Half way round the world for food blogger

Fellow food blogger Robert Hamilton has now munched his way to the half way point in his remarkable journey round the world by cuisine.
When he started out, Robert ( “middle aged, middle class and growing midriff” ) aimed to create “a journal and food diary for reluctant tourists and lazy foodies like me.”
“The concept is that I eat in as many restaurants and cafes from different countries while staying more or less in the same city. Which is Manchester.”
And so this month he’s reached the half way point with the 40th eaterie being the Loch Fyne fish restaurant at the Olde Cock Inn at Didsbury where he toyed with some double entrendre while his companion toyed with her starter.
The series of blog postings has so far been an education into the huge variety of food styles available on the doorstep so I do hope he can continue all the way to the final count.
I’m with you all the way Robert!

How often do you do it?

Has the credit crunch become more of a debit munch for you? Are you eating out less than usual or is all this talk of cutting back nothing more than macaroni?
Looking at a recent online poll at www.ask500people.com, I see that a definat 30 per cent of people worldwide claimed they’d made no changes to their lifestyles.
But closer to home, I noticed the sales of M&S Dine in for £10 were going briskly when I gave them a try this weekend.
So I thought it time for a Manchester based survey to see just how often us city folk dine out. Please cast your vote below or let me know if you’re changing your habits because money’s tight.
How often do you eat out?
( surveys)

Making some Great British sandwiches

I’ve seen those great TV ads for Hovis with the little boy running through the mists of time but I hadn’t realised until today that it’s all about a return of the little brown loaf.
The breadmaker is having a comeback celebration for the loaf 122 years after was first introduced in 1886 and as part of that celebrity chefs, Andrew Turner and Mark Hix, are creating bespoke ‘Great British Sandwiches’ as you can see on this video.

Bring out your veg

South Manchester is coming over all home-grown this autumn. Under the banner of Manchester Food and Drink Festival, The Chorlton Fringe is looking forward to showcasing the best produce and home-baked goodies around.
The Chorlton Roots & Fruits Competition is looking for entries of produce, cakes and jams which will judged on Saturday, October 11 in Chorlton Library
Check it out on www.chorltonfringe.com or download an entry form here.

Medieval cookbook going online

A 15th century cookbook by Richard II’s chef is soon going to be available online thanks to a digital project at the city’s John Rylands Library.
The Forme of Cury is a 600-year-old recipe book and includes recipes made with costly spices. “The ingredients were extremely expensive and beyond the income of the peasants and the middle classes,” John Hodgson keeper of manuscripts at the library told the BBC this morning.
Other items to be included in the project are the complete Canterbury Tales.
Fragile manuscripts at the University of Manchester’s library will be photographed with a high definition digital camera and the images will then be published on the web.
The project will begin in October and will be completed in 2009.
Listen to the full interview with Mr Hodgson here.

Taste Sensation ’08 at the weekend

News in from Cheshire – restaurants from across Trafford are going to be setting up kitchens at Altrincham Market this weekend for Taste Sensation ’08.
Organisers tell me it was a roaring success last year, so they will once again be serving up small portions of typical dishes that might feature on the local restaurant menus.
The idea is for people to be able to try flavours from a wide cross-section of stalls.
Flying the flag for British Food at the start of British Food Fortnight is Earle owned by celebrity chef Simon Rimmer, who will be taking a turn chefing on the stall during the day, and Altrincham’s gastro pub, The Victoria.
In addition, there’s plenty of other flavours to savour including; Caribbean, Indian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Greek.
Because this year’s event shares the date with Battle of Britain Sunday there also a 40’s theme for our entertainment – and, of course, spam fritters.
Call 0161 912 5931 to order a festival brochure or download a copy from www.atasteoftrafford.com where you will also find up to the minute news, food and drink features, and special offers.

Doing your dining on the box

The appetite for television food programming seems to know no bounds. With Masterchef on every night, The Hairy Bakers roaming the country, Gordon Ramsay seemingly on every night and the new series of The Restaurant getting underway last night, it seems us foodies are well catered for on the home entertainment front.
But is it all getting a bit wearing? How are you ever to produce your saffron pommes purées if you become more of a pomme de terre al sofa?
In these credit crunch days, maybe watching others dining out while staying in with a TV dinner on your lap is the new going out.
Let me know what you think and, if you are watching all available cooking coverage, which is your favourite. Please join the 499 other people who are taking part in this worldwide poll at the moment.
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You masterchefs of the north west

How about this menu for a feast of sensuous flavours and variety of styles?

Grilled Gravlax with spring salad new potatoes and mustard sauce

Hot Halloumi with Roasted Peppers

Garlic tiger prawns and asparagus served on toasted sour dough

Chinese Chicken Pies

Sea Bass to Die for

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Fresh Blueberry Sauce

Summer Pudding

No, it’s not some fancy new city restaurant that’s just opened up, this is what you’re eating at home apparently. These are the top recipes from the recipe site Foodari – as chosen by all you north west foodies.
The site’s Johathan Parker told me; “Such a diverse menu of recipes really demonstrates how sophisticated but also different peoples palates are. What’s more is that it is great that so many members are enjoying sharing and trying each other’s recommendations and therefore eating foods they may not have tried before”
All I can say is – can I come round yours for tea tonight?:

Cornish capers: A date with posh the pasty

A final tour round Padstow this morning revealed long sandy beaches, a steady climb to the town’s war memorial with its views out to sea and, unbelievably, yet more Stein establishments.
After yesterday’s visitations to (how many?) of the premises, this morning we found hidden away in the backstreets a Stein cafe and even a B&B. This town is remarkable in so many ways – the sheer number of fine eateries, the volume of award-winning establishments and producers – but not least because of the chef’s unavoidable presence.
But before we set back north there was one last taste of Cornwall we had to do – of course the pasty.
In a town where the aroma of pasties mingles with the sharp scent of vinegar on chips and salt on fish, that symbol of Cornish toil is now as much a part of a holiday as clotted cream.
I lost count of the number of pasty suppliers (I took pictures of some) and of the huge variety of fillings. Here’s a very abbreviated list; lamb and mint, leek and cheese, steak and brie and even curried pastry packages fastened with that tell-tale twisted ridge.
It was hard to know which to choose so we put two very different establishments to the test. Feeling that vegetarians perhaps get a rough deal in this foodie mecca I decided to find a meat-free version and selected the long established and award-winning Chough Bakery.
He went for the traditional version from Morris, “Padstow’s Posh Pasty”.
They each cost just over £3 and we settled near the morbidly obese gulls on the harbour wall to see what we’d got.
My mixed veg (right in the picture) was an assortment of courgette, carrot, peppers encased in a pastry which was soft but not satisfyingly crumbly. I was disappointed as the expected peppery and spice seasoning which is always the pleasure of a pasty seemed to be entirely missing. It was bland, not well-seasoned.
His “posh” one (left) fared much better. Although it’s a bit hard to compare meat and veg, his was perfectly seasoned, the steak inside succulent and the carrots and spuds juicy. To cap it all, the pastry had just the right amount of bite and crumble – no soggy bottoms there.
So posh gets the vote – thankfully meaning there was very little left for those gulls who desperately need a lifestyle coach if they’re ever to mend their grasping, lardy, bad-mannered ways.
Heading away from the sunny beaches, the quintessential English summer puffy clouds and byplanes we we sad leaving this foodie town behind. No time even for a cream tea.
Now there’s at least one reason for a repeat performance.

Cornish capers: Rickrolling Padstow style

Ok, ok I give in. I surrender. All hail the god of Stein. Yes, I’ve arrived in Padstow and, while I’d heard it had been re-named Padstein some years back, I had no idea the extent or the level of Mr Rick’s influence. This Cornish coastal town is almost a Rick Stein theme park – even the late departed Chalky the dog lives on here, flogging his very own beer.
If you haven’t bought the T shirt, the book, the mugs, the bags, the fish and chips or the bottled mussels before you leave this town, I fear fishy suited checkpoints will have been set up to search vehicles heading north to ensure the requisite amount of merchandising has been purchased.
We arrived at lunch time and the first evidence of the great chef’s presence is the huge fish shed of a building which is home to the seafood cookery school. We could see some cheffing hopefuls hard at it through the round windows of the top level of this impressive take on a traditional fish warehouse.
Underneath is the Stein’s fish and chip shop, where queues were already forming in the rain to sample the wares, then there’s the deli with its impressive counter of fresh fish and its bottles, jars, cups, plates and of course books.
This is where you can pick up some of Chalky’s brew – in a gift presentation pack with a glass if required.
It’s all quite overwhelming. We head towards the harbour and come across the next part of the Stein empire – the seafood restaurant and bar. Prices there are steep – £65 a head for the tasting menu.
So we head off to discover an non-Stein establishment, perhaps a local enterprise looking to cash in on the success of the celebrity chef. Round the corner of the road and what do we see? The Stein patisserie with pasties and assorted loveliness.
This is getting spooky now, I’m looking over my shoulder to see if the man himself is perhaps monitoring our every move.
At last we spied a likely looking place, Pesacdou perusing the menu outside (a very reasonable £9 for mussels) and noting the Michelin’s on display we decided to throw our lot in with this as a contrary stab at a Stein avoidance tactic.
Oh no we don’t. Being one minute too late for service (having spent five outside the door) we were turned away. What is wrong with British businesses that they do this? If you’re open for business, you’re open. If you’re not open – take your menu board off the street and close the door. Don’t watch people perusing your menu until the clock ticks past your self-appointed hour.
The other explanation could be that we hadn’t paid our dues to the Stein I suppose. Perhaps there’s a pecking order here.
So we headed to yet another of his establishments – the St Petroc’s Bistro. Here I enjoyed the most generous fish pasta Provencal with linguine and heaps of that underrated fish ling cooked with fragrant fennel seeds and tomato.
He tucked into a plate of smoked Toulouse sausage, which I’m convinced featured in the boat trip through France programme, with a dressing of mustard and capers. Dodging the rain, we just about managed to eat outdoors, the service was charmingly unhurried and we did thoroughly enjoy it.
Which just goes to prove, when in Padstein….roll with Rick.
See more pictures from the trip on Flickr or follow on Twitter.