The Greedy Girl

TheGreedyGirl

One girl's greedy adventures

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Get in my belly

August 29, 2011

Or my mouth; as apparently chicken  saltimbocca translates into chicken jump in mouth, or so my Italian speaking husband tells me. One thing’s for sure this wee treat of a dish was as tasty to eat as it was easy to cook.  A great mid-week supper.

Ingredients 

4 x chicken thighs
8 small sage leaves
4 x slices of parma ham
1 tbsp flour
50g butter
2 x shallots
100 ml white wine
100 ml chicken stock
300g green beans

Preparation

Heat the oven to 200c/fan 180/gas 6. Blanch the green beans in boiling water for three minutes then rinse in cold water and drain.

Put the chicken between two pieces of clingfilm and gently bash to thin. Lay a couple of sage leaves on the smooth side of each thigh and wrap in a piece of parma ham.

Dust each piece in seasoned flour. Heat 1/3 of the butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Cook for two-three minutes each side until golden and transfer to the oven for 10 mins.

Add a little more butter to the pan and cook the shallots until soft. Add the wine and stock and boil hard until reduced and syrupy. Add the last bit of butter and whisk in. Add the beans and stir to heat through.

Divide the beans between two plates and place the chicken on top.

Serves two
Cals: 551

Taken from Olive Magazine

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Just my cup of tea

August 27, 2011 2 Comments

Yesterday afternoon was ‘We Love Manchester Day’; a chance to celebrate all that is good about the city after the sheer thuggery we witnessed on our streets a few weeks ago. Hitting back in style the ‘I Love MCR’ logo was out in force; on t-shirts, shop windows and even projected onto the city’s best known buildings. With bands, stalls and a bustle of people in the city centre, it was clear that the true spirit of Manchester was back in force.

I’ve lived in Manchester for just over five years now, and I like it very much. It’s been good to me. It’s brought me a husband, a career and some wonderful friends, but I can’t say I’ve ever fallen in love with it.

Mancunians can’t speak highly enough about Manchester, something I find rather endearing, especially as I come from a city where most residents don’t have more than two good words to say about it (lovely beach). But as much as I’ve tried (and I really have tried), it’s never felt like home. It’s open-minded and warm with a rich cultural scene and fierce civic pride; everything I wanted when I packed my bags and left my home town; but for some reason I’ve never settled, never stopped longing for a more rural pace of life and a sniff of sea air.

But yesterday I decided that for one day only, I really would love Manchester. That I would stop planning my escape (a whole 30 minutes train journey away) and would embrace whatever Manchester offered me. What I didn’t plan on was discovering Sugar Junction, and thus cementing a little bit of my heart in this industrial bugger of a city forever.

In November last year I bemoaned the lack of a decent tea shop in Manchester. Granted there are plenty of them, especially in the Northern Quarter, but none have quite hit the spot for me. From North Tea Power, to Teacup, to Oklahoma and the more formal afternoon teas offered by the Lowry and The Midland hotels, I’ve found them to be either too trendy, overpriced, suffering from poor service or offering mediocre food.

Sugar Junction is none of these. It’s a proper tea shop. Vintage inspired, warm in décor and in service, very reasonably priced with amazingly good food and teas.

I started with the spiced orange tea – a naturally sweet, full flavoured black tea with orange peels. It had a touch of the festive about it, perfect on a day where the Manchester weather was doing what it does best. The husband is not a tea drinker, but he was more than a little charmed by the vintage waitresses so decided to join in the spirit of things with a recommendation of the Lapsang Souchong Ospery. A fabulously smoky tea perfect for a whisky lover such as him. The marmite of teas he was completely won over, and has been banging on about it ever since.

The food menu was a triumph. As well as the usual selection of sarnies and cakes, standard in most tea shops, there was also an impressive selection of warm meals, such as cheese on toast and macaroni cheese. We plumped for the latter.

Macaroni cheese is my comfort food of choice. It’s what my Mum used to make when I’d been dumped by some spotty boy in my teens. Or when I’d fallen out with my best friend yet again. It’s what I want when it’s cold a wet outside. I have high expectations when it comes to macaroni cheese, expectations that are rarely met (even my Mums is a bit overcooked – although I think I’d be disappointed if she cooked it any other way).

Sugar Junction’s macaroni cheese was the best macarnoni cheese I have ever had outside of my Granny’s kitchen. In fact with my Granny being long gone, it almost brought a little tear to my eye.

It’s not fancy macaroni cheese; it’s not made with blue cheese, you won’t find a hint of paprika or any hidden ingredients in there. It’s not mac and cheese. It’s proper, old fashioned macaroni cheese made with good quality cheddar with a crispy cheese crust. It was wonderful. I added a dollop of mustard on top (because my Granny did) and I fell more in love with Sugar Junction with every mouthful.

It was also a generous served portion so I didn’t really need a cake to finish. I don’t even really like cake. But it just seemed rude not to. The husband was going to go for the Clootie Dumpling – a traditional Scottish pudding also made by Scottish granny’s everywhere. But he was swayed by the apple crumble cake with custard. He loved it. I don’t like custard so I left him to it.

I also don’t like Guinness, so I shocked myself by ordering a slice of chocolate and Guinness cake. It was a delight. You couldn’t taste Guinness per se, just a faint aftertaste of something boozy in one of the moistest cakes I have ever eaten.

Washed down with a Wendy tea, a blend of Rooibos Earl Grey, sweet South African honeybush, lavender flowers, rose petals and cornflower petals, it smelled like my Granny’s vintage powder puff. That wonderful perfumed smell that I’d almost forgotten and yet again brought back a rush of memories.

The husband, feeling adventurous after the Lapsang Souchong had a Gun Powder tea, a green tea from China with a robust taste. He liked it, but the Lapsang Souchong reigned supreme.

I left Sugar Junction with a full belly and a happy heart; ready to meet the Manchester rain head on. This city may not be the love of my life, but I can’t deny I’m feeling more than a little fond of it today.

Midwest by NorthWest

August 26, 2011

Last week, I was invited to review Smoak Bar and Grill, the latest addition to Manchester’s ever-growing restaurant scene. Setting up home in the Malmaison hotel, Smoak describes itself as ‘a new bar and grill concept’ combing ‘the incredible aroma of oak smoked chips, cutlery clatter and exquisite fizzle of a chilled bottle of bubbly’. Which sounds like marketing bollocks to me.

The website didn’t fill me with confidence either. Mainly because it looks a wee bit pretentious, like the marketing people got a little carried away by their own hype; and that’s coming from someone who works in marketing. It looks like the type of restaurant more concerned with being the ‘place to be seen’ than serving up bloody good food. Then I looked at the menu. Steak tartar, cote de boeuf and roasted bone marrow. How could I possibly resist?

I went along with an open mind, having long ago realised that high expectations are almost always dashed and vice-versa. I was however a little cautious about the promised change of décor, having loved the dark, decedent style of the former Mal restaurant.

We started in the bar, which looks like an American diner and Speakeasy fell in love and gave birth to a strange breed of love child. With distressed brickwork and wood panelling, hessian sacks and a range of eclectic chairs and tables it was love at first sight; in no small part due to the American Rock music being pumped through the bar. I may have found my spiritual home. Better it was rather dark and intimate, despite what the pictures on the website had led me to believe and had a lovely relaxed vibe without a hint of pretension.

The cocktail menu is pretty dammed good too. And since I was ‘working’ (cough, cough) I went for their signature cocktail the Smoak Stack. Buffalo trace, caramel liqueur and pear juice, smoked with apple wood chips from a ‘smoaking’ gun. It arrived in a jar, which would have had me snorting with derision at the daftness of it all had the jar not served the purpose of keeping the smoky aroma firmly in the cocktail until opening the lid.

It smelled amazing. It tasted even better. The husband had a Sazerac which he thought was a dammed fine version, but I think I won the best cocktail game.

After cocktails we went through to the restaurant proper, with booths and smaller tables for two. All of which I could tell you about in more depth if I hadn’t been completely and utterly spellbound by a monster of a glass fronted meat cabinet. Like something out of a Saw movie, but tastier. I do however remember the smell – the incredible aroma of oak smoked chips -maybe not such marketing bollocks after all.

At this point the somellier arrived with the wine list, a lovely chap I feel he was perhaps a little embarrssed on informing us that at  Smoak the wine is served in tumblers. Not being students we asked for wine glasses, which he quickly sorted for us. Looking around at the other tables we were not the only ones not to fall for the gimmick.

To start with I had the baked black figs, served with Gorgonzola and San Daniele ham. They were lovely. Although I would have preferred the Gorgonzola to be a little more ‘melty’ in the middle. The figs however were cooked beautifully and not overly squishy as restaurant figs can often be. The husband plumped for the three sausage sampler; served with smoked mash (or indeed smoaked mash – is there a touchy of the Maccy D’s about such overt branding?), pickled onions and red hot mustard. A smaller starter than mine, the sausages (or bits of sausage to be fair) were all great quality and he declared it the best of the two. In truth I think the sausages had it.

Choosing our main courses was easy. Although there were a number of dishes I could have happily chomped my way through including rare breed pork chop and pulled pork,  Herdwick mutton marsala, Kansas City BBQ ribs and hot roasted shells (lobster, crab, scallop, clams, prawns, mussels and crayfish) our close proximity to the meat counter meant we could only consider steak.

I had a 350g rib eye with peppercorn sauce and husband went for a 500g sirloin on the bone with a béarnaise; both rare. Both came with half a roasted bone marrow and a portobello mushroom. If that wasn’t enough we added a portion of skinny chips (no fries here) and mac and cheese.

If I am being completely honest I think we would both have preferred the steaks slightly pinker, as they were verging on the medium-rare, but this was forgiven due to the exceptional quality of the steak itself which was blooming superb and well worth the £27 price tag (mine) and £30 (his). And I cannot praise the chips and mac and cheese enough. We polished off the lot. We’ll call this round a draw as he declared the sirloin supreme (despite usually preferring a rib eye), but I found the sirloin a tad fatty for my tastes.

For desert the husband went for baked Alaska, something you don’t usually find on a Manchester menu, while my savoury tooth could not resist the cheese plate.

The final course declared me the winner as the cheese was one of the best cheese plates I’ve had in Manchester, but the baked Alaska, although tasty was a little confused, being soft on the outside and hard in the middle.

Was it a perfect meal, no, but it was a bloody great one, helped in no small part by the attentive but not overbearing staff, including our lovely waitress Jessica and we will most definitely be back.

Smoak doesn’t profess to offer fine dining, rather American steak house with a twist. And it does it well. Very well.

If you like good meat, cooked well, make sure to add Smoak to your ‘to-do’ list. Just ignore the marketing bollocks.

This is why I’m fat

August 3, 2011 1 Comment

As it was a lovely Summer’s evening and I wasn’t in the mood for slaving over a hot stove, I decided to enjoy a lovely light gazpacho this evening. Despite hating tomato soup with a passion, I’ve loved gazpacho since I was first served it in Spain. Whether a thick, filling version, or a smoother soup served in a glass, you can’t beat it when you want a taste of the continent.

Just whatever you do, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s healthy. My gazpacho used up a whopping 1,000 calories this evening. Even if I did eat enough for two people. And served it with chorizo. I may be starting to see where I went wrong…

Ingredients

100g slightly stale crusty white bread, soaked in cold water for 20 mins

1kg very ripe tomatoes, diced (I used nearer 500g as I like it really thick)

1 ripe red pepper and 1 green pepper, deseeded and diced

1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and diced (although I just threw it in with the skin on – I mean really, who can be bothered?)

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 red chilli, chopped

150ml extra virgin olive oil

2tbsp sherry vinegar

Salt, to taste

Preparation

Mix the diced tomatoes, peppers and cucumber with the crushed garlic, chilli and olive oil in a food processor. Squeeze out the bread, tear it roughly into chunks, and add to the mixture. Blend until smooth and then add the salt and vinegar to taste.

Next you’re supposed to pass the mixture through a fine sieve, cover and refrigerate until well chilled. On this occasion I didn’t bother. I was hungry and I don’t mind rustic.

Serve with garnishes of your choice. I went for chopped cucumber, croutons and cubes of chorizo.

Serves four. Or two very greedy people.