Category Archives: Food and friends

Roasted Pumpkin & Honey Vodka.

The second of my ‘five-a-day’ vodkas was pumpkin and honey – by far a long shot and it took significantly more brain power to formulate a cocktail with! Although the brain power was all worth while given that it went down a treat.

In a similar fashion to the strawberry and basil vodka, I attempted to make a heavily flavoured concentrate. In this instance I think the amount of water contained within the butternut squash I used helped. Initially, I generously sprinkled brown sugar over thick slices of butternut squash, along with several dollops of honey, before roasting for about an hour. Once softened, I removed the flesh from the skin and placed it in a pan over a low heat with the liquid which had collected during roasting. The next step was very much a guessing game, I added more sugar (to taste) and took the hand blender to it while still reducing the water content on the heat. The aim was to let it reduce enough so as not to dilute the vodka but not too much that it would become tricky to pour into the bottles…

As with the strawberry and basil vodka, the vodka was added to the concentrate and the concoction left to infuse for a week or so before sieving out the pulp and chilling. Then the cocktail creation took place!

2 measures of pumpkin & honey vodka
1 handful of ice
Top up with ginger beer
A dash of Angostura bitters


Waldorf Risotto.

Salads can work wonders for your waist line but they can’t quite take the place of a good cheesy risotto. Adding the crunch of walnuts, the sweetness of apple and the gooeyness of cheese to a risotto was a stroke of genius. Although I wasn’t under the illusion that the additions would lift the humble risotto to healthy heights, it certainly added welcome textures and interesting tastes. So much so, that the left-overs (set aside for the following day’s lunch) didn’t have a chance to go cold…

While risotto does have a reputation for being tricky to perfect, Jamie’s basic risotto recipe is a corker and worth the hour of chopping, string and tasting. I will definitely be reaching for the arborio rice more frequently in the weeks to come!

Recipe taken from Jamie Oliver.

Key Ingredients
White wine
Parmesan cheese
Gorgonzola cheese
Soft goat’s cheese
Crunchy eating apples [tossed in lemon juice]

The Fat Olive, WN1 2AD.

The Fat Olive is a little further afield than usual, but well worth the adventure for some cracking company. I have to say the main draw (after the company) was the ‘favourites’ menu, which offers three courses for 15quid. It took a bit of finding and I’m glad I wasn’t wandering the dark streets in my search, but it was a little treasure.

The food was significantly better than I was anticipating (given the price tag) and us being the only ones in the restaurant for the first hour…It certainly did the job in filling our stomachs while having a good old fashioned chin-wag and the three cheese starter is definitely something to re-create in the kitchen!

When in Wigan, eat pie…

Three cheese and sautéed onion bake

Braised beef pie with chunky chips

Lime and passion fruit pannacotta

One Filthy Burger, M4 1HP.

Saturday gone was a corker of a day, bets placed on the Grand National followed by one juicy burger. Fortunately, the burger was significantly better than my betting technique, with my horses coming in 10th and falling at the 22nd fence!

In line with the growing trend of pop-up restaurants a cracking burger joint has recently appeared in Manchester Northern Quarter behind an un-marked wooden door at the top of three flights of stairs. In fact, if it wasn’t for the queue of people and the door man it would be quite discrete… I begrudgingly enjoyed every bite of my food, although you can’t escape the pretentiousness of the place – paying £2.20 for a jar of Dr Pepper does not float my boat. However, the thought of mixing cocktails in large jars, lidding them, shaking them, unscrewing and then serving as is has to be commended – highly resourceful – saves on washing up, cheap and easy. I’ve made a mental note of that one.

Animal burger with trailer trash fries.

Four quid down.

Red Onion, Pear and Stilton Pie.

The northerner inside me cannot turn down a good pie and given how simple this recipe was there was no stopping me dashing out to pick up the essentials.

Caramelising the onions was the most complex step, after which the whole thing came together in a mater of minutes and didn’t take long to bake either – I did add a sprinkling of pine nuts for a bit of extra crunch, which I don’t regret for a moment! My only regret, in fact, was not stuffing the pies with more filling, but I’m sure I’ll have no problem rectifying that next time. Not very pretty but delicious.

1. Caramelise two red onions.

2. Roll out puff pastry and divide into four.

3. On one half add the caramelised onions, pear and stilton.

4. Fold over and seal pies before giving a quick brush with butter.

5. Bake at 180°C [20mins] sprinkling on some pine nuts a few mins before removing from the oven.

Recipe taken from All Recipes.

Chocolate Avocado Delight.

I confess, for as long as I can remember I’ve never been a fan of the avocado, I’m ashamed to say I can’t even think of a time when I tried one, yet I’ve always avoided them. Until, that is, the lovely Miss K made a salad (riddled with avocado) to go with one of our joint-effort teas…so, given that I’m 23 and therefore expected to handle new foods with a little more composure and a little less persuasion compared to the days of childhood, I bit the bullet and gave it a chew. Not bad. What was all the fuss about?!

Since that moment, I’ve shyed away no more. Hence, when I stumbled across the following recipe I leapt at the opportunity to combine the avocado with my greatest love, desserts. The result was a huge success; a more tasty, creamy, healthy chocolate angel delight without the need for any added E-numbers!

I’ve made it several times since without a wobble – you can’t help but fall back on those shove-them-all-in concoctions! Not to mention, avocados have “35% more potassium than bananas. They are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K” [Wiki]. Although, I must stress the importance of using unquestionably ripe avocados for an unquestionably good result…

1. Add all ingredients to the blender and blend.

2. Shovel it in.

Recipe taken from Warm Vanilla Sugar.

2 Avocado [ripe]
1cup of Coconut milk [light]
4tbsps Cocoa powder
4tbsps Honey
2tsps Vanilla extract

Fashion Photography & Frozen Yoghurt.

A couple of weeks ago a tried out a new frozen yoghurt bar in Manchester, after visiting Lick in Brighton a year or so ago and thoroughly enjoying it. Frurt, was good and host a number of frozen flavours both soya and yoghurt, although value for money was quite poor (considering my frozen yoghurt swirl was hollow)! Their topping selection was varied, but they could do with getting some dark chocolate buttons in or am I just getting a little pernickety now?…

In building up an apatite for my frozen yoghurt experience I watched Bill Cunningham New York. A cracking film which I would recommend to anyone with half a heart (or more). Bill is a New York fashion photographer and while the film shows how much admiration both his friends and colleagues have for him the real beauty is seeing his attitude to life. He’s a slave to his trade out of choice and loves every second of it. I shall leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the film:

“If you don’t take money they can’t tell you what to do. That’s the key to the whole thing.”