaten
1/2 cup cornflour
oil for deep frying

4 spring onions, trimmed and minced
1cm piece fresh ginger, shredded
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons chilli bean sauce (to taste)
1-2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
3/4 cup stock

Season the shrimp with the wine and salt and set aside for a few minutes. Make a batter of the egg whites and cornflour, adding a little cold water. Coat the prawns and deep-fry in hot oil until crisp and golden. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
Stir-fry the onions, ginger and garlic in the oil for about 1 minute. Add the sesame oil, bean sauce and sugar. Cook briefly. Stir cornflour into the stock, add to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until thickened. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add the shrimp, toss quickly in the sauce and serve at once.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

India The Restaurant, Malton


Last night saw us return to a fantastic new restaurant in Malton, North Yorks called India The Restaurant.  We tried them out for the first time last February so this wasn't our first visit.  The first time we thought that the atmosphere and service were very good but we were a tiny bit unhappy with our food choices so didn't get as excited about it as we usually do when we find a great place to eat.

This time was to be a little different.  We re-read the tripadvisor post we had published following our first visit and took our own advice on menu choices.

Firstly we want to say that this is a restaurant that absolutely meets a need in the town.  Malton is the town where Fran grew up and as her Mum still lives there, we do visit from time to time and have been visiting together for the last 7 years.  We had always thought that, although there a one or two decent places to eat in Malton, there was definitely a need for a modern Indian restaurant.  India hits this brief completely.  It is quite a large restaurant but through the stylish decor and clever use of partitions they have managed to create a very intimate eating experience for those looking for that kind of atmosphere.  They still have larger tables at one end that can accommodate larger parties and a nice looking bar area for people waiting for a table or just enjoying a pre-dinner drink.  It has everything!

On our first trip we noted the great service.  On the second trip we saw that their standards have not slipped at all. We were warmly greeted and shown to a well made table.  Offered poppadoms (which came very quickly) to enjoy while we browsed the menu.  The drinks order was then taken and we enjoyed a lovely bottle of Chilean Chardonnay.

For starters we went for a Prawn Poori and Onion Bhajis.  The Poori (lots of different spellings), came as the flavoursome curry wrapped in the chapatti.  It arrived with a salad (including strawberry and melon!) and was first class.  I think I could drink this sauce it was that good.  The bhajis were small, crisp and tested very fresh. We were now thinking that we would be soon enjoying a better meal than last time.  We had already looked at the menu on-line and had decided we would order the Butter Chicken that we had last time.  We wrote on Tripadvisor that it was the best Butter Chicken we had ever tasted so we trusted our own judgement - and glad that we did!  There was plenty of sauce and chunks of good quality chicken. To accompany the Butter Chicken we wanted something with a little kick so just chose a simple Lamb Madras. The sauce was rich, tasty and hot and the lamb was tender. All too often have we ended up chewing tough lamb in a curry! This was actually a little on the hot side for our tastes, but the heat didn't mask the depth of flavour of this dish.  A pilau rice and some chapattis were a perfect accompaniment.


Having read some of the reviews on trip advisor, we do have to comment about what some people think is an issue in that the restaurant is too dark. On both our visits, we never saw this as an issue. The restaurant is lit with candles on the table, stylish ceiling lights and candles set into the walls. Perhaps other reviewers were directly comparing the lighting to other establishments in the area. The lighting only adds to the atmosphere which obviously contributes to a great meal out.
We will certainly be visiting again, as there are more dishes we'd like to try, but maybe not the madras for us next time.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

North African Lamb

Bit of an odd post.
Yes, it has been a while - not excuses really. We just haven't posted. But something external to this blog has prompted this flurry of action.
I've recently made a to do list of things to achieve/see/try before turning 40, and one of these is to get back to writing this blog. So there you go! Done. Another thing on the list is to cook something from every recipe book we own. For normal people this might be a simple task, but we have a recipe book problem. There are over 120 books on our shelves. On top of the shelves too. And by the bed.
So here I am tying 2 things from the list together. I am documenting the journey of ticking everything off the list on another blog:, but obviously here will be all about the food.

So here is the first rather tasty and successful attempt at getting through all those books. (Don't worry, we wont start copying everyone's recipes on to here for the next however many posts. Just a few to note, and to remind ourselves on what we particularly liked when looking back).

This came from Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef. A book which I picked up from a charity shop some time ago. We have quite a few Jamie Oliver books, and the recipes do seem to be reliable and easy to follow. We'd been fancying a bit of lamb recently, and also some kind of Moroccan dish, so the North African Lamb with Chilli, Ginger, Chickpeas and Couscous seemed ideal.

The recipe called for salting and draining the aubergines, something we'd never actually done before as I wasn't ever too convinced about the point, but I followed the recipe and did just this. I say followed the recipe, it transpired I did mis-read a couple of bits. I halved the quantities as I was only cooking for the two of us, but I missed the bit about halving the salt for the aubergines. When I came to squeeze them out there wasn't that much liquid, and not a lot had drained either, so I am still non-the wiser about the actual point. The inappropriate amount of salt was reflected in the overall dish, but it didn't spoil it - I didn't need to season it anymore at the end, but we did have a slight thirst on later!
Also, I did keep it on the hob longer than specified as eating timings with a 3-year-old in the house are always hit-and-miss. Maybe this is why the aubergines, as well as the tomatoes melted away into the sauce, but we didn't complain. The other slight confusion was over the chickpeas. I used canned chickpeas but the recipe said dried, soaked overnight and then cooked. So I didn't really know the quantity to put in. Having said all this, it was all very lovely indeed, and we will be using this recipe again. We served it with the Couscous salad from the same book which was couscous mixed with roasted pepper, shallot and garlic, dressing with lemon and olive oil.

So here is the recipe, word for word from The Naked Chef book:

Serves 4-6
170g/6oz chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 large firm aubergines
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 fresh plum tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
grated nutmeg to taste
4 neck fillets of lamb (285g/10oz each), sliced into 5cm/2 inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium/large chillies
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

Drain the soaked chickpeas. Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook until tender. Chop the aubergines into rough, chunky 2.5cm/1-inch size dice and place in a colander over the sink. Sprinkle with salt (about 1 tablespoon). This will dehydrate the aubergines and drain away some of the bitter juices (leave for about 1/2 hour). Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water, remove the skins, deseed and quarter.
Using a pestle and mortar, pound up the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon salt, then put into a bowl and add 12 gratings of nutmeg Toss the lamb into the mixture and stir well to coat. Heat a large casserole pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sear the lamb until dark golden brown.
Gently squeeze the excess liquid form the aubergines (this will take away most of the salt too). Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil to your hot pan and fry the aubergines with the lamb for about 2 minutes, keeping everything on the move. Add the chilli and ginger and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute (still stirring, s as not to over-colour). Ad the vinegar and tomatoes and shake now and again. Turn the het down to a gentle simmer, place a lid on and leave for 1 hour, then add the cooked chickpeas and simmer for another 5 minutes. The tomatoes should have melted to a sauce and the aubergines should be sweet. Check the seasoning and stir in the parsley and coriander. Serve with couscous.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Haggis Swirl

Haggis Swirl

Burns Night is upon us.  If you're looking for a very simple way of toasting the occasion then why not try this lovely idea of ours.  We went through a phase of buying meat swirls from Morrisons with our favourite being a lamb swirl which was minted lamb wrapped up in pastry then baked.  They were delicious and we figured it would be very easy to adapt the idea for other ingredients.  We tried a chilli swirl by just making a very simple chilli con carne and spreading it over a puff pastry sheet then baking for 30 minutes.

But this time last year we tried a Haggis Swirl which was lovely.


1 can of haggis
1 sheet of puff pastry


Warm the haggis in a pan for about 5 minutes.  Spread over a sheet of puff pastry at about an half an inch deep.  Roll and cut into portions.  We found one sheet makes 4 rolls.  Bake for 30 minutes.

IMG_1035 IMG_1036 IMG_1038

What could be simpler?  Ok so it isn't really a recipe but none the less a great idea.  Happy Burns Night everybody.