Taste of summer range from Abel and Cole


“I don’t care what the weather man says….and the weatherman says it’s raining!” Isn’t that what the song they play at the end of the television weather forecast says?

Yeah right!

Who doesn’t care what the weather’s like – well people were the weather can be guaranteed, day after day that’s who.


So while the brief showing of the sun over the Bank Holiday fades into the distance (and half the city’s population head to Rome for reasons of football), so does any hope of one of those most English of pastimes – the picnic.

Oh for the family picnic!

Squashed sandwiches which unexpectedly incorporate tomato along with grass, weird angry wasps, warm pop (0r lashings of ginger beer of course), grass stained clothing, sunburned shoulders and “whiffy egg”! Who could want for anything more.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be quite like that. Opening up a delivery from Abel and Cole’s Summer Range yesterday gave me different view of what picnic could mean. OK there’s no outdoors in this version but what the heck – lay out a summery tablecloth and make believe there’s good weather abound.


The range includes plenty of Mediterranean favourites, ready to go. A black olive houmous (£2.20) which was so thick it was almost a mash – most definitely not of the runny dip variety – with a deep olive flavour enhanced with a good helping of black pepper, scooped up onto chunky, crunchy sesame breadsticks (£1.89).

Then there’s the hams – salty pancetta (£2.99), sweet prosciutto (£4.59)  – and the taleggio cheese (£4.95).

According to my Italian Food dictionary (Gillian Riley, 2008) this cheese is often matured in caves “wafted by draughts of cold humid air”. Whether this particular variety had been treated in this way I know not – wrapped like butter, it certainly had the freshness of the mountains and was perfect with good ripe sweet toms.

Eat your heart out Famous Five travels to Roma style.

But this being an indoor picnic meant that some cooking could occur so the centrepiece became a crab salad with this season’s Jersey Royals daubed in Danish butter.crab

The handpicked white Cornish crab from Seafood & Eat it (£4.99) comes with recipe ideas (chili crab linguine, crab rosti for instance) which sound great in their own way but the freshness of this white meat couldn’t be bettered than served simply with a nice crisp white wine – from Italy, of course.

Now that’s what you call a picnic! Oh, and yes, there was even cricket.

* The goods from the Abel & Cole Summer Range were provided free of charge for review purposes.

links for 2009-05-22

The biggest veggie breakfast treat in Manchester?

National Vegetarian Week is upon us once more – a time for the non-carnivorous to celebrate all that’s good and green and fresh.

Or perhaps not.

Veggies like a blow out as good as the next meat-eater as I discovered in a recent visit to the Eighth Day in Oxford Road.

Expecting an establishment of pale student types (well this is just about on-campus) ordering up a Fairtrade fix, it was a bit of a surprise to join the breakfast 9am queue of suited and booted middle management types vying for a fry up.

I opted for the innocuous sounding veggie sausage sandwich and was faced with this monster!

Belly buster!
Belly buster!

Juicy non-meat bangers nestling into thick doorstops of moist, light wholemeal bread. It was just the ticket with a huge mug of tea although I would ask for it unbuttered if I ever repeat the experience!

And yes, you do get organic brown sauce.

It’s a shame Manchester hasn’t got more vegetarian eateries – obviously there’s Earth in the city centre and then there’s Greens in Didsbury at the upper end of the dining experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed a special meal there not so long ago but I notice that ManCon’s Ruth Allen didn’t find it quite so tasty on her trip out to mark the week.

Still, there’s a few more days to go, so here’s what’s going on across the north west if you fancy giving the V to meat.

Weekend of food and drink in Southport


I see the Southport Food and Drink Festival is back again. In it’s third year, the free event takes place from Thursday, May 14 to Sunday, May 17.

The festival pavilion is being set up as the ‘hub’ of the event to house local and regional chefs carrying out cooking demonstrations, plus sampling from local restaurants and other food brands.

Special offers and taster menus can be found at Southport’s restaurants, bars, hotels and shops who are taking part in the festival – find out more here and here.

Organic food hero due in the north west

Prominent organic campaigner Guy Watson is going to be leading a debate about the whys and wherefores of organic food in Altrincham next month.

Guy, who has been tilling the organic furrow for the past twenty years and is responsible for the Riverford vegetable delivery scheme, is speaking at the event organised by Hullabaloo.

Organiser Suzi says at the event’s Facebook page; “There are so many important issues (and myths) surrounding organic farming, buying local produce, food miles and all that “stuff” that we may, or very easily may not, fully understand and also for me its about looking at these issues as a community, a community who should demand great AND good value food…so PLEASE show your support by coming along to listen and yes yes yes, to ask those difficult questions!”
Hullabaloo, Organic Café 5 Kings Court,Railway Street, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 2RD. 7:00pm – 10:00pm on Tuesday, June 9.

New pub opened in Old Glossop

01052009187A Bank Holiday treat this weekend – a new local pub, The Wheatsheaf, opened on Friday. Now when I say new, that’s not entirely correct as this pub has been up near the Church for so long it was even featured in the local paper’s memories page this week.

It’s a traditional stone built Derbyshire inn had most recently been trading as a (v nasty) Greek Taverna.

In these days of nearly 30 UK  pub closures every week it’s a welcome sight and means there’s now a choice of three pubs for us few hundred villagers.

The interior has been given an overhaul with freshly painted walls, new flooring and smart furnishings as well as feature fireplaces.

They’ll soon be serving a full menu of the steak and grills variety but, for now, they’re offering some pleasingly fresh sandwiches, jackets and the like as bar snacks while they get going.

The landlords Bob and Irene Skupham say trade has exceeded expectations so far so good luck to them for the future!