Do you expect fish in your fish pie?

If you’re looking at the economy products at your local supermarket as a way of cutting food bills, this report in today’s Sunday Times might change your mind.
The report finds sausages with just 6 per cent pork and fish pie with just 9 per cent fish.
Typically the rest of the products are packed out with “water, animal fat and sugar”.
As Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, is quoted as saying: “It’s about consumer expectations. You would expect a fisherman’s pie, for example, to be mostly fish. If it contains mostly potato with 9% fish then it should be called potato pie with a bit of fish.”
Shocking findings which will leave cost cutters with that sinking health feeling – yet again.

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Restaurant at 54 @ Glossop

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It’s been some months since I mentioned this place opening up in Glossop .As is usual in these things, I’ve left it a while before doing a review, time for everything to settle down and become established, but I will confess to visiting several times in the interim.
And its easy to explain why – the food here is good.
This weekend’s drop in treat of a perfectly executed Barnsley chop exemplifies what I’m talking about.
There’s nothing fancy about it, just well cooked meat, the sort of chips you want to eat every last one and a buttery mushroom. There’s no silly garnish, no “jus” or “drizzle” – it’s just straightforward food cooked with attention to detail.
And it’s good value. The meal above was £6.95 and could easily grace a city centre gastro pub menu for double that price.
The restaurant is the latest enterprise from the people who used to run the Bull’s Head at Tintwistle – including the same chef – and it’s quickly built up a loyal clientele (a devotion supported by the enthusiastic comments my last posting on the place received).
The service is charming, friendly and attentive without being pushy and there’s a good selection of wines on offer, including by the glass.
So far so glowing then but, and there is a but, the venue is a little out of place.
It’s a High Street shop setting with an awkward space, both upstairs and down, with nothing of architectural note more than the wonder of those textured wall/ceiling coverings that were all the rage when…well, when people used to say “all the rage”!
The owners have made the best of it by keeping the decor clean and bight but still it’s the sort of food and welcome which would better suit roaring fires, country walks and frothy pints.
Not that I’d want them to move too far away though – Glossop might not be blessed with fine dining establishments but, thankfully, Restaurant at 54 raises the game.

40% off wine voucher clearing Thresher shelves

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Popping to my local off licence to buy some wine for tonight’s dinner I found the shelves being stripped bare and queues forming towards the door.
Yes, there’s an offer going on.
With the online voucher you can print off here, pre-Christmas shoppers can get 40% off wine and Champagne until Dec 2.
But, judging by my experience today, you’ll have to be quick to find anything left to buy. (Shame my printer’s on the blink too!).

Food and farming awards: Success for Bury and Unicorn

Two Greater Manchester foodie institutions have been acknowledged in the national BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards this year.
Those leaders in organic produce, Chorlton’s Unicorn Grocery were named joint winners in the Best Local Food Retailer while the world famous Bury Food Market got yet another gong.
The high profile ceremony held in Birmingham this week also saw the campaigning chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall baned BBC Food Personality of the Year. He sounded pleased with the accolade saying: “I’m really thrilled and genuinely excited to receive this award…. especially as I was nominated by BBC radio listeners, that’s what makes something like this extra special. It’s been a very exciting and an intense year – so this award is genuinely coveted and I’m chuffed to bits.”
Among those presenting awards were Jamie Oliver, Jimmy Doherty, Angela Hartnett, Gregg Wallace, Alex James and Ainsley Harriott.
The full list of winners can be found here and a programme dediacted to the event will be broadcast on Sunday.

Region’s top foodies up for recognition

The BBC’s food and farming awards return to our airwaves at the end of this week.

Radio 4’s annual awards ceremony
has become a firm favourite in the foodie year for me and it’s great to see three Greater Manchester companies in the running.
They are;
* British Elmwood Chicken, Co-operative Food, Manchester which is up for best retail initiative for its scheme to improve welfare for chickens
* Chorlton’s Unicorn Grocery which could be named best local food retailer.
* Bury Market which is in the running for the country’s best food market.
The winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony, held at the NEC Birmingham tomorrow night when the BBC food personality of the year will also be revealed.
Follow the event with BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme online or on Sunday 12:30-13:00.
I’ll also update the blog with more on how our local competitors fare but for now – good luck all!

Welcome return of the Secret Lunch

It’s good to see fellow Manchester foodie blogger Secret Lunch back in business – and hungry for more.
So where’s he been hiding? A recent post explains: ” It’s been over a year though I’ve not been missing out on lunches, dinners or otherwise in the meantime… Just missing out on passing them around the gentle readers of this blog.
“A few recent encounters with fellow mancloggers though has given me the strength to pick up the ailing laptop and hit the keys. It’s all about transparency, let’s just damn well get it out there. Thanks folks.”
And so he has with the first stop being the mighty meaty restaurant Pra Brazil in the Northern Quarter which I’ve not yet got round to sampling myself despite having several recommendations (all admittedly from rather carnivorous men!)
So what’s the Secret Lunch verdict?
It seems he suffered some meat defeat but is willing to give it another go: “The fatal mistake to make is to think it’s like a Chinese buffet and load up your plate with heaps of stuff from the central counter. There are lovely stews there (melty oxtail mmmm) but by filling yourself too quickly there is the danger that you’ll miss out on the main event. It’s a drink and graze kind of place, not a big fat heap of food on your plate and stuff it all in job.”
Read the full review here.

@ City Cafe

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Doing some posh nosh here by trying out the fish and chips at the City Café, part of the City Inn’s smart hotel at Piccadilly.
Being rather more swanky than your average fish and chippery, this was a sit down and savour experience with a matching price tag.
The restaurant has a subdues and classy feel although I had to agree to disagree on the appreciation of the décor with Himself approving of what I thought was too much of a sea of beige with huge curtains dividing the space.
Fish: Well as you can see – it wasn’t huge! But it was good. Well textured, white and flakey is had steamed inside its batter jacket in the way that the best fish and chips does.
Batter: Another success – light with a real crunch. The coating had flavour too and gave the fish an extra boost.
Peas: None but instead some tartare sauce that was pretty bland and would have befitted from some greater caper goodness.
Chips: Hrrmph! What is all that about? You need to concentrate on every one – there only being six to enjoy. OK it’s a place with high-end dining aspiration but there seems little point in having chips – unless you actually have chips. Disappointing both in quantity and crispness.
Price: Expensive at £10.95 a head.
Verdict: Walk on by.

City Café is at Piccadilly Place, just a stone’s throw from the station. Tel: +44 (0)161 242 1000
E-mail: manchester.citycafe@cityinn.com

Friday Fun: Social site for tea drinkers

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Does your office always argue over whose turn it is to make the tea? Then worry no more – a new social platform has launched to take the stress out of brew times.
www.makethetea.com says it will make the decision for you.
Simply sign up, register your preference of drink strength on a scale of 0-5, number of sugars and preference of beverage and the power of web will rush you a welcome cuppa.
Well so it says.
Seeing as it’s Friday, I signed up and have even attempted to infiltrate the Manchester What If tea club of two members.
Still waiting un-refreshed though…………………………………
In reality it’s a bit of fun which could cheer some office workers by providing a virtual teapot to gather round while being a neat bit of marketing from a major milk manufacturer.

End in sight for Marmite recipe dispute?

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Could it be that the great Marmite debate is about to be settled?
Regulars to this blog will know that the discussion about whether the tea-time favourite had changed its recipe has been rumbling on for almost two years now.
(I first blogged my suspicions of a sweeter, thinner recipe back in February 2007)
Since then it’s been the subject of many more posts and comments, but then this week, I received the comment below from the tireless Marmite investigator Beverly Fox.
She has been demanding some answers from manufacturers Unilever ever since and it seems has been finally rewarded for her efforts.
She said: “With the voucher sent to me by Peter Scott back in September, I bought a small pot of Marmite and was astounded to find it was exactly the same as the good old original product. Is there something odd going on with production? If, as I wrote in September, there had been an inferior batch which was withdrawn, why are people still writing about the problem. I’m still eating the small pot, but when it’s finished I shall buy another and let you know if it was as good. I have to say I was relieved and happy to have the old product at last. I hope it wasn’t just a one off!”
Come on Beverly buy the next pot soon ………..the end to this debate is in sight!

Another independent cafe gone from the city

Sad to see that Zest in Piccadilly has shut its doors. I’m probably a bit late to notice this, and haven’t been able to find out why, but my recently started traffic diversion enforced commutes by train took me to its door in the hope of a fresh smoothie – only to find it is no more.
I was a big fan of Zest. (I know I had a bit of a go about their rubbish garnish once but that was only because the rest of the offerings were so good.)
An independent trader which prided itself on being Fairtrade, Zest was one of the few places that you could get a smoothie when I first started calling in seven years ago.
Perhaps the rise of Innocent and all the other pre-packed versions that you now can’t help fall over everywhere you go had an impact on that particular market, but there were plenty of other fresh reasons to call – sandwiches with fillings that were different from the norm and not the overstuffed size of small towns, homemade soups and veggie breakfast barms that were just perfect for a weekend brunch.
Their recent-ish introduction of a hot lamp hotel style cooked breakfast never really appealed – after all there’s no shortage of places doing fry ups in that area. But maybe that move in itself says a lot about customer expectations.
Perhaps Piccadilly’s cafes are forever doomed to be pie and chips, all day breakfast, chips with your chips sort of a places.