Marmite + Chocolate = publicity

Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes has been getting his name in the papers by inventing a new reason to love or hate Marmite – dessert.
The spiky-haired chef has created two toppings to go with coffee ice-cream using the new squeezy Marmite – a chocolate sauce and a syrup.
The creation apparently combines the aphrodisiac properties of chocolate and ice-cream with a dash of the famous yeast extract.
Perhaps he’s after courting some publicity, after all we haven’t seen much of him on the TV recently, but is Marmite ever going to be a good pudding ingredient?
It smacks of some other unholy food alliances – any meat dish that incorporates fruit for instance, especially if given a pretentious, pseudo-French sounding name.
But then chocolate seems to be creeping into all sorts of famous brands at the moment – ever looked at the ingredient list of Heinz’s new Mexican Beans? Chocolate is way up the list.
Is there a chocolate mountain looking for a new home? If so I can provide a suitable delivery address, no tampering with other foodstuffs required!
But although I’m firmly in the “love Marmite” camp, I think I’d rather keep my sweets, sweet and my savouries separate.

Give us GUYS a break, guys

I’ve noticed there’s a creeping trend about how restaurant staff address customers which needs stamping out before it takes hold across our fair city.
I’ve witnessed it in numerous places but the worst offender has to be Wagamama in Hardman Street.
After ten repetitions of this new pet hate, I lost count during my visit for a quick pre-cinema meal last night.
“Hi GUYS”, “can I get you GUYS a drink?”, “do you GUYS know what you want yet?” and even “It’s good to have salad when it’s hot isn’t it GUYS?”. (Which also falls foul of the “talking inane rubbish” rule)
And it wasn’t just one member of staff – it’s all of them. Is this some sort of corporate missive from the food chain to address everyone like this? Am I alone in not wanting to be referred to as a GUY?
OK, Wikipedia may make the claim that the plural is not always gender specific but I still maintain that I’m not a guy, never have been and never intend to be, friends assure me I don’t look like a guy and I’m not known for butch dressing.
Would the same servers rush up to a party of men to inquire. “Would you ladies like a beer?” Could “ladies” in the plural become non-gender specific if used often enough? Trials to establish this could end up with a lot of punch-drunk waiting staff in some quarters I think!
So come on restaurant managers, just keep it simple. A polite inquiry about what a customer wants to order doesn’t need to be a chummy, over familiar and potentially insulting greeting.

Veggie black pudding?

Vegetarian black pudding. Now there’s an oxymoron. Why would a person who prides themselves on eating only vegetables be interested in buying something specifically created to impersonate meat?
It’s a bit like the mysteries of vegetarian haggis or those flat things described as fillets that lurk in the veggie section of frozen food cabinets and look (plus often taste) like insoles for trainers.
Black puddings were borne from a culture of butchery and offal which is present across Europe in the blood sausage and so would appear to me to be the culinary equivalent of the anti-Christ to any serious meat-free fan.
But regardless of that mystery of the veggie mindset, I was intrigued to see the world’s first V Pudding on sale in Manchester city centre’s markets and just had to give it a try.
My inquiry about what went into this bloodless sausage was met with a detailed response delivered by a woman who had obviously been asked the same question at least ten times that day. Patiently she explained that even the most blood-thirsty pudding has heaps of ingredients which are already suitable for vegetarians – herbs, spices, oats etc. and so it was just the blood and the fat that had been replaced with vegetable oil.
After a quick taste on the stall I parted with my £2 and came up with my own recipe for it which you can try here.
For the record the V Pud tastes mainly of herbs, it’s slightly spicy and has a dense, moist texture. It’s a pleasant flavour and, although it didn’t fool my black pudding eating husband into thinking it was the “real thing”, he found it an enjoyable treat which could as easily be supper as breakfast.
In fact I think it’s a product that deserves being named as a Veggie Hero even though it’s slightly outside my normal rules.
The staff at the Real Lancashire Black Pudding stall also told me that since its launch last year, the V Pud has become their single biggest seller – just shows what I know about the vegetarian psyche!
Go on, tell me your thoughts about vegetarian meat-style products. I’d love to know.

Scrambled eggs with V Pud

A recent shopping trip led to a V Pud purchase and I came up with this as a way to enjoy it for supper or a breakfast. Its quick to do and has a slightly spicy and herby tone to it.
Serves 2 and takes about 10 mins.
What you need
Four free range eggs.
A V pud.
Two slices of toasted rye bread.
Dash of milk.
Splash of oil.
Two good handfuls of washed baby spinach leaves.
Black pepper.
Brown sauce.
What to do
Chop the V Pub into small chunks.
Beat the eggs together using a fork.
Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan but don’t allow to get too hot.
Pour in the eggs mixture.
At this point I always add a dash of milk to scrambled eggs but I think I’m on my own with that.
Keep the mixture moving and as soon as it starts to solidify, throw in the V Pud and keep stirring.
In the meantime, put the spinach leaves with the water from washing still clinging to them in a pan with a lid and put on the heat until wilted.
Once the eggs are the constituency you like, pile on top of the spinach on top of the toast and serve with a good helping of black pepper and a generous dollop of brown sauce. (Eggs just isn’t eggs without brown sauce)
Let me know what you think of this recipe or send me your favourite. If it looks tasty I’ll try it out.

A foodie trip around the market

Take a trip with me around Manchester city centre where the best of north west produce is currently on mouthwatering display. It’s on until 16 July then back from 5-15 October in St Ann’s Square, 10am-6pm.
Rest up and sample some wares.
Even the summer sun doesn’t diminish the demand for hot soup.
Say cheese!
Sausage on a plate.
A clucking good deal on eggs.
Strange but true – veggie black pudding. Got to try.
Some like it sweet at the fudge stall.
This market seems to have something for most tastes. What do you think of it? Is the produce at the right price? What’s your favourite stall? Let me know below.

Does food taste better on holiday?

It’s a tale of two halves this but no north south divide is intended. First the bad news. A week in the Yorkshire Dales prompted some disappointments. I should here add a caveat to this experience – I really love the Dales, spend a lot of time there and do know of some good places to eat.
But what a bad weekend we had searching for a Sunday lunch for two meat eaters and a fish-eating vegetarian. Surely it shouldn’t be difficult but sadly it was for three different establishments as we drove around hungry – “the chef’s on holiday”, “we could find some lasagne in the freezer” and a pub which seemed to be entirely run by children in a state of chaos. We ended our fruitless drive out at the King’s Head Hotel in Richmond which served up two very passable lamb Sunday roasts with all the trimmings and some tasty poached haddock for our guest.
So onto the good news – Cornwall. What fantastic place and a food lover’s heaven. We didn’t find a bad meal or service anywhere. Like just about everyone I’ve spoken to about Cornwall, it’s a place I hadn’t been to since childhood. Perhaps it’s the childhood fondness which helps colour the experience – a bit like finding rice pudding again after a long absence.
For anyone hoping to get away this summer then here’s a couple of recommendations:
Castaways, Mylor Harbour. What a versatile bar and restaurant. Fish specials and tapas dishes the speciality here. Particularly noteworthy was the hake with roasted vegetables which had perfectly cooked flaking fish and summer veg with just the perfect crunch as well as a tapas dish of Jamaican style fish pieces which had a jerk chicken-like spices to complement the salad.
The Sticky Prawn. Located right on the harbourside in the small village of Flushing (near Falmouth) this little seafood restaurant has it all. Quirky, hut-like building, inventive menu, fabulous views and a water taxi stop within stumbling distance.
After discovering it for lunch we were so impressed that we had to go back for our last night and we weren’t disappointed. The local scallops were served in a sweet but never sickly sauce while the halibut steak halibut.jpg
lived up to all my expectations. Firm, succulent almost buttery flesh cooked to the point where it just wants to fall off your fork and evade you.
The puddings were just as spectacular with the rhubarb and ginger crumble with stem ginger ice-cream being relished with particular relish by Himself who ordered it twice.
Leaving for the last water taxi home, this truly memorable meals was made even more special by the journey “home” across the harbour under the summer skies in a speeding boat.
And after that, it’s back to the eateries of Greater Manchester and boy have they got something to live up to this week.
Being without internet access during this break I must also say thanks to Justin for keeping this blog on the boil while I’ve been off and I’ll certainly be trying out his latest mouthwatering recommendations.

Review: Punters Bistro, Salford

I’VE found a new restaurant not a fiver’s taxi-ride away from my house, and I was that impressed I’m going to tell you all about it.
Punters Bistro has been going for years, apparently. How weird that a little gem of a place could remain off my radar for so long!
Cleverly built into the ground floor of an end-of-terrace house, the bistro is all wooden tables and dark green paintwork, with those chi-chi little accoutrements on the shelves like clay bottles, and biscuit tins and the like.
At only £16 for two courses, or £18 for three, Punters is a ‘take you own booze’ venue – which means it’s a fabulous bargain of a night out.
I plumped for the veggie courses throughout, bien sur, opening with a lovely spinach pancake mornay which came still sizzling from the grill. For such simple ingredients the dish was a ‘taste sensation’ as they say in the adverts – truly scumptious, creamy and cheesy and satisfying.
The sweet potato and lentil curry main course was less impressive, but still very adeptly cooked. I would have preferred more sweet potato for my money, and perhaps a dip or two (why do I still feel deprived when everyone else is eating steak?).
In a party of six I got a good look at a lot of the dishes. The ones that were passed round amid much lip-smacking were the Punters mussels au gratin starter, and the sizzling garlic mushrooms.
Every plate was emptied and mopped up with bread, if that’s any indication of how much everyone enjoyed the grub! The steak fan said his steak was beautiful, the chicken fan said her chicken was superb, and the drunk one kept kissing everybody and saying how much fun she was having.
Each main came with a big bowl of seasonal vegetables too, which were crisply cooked rather than soggy, like so many places.
There was a specials board, with some exotically named dishes I can’t now recall – but the berry pudding from that selection looked as sinful as it’s name suggested, and the drunk one promptly finished that off with gusto (not a side-dish I’ve ever eaten, but there you go).
Seating about 40 covers, Punters is, shall we say, a bijou bistro. In fact, the ladies golf team which was there the night we visited took up much of the floor space, and made nipping outside for a fag somewhat of an assault course.
That said, the cheery staff always on hand made the space issue less of a worry, and Punters was soon shaping up into the type of place I could imagine going for a cheap, relaxed dinner once a month or so.
I did take some photos of the food to share with you all. Sadly, I am a better eater than I am a technician, and they are still stuck in my mobile phone! I also have a very funny photo of a squiffy ladies golf team in full swing – but they’d push me in a bunker if I showed you that….
PUNTERS BISTRO: 194 Cromwell Road Salford M6 6DE (0161 792 1490)

Old chefs never die….

They just go past their use-by date.
And that’s what’s happened to one of my favourite chefs, Robert Carrier, who exited the kitchen stage left last week, after 82 years of broiling, boiling and basting his way around the world.
In the late 70s and early 80s, Carrier was a regular on British TV screens, with his drawly American accent and fondness for Moroccan tastes, and Caribbean influences. In the dark days of our culinary revolution, Carrier was among the first to popularise vegetarian options (and as a young veggie, I will always be grateful to him for that.)
Carrier was a gourmand, and a gourmet. He managed to maintain a belief in slow-food (during an era of microwaves and grills), while still making his recipes accesible to the mainstream. Later on, his recipes became quicker and even healthier, showing his clever appreciation of modern lifestyle trends.
Read up on Carrier on his wiki, or why not buy one of his books. I guarantee you will like his recipes!
In recent years the chef had retired to Provence to paint pictures, replaced by your Jamies and your Ainsleys. But what Carrier had, that today’s chefs lack, was a certain sense of class – and no amount of money, as we all know, can buy you that….
Robert Carrier: November 10, 1923, died June 27, 2006