Creamy potato and leek bake

I chose this recipe because I wanted to use several ingredients from my mixed box of organic vegetables and make them the main part of the meal. I served this with parsnips and squash roasted with fresh thyme. It made a filling winter’s supper plate. I’ve altered slightly a recipe which was in Linda’s Kitchen by Linda McCartney.
What you need
2 large crushed garlic cloves.
2 tbs olive oil.
Slug of truffle oil.
Large bunch chopped parsley.
Handful of fresh thyme.
250g mushrooms, sliced.
350g potatoes, peeled and sliced.
350g leeks.
Sea salt and black pepper.
Grated nutmeg.
175 ml creme fraiche.
5 tbs skimmed milk.
What you do
Saute the garlic in the two oils for a couple of minutes then add the mushrooms and chopped parsley. Cook gently for a few minutes until soft mixture.
Layer half the pots and leeks on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with nutmeg and fresh thyme.
Spoon the mushroom mixture on top of the first layer.
Add a second layer of potato, leeks, seasonings.
Spoon the creme fraiche over the top and add the milk.
Cover and cook at 190c for an hour.
Verdict: It is substantial enough to make the centrepiece of an informal meal. Meat lovers could use smaller servings as an accompaniement for lamb or chicken – the thyme on the leeks making it meaty.

What’s eating? Nigella

Just what is it with Nigella? Cheese, cheese and a bit more cheese judging by last night’s TV performance.
While much has been said elsewhere about her Christmas cleavage and wiggly wonderland of her particular seasonal presentational style,I watched last night’s mid-way episode of her BBC2 food porn fest agog – just how much stodge can the woman consume?
Firstly she passes off cheese on toast (OK it was a suitably posh version of that favourite after pub snack) as a supper treat for her guests.
Then she sets about a pitcher of espresso Martini’s which contained such generous measures they would delight even a 17-year-old binge-drinker.
Then she shovelled down buttery, sugary cake for afters and, as if that wasn’t enough, sat hogging a plate of FOUR “loaded” jackets (yet more full-strength cheese, crème fraiche and bacon) on her own in a seemingly private, quiet space after all the other guests had gone.
Loaded? I should cocoa!
Apart from fact the only presence of greenery for this fatty feast seemed to be some trimmings of chives, isn’t what’s on show here more like the behaviour of someone with an eating disorder than a festive treat?
I’m all for a Christmas pig out girl ,but this solo gorging seems at odds with sociable seasonal entertaining – and yes it has to be said that the less posh among us do often try a bit harder than stale baguette slathered in egg and cheese when we’ve got people round.
If you missed the episode and want to feel all cheesey, you can see it here. You won’t be alone as about 3m people are already at it. Remarkable.

Arctic Rolls return – it really must be Christmas

Raspberry_Arctic_Roll.jpgIt seems I am having MY moment! With all things retro coming into view thanks to this latest recession, my prayers have been answered. Not only have I made it into The Times of London village newsletter again today but Arctic Roll is making a comeback.
OK the mention of the Twitter stream that feeds from this blog in a national newspaper might not be that great shakes but ARCTIC ROLL??? Get in!!!
It’s almost two years since I first blogged about this delicacy of the 70s and what do I find in my inbox this morning? An email with the (OK rather shouty) subject line ARCTIC ROLL IS BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER BEFORE.
The release goes on to explain; “Back in the day when BMXs were cool and the Rubik Cube ruled, it was every kid’s favourite dessert – and now it’s back and better than ever. Birds Eye has updated its cult family dessert for the 21st Century, 47 years after it was first on sale, once again providing the ideal fun finishing touch to any family meal.”
Now, the alarm bells are ringing a bit over the words “updated”. Careful now Birds Eye, you may have taken the crusty old sailor out of the freezer, but don’t be messing with the rolls.
They’re not going to be back on the shelves nationwide until January but they tell me there’s samples on the way so Jon the Beef and I will surely be able to test them out and report back just as soon as they arrive.

This blog, now with added beef!

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Important announcement for readers of this foodie blog!
I’ve asked fellow foodie, the blogger known universally as Jon the Beef, if he will do me the honour of being my co-blogger and he’s only gone and said ‘yes’.
He will be contributing here very shortly and bringing a different take to all things food, eating in and dining out around Manchester.
I’m sure you’ll find him entertaining and value the extra dimension he’ll certainly bring to my Life through food offering.
He’s also on Twitter so you can check him out today @jonthebeef.

The White Hart @ Lydgate

WhiteHart.jpgWE set out wondering whether the White Hart in Lydgate was one of those great British institutions referred to at last week’s BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming awards.
Taking the winding roads up to Lydgate we listened to the wine critic and television presenter Oz Clarke telling listeners: “In these times when the British pub enormous threat and we have between six and ten pubs closing every single week, I don’t think the Great British Pub is under threat at all”.
His argument being that establishments that produce good, straightforward food and which get involved in their local communities, will thrive even in these credit crunch times.
And with its award wining chefs, Ryan Dutson and John Rudden, the White Hart is certainly one of those places that has concentrated on its local community, not only serving up for weddings and special occasions but also hosting any number of special events over a typical year.
Coming up in the next few weeks, for example, there’s comedy nights and music nights all with dinner included as well as luxury banquets for Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
So we arrived at the dramatic moors location with high hopes.
The exterior of the building doesn’t do credit to the pub’s scenic poistion near a pretty church and set in the middle of inviting footpaths tramping into the open countryside.
Strangely, stepping into the restaurant dining room loses all sense of that great outdoors. The formal room with its tasteful, muted décor, low ceiling and rather too thoroughfare seating arrangement, seems at odds with the rustic, rural wildness we’d anticipated from outside.
But we’d seen enough of the view, and a windswept December day is no time for a wander on the moors – the menu was the visitor attraction for this jaunt out.
Lunch menu is set at £19.95 with a choice of starters, mains, deserts and coffee with scrumptious homemade chocolate.
My starter of celeriac soup was a thickly textured lake (think runny porridge) with an island in the middle which is described on the menu as a grain mustard and apple beignot. It was a little dumpling of surprise with tiny apple inerds of delight.
He went for the roast pumpkin and sweet garlic tart with a blue cheese crème fraiche which had more of the piquancy of the blue cheese than it did the softness of the pumpkin, all housed in a light case.
For the mains, a pre-requisite of my dish was a love of lamb. Three different treatments of the local meat arrived on a plate with ratatouille and a colour confusing rosemary puree which arrived orange due to its sweet potato carrier.
The main cut on the plate was pot roast lam – succulent and rosy but there was also a sweet sautéed kidney and the deepest of flavoured confit of shoulder to really set off this trilogy.
The cod braised with oxtail was equally stunning with almost translucent flakes of the fish set off by the rich, deep tomes of oxtail and the surprising crunch of roast salsify.
Sticking with a British theme we decided to share an apple crumble only to be jolted out of the expected comfort food zone – the most appley of apple jellies topped with cold custard and crumble top wasn’t exactly what we’d expected but it was a suitably interesting accompaniment to a memorable meal.
The lunch was certainly that Great British fare that Oz was so supportive of in pubs he has been visiting across the country but, and there is a but, as an experience the service let the side down.
Being seated near the kitchen door, despite there being plenty of other available tables, felt a little unwelcoming for starters but then the extreme slowness of the service was painful.
Bearing in mind that the waiter had to almost fall over us to take other people’s orders to the table (including people who’d been seated after us) a one hour wait to be delivered the main course probably qualifies as downright hostile.
On food alone, the White Hart certainly makes it’s a good British pub. A more welcoming serving style would easily make it a Great one.
The White Hart is at www.thewhitehart.co.uk. 51 STOCKPORT ROAD LYDGATE OLDHAM OL4 4JJ TEL: 0044 (0)1457 872566 FAX: 0044 (0)1457 875190 EMAIL: bookings@thewhitehart.co.uk

What Chinese bakers bake

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Breads and cakes aren’t the first thing that spring to mind when thinking Chinese cuisine. There’s no expectation of a particular sort of bread with a meal or a dessert – well not with the type of meal we’re used to receiving in Chinese restaurants in this country.
So I’ve always been intrigued by the bakeries I often walk past in Manchester’s Chinatown and decided to go inside and see what’s on offer.
I ventured up the steps of the Wong Wong bakery in Princess Street and found the most amazing display of colourful gateau, a lot of it heavily laden with fruit, cakes decorated with dragons, cats and some cartoon-style creatures I didn’t even recognise.
And then there’s the savouries – baked rolls with all manner of filling from chicken stuffings to sausages. A lucky cat bun with chestnut stuffing looking particularly appealing!
Sadly the owners weren’t happy for me to take pictures (I didn’t even go there with a request for video!) so I had to make do with this leaflet showing the range of their wares.
You can get the idea of the vastness of the selection from this maybe, but I’d recommend a visit to get the full impact of the place – there’s also a little café area where you can sample the cakes by the slice and maybe enjoy a coconut black pearl milk tea.
Certainly a change from the uniform latte’s and muffins on every street corner in the city.
Wong Wong Bakery and Café is at 32 Princess Street, Manchester. 0161 228 1717.