Anita’s anchovy tapas

I first had these as a summer starter but they were so delicious we forgot about the main course and simply made some more! Brings a colourful taste of the Mediterranean into these grey autumn days.
What you need
One red, orange or yellow pepper per person.
Tin or jar of anchovy fillets in oil.
Olive oil.
1-2 tins canned tomatoes.
2 crushed cloves of garlic.
Salt and pepper.
What you do
Preheat the oven to 180c.
Cut the peppers into halves, if they are small, or thirds if they are large.
Splash oil across the bottom on a roasting dish or eartherware dish.
Place the pepper pieces in the tin.
Place a small amount of garlic in each.
Place an anchovy fillet in each.
Add a tomato to each piece.
Season with salt and pepper.
Bake in the oven for 25-35minutes.
Verdict: So simple yet totally delicious. Can be served with other tapas dishes as part of a spread but will also stand as a lunch served with fresh crusty bread and a green salad.
Do you have a recipe for me to share? Let me know by submitting it below or drop me an email.

A heavenly meringue experience

A little bit of heaven on a plate. That’s the only way I can describe the blackcurrant meringue I was fortunate to sample at Betty’s in Harrogate yesterday.
I don’t know why the picture came out like this – perhaps I was taking it so fast to get back to the dessert that it came looking as though it was travelling at speed – perhaps it’s the visual manifestation of a sugar rush!
Regardless of the picture, this delicacy was simply divine. For anyone who hasn’t had the Betty’s experience, I’ll try to sum it up here. First you arrive in the attractive Yorkshire town and your heart gives a little skip as you approach the door.
But then it’s dashed – oh look at that queue!
There’s always a queue – I’m certain it’s a deliberate policy. Yes, it is popular but I spied some empty tables at one point and the queue was still maintained.
It’s not a problem. I’ve come to the conclusion that the queuing is a necessary part of the whole pleasure experience. Waiting quietly surrounded by displays of chocolate truffles, tea breads and exotic teas merely builds up the anticipation.
I first spotted this meringue when the queue had shuffled forward sufficiently to allow us a view of the staircase and the trolley full of fancies for the ground floor restaurant was just visible in a tantalising glimpse.
I eventually got mine after we’d been ushered down to the basement dining area and already managed to demolish one of the house specialities – the fabulous smoked chicken and mushroom rosti in a creamy, wine sauce (pictured).

But is was the desert that made the visit memorable. The meringue base crispy fell apart when invaded with the fork but melted in the mouth.
The blackcurrant filling with strategically placed blackcurrants was sweet but not cloying and the texture of melting snow on the tongue.

It was beyond improvement.
Leaving the café behind, I remarked to Himself that every single trip to Betty’s (both in Harrogate and Northallerton) had been memorable.
But yesterday was also blogably notable. A return visit is guaranteed.

Taste test: SunBites

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Aaahh crisps. One of life’s little pleasures – but sadly one that makes you wobbly. Personally I love them but in these sad middle aged days it’s a rare treat so the grail of crisps which aren’t so fattening is a marketing message worth risking a few pence on. Or is it?
Walkers this week launched a new range of crisps which they not only claim to contain 30 per cent less fat but that also contain more than a third of the suggested amount of wholegrain.
All very laudable I’m sure but they do cost 41p so what do they taste like?
Three packs of SunBites arrived in the office so we tried them out. As well as myself, three other intrepid tasters subjected themselves to the task in hand.
Here’s the rather mixed results:
I tried the oven roasted onion and rosemary flavour which was delicate and not soapy as rosemary has a tendency to be. They had a light texture which was almost a bit melt in the mouth.

While have to acknowledge Walkers’ endeavour for putting another healthy snack option on the market, SunBites overly wheaty taste and cardboard-like texture simply results in making healthy eating seem even less appealing. Sadly one in the eye for the full fat alternatives. Lawrence.

Tastier than they look and more of an authentic crisp texture than some other healthier options. James

Sour cream and cracked pepper had a subtle flavour without being drowned in the whole grain wheat. More satisfying than fat-free crisps, but too much of a hint of the healthy option. Crisps, after all, are not meant to be good for you. Mark

Tell me what you think below.

My sweet corn soup

Spotting a bargain at the grocers this weekend, I suddenly found the need for a sweet corn soup recipe. My local grocer has reduced corn to such a price that I think they’ll start paying me to take it away if it gets any cheaper.
I had a buzz round the internet and then made it up and came up with something between a “cream of” and a “chowder”. A “creamder” or a “chow of”?
Whatever it is, it’s a winner and really simple too. You could probably make it with a lot less corn – I used so much purely because I had it.
What you need
5 corn on the cob.
2 carrots.
1 celery stalk.
Half an onion.
Two mugs of chicken stock.
Small tub of single cream.
Splash of olive oil.
Salt and pepper.
What to do
Remove the kernels from the cobs. (I followed these instructions).
Clean and chop the onion, carrots and celery.
Saute these in a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan.
Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the corn kernels and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Blend the mixture – you may find it easier to do in batches and this way you can add/reduce liquid to the required consistency.
Add the cream.
Season to taste.
Reheat to serve but avoid boiling.

Lunch break: Don Giovanni’s

When the surrealist artist Magritte accompanied a picture of a pipe with the words “this is not a pipe” it was something of an intellectual exercise and one which forced people to look at the world in a different way.
While we are now accustomed to reciving mixed visual messages (although I’m still baffled by what the fantastic drumming gorilla has to do with chocolate ) it ws Magritte who came to mind during my unsuccessful lunch visit to Don Giovanni’s in Oxford Road yesterday.
When this restaurant first moved across the road to its stylish new premises it was generally not well received. One of my colleagues’ responses was fairly typical.
But never one to jump on the bandwagon, I wanted to wait until they’d settled beyond the impress the media or difficult staffing issues of the early days to see for myself and give them a proper assessment.
But I’m sorry to say it wasn’t pretty. After being shown to our table for two in the cavernous (almost empty) space which the new premises now offers, the glum waiter appeared to take our drinks order. “Could we have two San Pellegrino water please” I inquired.
There was a shrug. “We have water. Similiar but not San Pellegrino” he muttered and talked off. While musing on what sort of Italian restaurant doesn’t have San Pellegrino (I thought it must come out of the municipal taps in the homeland it’s so universal) we received first one smeary glass and then another less so and then – two bottles of San Pellegrino.
OK something of a misunderstanding but who cares, we got what we ordered. Not so with the mains – my spaghetti pescatore(pictured) arrived, his spinach and rocotta tortellini arrived but the green salad is presumably still growing in a field somehwere far from Manchester.
The food was very ordinary. My seafood sauce was full of the creatures of the sea but the sauce was without any depth or interest. Himself found the sauce very rich in the way of extra cream and butter and we both had pasta which was overcooked.

It’s the food of drinkers – fullsome and with a first hit of flavour but with none of the intricacy and passion which has given the Italian nation is deserved reputation.

Desserts (choc fudge cake pictured) were similarly large, overly sweet and accompanied with a garish squiggle which looked like something the artist known as Prince might have left on the plate as he fled for an eaterie with more purple.
But what the food lacked in passion – the waiting staff certainly lacked in even basic civility. On being presented with a bill with said in capital letter across the top “THIS IS NOT A RECEIPT” I politely requested a reciept.
After being gruffly told it was a reciept by one waiter who gestured rudely towards me and spat out “you deal with her” to another younger and rather embarrased colleague I was assured that, despite what it actually said on the bill, this was indeed a receipt.
So, with a nod to Magritte, all I can say to you is that Don Giovanni’s isn’t an Italian restuarant.
Don Giovanni’s Ristorante is at 11 Oxford Street, Manchester. 0161 228 2482.
More pictures on my Flickr site.

Is it the squeezy that’s turned Paddington?

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Paddington Bear has finally got with the script. No more marmalade, he’s turned to my mate marmite for his sandwiches.
A new ad campaign featuring the childhood favourite is out – catch it here!
Whether the squeezy version is sweeter or thinner is still up for debate.
But the duffel wearer isn’t the only one changing his habits. According to posh supermarket Waitrose, marmalade is also being ousted from the shelves by squeezy honey.
The move to squeezy follows the chain’s latest statistic showing that honey is now outselling marmalade by 25%.
So is it the marmalade that’s being replaced or is it just that anything squeezy is more popular in our lazy kitchen lives?

Cooking the new rock ‘n’roll? It’s a soap!

I’ve recently taken to having the television on while I’m cooking. And increasingly its becoming a somewhat merged activity. Take last night as an example.
While busy sautéing some onions, mushrooms and peppers ready for a vegetarian lasagne, I chanced across Jamie at Home (Channel 4 8pm).
While being completely envious of his produce-stuffed garden and amazing outdoor kitchen, I watched as Jamie busily rolled multi-coloured carrots and beets in olive oil, vinegar and herbs before producing the most amazing looking roast veg.
But this programme had problems. 1. What’s with the shorts Jamie? Seeing those pasty little legs poking out of those baggy pants was reminiscent of a Tory leadership candidate on his hols. And 2. Try to remember that you’re not cooking with the children all the time. While appearing relaxed in front of the camera is one thing, seasoning a steak while enthusing “Mr Pepper likes to visit steak” is almost as cringeworthy as those shapeless pantaloons.
Onto Cook Yourself Slim (Channel 4 as well) which promised much – being able to eat fish and chips without guilt or weight gain. That’s just what I need ( lack of weight gain that is – there’s never any guilt with me when it comes to fish and chips!). But alas this show was cruelly mis-sold. A large lady whose entire life appeared to be spent eating cakes and takeaways was then shown how to eat more healthily and surprise, banana surprise she lost some flab. Well considering what she started with that was never going to be much of challenge was it? Just stop gorging cakes woman!
Finally back to Hell’s Kitchen (ITV1 9pm). With most of the action now going on in the house all the celebrities share, this is fast becoming more of an adult Big Brother than it is a show about food.
Jim Davidson has now (thankfully) left the show after disgracing himself with various unpleasantness he tried to pass off as being age-related and WAG Abigail looks set to win the show with her mix of cooking skills, pleasant demeanour and a hard-grafting nature.
So what’s the result of this exotic blend of culinary progamming? Will the world be a place where food is given more importance? Will the obesity crisis be averted by health conscious gourmets?
Unlikely. Maybe there will be better mashed potato thanks to the lovely Barry McGuigan’s whisking demonstrations in the Marco Pierre White kitchen or maybe armies of gardeners will be inspired to sow more adventurous veg thanks to Jamie.
All I know is that I really do need to get out more.