Friday, February 25, 2011


Last weekend was Jeni's birthday so to celebrate a group of us paid a visit to Akbar's Indian Restaurant in town - an unusual change from the Curry Mile for us.

Unfortunately, due to it being both the Manchester Derby and Valentine's weekend, the whole of town, especially Akbar's was full to the brim of people. As Akbar's doesn't accept bookings, this meant we were either going to have to go elsewhere or wait until a table was available. However, we could see from the eager faces of the people waiting that our Akbar's experience was going to be well worth the wait so decided to pop up the road for a quick drink. The lady on the front desk provided us with a super futuristic pager which they would beep us on when a table was ready.

When we finally sat down it was around half past 9 at night so we were all really hungry and excited about eating.

They brought us the usual tray of pickles and poppadoms which everyone dove into gratefully. I was amused to see that through his hunger Bailey took to eating them in a somewhat unconventional fashion.

He made quite a mess on his plate but apparently thoroughly enjoyed himself.

Myself and Krystle both decided to go for the same thing - Vegetable Rogan Josh with rice and salad (as some of you may know I like to have salad with my curries for extra texture. Delicious).

Bailey however decided to order the "Chef's Challenge". The description of this dish on the menu is as follows: "Chicken, Lamb keema and potatoes cooked in the famous Akbar's balti sauce served with naan and pilau rice. If one can finish this challenge alone you will qualify for a free dessert."

I was really excited because, as avid viewers of the television series Man Vs Food, Bailey and I often say we wish there were more restaurants in the United Kingdom that promote gluttony in the same way as in the States through "challenging" people to eat as much as they possibly can. Bailey was pretty confident that he would be able to devour this meal as well as the free dessert with very little difficulty.

I thought the service at the restaurant was very good, with the attentive waiter telling us exactly how long he expected it would take for our meals to arrive.

The first thing to arrive at our table was the absolutely ridiculously sized Family Naan breads (one of which was intended only for Bailey to eat as part of his Challenge) - which they obviously knew would not fit on any ordinary sized restaurant table so had taken to hanging them from a spike to serve. This to me is a fantastic idea although it did impair my ability to look at Adam Barlow from across the table.

Once my Rogan Josh arrived I set about trying to fit the massive amount of food onto my plate due to there being absolutely no space on our table for the sheer amount of different dishes we had ordered between us.

The fact that it was an enormous plateful of food did not stop me scoffing every last delicious drop of it, including the chilli. My only criticism would be that the salad was a little onion-heavy. Again this did not stop me from eating every last scrap of onion, resulting in my very smelly breath for the rest of the evening.

Bailey, however... was not so fortunate.

I believe he began to struggle about halfway through the Chef's Challenge, perhaps due to his poorly thought-out tactic of attempting to devour the entire Family Naan bread first by dipping it in the oil and sauce from the curry. This helped him to eat the Naan but what was left after this was very dry pieces of curried meat that were almost inedible to a man so full of bread produce, not to mention the rice.

Unfortunately Bailey had to admit defeat after several attempts to complete the challenge.

The waiter, although clearly amused by Bailey's inability to complete the Challenge, was very nice about it and even brought Jeni over a lovely birthday dessert complete with candle and happy birthday song.

I had a really lovely time at Akbar's and thought that the friendly service, fun atmosphere and yummy food made for a really good meal out. I think the Chef's Challenge is a nice idea as we all had a great time laughing at Bailey trying to complete it. I would definitely recommend Akbar's as a slightly more fancy Indian restaurant than what we normally go to on the Curry Mile - very nice for a special occasion such as Jeni's birthday.

Akbar's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teri Aki Restaurant

Firstly, apologies to all involved at how long it has taken me to write this blog post! It has been over a month now since Jocelyn was here in England with us and on the last day she was here we decided that driving solidly from Manchester to Stansted airport would be pretty dry.

We therefore decided to have a stop off in what we had heard was the very scenic town of Cambridge. After Bailey had trawled his Facebook friends for recommendations of good Cambridge eateries, we settled on Teri Aki Restaurant - a little Japanese place by the river in the Quayside area of Cambridge as recommended by Nick Back.

On arrival, the restaurant looked quite a lot like a shameless Wagamama's rip off... BUT on closer inspection of the amazing looking menu as well as the scrumptious looking food other diners were eating we began to realise that Teri Aki was a lot more than that and began get very excited indeed.

I have only recently discovered my love of Japanese food so am still learning about what I like and dislike whereas Jocelyn seems to be a bit more of a seasoned pro. I therefore decided to go for a similar version of what she was having - a Bento Meal.

These looked great because they came with Miso Soup, rice and salad all together. So I decided to go for the Sake Bento Meal of chargrilled salmon while Jocelyn ordered the Yasai Tempura Bento Meal. Bailey decided to opt for the Chicken Kare curry. We also ordered a portion of Sake Maki salmon rolls to share.

I absolutely love Green Tea so ordered a refillable cup to accompany my meal also and I loved the cute little design on the mug that they brought it over in. Perfect for sushi novices like me to learn all the names of the types of sushi.

As is seemingly customary in this type of restuarant, the food all arrived at different times. However, the service was really speedy and none of us were waiting for long at all which was good especially given we had a flight to catch.

The first dishes to arrive to arrive were mine and Jocelyn's Miso soups followed by the salmon rolls.

I thought the Miso soup was quite different to other versions I'd tried previously in other Japanese restaurants but this could have been due to the fact it had bean curd and wakame in it as well. It was still really nice anyway and was a perfect start to our meal especially after wandering around in the cold for a while.

The salmon rolls I thought were delicious! The seaweed was a lot lighter in colour than the other times I have tried it and it tasted absolutely amazing - I could have happily sat popping those little bad boys into my mouth for hours!

Jocelyn's Tempura Bento Meal arrived next. 

It looked really tasty with a large salad, some Japanese sticky rice, some pickles and the tempura all in the same box.

My salmon Bento Meal was not far behind.

Now I must say I do really love salmon anyway so was really looking forward to getting my meal BUT nothing could have quite prepared me for the moment that my meal arrive and I tasted my chargrilled salmon... I just couldn't believe how flavoursome and superb it was. The skin was perfectly crispy and just a little bit fatty, the salmon was soft and moist and the Japanese rice was so sticky and yummy. It was probably some of the best salmon I have ever eaten and even though I am writing about this about a month after eating it I can still remember exactly how great it was - so it must have left a good impression on me! Even though I was eating with chopsticks, which I am not very good at, the food was so good I had to try and get every last morsel into my mouth. I know that Jocelyn didn't really enjoy her Japanese pickles but I even loved these.

Bailey's curry was the last thing to arrive, looking hearty and impressive on a cute plate to match the Green Tea mug.

Bailey absolutely loved this curry, not only did he say that the rice was "perfect and sticky" but he also said that this was in his top 10 curries of ALL TIME - and that's not just Japanese curries - all the curries he has eaten in his life! Wow.

And if that isn't testament to how much he enjoyed it then this picture is...

I am absolutely gutted that we live miles and miles away from Cambridge and won't be able to just pop in to Teri Aki again any time soon. This restaurant was an absolute treasure and I would like to thank Nick for recommending it to us - what fine taste you have Nick. I hope that Teri Aki will see the opportunity to open a huge branch of their lovely restaurant here in Manchester so I can go all the time and swoon over your amazing salmon and perfect rice.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dough Pizza Kitchen

I have been to Dough Pizza Kitchen twice recently. Dough is an intriguing Italian restaurant situated in the Northern Quarter of Manchester city centre specialising in pizza and pasta.

Although at first glance this may sound super boring and unoriginal, what I think makes Dough that little bit different from the countless other Italian restaurants in Manchester is the excellent alternative options they offer such as dairy-free cheese and wholewheat and gluten-free doughs. As I have two Coeliac friends who cannot eat gluten, Dough has provided the perfect opportunity for them to eat out in a normal restaurant and to be able to choose virtually anything off the menu! Perfect.

Back in January Bailey and I went to Dough to celebrate Rachel's birthday. This was only the second time Bailey and I had ever been to Dough and we were a very large party of over 20 people and were given a lovely table in the cosy downstairs area.

We found that, although the service was a little slow due to us being in such a large group, the food was really tasty and there was a really nice, relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant.

We all had baked dough sticks for starters which would have been yummier had we been given our garlic butter dip on time...

The main course more than made up for the starter as there was a brilliant selection of traditional and more adventurous pizzas. Bailey was absolutely bowled over by his bacon, sausage and egg Breakfast Pizza and hasn't stopped going on about it since!

After thoroughly enjoying Rachel's birthday celebration I knew I had to tell my other Coeliac friend Liz about Dough. She adores Italian food and loves eating out but can rarely opt for anything other than risotto when in Italian restaurants, so I knew she would be really happy to hear about it.

So on Monday when Liz was visiting Manchester we dropped by Dough for a spot of lunch after a morning shopping trip.

By the time we arrived at the restaurant and ordered our starters - Garlic Mushroom with Rocket for me and Baked Camembert with gluten-free Dough Sticks for Liz, we were absolutely starving which made us even more excited as you can see from Liz's face in this photo:

Needless to say we really enjoyed our starters. Liz's Camembert was apparently delicious and the dough sticks worked really well as a dipping utensil for the hot melted cheese.

I also really enjoyed my mushroom - which was really soft, garlicky, a little bit oily and then with a really good texture thanks to the rocket.

Once we had hungrily wolfed down our starters, the mains were ready almost straight away afterwards which was nice as we didn't have to wait too long but were given a nice breather in between courses.

Liz had ordered a Goats Cheese pizza with a gluten-free base and when it we were delighted to see that it was absolutely huge!

It was jam-packed with veg and yummy goat's cheese all the way to the corners of the pizza and the base was crispy and delicious.

I ordered the Penne Arrabiata with Med Veg and with a mixed leaf salad to go on the side.

I covered my pasta in loads of Tobasco before tucking in.

I really enjoyed my pasta with the slightly spicy sauce (before I covered it in Tobasco that is) and thought the veg were really well cooked. I also thought it was interesting that the sauce was completely different to the last time I had the Penne Arrabiata at Dough which I thought was a good sign that they freshly make the sauces. 

Anyway we thoroughly enjoyed our mains and by the end of the meal we were both absolutely stuffed. We thought that the waitress who served us was absolutely lovely - really attentive but not too overbearing and really chirpy and polite. She was more than happy to offer Liz a takeaway box when she couldn't finish her massive pizza.

Unfortunately we were both too full to sample any of the gluten-free desserts but maybe we will be able to next time.

We thought the food was really tasty and also very well priced. The meal for two courses each plus two large glasses of wine set us back £40. However, because Dough have such a great deal for Gourmet Card holders we saved a whopping £10 and the bill ended up being only £30. What a bargain.

I think Liz and I would both definitely recommend Dough, particularly as a place where people who cannot eat any gluten can have a really nice delicious and relaxing meal without having to worry about anything on the menu making you ill!

Dough Pizza Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tortilla de Patatas

The humble Spanish Omelette has a very important place in the history of the Morris family.

As Spanish teachers, I have memories going back as far as I can remember of my parents preparing massive 12-egg Spanish omelettes for their end of year post-exam celebrations with their students.

Also most parties held by my parents - particularly buffets - usually involved a large Spanish omelette of some sort.

I also have memories of Spanish people paying my dad compliments such as "This omelette could have been made by a Spaniard!"

This must have all rubbed off on me as I absolutely love omelettes and always make my omelettes Spanish-style, usually with veg like peppers rather than the traditional potatoes and onions.

Having said that, I didn't make my first proper Tortilla de Patatas until my 22nd birthday when I was living in Barcelona and we were going to celebrate with a picnic in the Parc de la Ciutadella. This omelette was not a success and I remember my embarrassment while carrying my rubbish, broken, slightly warm omelette through the park on a plate while being met with disapproving looks from unimpressed Catalans.

Fortunately I have since had more luck with Spanish omelettes (even though I still only make the proper potato ones on special occasions!) - in fact on my second placement during my Teaching Practice I taught a class of 26 girls how to understand a Spanish omelette recipe before taking them into the Food Technology room where a total of 14 (some successful, some not so successful) Spanish omelettes were produced!

Now I am not saying I am some sort of Spanish omelette expert. I am sure that I am not. And I am also not saying that this recipe is in any way as good as that of Roy Morris. I am sure that it is not. I am also not saying that this is how Spanish people make their omelettes. It may well not be.

However... I do not wish to toot my own horn but a few people have asked me how I make my Spanish omelettes recently so thought I would share the love...

This is how I make my Spanish omelette and I hope that you will enjoy making it as much as I do!


Cooking spray
1 large onion
3 or 4 smallish potatoes
6 eggs
Salt - and lots of it!

Peel the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into super dooper thin slices - literally as thin as you can manage. Cook your potoes in a frying pan with cooking spray - I find that using cooking spray makes the potatoes go lovely and waxy which is really yummy and for this reason I always end up eating loads of the semi cooked waxy potatoes. Add some salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, slice the onion into thin slices. Once the potatoes are nice and browned and are sort of sticking to the bottom of the pan, add the onion to the pan and cook until softened. Add some more salt. I love salty Spanish omelettes!

Meanwhile beat the eggs in a large bowl. Once the potatoes and onions are nicely softened, take the pan off the heat and allow to cool for just a wee while. Then, add your potatoes and onions to the beaten egg and mix well. Add a bit more salt for good measure.

At this stage I like to wash my frying pan up just to make sure no nasty burnt bits are on the bottom of my omelette but I think a little scraping will do fine too. Allow the pan to heat up a little and then pour the eggy mixture into the frying pan. Jiggle your pan about, using a spoon if necessary to make sure all the ingredients are well spread out and nice and flat, but don't start messing about whisking it up in the pan like you would with a French omelette.

Allow to cook on a very low heat.

Now this is the fun / risky part. Roy Morris always finishes his under the grill at this stage but I think that makes him a big wuss. Sorry Dad, but if 26 fourteen-year-old girls can do this without dropping a single omelette we should do it too! There is no shame in asking for the help of a friend at this point either! Once you can see that the omelette is nearly cooked all the way through, take a large plate. Put your plate over the frying pan and put your entire hand on the plate to keep it secure. Flip the frying pan over until the omelette is on the plate. Then, slide the omelette back into the frying pan to cook the other side through.

Serve the omelette whenever you want - it is yummy lukewarm, hot or cold.

It is also yummy when you take a piece of baguette, rub it with a tomato and then put a piece of omelette inside the tomatoey baguette - carbtastic, especially when served with patatas bravas! Mmm, makes me wish I was in Barcelona right now!!!!!


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