Simple spicy salad drizzled in balsamic glaze


Yum. Yum. Yum.

This concoction of random foods all came together one Tuesday evening when my boyfriend had rugby and I got in late and didn’t have the energy to go food shopping.
Not having a car sucks; I sold my car about two weeks back and it really makes me remember how difficult doing a good sized food shop is without one.

Thankfully I have a lovely boyfriend who doesn’t mind driving me around, except for on Tuesdays when he has rugby.  Back to my original point, I had no food in. All that was left was some almost out of date mozzarella, spinach, tomatoes, new potatoes that may or may not be out of date and some peppers in my fridge. Along with the usual wine and cider, but not sure how well that would have turned out on a Tuesday.

I often make a very simple mozzarella, spinach, tomato and balsamic glaze salad as a starter (literally the most simple starter to do!!), and thought what if I added pepper and red onion to the mix and heated it up. Add some roasted potatoes and I’ve got myself a hash of a meal. Turns out, my idea was great, with a few little tweaks, and some timing changes I have created a delicious healthy-ish light lunch or starter which is sure to wow any guests or even just yourself!

Equipment:

1 large pan with lid (for potatoes)
1 baking tray
1 large frying pan and wooden spatula
Sharp knife and chopping board

Ingredients (for 4 starters / 2 light bites)

15 new potatoes (baby ones, use less if bigger pots)
1 pack of mozzarella (2 if you like it extra cheesy like me)
½ red onion
1 red/yellow pepper
15 cherry tomatoes (a couple of handfuls)
Spinach (2 good handfuls)
Garlic clove
½ red chilli (deseeded)
Balsamic glaze (this stuff is incredible!)
1 Cal spray/oil
Black pepper
Salt

Method:

Fill your pan with cold water covering your new potatoes, heat up to the boil, and then leave to simmer for 15-20 mins. Turn your oven on to heat up to about 180oc  (fan)

72f1f-potatoes

Once your potatoes are cooked (you should easily be able to put a knife through the centre, it shouldn’t feel tough or hard), drain these and place on the baking tray, spray with oil/drizzle in oil and sprinkle salt on them, place in the middle of your oven and leave for 20 minutes.

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While your potatoes cook you can start prepping the veg; slice your red onion into thin slices, chop tomatoes in half, and cut your pepper into strips. Crush your garlic and finely chop this and the chilli. Cut your mozzarella into large chunks.

By this time your potatoes should be browning nicely and looking about ready, heat up your frying pan and add some spray oil/tbsp. olive oil. Add your red onions and fry off for about 2 minutes.

Next, add the pepper and cook for a further 3 minutes, then add the garlic and chilli, everything should be softening now.

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Roughly pull apart the spinach and sprinkle in, fold this into the pan until the spinach reduces, add the mozzarella and keep folding the mixture. Don’t cook the mozzarella too long as it will become a bit of a lump, which tastes great but doesn’t have the effect you want.

Take your potatoes out and add them onto the plate, add the stir-fry mix and then drizzle in balsamic glaze and serve. It’s that simple! Tastes great and is so easy to make.

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Hope you enjoy this recipe, have a go and let me know how it turns out!

Simple, spicy salad

  • Servings: 4 starters
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A tantalising, spicy potato salad served with balsamic glaze


Ingredients

  • 16 baby/new potatoes
  • 1 pack of mozzarella (2 if you like it extra cheesy like me)
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 red/yellow pepper
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • Spinach (2 good handfuls)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ red chilli (deseeded)
  • Balsamic glaze
  • 1 Cal spray/oil
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Pre heat oven to 180 oc (fan). Fill pan with cold water covering potatoes, bring to the boil, simmer until tender (about 15 minutes) and drain.
  2. Place potatoes on a baking tray, spray/drizzle in oil and sprinkle salt on them, place in the middle of your oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, start prepping the veg; slice your red onion into thin slices, chop tomatoes in half and cut your pepper into strips. Crush your garlic and finely chop this and the chilli. Cut your mozzarella into large chunks.
  4. Potatoes should be browning, next, heat up your frying pan and add some spray oil/tbsp. olive oil. Add your red onions and fry off for about 2 minutes.
  5. Then, add the pepper and cook for a further 3 minutes, add the garlic and chilli.
  6. Roughly pull apart the spinach and sprinkle in, fold this into the pan until the spinach reduces, add the mozzarella and fold for 30 seconds.
  7. Take potatoes from the oven and place onto your plates, add the stir-fry mix on top and drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve.

La Tas-can

Today I’m reviewing La Tasca, four doors down from my last restaurant review. Serving spanish style tapas on Deansgate, Manchester.

This strip of restaurants and bars really is wonderful; all in one place makes it the perfect destination for dinner and drinks, but sadly this does mean a high amount of competition and pressure for the restaurants to get people through the doors.

I picked La Tasca due to the great reviews and the wonderful discounts offered (broke student over here!), and I was not disappointed. The ambience of the building is great, the huge bar with soooo much alcohol, the exposed brick wall, and romantic candle lighting, all of this made for a great start to the evening.
Rory and I came to La Tasca on a Friday evening at 7:30pm, if I’m honest I thought the place would be heaving; it’s prime time on a Friday. The restaurant is huge, but still only around 5 tables were in, which is always a worry, but we ordered our drinks with a lovely Spanish lady (didn’t catch her name); with cocktails at £6.95, can’t go wrong.

I ordered a Sex on the Beach, a classic simple cocktail, and Rory ordered a Long Island Ice Tea; I think someone was trying to get drunk. The drinks themselves were delicious, clearly full of alcohol and tasted great, but sadly the glass the long island ice tea was served in was a Pepsi glass. I never really realised how important nice glasses are when presenting cocktails. A simple change could really help the appearance and class up a pretty simple drink.
I’m the kind of organised freak who checks a menu and basically picks my whole meal out before I turn up, and then spends 10 minutes deciding what to order once I arrive (just in case I missed something), before ordering my original choice anyway! Oh yes, I’m that annoying haha. I think Spanish is my favourite cuisine, I love being able to pick loads of small dishes, it means you never get bored of the same flavour as there is always a new one coming next. Rory thankfully likes everything; meaning I pretty much get free reign on choosing dishes (no complaints here).

Not in the Spanish style of bringing everything when it’s ready, we chose to have everything come together (this is rare to be asked which we prefer, and I liked it!). I like to combine flavours as I eat, and try things with other things, such as prawns with patatas bravas. I also like to admire the vast amount of food on the table before I devour it.

After ordering we also requested a large jug of Sangria. They have loads of different styles and twists on Sangria which if I go back I would definitely try, but this time we went for a classic Sangria and it was lovely.

On to the food…
If Gambas Pil Pil is on a menu, you can bet a lot of money I will order it. Delicious king prawns cooked in garlic and chilli, and these prawns really were delicious. It could have done with a little bit more heat (chilli heat), but that’s my preference on spicy food. These went perfectly with the triple cooked Patatas Bravas (large of course). The spicy sun-dried tomato sauce the potatoes were in was divine, very rich and, when paired with the roasted garlic mayonnaise, was a perfect creamy, spicy combo! I would have liked for extra mayo on the side, but this was heavenly!
I have a new favourite to the Spanish cuisine (yes, beating the king prawns!), a random choice and not something I’ve ever gone for before, Croquetas de Pollo. These are hand made chicken croquettes. I only added them as filler, but they turned out to be the best dish by a long shot. Creamy on the inside and crunchy on the out, I could have eaten an entire plateful of them! I would go again purely for these croquettes, you have to try them!

Next on the menu we picked the Brochetta de Pollo, due to it being labelled a “signature dish”, this is simply a large chicken skewer with pepper and onion marinated in a sticky, spicy glaze. It was nice, but it didn’t have the wow factor I was hoping for. It felt like something that you a relatively competent chef could make at home.

Tabla De Montadito, great carb filler! We went large on this one, and it was a good choice. 3 pieces of sourdough each, all topped with various things. The best one in my opinion was the pulled pork. Now I am not a massive pork fan, I don’t really like pig at all. My sister Claire had a house party recently and her boyfriend Mike and his best mate both cooked this delicious pulled pork, and being drunk I ate it, and turns out, I absolutely love it! La Tasca’s pulled pork was no different, a delicious addition to our tapas menu. The prawns and jamon were also nice, a little bit soggy on the bread but I think that’s the time I left them sitting for (so much choice). Sadly I don’t like mushrooms, I did try the sauce but it was not to my tasting. Rory however can vouch for there deliciousness!
Lastly we ordered the Buey a La Tasca. This is a 4oz chargrilled 21-day aged Scottish steak, which was served with blue cheese gratin and cherry tomato confit. I have never had steak on a tapas menu, and I am not a huge blue cheese fan but this really was scrumptious! The steak was delicious, and the blue cheese gratin was so creamy and light, I was expecting a strong flavour of blue cheese but it was just enough to give it a tang but not too over powering. I would however say that the one tomato at the end of the board in my opinion doesn’t class as “cherry tomato confit”.

I had a really enjoyable time at La Tasca, great food, wonderful company, and plenty of drinks; I really don’t know why the place was so quiet.  As previously mentioned, La Tasca offer loads of promotions, both on their website, and their app. They also take gourmet society, and have a Groupon currently. We were spoilt for choice on discounts, but we went with the Gourmet Society 25% total bill, which meant in total after the discount all the food and drinks was less than £50! Definite money saver! If you want great food, at a low price, in a great area, look no further than La Tasca, I would definitely recommend to a friend. The only thing missing from the menu was halloumi; I do love halloumi, especially served with sweet chilli jam. Mmmm….cheesy.

NB. The restaurant is also right next to the Botanist, which may be my new favourite cocktail bar, but more on that another time.

If you enjoyed this post or have an experience you wish to share, please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you.

It’s all in the whisk!

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Your mum’s baking is always the best, except for my mum’s, who really is the best! I wanted to share with you how to bake a cake just as well.

A light, fluffy, cloud like sponge is all in the whisking! My mum taught me how to bake when I was a young girl. I loved helping her out in the kitchen, especially when she let me lick the whisk afterwards (I was a greedy git). This recipe is a Mummy Chetwynd classic, with a slight twist. Very easy to remember, just think of the devil (666). It’s one of the only recipes where I work in pounds and ounces. However many eggs you wish to use, double it for the flour, sugar and margarine required. So, for a standard sandwich cake use 3 eggs, and 6 ounces of everything else (changing slightly for a chocolate cake, as below).

I love the fact you can just chuck all the ingredients in; no harm no foul. The most important thing to remember is to use an electric whisk, and whisk it well!

Equipment:

2 non-stick cake tins
2 large bowls
1 medium bowl
1 sieve
Greaseproof paper
Scissors
Electric Whisk
Cooling rack
Knife

Ingredients:

Sponge:

3 eggs
6 oz. margarine
6 oz. caster sugar
6 oz. flour/cocoa (5:1)
Large splash of milk
Vanilla essence

Buttercream:

(double this if using it for topping as well)
2 oz. butter
5 oz. icing sugar (vary this depending on your mixture)
Vanilla essence
Splash of milk

Method:

1. Get a sheet of greaseproof paper large enough to fit two cake tins on, fold this in half and place your cake tin on and draw round. Cut this out. With the remaining paper, grease the tin with butter or margarine, on the bottom and all up the sides; then place the paper in the bottom.

2. Turn your oven to 180 degrees (fan oven) to heat up. Weigh out your flour and cocoa powder and sieve into a large bowl, weigh all other ingredients for the sponge and add to the bowl, including 1 tsp. vanilla essence and a good splash of milk.
3. Grab the electric whisk, and begin whisking. This is the crucial step to a light, fluffy cake. When you whisk a cake you are adding air into the mix, this air creates the fluffy cake everyone loves so much. It’s important to whisk this for a while (a good 3 minutes), the mixture should change from a medium brown to quite a light brown (as shown in the picture below)
4. Once you are happy with the colour, split the mixture evenly between the two tins, use a knife to get an even surface. Place these into the middle of your oven, set a timer for 15 minutes.
5. Check the cake is done by lightly pressing on the top. If the sponge springs back to shape then it’s done. Another way to check is to poke a folk or skewer in the middle of the cake and it should come out clean.

6. Let the sponges rest for a minute, then get a knife and spin it round the outside, loosening the sides. Using a tea towel, turn the sponge out onto a cooling rack one at a time. After about 2 minutes, pick each sponge up and twist 45 degrees (this stops it sticking to the rack).

7. While the cake cools, you can make the butter cream. Butter cream uses lots of shoulder strength; as I lack this somewhat. My boyfriend Rory played a large part in the making of the butter cream (credit where credits due and all that).

8. Weigh out the butter in a large bowl (either wash out your original bowl or grab another one), then in a medium bowl weigh out the icing sugar.

9. Soften the butter with your spatula, beating it against the side, and then slowly sieve the icing sugar into the bowl while combining it. Once most of the icing sugar has been combined, add a splash of milk and 1 tsp. vanilla essence and keep beating it. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat it (adjust quantity’s depending how thick you want the butter cream).


10. Similar to the sponge, buttercream needs beating (mixing) till the colour starts to lift; it should go from a yellow, to a pale yellow almost white (see below).
 11. I like to add jam to one side of the sponge to help it stick, but I get a lot of weird looks (trust me it tastes great), and then add butter cream to the other side. You want to pick the thicker more sturdy sponge for your base which you add the butter cream on (if your oven is a bit funky like mine and the cake has risen more on one side, add less buttercream to the thicker side to even it out).

12. Then top with whatever you like. There are so many ways to decorate cake, simply melt some chocolate and pour it on or be more adventurous. Here are a variety of different ways I have decorated cakes; usually for birthdays, but sometimes just for fun.

And it’s that simple. You need a lot of equipment for baking, but most things you use every time you bake so they are good to have in your cupboards. This is such a simple recipe with a couple of method tips you can bake almost as well as your mum (or your dad). Let me know how your cake turns out, and how you decided to decorate it.


Follow me on instagram here for more pictures of cake and delicious food!

Thanks for reading!

Chocolate cake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A beautiful moist chocolate cake of epic proportion


Ingredients

    Equipment:
  • 2 non-stick cake tins
  • 2 large bowls
  • 1 medium bowl
  • 1 sieve
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Scissors & Pen
  • Electric Whisk
  • Cooling rack
  • Knife

  • Sponge:
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 oz. margarine
  • 6 oz. caster sugar
  • 6 oz. flour/cocoa (5:1)
  • Large splash of milk
  • Vanilla essence

  • Buttercream filling:
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 5 oz. icing sugar (vary this depending on your mixture)
  • Vanilla essence
  • Splash of milk

Directions

  1. Grease both cake tins, and line, then pre-heat oven to 180 degrees (fan oven)
  2. Weigh out flour and cocoa powder then sieve into a large bowl, weigh all other ingredients for the sponge and add to the bowl, including 1 tsp. vanilla essence and a good splash of milk
  3. Use electric whisk to mix all ingredients (3 minutes at least)
  4. Split mixture evenly between the two tins, use a knife to get an even surface. Place these into the middle of your oven, set a timer for 15 minutes
  5. Check the cake is done by putting a skewer in the middle of the cake, it should come out clean
  6. Let the sponges rest for a minute, then get a knife and spin it round the outside, loosening the sides. Using a tea towel, turn the sponge out onto a cooling rack one at a time. After about 2 minutes, pick each sponge up and twist 45 degrees (this stops it sticking to the rack)
  7. While the cake cools make the butter cream filling
  8. Weigh out the butter in a large bowl (either wash out your original bowl or grab another one), then in a smaller bowl weigh out the icing sugar
  9. Soften the butter with your spatula, beating it against the side, and then slowly sieve the icing sugar into the bowl while combining it. Once most of the icing sugar has been combined, add a splash of milk and 1 tsp. vanilla essence and keep beating it. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat it (adjust quantity’s depending how thick you want the butter cream)
  10. Similar to the sponge, buttercream needs beating (mixing) till the colour starts to lift; it should go from a yellow, to a pale yellow almost white
  11. Spread butter cream to one side of the cake
  12. Top/decorate however you like (:

Prezzecco

Over a year ago I went to Prezzo for my friend’s birthday, I had such a great meal, especially the caramelised onion garlic bread to start. I have wanted to come back ever since

This weekend marks the 60th wedding anniversary of my Nanna and Granddad. My boyfriend (Rory) and I took the Friday off work to travel home and celebrate with them. Rory and I took this opportunity to enjoy a cheap meal and get marginally drunk on a school night.  We went to the Prezzo in Deansgate; it’s a great venue, very modern, clean, and has an outside seating area so you can really take in Manchester on a warm summer evening.

The waiter Matteo was really nice; brought tap water to the table without request (always a bonus in my book) and was very accommodating of our needs. Having signed up to the Prezzo mailing list, I received an email with a voucher code for a free bottle of prosecco. You can also get 25% off with a taste card, 2 for 1 with a gourmet society card, and I believe you can get clubcard vouchers too (plenty of deals for the savvy shopper). The best value for money, for minor alcoholics like myself at least, was the Prosecco, so we went with that (decent stuff too!).

The caramelised onion bread was still on the menu; the starter that drew me back originally, so we ordered this along with breaded mozzarella and hummus. The garlic bread was beautiful, I could have eaten it again and again, and it really was perfect. The other starters were tasty and I enjoyed them, but they were pretty basic and I could have had this elsewhere. I would have liked to have thick, soft pitta bread with the hummus rather than thin crispy bread, but this is a taste preference.

Mozzarella in Carrozza
Large Pane Con Cipolla

For mains, Rory ordered the Chicken Milanese: breaded chicken, rocket, tomatoes, and Bella Lodi cheese served with spaghetti in a Bolognese sauce. I ordered something new. I usually go for king prawns on any menu but decided today I would try something else. This was an error on my part. I thought I would try the chicken Gorgonzola pasta, not aware the Gorgonzola was very similar to a strong blue cheese (which is not my cup of tea). Thankfully Rory is very good at swapping dishes with me (I often get food envy) so I ended up having Rory’s delicious Chicken Milanese, which was cooked beautifully and was full of flavour, the only downside being there wasn’t enough spaghetti, it having been replaced with rocket. Rory enjoyed the Gorgonzola (this doesn’t mean much, he likes everything); not his first choice, but he enjoyed it all the same.

Chicken Milanese
Papperdelle Gorgonzola

When I first read the menu I noticed a chocolate cake that sounded epic, I always check the dessert menu before ordering in case there isn’t a dessert I like (unlikely but I can pretend). So I knew I wanted to order pudding, but after having such large starters, a main and all the bubbles I was feeling rather full. Rory and I decided to share the chocolate cake, much to his dismay (he is more of a cake fiend than me). The chocolate cake was delicious; it was very simple and finished with chunks of brownie and vanilla ice cream (given an extra scoop as we were sharing). Although it was lovely, it really wasn’t anything out of this world, it was something I could have easily whipped up and it didn’t taste homemade.

Milk chocolate fudge cake

All in all I really enjoyed Prezzo, the caramelised pizza bread is worth the trip alone. I would next time check what I’m ordering and maybe skip on the dessert and order more bubbles instead. I would say that if you were to pay full price, it would be quite expensive for what it is, but given it’s so easy to obtain a discount, I would say it is good value for money, and definitely a good way to spend a Thursday evening!