New bread making courses on offer in the north west

doughIf you fancy getting in on the whole artisan bread thing, there’s two three places starting in July offering ‘how-to’ courses from the not-for-profit organisation Cracking Good Food.

If you’re within striking distance of Flixton, Prestwich or Chorlton-cum-Hardy, the new classes could help your inner baking knead.

The organisers say:

Having successfully launched a new full-day bread class, Our Daily Bread, last week in Flixton, Cracking Good Food will return to the Girls’ School there for more baking on 12 July and 8 November (10am-4pm, £95). Cracking Good Food also takes artisan breadmaking to North Manchester for the first time on 7 June and again on 27 September, with a brand-new all-day course at Prestwich Arts College (10am-4pm, £95).

Cracking Good Food’s half-day Breaking Bread courses continue to run at Chorlton High School (the next programmed are 14 June, 13 September and 11 October, 10am-2pm, £55), and there is also a special Festive Bread session on 22 November (10am-2pm, £55).

CGF’s breadmaking expert Rob Tomlinson explains what happens there: “Our workshops are totally hands-on and participants come away with the knowledge of how to make organic loaves, aromatic focaccia, rye bread, delicious garlic naans, and even the perfect pizza base. The battle to restore decent bread to its proper place is gathering momentum. Join us!”

See for details and booking information for all the classes on offer and to find out more about Cracking Good Food’s community work.

Honours, fish and chips and investigations – hello 2014

A very Happy New Year to all!

Getting 2014 started here at the food blog with heartfelt congratulations to Manchester’s amazing Tse sisters, Lisa and Helen.

The twins, who operate the Sweet Mandarin restaurant, were each awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

While they are probably best known to many for the Dragon’s Den appearance below, I shall personally remain in Lisa’s debt for teaching me some wok moves all those years ago when the pair of us tweeting our cookery lesson became a first for a UK restaurant. Wow, how times have moved on.

Cheers to you both for your well-deserved recognition.

A haddock fillet with light and non-soggy batter, mahogany edges protruding from the soft embrace of a scantly buttered bap. Fried in dripping, not sunflower oil. Always with scraps, those delectable leftover fragments, the pain perdu of the fryer.

This, what I can only call an ‘ode to fish and chips’ was published earlier this week on my latest project, – a community-funded writing platform. It was written by Kate Feld, the writer behind the enduring Manchizzle blog and is a delicious piece of food writing. If you fancy doing something similar for a future issue, the site is now open to writers to propose submissions for commission and membership is currently free. Further details on that here.

Finally, I happened to catch, briefly, some trashy TV programme over the break about how the food and health industries make us unhealthy. Before I switched over, a startling claim was made – that industrially produced bread is padded out with chicken feathers. Now whether this is true or not I haven’t had time to properly investigate – I’m guessing there’ll be many a complaint from the food lobby to Ofcom if it’s not – but it struck me that many edible products now seem to contain what can only be described as byproducts from other parts of the food industry.

I’m hoping to look at this more at some point this year and would very much like to hear from anyone who has first-hand knowledge about any such activity. Please feel free to contact me in confidence

Zomato’s Manchester ambitions continue apace

zomatoI recently caught up with the team behind the food discovery website and app Zomato to see how their Manchester launch was going.

Regular readers of this blog might remember we revealed how the Indian operation had started work in the city back in July.

Since then, there’s been a lot happening behind the scenes which I’ve reported on for the Prolific North website here.

Chefs tour the north west and north Yorkshire food stars

The north of England’s foodie hotspots have been discovered by The Guardian this weekend with both north Yorkshire and the north west being featured.

Writing in food and drink pages, Michelin-starred chef of the Yorke Arms in Pately Bridge, Frances Atkins takes a look at places including Harrogate, Ripon and Wensleydale.

Meanwhile chef Mary-Ellen McTague makes the case for looking past the clubbing and nightlife scene of north west cities and instead thinking food.

We’ve always done other stuff brilliantly in the north-west: art, music, fashion, design, clubbing, brawling … But we never quite got that combination of cool and quality right where food is concerned. But things have changed around here over the past couple of years, and we have a load of places to be proud of.

Check out her recommendations here.

Glazed roast chicken to liven up Sunday

Tesco’s been doing some research among its customers to find out what’s cooking at home and people’s attitudes towards food.

The supermarket carried out a survey of 2,000 parents and quizzed them about such things as their level of passion for cooking and how often a microwave was used for the main family meal.

And among the findings they also identified favourite meals and came up with this top five list for Manchester meals which show a pretty traditional, and it could be said, unadventurous, selection:

  • Roast dinner (14%)
  • Spaghetti bolognaise (8%)
  • Pizza (8%)
  • Lasgne (7%)
  • BBQ chicken/cottage pie (5%)

So as part of its Love Every Mouthful campaign, they’ve come up with this recipe for a different sort of roast chicken and asked me to try it out. Could this oriental inspired glazed chicken tempt you into trying something different?

Glazed roast chicken

Glazed roast chicken with lemon roast potatoes and broccoli

61/2 tbsp clear honey
5tbsp soy sauce
small piece of grated ginger
9 crushed garlic cloves
5 tbsp rice wine
1 chicken
2lb halved charlotte pots
2 thinly sliced lemons
1tbsp olive oil
200g tenderstem broccoli

It’s simple enough to do. Put the honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and ricewine in a pan and bring to the boil for 5 mins. It should go thick and sticky but I have to admit mine remained quite runny so I think I’d add some extra honey next time.

Coat the chicken with the half the glaze and stick it in an oven pre-heated to 190c.

30 mins before then end of the cooking time (which will depend on how big your bird is), remove from the oven to add the final half of the glaze and add the lemons and potatoes tossed in oil to the oven for the final cooking.

Verdict: The glaze kept the bird very moist and succulent. The flavours were delicate and makes for an extra zing to the Sunday roast with the potatoes also lighter than your standard roasties.

Tescos is hoping people will share their resulting creations on social media using the hashtag #loveeverymouthful and so you might well find other recipes popping up across Twitter and Instagram.

Restaurant discovery platform Zomato launches in Manchester

zomatoI say tom-a-to, they say zom-a-to!

This newcomer on the Manchester food scene is a tech start-up bringing a hyperlocal restaurant finder for web and mobile to the city.

Already making moves in Dubai and India, the young company has set its sights on the UK and this week quietly launched in Manchester.

As they explained to me, the launch was deliberately low key as they build up the contacts and knowledge locally to understand the city’s particular needs and habits.

The team is busy securing an office in the city (possibly in the Northern Quarter) as well as meeting with food bloggers to forge links into the online community.

Of course they’ll be jostling for attention among both big media players such as the MEN’s City Life listings pages as well as the smaller players like ManchesterConfidential.

So what does Zomato Manchester, with an existing 14m global users per month for the main site, have to offer that’s different?

A screengrab from the app
A screengrab from the app
The service’s USP is a full menu service. Every single restaurant, cafe and food outlet has been contacted and the menus extracted to be displayed to users searching for a style of food, the price they’re willing to pay or the location.

And they don’t just display that as a one-off – the menus are checked and updated as necessary every three months – quite an undertaking considering they are featuring Manchester’s 1,800 outlets.

I’ve been trying out the iPhone app and there’s a few interesting features. Firstly it’s location-aware so search results can relate to the users actual position.

For those of us that like to review the places we eat in, there’s an interesting badging system for contributors which rewards them based upon followers and the number of reviews in order to establish super users who are trusted voices.

The search also allows users to create circles of people to follow for recommendations so building a social network within the specialised genre of food for a particular location. I think that’s pretty neat.

It will be fascinating to see how it evolves. In London, where they launched just seven months ago, The Daily Mirror’s Martin Newman wrote in the Huffington Post of how they were blitzing London’s ultra competitive restaurant listings.

Zomato’s breadth of coverage now exceeds all their existing London competitors with their main selling point the scanned copies of menus for every one of their listings. They’ve signed up several thousand members and their website is attracting hundreds of thousands of hits a month – all without having spent a penny on advertising the London arm!

One to watch.