Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Spice Club, Manchester

The Spice Club. Held in a distant corner of Manchester, is an underground supper club hosted by Monica in her beautiful home assisted by her lovely family.
This supper club, as you may have guessed, specialises in authentic home cooked Indian food and consists of a 3 course meal with coffee for £20 of which 10% goes to charity. Alcohol is not served but they have a BYOB policy.

We were warmly greeted and shown to the beautiful dining room after wandering the streets for a while trying to decide which door to knock on, fortunately the first one was the right one (ah the joys of underground restaurants and secret locations).
We met our fellow diners for the evening. It was quite a diverse bunch sat round the table with many professions present including teachers and teachers and erm...teachers, there was also a nurse and an estate agent with dreams of ice road trucking to stop most of the evening being spent discussing school.

First up, food wise was the appetiser. Jaipuri Stuffed Bread rolls. These were stuffed with potato and peas and flavoured with herbs and spices. These were delicious, light and tasty with a subtle blend of complimenting herbs and spices.

Next up was the mains and by mains I mean enough food to feed an army with leftovers. The entire centre of the table was filled with dishes and plates of delicious aromatic food, delivered with the simple instruction to tuck in, alongside a constant supply of basmati rice and chappatis. The dishes that we had the pleasure of eating were: 

Kashmiri Lamb Masala
Succulent lamb slow roasted in a rich masala sauce, seasoned with home-made Punjabi garam masala &
an array of fragrant spices
Shahi Chicken
Slow roasted chicken marinated in cream, blended with cashews, almonds & Punjabi spices.
Channa Masala
Chick peas cooked in fresh ginger, tomato & coriander
Potatoes cooked in a spicy fresh spinach masala
Fresh okra stuffed with paneer seasoned with sea salt, paprika, turmeric & coriander
Cucumber & red onion mixed with yogurt,
flavoured with roasted cumin& sea salt
All the dishes squished onto one plate.
Dishes that I was particular impressed with were the Lamb dish and the okra dish. Having never been a fan of okra I can now safely say that I am a convert as long as it is cooked like this every time.
All the food just shone with authenticity that most Indian restaurants struggle to create. Delicious food with spice blends that have been perfected over many years, absolutely superb. Many thanks also for the chapatti masterclass I received, I was very surprised to see how simple they are to create and will be having a go at making my own in future.

Dessert was Gajr Halwa, a warm sweet Indian carrot pudding served with ice cream followed by Masala Coffee and a homemade cardamom shortbread biscuit, a lovely end to the meal.

Thanks again to Monica and her family for their excellent food and hospitality.

Book yourself in for a future date at : The Spice Club

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Sausage Casserole

Simple filling dish, rammed with flavour and of course all with a gentle chilli heat.

Sausage Casserole
1 Tbsp oil
6 good quality Pork Sausages
4 Rashers of streaky bacon (1 inch pieces)
1 Onion (finely sliced)
Clove of garlic
1/2 Tsp of Hot Chili Powder or @JoolsCyprien's Firepowder if you are lucky enough to have some.
400g can of chopped tomatoes
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp Tomato puree
1 Tbsp Henderson's Relish (or Worcestershire sauce)
1 Tbsp dark sugar
Lots of Fresh Rosemary/Thyme (to taste)
100ml Red Wine
400g Can of Kidney beans
Salt and Pepper to season.

Fry the sausages in the oil until browned all over, remove from frying pan and place in a large saucepan

Fry bacon in the frying pan until crispy, remove from frying pan and place in the saucepan
Fry the onion in the frying pan until soft, add the garlic and fry until golden.
Add the chili powder and fry for a bit longer.
Add the tomatoes, puree, stock, Hendersons, sugar, wine and herbage into the frying pan. Bring to a simmer

Transfer into the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the kidney beans and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste

Serve on its own or with crusty bread, jackets, mash, rice, wedges. Its up to you.


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Wig & Pen, Sheffield

The Wig & Pen is the second restaurant from the owners of the Milestone, the Sheffield restaurant that narrowly missed out on the final of Ramsay's Best Restaurant.
Located on Campo Lane, this bustling Gastro Pub promises to stick to the Milestone ethos of serving fresh, local seasonal food from local suppliers so one Saturday evening we booked a table and went along to check it out.

We were shown to our table and given the menus to browse, being a Gastro pub a couple of Sheffield ales were on the bar which I happily went for.

We did plan on going for the excellent value 3 course pre theatre menu for £15 but the rather tempting sounding full menu drew us in and we went for that instead.

We started off with a plate of Olives and freshly made bread while deciding what we wanted.
I opted for the Pan Cooked Duck Heart with scallop, white onion puree and chorizo oil. the duck heart was a very pleasant experience, very tender with a subtle delicate meaty flavour perfectly accompanied by the creamy scallop.

For my main I went for the Wig and Pen mixed grill: Lamb cutlet with chicken mousse, home dried tomatoes, small fries, black pudding fritter, homemade sausage wrapped in leek, home cured bacon and mushrooms in a herb crust. this was a superb take on the traditional mixed grill whilst celebrating quality produce, I can't actually decide which bit I liked best.

For dessert i went for the Rhubarb and vanilla custard mousse, shortbread, rhubarb syrup, confit of rhubarb and rhubarb foam. This was very tasty and light, a delicious variety of rhubarb textures and flavours and an excellent demonstration of how one ingredient can be used in may ways.

Service was excellent, efficient, speedy and friendly.

Final bill came to £80 for two consisting 4 courses, drinks, and coffee.

Wig & Pen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Rutland Arms, Sheffield

Having been in Sheffield since August it took me a good few months to finally visit the Rutland Arms despite walking past it many times to get home but hey we learn from our mistakes.

Located near the Showroom cinema, the Rutland arms is a cosy little pub decorated in traditional style with an excellent selection of real ales usually from the local breweries of Sheffield and Yorkshire. I recently sampled Moonbeam from the Blue Bee Brewery, a deliciously hoppy pale ale from Sheffield's newest brewery.

While wasting away a Sunday afternoon in both the Sheffield tap and the Rutland arms, we decided to try out the food. The food has an excellent reputation, freshly cooked with quality ingredients so we were expecting good things and we weren't disappointed.

We opted for the Rutland burger and the Bhaji butty, a naan bread stuffed with onion bhaji, chips and curry sauce. They also do a roast menu on Sundays as well as the usual menu.

My burger was very good, thick juicy and slightly pink in the middle and the chips were epic as you can see from the picture. The picture of the Bhaji butty doesn't really do it justice, as we opened it up to get a picture but I can assure you it was very tasty.
Superb pub grub and excellent value with both meals costing just over a tenner

Well worth a visit and only 2 minutes walk from the rail station so perfect for a pre journey beer.

Scales, Spons and Horses

A month or so ago, the Bakelady over at told us about a comment she wrote on another blog post talking about how they had received free chocolates from a website called Appliances online for commenting on another blog post of a person who had also received something and so on. From this comment the Bakelady was the lucky recipient of a set of cake tins simply for commenting on a blog.

So following the trend, she wrote about it on her blog, 'when it pays to never look a gift horse in the mouth' and invited people to comment on what they would like.

What my kitchen desperately needed was a decent set of scales, preferably electronic because it is just not fun balancing a large bowl (the original measuring bowl was lost) on top of a tiny set of mechanical scales and trying to measure out ingredients without the bowl crashing to the floor.

A few weeks later and having thought no more about it, I received a pleasant email from Ian at Appliances Online about my comment and they offered me a set of electronic scales which I duly accepted.

The twitter conversation about the original post was also noticed by Neal Robertson, the inventor of the Spon who also offered us both a set of Spons to try out and which have proved very useful especially for pancake batter recently.

So now I invite you to comment on this post about what you want or need in your kitchen and you never know you might be the lucky recipient of a gift.

Many thanks to Neal and Ian for their useful additions to my kitchen.

Lemon Cake

For this months Clandestine Cake Club meeting I didn't have much time to experiment and play about and create a new cake but I also didn't want to turn up without one, so having bought Raymond Blanc's new book I decided to make his tasty looking lemon cake...

Lemon Cake
5 Eggs
300g Caster Sugar
140ml Double Cream
Zest of 3 lemons
Pinch of salt
25ml dark rum
80g butter, melted
240g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the glaze
50g apricot jam
Zest of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp lemon juice
150g icing sugar

Line and grease a loaf tin and preheat oven to 180C
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cream, lemon zest, rum, salt and melted butter.
Sift in the flour and baking powder then whisk into the egg mixture until smooth.
Spoon or pour the mixture into the loaf tin and gently level the surface.
Bake for 50 mins -1 hour, test to see if it is cooked by inserting a skewer or a knife into the centre, if its clean when removed its done.
Remove from tin immediately and cool for 10 mins on a wire rack.

Warm the jam slightly and brush all over the cake, leave for 5 minutes
Mix lemon zest, icing sugar and juice into a pan and gently heat to 35C until smooth.
Brush evenly over the cake and leave for a couple of minutes to set.
Place the cake on a baking tray and place back in the oven, switch the oven off, and leave the cake for 3-5 minutes, this makes the glaze translucent.
Allow to cool and serve.