Friday, February 21, 2014

Cauliflower Velouté with Truffle and Cauliflower Leaf Oil

Seeing Debbie work wonders with leftover cauliflower and knock Simon Rogan's socks off on Tuesday's episode of the The Taste reminded me that I had this little Cauliflower Velouté recipe knocking about in the blog drafts.

I made this for our Christmas Day starter as we wanted to start our dinner off with a soup, but more posh. It was a good choice as not onerous or difficult to make at all.

I got the idea for the Cauliflower Velouté from one of the most delicious starters I've ever had at The Wig & Pen. That bad boy was like eating the most amazing cauliflower cheese but in a soup version that has been made by magical fairy chefs. My version... not so good, but decent enough!

In order to try and recreate the Wig & Pen genius, I basically decided to base the recipe on cauliflower cheese. It was a good starter and particularly nice with the wholemeal bread rolls Bailey made for us using Country Wood Smoke's bread recipe which is probably our most made recipe ever - you should really try it! As for the velouté, well I'd make it again but need to sort something out to combat the graininess - sieving the cauliflower mix perhaps!

1 chopped cauliflower and leaves
Enough water to cover the cauliflower in your saucepan
25g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg yolk
250ml cream
Truffle Oil
Salt and Pepper

Place the water and cauliflower in the water and bring to the boil, cooking until the cauliflower pieces and leaves are tender.

Remove from the heat, and separate the water, the leaves and the florets and put to one side.

Meanwhile, make up the velouté sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan and stirring in the flour.

Very gradually add around 100-125ml of the saved cauliflower water to the butter/flour mix to make a sauce, stirring carefully throughout to ensure you don't get any lumps!

Stir in the cauliflower before blending everything together to make a nice, smooth purée (I think next time I will actually pass this through a sieve to get it smoother as this version was a bit grainy).

Too grainy!
Take the cauliflower leaves and a few dashes of truffle oil  to taste and blend together with a bit of salt and pepper until you get a nice oil and set aside.

When you're ready to serve your soup, whisk together the cream and egg yolk and in a separate jug.

With the velouté still over a low heat, add the cream mix to the pan and cook very slowly until the soup is thick and creamy. Season to taste and serve with a bit of the cauliflower leaf oil on top and fresh wholemeal bread!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Red's True BBQ

Oh look those bladdy blaggers are going to more restaurant openings and stuffing their greedy faces with free food, blah blahhhhhh! Contrary to popular belief I can tell you that for us as well as the majority of bloggers I know, freebies are not our raison d'être; Bailey and I actually dislike going for them as they're rubbish and awkward and we try to choose very carefully about which ones we do attend. We were really excited about this one though, because it was the press launch of the much talked about Red's True BBQ and we'd managed to bag a table with our lovely friends @mcrfoodies (safety in numbers and all that).

There was a time when we were so desperate to try Red's True BBQ's food that we were planning to go all the way to Leeds especially. However, after sampling some of their food at Grillstock, Bailey was a little underwhelmed when comparing their offerings to other local BBQ purveyors. With that in mind, we were a bit dubious about their claim that they were "here to save Manchester from bad BBQ". They'd set the bar high for themselves with that one.

We did think however, that Red's may be the company to start taking a chunk out of the profits of Manchester's most beloved burger bar nearby. It's inevitable that some comparisons will be drawn and we're quite interested to see if Red's splits the meat-loving crowds.

Setting foot inside Red's is quite an experience. Some serious paper has been spent on doing this place up and you can barely believe the difference to the building since the demise of Livebait. The interior is designed to transport you out of Manchester to the rough and ready ribshacks of America, although the toilets were a bit OTT for me - I felt like I was queuing for a white knuckle ride at Alton Towers.

The atmosphere of the place is party to the max - tables are crammed together so you're in chatting distance of the neighbouring diners and the music is catchy and lively, perfect for boogying along in your seats. I personally loved all this as it reminded me of the pure excitement of rare family visits to a couple of burger places in Sheffield - pretty much the only times I was allowed to gorge on unhealthy American food as a child (looking back both places were shit but at the time I thought they were the bee's knees!). This ambiance won't please everyone though - Anna and I had to keep rolling our eyes at our grandpa-esque boyfriends complaining about the music being too loud and not being able to hear each other during a conversation about semi-colons.

Onto the food and considering I don't eat meat and was in a place whose slogan is "let there be meat", I was slightly concerned that I'd be laughed out of the door. Fortunately Red's have taken a better attitude towards the 4 million vegetarians in the UK than another rival eatery I could mention and even have the veggie options fully visible to the public on their menu! They'd also taken the time to think of something more inspiring for us than a mushroom in a bun.

There are actually loads of lip-smacking veggie options on the starter menu, so many that I couldn't decide! I eventually settled on the Hush Puppies which were delightful little crunchy-on-the-outside, pillowy-on-the-inside sweetcorn and jalapeño balls of joy. The cheese sauce on the side tasted like cinema cheese sauce (in a good way) but without the gloopy texture. This was my favourite dish of the night. Next time I'll try the Jalapeño Poppers.

The meaty starters meanwhile received mixed reviews - the wings and ribs were tasty and well-cooked with fabulous textures but it was at this point that the meat-eating members of the party became alarmed to discover the absence of any smoky flavour whatsoever in the food Red's were serving up that evening. This was equally as bizarre as the fact that despite knowing the place was filled with smokers (there's even a huge neon sign outside saying "free smells"), there wasn't a single smoky whiff in the air. Baffling.

For mains there wasn't quite as much choice veggie-wise, but I was perfectly happy with the Chilli-Bean Nachos - it's been many years since I've had nachos and these were lovely, particularly as pretty much every available nachoey surface was covered with beans, BBQ sauce, sour cream, cheese, guacamole and jalapeños... LOTS of jalapeños. Delightful. All of the big 'BBQ Plates' come with a choice of either two 'Humble' Sides or one 'Divine' Side. There were loads of things I wanted to try from the humbles but I decided to forgo having two  so I could try a Grilled Corn On The Cob. I had nothing less than the highest of expectations for this - BBQ'd corn is one of life's greatest pleasures, so imagine my dismay for it to arrive completely free of any char and actually quite cold.

I sent this one back and the second one was a bit better but still not the yummy charry hickory bad boy I was expecting. In the words of Shania Twain (who must surely love BBQ food): "that don't impress me much".

Second corn still not blackened enough for me :(
Bailey went for the Pit Burger with a side of Mac-n-Cheese. The burger was made with great quality ingredients but had unfortunately fallen into the trap many highy stacked burgers do of becoming a mush of indistinguishable meats with a sopping wet through bottom burger bun, forcing the diner to lower themselves to the knife and fork.

The fries and onion ring unfortunately tasted a bit dried out and the Mac-n-Cheese was a bit disappointing too as the pasta had gone mushy. It makes us sad to have to be so critical as we really wanted to love everything but I guess they didn't quite pull our dishes off on the day. One thing we did love were the hot sauces that we sloshed all over our mains - these will definitely be popular.

We were all pretty full after all this as another good thing about Red's is that they don't mess about with the portions. We all know about that second dessert stomach though, and I figured that what with everything else I'd eaten, a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake would be a mere drop in the ocean of calories I'd consumed that evening. I enjoyed every mouthful and the base, although difficult to penetrate with a spoon, had a great crunch to it.

Another advantage of there being four people who love eating around the table is that we could all have a big geeky discussion about the food after the meal. The general consensus was that the food was good, but not great and had fallen slightly short of our expectations. Despite these niggles, we'd still had a really fun night with the 'exciting' atmosphere of Red's definitely being its main selling point. Service was personal, genuinely friendly and efficient throughout too (as soon as you get over the fact that staff use ipods to place the order making them look like disaffected teenagers ignoring your every word), which is more than can be said for that aforementioned nearby rival restaurant. We think people will really enjoy going here and it should bring some much needed life to Albert Square. Another point to note was that this was the kitchen's opening night, they had the place packed to the rafters and they dealt with this much better than at other press launches we've attended in the past - hopefully some of these issues will be sorted in the coming weeks. We would definitely return (I want some Jalapeño Poppers) but I'm afraid we can't say we've been "saved" just yet.

Red's True BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Season's Eatings

While Levenshulme may be considered by some as one of the more 'woefully downtrodden' areas of Manchester, what a lot of people don't know just yet is that it is becoming something of a foodie hotspot. The success of Levy Market is bringing food lovers in from far and wide, Incredible Edible Levenshulme is gearing up to line the A6 with communal organic fruit and veg, there's the ever-impending threat of a good pub opening (it's got to happen sometime, right?) and now the number of Levy-based supperclubs is going through the roof. What with @mcrfoodies@andreadellos and @neilbuttery already in operation and whisperings (*taps side of nose*) of other established supperclubbers considering a move to the area, it's looking like Levy will soon be the supperclub capital of Manchester.

Season's Eatings are more food-loving Levy residents who have started holding monthly supperclubs at Levy's most beloved Trove; does the fact that it's in Trove disqualify it from being a true 'supperclub'? We don't really care, we're just happy to have it on our doorstep, besides, the fact that it's at Trove means you get to eat Trove bread which can only be a good thing. We were really excited after reading all about Season's Eatings' ethos and being sent a copy of their menu. We couldn't help commenting that their love for seasonal ingredients, interesting pairings and delicate cooking to allow true flavours to shine through reminded us of Simon Rogan and incidentally Mr Cooper's House was somewhere we were also excited to be visiting just four days later.

We started off badly by being 'those guys' and arriving embarrassingly early. Despite feeling very welcomed but knowing we were a nuisance, this did have its advantages because we were given extra cocktail. And what a cocktail it was! Campari + gin + rhubarb + apple + jam jar = heaven.

Trove Bread (which if you haven't tried, you should, really really) was soon delivered to the table, served with two home made butters - salt & pepper and Marmite. I didn't know which butter I loved more which made the decision of which one to spread onto the last bits of bread very difficult and also caused me to be tempted to eat butter on its own which can never be a good idea in civilised surroundings.

The amuse bouche of Carrot, Coffee was a curious thing - possibly not for everyone this one but certainly warmed the mouth up for the main event and got us oohing and ahhing.

Smoked Eel, Kolrhabi, Watercress was next and I've not eaten eel many times before but have always enjoyed it, however this was certainly one of the most lovely fish, let alone eel dishes I've ever eaten. I adored the sharp, sweet green apple and the crunchy cracker bread underneath.

Bailey said he couldn't believe how meaty the fish was and kept saying that as a pescatarian this was the closest thing to meat I'd ever eat. Meaty or not I didn't care, this was a stunner of a starter and this was the moment we started realising how special the meal we were eating this evening was going to be.

The main course was Pork, Almond, Rhubarb, Purple Sprouting Broccoli. The veg really did live up to the name of 'Season's Eatings' as it tasted so fresh and lovely like it had just come straight out of the field. The pork was perfectly cooked and we particularly loved the subtle mustard flavours, crunchy fennel and beautiful smooth almond purée.

It was difficult to believe that my salmon was an 'alternative' as everything tasted absolutely bang on. Wonderful!

This was one of those meals where you start to feel a bit sad about dessert coming because you don't want it to end. Banana, Malt, Peanut sounded like the simplest of the courses but was actually probably the most complicated. What the dish's title hadn't given away was that there would be the likes of curried peanut butter biscuits and peanut powder on the plate - there was loads going on here. Everything tasted delicious individually but all together on the spoon the flavour was tantalising! So good we saw other tables ask for seconds!

At this point we started dropping off at the table (Thursday may be the new Friday but Friday for teachers means not being able to keep your eyes open past 10pm) so we bowed out, taking our light as air after dinner marshmallows home with us.

We were pretty much speechless all the way home that a) we had just eaten a meal of such a high quality, b) we had done so in good old Levy and c) the whole experience had cost us a mere £30 a head - making it without a doubt the best value meal we've ever eaten. It's safe to say we were bowled over. You'd be a fool not to book yourselves on to the next one, although their tickets do seem to be selling like hot cakes and next month's event is already sold out, scuppering the plans we'd made that evening to make a visit to Season's Eatings a monthly post-payday treat.

So we'd gone to Season's Eatings not knowing what to expect but knowing that the menu had made us think of Simon Rogan. One of the first things Bailey said to me afterwards was that he was worried he wouldn't enjoy Mr Cooper's as much now as his expectations would be so high... So how did it compare? Well we haven't written that review yet but let's just say we think your hard-earned money would be better spent booking onto one of Season's Eatings' very special events!

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Despite being the worst type of vegetarian and essentially a bit of a fraud (one of those non-committal pescatarians), I love veggie food and am always excited to hear about any new veggie-friendly additions to our fine city's dining scene. I am also a huge fan of South Indian cuisine, with the likes of Chaat CartDosa Xpress and Sindhoor having served me up some of my most favourite vegetarian meals in recent memory. You can imagine my intrigue therefore to hear murmurings amongst my Withington-dwelling friends about a new veggie/vegan restaurant on Mauldeth Road. This mystical place goes by the name of Sanskruti and specialises in the finest flavours of the "Indian sub-continent" with plenty of South Indian specialities available.

Even though it was a school night, it was a Thursday which is the new Friday so we met up with our friends Si and Claire for a spot of dinner. This lovely twosome live a stone's throw away from Sanskruti so have been working their way through the menu since it opened last year. We started off with tasty, hot and fresh poppadoms and a generous chutney selection. So good we ordered seconds.

For starters, our friends ordered Chilli Paneer which was absolutely huge and an Uttapam "lentil pizza-like pancake" (they had Si at 'pizza'). Both went down a treat

Bailey went for the Idli with Sambar which were a tad disappointing compared to the Sindhoor and Dosa Xpress versions which boast much more flavoursome and moist idli and much thicker, tastier sambar. The coconut chutney was nice though.

Strangely watery sambar
I had scored an absolute winner with my choice of a 10-item Thali (only served Monday-Thursday, another reason to go midweek), which came with starter, sides, chappatis, a selection of daily changing curries and even dessert! This absolute feast can only be described as 'splendid' and was definitely one of the best menu choices I've ever made! Everything was bob-on and I could pretty much eat this every day.

Bailey's main of Butter Cheese Masala was a good too, although surprisingly a little too spicy and buttery for his tastes (and he is not shy of a bit of heat or butter).

I was feeling pretty smug that I'd been able to finish my meal with a lovely 'Mithai' dessert (some kind of amazing, buttery pistachio number that tasted like Digestive biscuits but 100% better), but it turns out we were all in for a bit of a treat with the arrival of a beautiful box of Mukhwas Indian digestive aids.

There was allsorts here and we were encouraged to try all of them. Each one was interesting in some way but my favourite was definitely the sweet cherry and cashew nut one which is apparently a new addition.

Not only was the food great at Sanskruti but the restaurant manager is a brilliant character, and very keen to chat about the food and his business. He provided us with some fantastic customer service as well as plenty of laughs and even some slightly bizarre moments. As an indication of his dedication to customer service, he takes photos of all his new customers to go on the Facebook page - we await the moment our ugly mugs go up on there with bated breath. This guy helps make the place great and if more restaurateurs were like this the world would be a better place. While Bailey felt that Sanskruti's food didn't quite hit the highs of Sindhoor, this is definitely one of my new favourite vegetarian eateries in Manchester and I'm already plotting my return for another midweek thali! Thanks for a top evening Sanskruti!

Sanskruti Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Seoul Kimchi

After the gut-busting highs of the Christmas feasting, Bailey and I were feeling overweight and gross. What was needed was a good, hearty and healthy meal. A quick call for recommendations on Twitter for the best East Asian eateries would surely do it... the venue we settled on? Seoul Kimchi, a wee Korean joint I first heard of through Hungry Hoss way back in 2012. Shameful and tragic that we've wanted to go for so long and never made it, not least because it's a stone's throw away from Bailey's place of work! Better late than never I suppose.

We know very little about Korean food apart from that it's delicious and healthy - perfect for the post-Christmas detox. Our only point of comparison is Baekdu, which we've had several successful visits to and is one of our firm favourite cheap eat locales. This did mean that we were constantly comparing various bits and bobs to ones we'd had at Baekdu but we by no means claim to be experts on Korean food.

Our meal started off with a calming and simple brown rice tea accompanied by a few little bowls of Banchan. As I say we are simple fools when it comes to Korean food as we later found out these are condiments to flavour your foods with but we just ate them. The kimchi was a little sour for me but I loved the pickled cucumbers. At this point we photographed our food and played our favourite Twitter game of 'guess where we are...' which good old Hoss (as usual) guessed correctly. Well you've heard of the power of Twitter and the old saying "speak of the devil and he doth appear" but rarely in these situations do you expect the man himself to turn up behind you! Turns out he was just passing and popped in to say hi and we very much enjoyed his fleeting visit.

Starters were Kimchi Pancake and a couple of soups. Bailey was delighted with his pancake - lighter and sweeter than the one we had at Baekdu but just as enjoyable.

Bailey was none too impressed by the soup that came with his lunch deal so I ended up drinking them both. A very tasty Miso Soup and whatever Bailey's was I liked too. Score.

Main courses were on their way next and I was very excited to be losing my Bibimbap virginity, although I'd tried a similar eggy rice dish served in a Dolsot cooking pot at Baekdu, so knew I was in for a treat... I love the way rice that has been touching the sides of a piping hot pot goes all lovely and crunchy.

At first I was a bit worried that my Vegetable Bibimbap seemed a little boring but once I'd mixed it all together it was really lovely, especially with the egg yolk running through it the nice crunchy veggies.

Bailey had ordered the Chicken Bulgogi with Steamed Rice and was very pleased when it arrived sizzling loudly and didn't stop sizzling for a good five minutes. The flavours of the dish were clean and simple but with a creeping heat. A great dish for a lunchtime.

I had very few complaints except that I found the metal chopsticks too heavy for my tiny stupid Western fingers. However, Bailey had a gripe with the disorganised front of house serving area looking "like a student's bedroom", with things piled on top of each other in a big mess. He described this as "an unnecessary minus point for them". Sort it out!

Still, this didn't stop the service from being decent. It's a great little café and probably more charming than Bakedu although the teeny-tiny nature of the place does mean you get the odd nudge and elbow here and there. It also made me really want to get a Dolsot cooking pot and learn to make Korean food. We will definitely return for a relaxed lunch but not sure if we'd consider it for a dinner time venue. Yet another string to Manchester's cheap eats bow - try it out for a healthy and inexpensive meal.

Seoul Kimchi on Urbanspoon


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