Thursday, 24 November 2011

Pecan Pie

Happy Thanksgiving too all our American friends!

And to celebrate from over here I had a go at a Pecan Pie from an American recipe. This recipe for Pecan Pie was actually given to us along with some other American favourites by our friend, Bonnie, who we met on our travels to Canada. I'd wanted to try making Pumpkin Pie in time for Thanksgiving, but it seems that many recipes call for canned pumpkin, and by the time I'd found one for fresh pumpkin there were no more pumpkins available in the shops. It seems they magically disappear from the supermarkets as soon as Halloween is over!
Looking up a bit of info about traditional Thanksgiving menus it seems that Pecan Pie can feature, but as a less obvious choice than Pumpkin Pie. So thought this was the ideal time to try out the recipe.

I'd also cut a couple of corners, and took this opportunity to try the newly discovered Dietary Specials ready made frozen shortcrust pastry.
The pastry itself seemed to work well, as expected was rather crumbly - but normal shortcrust is. Obviously the convenience of the pastry is fantastic, but at the price of £2.50 for 2x 200g amounts I might continue to make my own pastry unless I'm in a rush.

Back to the Pecan Pie. The recipe below is taken from Betty Crocker's cookbook 1989, via Bonnie Safyurtlu of California. And we've attempted to translate the quantities and ingredients to British equivalents.
The recipe didn't indicate whether the pastry should be baked blind or not. Bonnie had sent us through the recipe for the pastry too, but it didn't say there either. So I opted not to. It would have actually benefited from baking first as the pastry at the bottom didn't seem to cook too well. Also, we don't have a 9-inch tin, so it all went in a slightly smaller one. This meant that the nuts floated to the top for the mixture and the pie was deeper than it should be. Overall the pie was very very nice indeed and I will certainly do it again, next time probably after investing in a larger pie plate.

Pastry for a 9-inch one-crust pie
2/3 cup (150g) sugar
1/3 (75g) cup margarine or butter, melted
1 cup (340g) corn syrup (golden syrup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup pecan halves or broken pieces (we used slightly more - 100g)

1. Heat oven to 375F (190C).
2. Prepare pastry.
3. Beat sugar, margarine, corn syrup, salt and eggs with a hand beater.
4. Stir in the pecans
5. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate.
6. Bake until set. 40-50 mins. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Souper Mix

Souper Mix
Here is a great idea if you like to use your own stock in your cooking but find it a chore to make it for specific recipes.  Even if you make a batch of stock it still needs freezing which means using up valuable space.  We found this in the River Cottage Handbook No2; Preseves, by Pam Corbin.  This book is fantastic and has been a real godsend for us as we have made Christmas Hampers for family and friends this year. 

This particular mix has gone into one or two hampers for those that like to cook.  The benefit to making stock this way is that in it's preserved form it lasts for up to 6 months and by my calculations a standard jar could could make nearly 20 litres of stock! 

Here are the ingredients as stated in the book:

250g Leek
200g Fennel
200g Carrot
250g Celeriac
50g Sun-dried Tomatoes
2-3 Cloves of Garlic
100g Parsley
100g Coriander
250g Salt

If you follow the weights you can easily change one veg for another according to availability.  For ours we exchanged the celeriac for celery and used a mix of herbs including rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley.

All that is needed is to blitz everything in a large food processor.  You may need to do it in batches but if you do make sure you mix it well afterwards by returning it to the blender once the volume is reduced through the processing.  You should be left with a moist, granular paste.  Spoon the mixture into sterilised jars and seal with vinegar-proof lids.  Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.

To use the souper mix, stir 2 teaspoons with 500ml of hot water.

TIP - to sterilise the jars, wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry in a low oven.  Fill and seal as soon as possible from removing from the oven.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


A while ago I was feeling the need for lots of sweet things, and as we know most cakes/pastries/desserts are a no-go if you need gluten free. It was the September issue of delicious magazine that caught my eye. I was actually fancying a go at making doughnuts, then the magazine came out with mini doughnuts on the cover! After a quick look through the recipe I thought I'd give it a go, substituting the strong white bread flour, for Doves Farm gluten-free bread flour to see how it would go.
The recipe was easy to follow, but for just two of us there seemed to be a lot. This is an issue I have with the yeast sachets rather than the recipe though. I couldn't accurately halve the yeast to reduce the quantity, so I made the full amount.
I made mini doughnuts rather than full sized and half dusted with sugar and half dusted with cinnamon sugar, and both were delicious, especially when still warm. I didn't attempt to pipe the jam into the doughnuts as I thought it would be rather fiddly.
One thing I did notice was that they seemed to go stale quite quickly, whether this is because they're best eaten straight away, or something to do with the flour, but halved, with a bit of whipped cream and jam in the middle, this wasn't a problem!

Recipe (taken straight from delicious magazine)

200g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
50g chilled unsalted butter, diced
7g sachet dried fast action yeast
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
100ml whole milk, heated to lukewarm
Sunflower oil for deep frying, plus extra for greasing the bowl
4 tbsp raspberry jam

1. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl, then rub in the butter with your fingertips. Stir through the yeast and 1 tbsp of the sugar, then make a well in the centre. Mix the egg with the lukewarm milk and pour into the well. Mix quickly and bring together to make a soft dough.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for  minutes or until silky smooth. Put in a very lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

3. Dived the dough into 12 evenly sized pieces and shape these into smooth balls. Do this by pinching the dough on top, rolling the bottom on a smooth surface, then turning them over so the pinch is on the bottom. Place them, spaced well apart, on a baking tray lined with baking paper, then loosely cover with a sheet of greased cling film. Leave for 45 minutes in a warm place until doubled in size again.

4. Heat the sunflower oil in a large deep pan to a temperature of 190C. Carefully lower the doughnuts into the hot oil using a slotted spoon, in batches of 2 or 3. Fry for 30 seconds on each side until golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

5. While the doughnuts are still warm, spoon the jam into a disposable piping bag or sheet of baking paper rolled into a cone. Make a little slit in the side of each doughnut with the tip of a small sharp knife, then squeeze a little jam into the centre.
6. Roll the jam-filled doughnuts gently in the remaining caster sugar to coat them completely or dust well using a dredger. Serve warm or allow to cool.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Three Fishes

We'd been meaning to go to The Three Fishes, one of the Ribble Valley Inns, for a while now. Actually we were inspired to try one of the Inns after our visit to Northcote a couple of years ago. Our recent visit to The Three Fishes was prompted by my cousin who had moved to the area, and had visited there a few times. We were looking for somewhere to join her for Sunday lunch, and on the bright autumnal day, we thought a drive up to Mitton would be nice.

The pub does not take bookings for small groups so we arrived earlyish to ensure a seat. At around 12:30, the pub was quite busy, but we were seated straight away. With a couple of real ales ordered from the bar we had a look through the menu. I thought about phoning ahead to ask about gluten-free options, but didn't on this occasion, but when asked the waitress produced the gluten-free menu - which was rather impressive. Mainly because they clearly kept in some gluten free bread products so were able to provide me with the choice of most of the starter options.
Clearly this is a simple thing for kitchens to do, just get a couple of loaves in, so why don't other places do it?

I'd already looked through the menu online and so my mind was already made up - next time I will go for some of the bread options - just because I can!

Between us we ordered the Courgettes with garlic, chilli and tomato fondue, the Terrine, the Cheese and onion pie, the Aubergine and Lancashire cheese bake and the Roast of the day - Pork.
Both the courgette and aubergine dishes were very tasty, although, possibly a reflection of my choices, they were rather similar, the tomato fondue of the main course being very similar if not the same, as the sauce for the aubergine. The pork was good and came with a generous amount of vegetables on the side. And the cheese and onion pie was very very cheesy. Probably being your weekly recommended amount of cheese all in one go. This came with a jacket potato with sour cream and a small side salad.

We had a couple of deserts, and a coffee - served with the famous (to us anyway) mini Eccles cake which is one of the main reasons why my cousin loves the place so much!

The prices were reasonable for the food we received. And the food was very good. If we'd chosen a different pub for Sunday lunch we think we'd have been presented with bigger portions, but these certainly weren't small by any means.
We would recommend The Three Fishes to anyone. even the fussiest of eaters will find something on the menu, but those who are more adventurous will not be disappointed. And for the real ale drinkers, the choice available is rather impressive. The village of Mitton and the surrounding area are lovely, and it all makes for a lovely lunch out.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Spiced Aubergine with Polenta

Spiced Aubergine with Polenta
Although we do not shop very much at Sainsbury's (except for gluten-free bread of course) we somehow acquired a Sainsbury's magazine.  Normally we pick up a free Morrison's magazine which often has some decent recipes or ideas but not sure if I had ever used a Sainsbury's one.  Well this time a recipe did catch my eye and it needed goats cheese which was great as we had a little left following a recent dinner party.

Anyway we thought we would share this one as it is healthy, vegetarian and gluten-free.  It also looks good on a plate.

The recipe said to use quick-cook polenta but we used ready cooked polenta and sliced it up before grilling.  The result is pretty much the same and it saved a bit of time.

What you will need for 2:

Ready made polenta (about 300g) sliced into 3 portions each.
1 aubergine cut into small chunks
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or hot paprika)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
300g passata
1 tablespoon olive oil
15g flat-leaf parsley finely chopped
50g goats cheese crumbled


Brown the aubergine in a heavy based pan with olive oil and season.
Add the garlic and spices and stir till the aubergines are coated.
Add the passata and balsamic vinegar, simmer for 20 minutes.
Grill the polenta on both sides and arrange on a bed of salad leaves such as rocket and watercress or a baby leaf mix.
Stir the parsley into the sauce and pour over the polenta.
Crumble the goats cheese over it all so it just begins to melt.

The flavours in this dish were great.  The cinnamon and cayenne gave the dish a meditareanean/middle eastern feel which was really freshened up with the addition of parsley.  Balsamic vinegar and goats cheese gave it a welcomed tang.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Holy Basil - The Street Food Collective

Today we made the fantastic discovery of Holy Basil while pottering around the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. We'd only nipped in briefly on an afternoon off, and didn't really have a plan about what to see/try. After the obligatory burger from the Savin Hill Farm stand at St Ann's Square we headed up to Albert Square to the main festival hub.
After wandering around the square a couple of times the place that stood out to us the most was Holy Basil. 
The menu was written on a white board at the back of the stand and their dishes included Beef Masaman Curry, Jungle Curry, salads and satay. It was the Masaman which took our fancy, which we were told would be ready in 5 mins. After a quick half pint of Chocolate Tom we returned for the curry.

We got to chatting with the stall holder, first about the ingredients - their kaffir lime leaves come from the chef's own garden and smelt like nothing we've smelled before. A far cry from the only ones we've managed to find - dried in packets in Sainsbury's. But then about the business itself.

Holy Basil Thai Street View Kompany is a member of the Street Food Collective (@streetsidefood a group who want to and are bringing street food to Manchester. The stallholder explained that there are many countries around the world with street food cultures and Britain doesn't quite seem to match up, and in particular, Manchester. There are of course the occasional burger or jacket potato stands but that's about it. Holy Basil, along with a number of other stands at the festival appear at different food events or festivals but the long term hope is to convince Manchester council to agree to some sort of opportunity to let these street sellers have a more permanent outlet for their wares.
The food itself was fantastic. Very authentic - must be those lime leaves, along with the other ingredients! It was cooked to order. Even though the menu said beef masaman, we were offered either beef, chicken or vegetable (we went for the beef). The side orders were either noodles or steamed rice, and the whole thing was garnished with chilli and coriander.
The curry had a lovely balance of flavours, not too hot but with enough kick, and was a beautiful texture. The rice was cooked perfectly and presented beautifully.
We were told that another aim of Holy Basil is to successfully compete with the city's more usual lunchtime options such as the many sandwich shops, McDonalds or bakeries, by producing smaller snack sized options at prices which are comparable. For me this would be fantastic, as all their food (apart from the noodles) is wheat free, and it would be an easy lunchtime option rather than searching through the sandwiches, pasta salads, and pasties to find that expensive gluten-free option.

The festival is coming to an end in the next couple of days, but if you're in Manchester tomorrow, go and try out Holy Basil in Albert Square. And definitely definitely keep an eye out for them, and other Street Food Collective members events around the area.

Friday, 23 September 2011

How Nana used to make

For a while now, I’ve been searching for a raspberry bun recipe to recreate one of the treats that my Nana used to make. My Nana and Grandad had a set of cake tins which stacked on top of each other, each housing a different home made treat, whether it was rock buns, raspberry buns, or what we called “pasty jam cake cakes”. Of all of those it was the raspberry buns which has stuck in my head. The texture was crumbly, but not too dry, and each was dusted with sugar to give a lovely crust. There was always just enough raspberry jam on the inside, and we were always warned about eating them when they were too hot as the jam could burn your mouth.
I tried asking my Mum about the recipe, and she thought my Nana could have used a rock bun recipe, but wasn’t sure. I do remember making them, and the dough was pliable and you could easily wrap it round the jam to seal it in, and to me, a rock bun recipe wouldn’t do this. Via the internet I found a recipe which could work – and set about it with the hope of creating Nana’s raspberry buns.
Taken straight from the fantastic blog The English Kitchen:

225g of self raising flour (a scant 2 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
75g of butter (a scant 1/3 cup)
75g of caster sugar (a scant 1/2 cup)
1 large free range egg, lightly beaten
a little milk
raspberry jam

To glaze:
a little extra milk
a little extra sugar

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a large baking tray. Set aside.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Drop in the butter and then rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips, rubbing until the mixture resembles dry bread crumbs. Stir in the sugar. Beat the egg and stir it into the flour mixture with a fork, along with just enough milk to make a soft dough. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Flatten the ball and place a dab of jam in the middle of each. Bring the edges of the dough up around the jam to cover it completely enclosing it. Flatten slightly and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Brush each with a bit of milk and sprinkle with more sugar.
Bake in the heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Scoop off onto a wire rack to cool. Cool completely before tucking in as hot jam can really give you a nasty burn!
One of Tim’s memories was of cornflake crispy cakes that his Grandma would make. Since moving house, and re-discovering all the cooking books we have my attention was turned towards a rather battered copy of the Ladybird publication We Can Cook for something similar. I used to make a few things from this book all the time years ago, but mainly an adapted version of their “Golden Crunchies”. This was adapted by adding chocolate. This gave the resulting cakes a different, gooey texture than the normal chocolate crispy cake type things.
I’d made a batch recently when Tim asked if the next time I made them I could also include desiccated coconut since that was how his Grandma made them.
1 rounded tbsp sugar
2 cups cornflakes (or enough until the mixture looks right!)
25g margarine/butter
2 rounded tbsp golden syrup
100g milk chocolate
1 heaped tbsp desiccated coconut
Melt the margarine/butter in a pan with the sugar, syrup and chocolate.
Mix in the coconut then stir the chocolaty mixture through the cornflakes. Divide into paper cake cases.
Both the resulting cakes were how we remember them. The raspberry buns were the correct flavour  (thanks English Kitchen!), although the texture was a little more dry then I remember (possible gluten-free flour), and the crispy cakes were spot on it seems.
This got me thinking that all these recipes and ways of cooking need to be written down somewhere. Our Grandparents are no longer here to ask, as these things are all memories from our childhoods, which might have bypassed a generation of our parents.
I will be looking out for one of those stack-able cake tins, asking cousins and my Mum about things they remember Nana and Grandad making, and the next thing to try making (and to blog) is those pastry jam cake cakes! Yum!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Chicken and Courgettes with a Tarragon Sauce

Last year we had a fantastic meal at The Lamb Inn, Chinley and I was bowled over by the Tarragon sauce that I had served with my Ham Hock.  For a while now we have had taragon growing in the garden but for some reason it has gone unused, until now.  Tarragon is a fantastic herb that tastes quite different from how it smells.  This pleased Fran as when it is picked and chopped it has an aroma similar to aniseed which she does not like, however, added at the end of a dish and cooked down for a few minutes, the aniseed edge is lifted a little and you are left with a wonderful warm and savoury taste that is perfect with all meats and sits particularly well in a creamy sauce.

So this time while looking through the fridge to see what could be made for tea we decided on Chicken and Courgettes with a Tarragon Sauce.  Fran had some inspiration in a dish she had at Cafe Rouge called Poulet Breton, however we couldn't find a decent recipe for this so we trusted a little instict, kept it simple and did it alone!

Chicken and Courgettes with a Tarragon Sauce
What you will need (serves 2):

2 chicken breast fillets
1 medium leek (chopped)
1 medium courgette (thinly chopped)
30g butter
1 glass white wine
handful tarragon (leaves loosely picked and chopped)
double cream
salt and pepper

First soften the leeks in the butter over a medium heat
Then add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes
Then add the chopped courgettes and cook till softened (add a splash of water if dry)
Next add the wine and allow to bubble for a couple of minutes
Finally add the cream and Tarragon and stir through, allow to warm slowly infusing the dish with the Tarragon and add a little seasoning to taste.

We had it with home grown beans and mash and managed to make it stretch to 4 servings! It would work well with rice too.

The Tarragon flavour took me right back to the meal we had at The Lamb Inn and will definitely be a herb we use again soon.  It sits perfectly with a cream sauce and this simple recipe gives the impression of a much more defined dish that is still surprisingly quick and easy to make.


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Persian Salad (Salad Olivieh)

Following a delicious meal at Rayhoon in Stockport and sampling flavours and dishes which were new to us, I decided to try and recreate one of the starters we had there.
It was the first time we'd visited that restaurant, and the food and atmosphere were great. We went on a Thursday night and they had a pianist performing all night which added to the ambience. The service was a little eratic, but nothing too bad really. The chef/owner even came out at the end of the night to apologise. We certainly didn't think the service that night was bad enough for the apology from the owner, but it was noted.
The food was very good, and as I've already said, we did try several different flavours, all of which were new to us. We will, no doubt, return, and then do a proper post about the place.

One of the starters we ordered to share between our party was Salad Olivieh, or Persian Salad. According to the menu this was "a combination of shredded chicken, gherkins, potato, egg, peas in a light coating of mayonnaise "a feeling of pleasure and fulfilment"". Interesting description. So all the ingredients we need to recreate it.
I since looked up Persian Salad on the internet and found a few recipes, all with the above ingredients, but with the addition of lime juice, and some with added carrot.
I decided to stick to the menu version.

Persian Salad (in a pre-served state)
We've actually started to notice a few mentions of Persian food here there and everywhere. A couple of issues ago, there was a recipe in Good Food Magazine, and in the September issue of delicious. there is a feature about blogger Sabrina's passions and a rather delicious looking recipe. Plus since visiting Rayoon, I've since heard of another very good Persian restaurant in the Stockport area. Maybe this is the flavour of things to come? Certainly could be in our house.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Summertime Cake

The title of this post should really read experimental summertime cake.
It was experimental for a few reasons;
a) Gluten-free flour was used in a standard recipe, although using Doves Farm Self Raising has worked well in the past;
b) We have just moved house, to a house with a lovely new kitchen complete with a fan oven. My only use of a fan oven was at school for part of either GCSE or A-Level Home Economics. We were experimenting with different sugars (Sugar subsitute Canderel, Fructose and normal sugar) and their reactions in a standard fairy cake recipe. Everything was prepared and cooked in the same way, but my left over mixture went into bun cases in the teacher's fan oven. The result was black-crusted buns, with runny centres. Not the greatest influence a fan oven could have had on me! The rest of the experiment went well - in the normal oven!
c) It was a large-ish recipe and I normally split the batter into two tins, but I thought I'd cook it altogether and slice it afterwards.

After various pieces of advice about how to cook with a fan oven, I thought I'd might as well give it a go. Some people said to reduce the temperature and cook as normal, and others said to cook for less time. I even referred to the oven manual, which did give some time and temperature indications for different things. But I couldn't decide if my normal victoria sandwich cake should be classes as Chocolate Cake or Risen Cake. Plus the manual indicated timings and temperature by weight, but there was no idication what the weight measurement actually was! So I thought, I'd go the for normal temperature, and keep an eye on it.
Plus my other frames of reference for most things basic yet culinary, the Leith's Techniques Bible or the Dairy Book of Home Cookery (were fan ovens around when that was written?) were packed away in a box somewhere waiting for the shelves to be put up.

Basic recipe:
150g Sugar
150g butter
3 eggs
150g self raising flour (sieved)

Double cream
Strawberries and blackberries

1. Cream the butter and sugar together.
2. Add the beaten eggs with a little of the flour, and beat in.
3. Stir in the remaining flour until combined.

Anyway, once made, the cake went in. And I kept an eye on it. It went in at around 180C, which is about Gas 4. I usually cook cakes for around 20 mins at Gas 4 so with the excellent oven timer (also new to us in this house). I then prodded it a bit, it seemed to be cooked, but then started to sag in the middle. So I put it back for a little longer - about 10 minutes more. After that time it seemed cooked, was a little more browned and the edges had become crumbley.

The cake was then cooled thoroughly and I attempted to slice it. It kind of worked, but the two pieces definitley were not even. But in my defense, since it sagged in the middle, the slicing would always be a little dodgy.
I filled it with the mixture of mascarpone, whipped cream, and summer fruits of strawberries and balckberries and the same on top. Admittedly these were all shop bought - we are hoping to go to a pick your own or foraging at some point soon.
The cake itself was rather dense and a little dry, almost like a shortcake texture. I don't think this was entirely down to the gluten-free flour, probably to do with the baking time and temperature. But the rich cream and sharp fruit balanced the dryness and made it feel it more like desert rather than cake. Lovely.

Thankfully now the cooking books have been unpacked and there will be more experimental baking until I get used to this oven.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Daffodil, Cheltenham

Our second eating out experience in Cheltenham was at The Daffodil. This had been the choice of my friend. And what a good choice it was too.

The restaurant is in an old cinema, with a lot of the features still in place. The entrance hall ha art deco type stained glass, and original cinema style doors, as well as stairs either side up to the bar in the circle.

The restaurant, in my opinion, feels very airy, but still with an intimate feel at the tables with the level of lighting and the table settings. The kitchen is open, and is the focal point of the room, and at either side are the curving staircases to the bar.

We ate from "The Dailies" section of the menu. Our friend had called ahead to check about gluten free options, and the waitress was very good and explained which dishes I could choose from. Being the "Dailies" the choice was limited, and out of the three options for each course, there was only one of each I could have. Luckily, the ones I would have chosen anyway.
Between the three of us we ate pretty much the whole of the menu: Pigeon breast with tarragon risotto, courgette and mint soup, Sea Bass with sauce vierge,  Pork with wilted greens, Salmon and courgette salad, rice pudding, parfait and chocolate pudding. The highlights of the meal were the courgette soup which was very fresh and flavoursome, the pigeon, which was a new taste for Tim  along with tarragon - his new favourite ingredient, and the rice pudding. (apologies for the photos, but low lighting and no flash makes for dull photos)

All round, the food was good, and there were some excellent flavours. I was a little disappointed with the fish, and we all thought the pork dish was the best main. We finished the evening in the upstairs bar for some rather unusual and exciting cocktails and coffee.
I would recommend The Daffodil. The setting is superb, as seems the full, varied and seasonal menu.
The "Dailies" do offer very good value, but perhaps we made bad choices.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Red Pepper, Cheltenham

A few weeks ago we took a trip down to Cheltenham to say goodbye to a friend who was moving to Australia. We travelled down mid week, and since we arrived in good time, our plan was to find lunch at one of the many eating places in the town.A little research before hand and we chose Red Pepper Bistro. The menu looked good and it was a reasonable price for lunch, given that we were eating out in the evening.

I ordered the chicken and bacon salad and Tim ordered the fish cake with a portion of skinny fries on the side.

The chicken and bacon salad was vast. I couldn't finish it. And I believe the fish cakes were superb. The skinny fries were excellent too. All in all a very good value, very tasty and very filling lunch. Red Pepper is certainly recommended.
The restaurant is set out downstairs with a range of formal tables as well as sofas etc, while above there is a deli counter selling a mix of delights including interesting vinegars and chutneys.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Canadian Dishes

Well we tried to celebrate Canada Day with some of our favourite foods from our trips over there. Some worked, some didn't quite match our hopes and some weren't even attempted!

We'd decided against the Beaver Tail thing. Perhaps another time. We did however make the crab and spinach dip, baked prawns, steak, caesar salad and Poutine.
The Crab dip was excellent, and the left overs were eaten as a spread on crackers the next day. The baked prawns were nice, but nothing like how I'd hoped. The steak was OK, the caesar salad good (bought dressing!), and the Poutine - well I think that was the success story of the evening.

Crab, Spinach and Cheese Dip (This recipe)

We followed the recipe(copied out below), but cut down the quantities by about 2 thirds, mainly because crab meat is expensive and the amount made would have been massive!  
1 lb.Crab Meat
1/2 lb. Parmesan cheese
1 lb. cream cheese
1 lb. sour cream
1/2 lb. Gouda cheese
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
1 tsp. Seafood Seasoning

Thaw spinach, drain well, chop into half-inch pieces and lightly saute to evaporate remaining liquid, set aside.
Place crab meat into a large bowl, handle gently, carefully examine for shell, set aside.
Place all cheeses, sour cream and spice (except for about 2 Tbsp. of Parmesan cheese) into saucepan.
Heat over medium until smooth; do not boil.
Fold spinach into hot cheese mixture.
Fold crab meat into mixture.
Remove from heat, place into lightly greased baking dish or bread boule.
Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese over top.

Bake in preheated 350F/180C oven for 10-15 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Baked Prawns

(I have since found a recipe claiming to be the recipe from The Keg Steakhouse. Not sure if it would have worked for us though, as apparently you need an escargot dish and different cheeses. Below is my attempt without following a recipe)
Place a handful of prawns in a shallow gratin dish and top with a mixture of grated cheese (we used gouda) and crushed garlic.
Bake until cheese is bubbling.

For those who don't know. Poutine is a dish of chips and cheese curds covered in a brown gravy-like savoury sauce. According to Wikipedia it originated in Quebec but can be found across Canada. We did find it in most places we ate (apart from the more specialist places e.g. Murphy's on the Water and The Keg)
It is rather calorific, and we did actually call it a heart attack on a plate once. Obviously, its not to be eaten every day. But Canada day is once a year!
After some research into poutine recipes and what the actual poutine essence is, we came up with something rather simple. I found a great deal of different options for the sauce, but the traditional sauce is a simple gravy. Obviously we had to make this from scratch as most pre-prepared gravy mixes, or takeaway versions will have wheat flour in. Looking at different option ideas, I added a chopped shallot for added savouriness.

1 shallot finely chopped
1/2 pint beef stock
ground black pepper

Gently fry the shallot until soft.
Pour in the beef stock and keep on a high heat.
Add plently of pepper and then salt to taste.
Thicken to the desired consistency (think not quite as gloopy as KFC "gravy")

We used chips from the local kebab shop as these bore the resemblance to those served at Maxwell's and follwing the advice of one website we used chopped mozerella instead of the proper ingredient of cheese curds.

To assemble, place the chips in a heat-proof dish. Sprinkle with the cheese and pout over the gravy. We put the dish in the oven for a small amount of time to ensure that the cheese was melted.
Our take on Poutine. Yum!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Kantipur Nepalese Restaurant, Stockport

I wonder how many of us can remember our first taste of curry?  Curry of any cuisine is so common place now that it is hard to imagine life without it or even a time when it wasn't the norm.  Well, the first time I had a curry I was aged about 11 (so 25 years ago) and the restaurant my parents took me to all that time ago was in Levenshulme, Manchester. 
At the time I understood it to be Indian cuisine but have since learned that it was Nepalese.  Perhaps I should have realised this at the time as my first ever curry was called Lamb Nepal!!  I can remember the dish as being a rich curry sauce that wasn't too sweet except for the half mango that it was cooked with it. - it was delicious and from then on I was hooked. 

The home of my first ever curry was Kantipur and it is the same restaurant that moved from Levenshulme to Stockport about 5 years ago.  When I visited Kantipur since the move, I recognised the hostess as the same waitress all those years ago in Levenshulme.  It turned out that they were one and the same and she now runs the business with her brother.  So now what you get is a very well established, family-run restaurant delivering a first class contemporary Nepalese cuisine to a new, eager audience just 5 miles away from where the business began.

On the A-board outside the front of the restaurant it states: "Nepalese and Indian Cuisine", maybe this is to appease the concerns of the more moderate customer that likes to stick with what is known and trusted.  Myself, I always like to order from the specials or chef's recommendations and not only judge a place on the quality of the food but also the originality and diversity in it's options.  I like to be taken on a culinary journey and experience new things. 

Kantipur certainly delivers on choice.  In fact the standard curry options that you would expect to see make up only a very small part of the menu.  The specials menu is extensive with interesting delicacies ranging from a dish called Khajana Chara which is chicken stuffed with cheese and spinach, to pepper-hot dry curries such as the Chara Bhuteko, which as well as a greater use of black pepper, the chef also uses ginger in a similar way to how I experienced it in Cambodia which is to use it almost as a vegetable.  This generous amount of ginger produces a wonderful heat the does not hurt but instead makes you salivate for more.

The vegetarian and seafood options are extensive also.  Often you find that seafood dishes only include prawns, here the Kantipur offer Nepalese dishes that feature cod, tiger prawns, calamari, sardines and cuttle fish.  In the vegetarian section the dishes do not just leave out the meat - they are a celebration of the ingredients themselves.

A visit to Kantipur was long overdue so last Sunday after we returned from a short camping trip and did not want to cook we thought it a perfect time to sample some more dishes and share it with you on the blog.

We decided not to have a starter (except for the customary poppadoms) in order to leave room for a main dish each with a side dish to share.  This way we could have a banquet style meal without over-eating.  We chose:

Makhan Fish (cooked in a special butter sauce, flavoured with fenugreek leaf)

Chicken Lalitpur (tender cubes of chicken deep fried.  Cooked with special Nepalese homemade lightly sweet and sour sauce, flavoured with spring onion and ginger).  This came with the option of green chilli, which we decided not to have on this occasion.

Bhanta (aubergines)

The Makhan Fish is a favourite from a previous visit and did not disappoint this time.  It was beautifully creamy but not too sweet.  The fish was perfectly cooked, tender but retained its consistency well in the dish.

The Lalitpur was a new choice for us but again it was great.  As the chicken was deep fried and cooked in sweet and sour sauce with ginger, it had more than a bit of an oriental taste to it - however the extensive use of onion gave the dish a shaslick style and taste too.  It felt like a fantastic bit of fusion cooking but perhaps it is actually very authentic Nepalese.   It is worth noting that the batter used was made with cornflour which meant it was gluten-free too.

We absolutely love Kantipur and would highly recommend a visit.  Be daring though and try something new and if you are vegetarian there are still lots of great dishes to choose from.  The service is warm and friendly and the prices are very competitive:
Our meal of 2 x Poppadoms and chutneys, 2 x main meals, 1 x side dish, 2 x pilau rice, 1 large wine and 2 soft drinks came to just £33 plus tip!