Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Breakfast Lovin'

A healthy, high-protein, refined-carb-free start to your day!

Wack the Jack Johnson on full volume and get making these oh-so-simple yet delicious banana
pancakes! So there are JUST TWO ingredients in these pancakes. Yes, I know, hard to believe.
I was doubtful myself when my friend told me to simply blend 2 eggs with a banana. I mean,
surely that creates some sort of off-putting banana omelette? No my friends. It does not. I
urge you to give this a go. Top with whatever takes your fancy on that particular morning. My
personal favorite is Greek yogurt, blueberries and honey. Spot on.

2 x Large free-range eggs
1 x Banana (a good sized one)
A dash of cinnamon (optional, I like it)

That's it folks.
Pancakes, Greek Yogurt, Blueberries, Honey. 
I love lazy breakfasts. 

1. Simply use a hand blender to whizz the above ingredients together until you have a
smooth batter.
2. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat - add some butter or coconut oil to the pan
and pour roughly half the mixture into the pan to make a good sized pancake.
Note: These don’t take long to cook so be careful not to burn them, simply flip the
pancake using a spatula after a couple of minutes to ensure both sides are cooked.
3. Repeat this with the rest of the mixture. It’s up to you how you do it- one massive
pancake, four little ones or a couple of standard ones. I usually make 2 or 3 - but this in
part depends on the size of your eggs/banana.

Topping Ideas:
● Greek yogurt, blueberries, honey/maple syrup.
● Whipped butter and maple syrup (cheeky).
● Crispy bacon and maple syrup
● Not-so-naughty chocolate sauce (recipe to follow) and greek yogurt

Happy Days!!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Autumn is definitely upon us...

The Gardener's Cottage at Tatton Park

In the Gardens
A timely escape to the countryside! I love living in central Manchester, but sometimes an adventure to some rural fresh air is a blessing. I headed to Tatton Park, a National Trust property - and somewhere I've been meaning to visit for a long time! As the parents were visiting, I seized the opportunity to take advantage of their car. We took a risk with the weather (October can be unpredictable at best) - but we were very fortunate in the end. That crisp British autumnal weather, crunching leaves beneath the foot, the fresh chill of the air awakening the soul and the comfort of the coffee break that invariably follows are key components to some of my favourite lazy weekend days. Once the cobwebs had been blown away and the garden wandering sufficiently exhausted, coffee was of course compulsory. We retreated to 'The Gardener's Cottage'.

Inside the house itself (not the cafe) - this was part of the servant's quarters

The menu includes traditional lunch and afternoon tea favourites. Fresh cakes are baked daily and looked awesome, and come in considerable sized slices! I couldn't manage cake as I had had a massive breakfast at Home Sweet Home. The cottage consists in three cute floors of quintessentially British rooms filled tastefully with wooden tables and delicate china for tea. There is a current trend to go for afternoon tea - this place seems like the proper job, although of course I can only comment on the coffee. 

They offer filter, espresso: latte and americano and an interesting selection of French press coffee of varying strength and origin. We each had a different one, they were all pleasant. The main attraction however, was of course the surroundings. A historic building set among the most beautiful countryside. A highly recommendable place for a weekend walk to escape the city and a charming cottage for coffee. There is also a market on at the moment with various Christmas gifts and local food, including Manchester honey and some delicious chocolate! 

I love autumnal days like these...

Saturday, 20 September 2014

'Mug' - A new place to chill.

There's a new coffee house in town called 'Mug'. I went for an americano on it's first day of opening. The prices are all really low, including the cake. Massive slices for £1.50! Seriously massive. Go check it out, have a chill and people watch in their window seats. It's a cool little place to have a pause from your busy day. My small americano was only £1.40. I don't think this place is quite the artisan coffee house serving up brews of the quality you'll find at Takk or North Tea Power, but it's certainly a pleasant addition to central Manchester. My friend had a large cappuccino, for me this was too milky and not strong enough. I always opt for a flat white if I'm going to have milk, however, the coffee flavour was pleasant enough. If you're craving a big wedge of chocolate cake and a large hot milky beverage - Mug will sort you out for a total of £3.50. They also had a tempting red velvet cake that day. Just as big.

That's a bit naughty isn't it.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Mr. Cooper's House and Garden - Sunday Lunch in Style, Manchester

I wrote this a year ago when Mr.Coopers first opened, I started a blog ('Healthy Weeks and Weekend Treats') but couldn't find the time to write it with all the uni work and swimming (and so deleted it and restarted with this one). So I'm going to use some of my older material from over a year ago as it is still relevant! But yes, I still agree with all this about Mr.Coopers (hence why I'm posting it) and I have been back many times! Highly recommendable.

Simon Rogan's Mr Cooper's: take a step into a tranquil (indoor) garden-themed haven of sophisticated serenity. And I mean what I say - it was not a dead ambiance, it was busy for sure, but calm nonetheless. It was my father's birthday, accordingly, a celebratory Sunday lunch out was definitely required. Aren't lazy Sunday lunches just the best? Our table was booked for 1, but we didn't leave our little garden patch dining area until about 4. Good work. I have a thing about light, not only do I like the ability to see my food, it just raises the spirits doesn't it. The lighting should be appropriate -  a Sunday lunch in a garden themed pretty-gourmet restaurant should be light. The massive windows and immensely high ceilings did just the job. The d├ęcor of the place had good attention to detail, we felt private at our table yet simultaneously were part of a pleasant atmosphere. 

Enough of that interior crap: the food. Mr. Cooper's now does a fixed Sunday lunch menu, so we were fortunate enough to have the option of a very good value pile of excellent quality comforting nosh. 2 Courses for £15, 3 for £19. Considering the quality and delicate preparations, this was very good value. My mother opted for the a la carte option - the Duck with Sweet Potatoe Casserole, this was perfectly pink, beautiful flavours but a tad on the small size portion-wise. This suited her as she likes to eat lightly, but I wouldn't recommend Mr Coopers for a fat binge (unless you want to spend extraordinary amounts). The Sunday lunch menu is restricted to one option at each course, but this was no bother to me as they were all lovely. (Note, there is a choice of 3 options with the week-day fixed lunch menu). The parsnip soup was delicious with appropriate undertones of coriander and cumin, the mixed foccacia that accompanied it was fantastic. Both the sun-dried tomatoe foccacia and the non-tomato one, which incidentally was fantastically garlicky, were a delicious accompaniment to the soup. 

I opted for a starter from the a la Carte (not part of my set Sunday menu). Pretty crazy, I know. Nick's Meatballs I believe they were called, but any name was irrelevant once these round beauties hit your taste buds. I wanted to sit on a mound of pillows in a silent room, alone, with a massive bowl full of these exquisite taste explosions - just me and them. Unfortunately I received a measly three balls of goodness, but I guess I had to leave room for my roast. Six however, would have been nice! They were awesome, the crunchy stuff on top (don't even remember what it was) was fab and the mousse like light tzatziki, equally great. 

Tasty Meatballs!
Moving on to the hearty roast: it certainly was a hearty affair. I wasn't expecting such a considerable portion, I was pleased as I do have a massive appetite. I like to stock up on plenty of veg and meat and all things tasty on a Sunday - this was a good choice. The beef was nicely pink, the goose fat potatoes were good, although I would like them smaller and crispier (that may be just me on that one). The parsnip puree with parsnip crisp was the best thing, although the cabbage with smoky bacon was a joy. I'm not as in to Yorkshire puddings as most of my peers seem to be, but it was a big bugger so I guess that passed the standard test. The gravy was gorgeous, I always require a lot and invariably ask for more. On this occasion they took a painfully long time to get me my second jug of richness, but obviously the wait was forgotten once my Yorkshire pudding was afloat in the stuff.

THE roast. See what I mean, rather large potatoes.

My dessert was a toffee apple mousse with a ginger Parkin and peanut brittle. I feel too much of it was essentially cream which just tasted of...cream. The peanut brittle was definitely needed texture-wise and most enjoyable. It took way to many mouthfuls for me to actually get any signal that there was apple involved, so I'd say I was slightly disappointed in the pud. Additionally the waitress lacked the ability to describe to me what a Parkin actually is. That's really not on at a place like this, especially when it's a cake associated with Yorkshire! The caramel tart with the mascarpone ice-cream however, was an enjoyable affair. Although, when I hark back to my holiday in America - the desserts are by no means comparable. That chocolate molten cake is yet to be beaten! 

The Caramel Tart (minus cheeky taste, soz)

  • The building: set in the sophisticated Midlands Hotel, a peaceful garden-like atmosphere. Top marks.
  • The service: nice staff, but didn't know enough about the menu (she didn't know what a parkin was!) and too slow, I was kept waiting far too long for my extra gravy!
  • Prices: Good value Sunday lunch, A la carte was fairly priced too when the quality is considered, but the portions are small! (often the case with fine dining, but the whole point of this restaurant is that is more informal and appeals to a less select demographic -compared to Simon Rogan's 'The French' - also in the Midlands Hotel).
  • Recommend?? YES. A lovely experience and can be 3 courses under £20 if choosing economically! 
  • I'd liked to add - the drinks menu looked great (I WANT the 'affogato blazer', under the nightcap section) but I stick to tap water when I'm out. Athlete lifestyle innit! Plus limited funds of course.

I advise you to book - this place fills up fast - especially Friday through Sunday (I booked a few weeks in advance!). Plus, once word gets out about how good the gravy is, there will be Mancunians queuing up for the Sunday roast affair. They like their gravy up north. 

Quick Rating:
Ambience: 5
Service: 3
Value for Money: 4
Treat worthy? Its not really unhealthy here, but I'd say I have had better desserts elsewhere. 
GF/DF/Vegan: Not ideal

Mr Cooper's House and Garden on Urbanspoon

Tiffins, Bristol

Authentic curry takeaway on St. Michaels hill.

This is the kind of place I wish there was more of. There's often far and few between of little authentic gems like Tiffins. The husband and wife who own and run this business are the ones who were serving the curry. Nice and personal. The wife Jay, who served me, was so friendly and happy to talk me through all the curry's on offer that day - even with the ever growing queue of avid curry eaters behind me! I felt like a friend of her daughters that was visiting for the first time and a little shy.

If you're after a greasy classic 'British curry' that leaves you feeling lethargic and overly full then this is NOT the place. Instead what you will find is a reasonably limited menu of authentic Gujarati curry's made that day. Gujarat is a western state of India with extensive coastlines providing wholesome seafood dishes. However, the state is primarily vegetarian (due to Jain vegetarian and Hindi influence).  As such, Gujarati cuisine has a reputation for being healthy, with an array of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Gujarati cuisine, including that which is available at Tiffins, uses less oil, none of their dishes contain ghee (clarified butter) or artificial colourings/flavourings. At Tiffins, they really do provide authentic real Indian food.

Each day you will find something different but if you become a regular you will soon learn your favourites and some dishes are more frequent than others. In addition to the wide range of vegetarian dishes, there is a chicken and a lamb dish everyday. It's £6.50-7 for a meat curry and £6 for a vegetable curry (for the larger boxes). At lunch time its £5.50 for a vegetable curry and rice = bargain. The food is chilled in a counter from which you can choose your feast for that day. The food can be leisurely taken home to warm in the oven/microwave -unlike the traditional takeaway, where, with my family there is always a mad rush to get home in order to keep the food as hot as humanly possible. My mum is very fussy. Plates must be heated at least 30 minutes in advance. Cold plates are for heathens in her household.

Alternatively you can eat in - they will happily warm it up for you. However, its not really a place to be dining in, I think there's just the one table. It's designed to be taken away, besides I think there's more fun to be had that way. Also, there are chappatis, naans, and their home-made chilli and coriander chutney. For some, the chutney alone makes the trip to Tiffins a worthy one.

Quick Rating:
Ambience: N/A really (takeaway)
Service: 5
Value for money: 4
Healthy? YES
GF/DF/Vegan? Yes great for all gluten/dairy/animal avoiders!