Saturday, 24 December 2011

Friday - Home for Christmas!!

Yesterday didn’t start as well as we hoped! There was a large spillage incident in the car that involved beetroot cured salmon juices and tiramisu! Luckily both have now been successfully saved and we made it to Liverpool One in one piece, even with the car being battered by rain all the way.

We decided on lunch at Lunya which is an independent Spanish restaurant and deli that we had heard really good things about. We ate with The Demon Headmaster (aka Dog Eyes in previous posts) and Lunya did not let us down. The restaurant had a great atmosphere, the service was top notch and the food good value and high quality. Next time we are home we have agreed that it we be our dinner out destination – all in a big highly recommended from all 3 of us. 

 After eating at Lunya and a little more shopping we headed back to Mum’s flat in Hoylake where the Christmas festivities really begin! After seasons greetings she wanted us all to open an early present each which we did. They were home made Christmas tank tops for Dave Bro and I, and a scarf for Jo! – Thanks Mum. I did wear mine out to the pub but Dave Bro could quite pull his off as I could so he left his behind – bah humbug! 

Before we headed out Georges, Sally, Pierre and Alexis joined us for dinner, after arriving from Paris the previous day….having them all around is one of the highlights of the Christmas period (there are a few others that will be documented as the blog is updated over the next few days). After Georges had constructed our traditional festive Sangria to drink today, we tucked into a glazed ham, ribs and other nibbles that Mum had put together – and very nice it all was too. I also had the same when we returned from the pub! – fatty Joe! 

At the Plasterers we joined old and new friends and we all had a great time which Jo is currently attempting to sleep off! Tomorrow as we are spending our traditional Christmas Day at Broad Eves with a total of 25 people!!! – I can’t wait!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Thursday Night - Chilli Con Carne

Last night was my work Christmas do which took place in the private dining room at Restaurant Bar and Grill in Manchester following by drinks and a little dancing at Milo's. I will blog about it at another time, but suffice to say it we all had a great time and I have paid for it today! Luckily I was able to make myself useless at home rather than at the office as I am now finished until 2012!! Get in!

While I tried to sleep my hangover off (it hasn't work so I have turned to wine instead) the ever industrious Chef Jo set to work in the kitchen to make chilli con carne. She has been cooking for most of the afternoon making some goodies to take back to the Wirral tomorrow......yum!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Wednesday Night and Last Day at Work

Phew................I can finally say it was my last day at work for the year! Get in!  Joe and I have both been working hard recently so we've taken a proper amount of time off over Christmas, and neither of us are back at work until the 3rd of January!

Joe is celebrating properly, out with work in Manchester.  He is staying over and has said he will not be drinking very much - I quite simply do not believe him and am expecting to be proved right when he crawls home off the train tomorrow!  I, on the other hand, will be feeling virtuous after my yummy bacon, chorizo and pepper salad (oh yes, bacon AND chorizo!) and stubby beer - what could be better?!

Warm salad of bacon, chorizo and peppers

Tuesday Night Late Night Treats

I had my last day of the year working in Manchester on Tuesday, so its not very surprising that I was a little late back!  Joe and I had arranged to meet Hunter Pig for some pre-Christmas drinks and gift swapping - Joe received some very fancy Saville Row socks and some hilarious books, while Hunter Pig was the first recipient of a special gift, which can't be revealed until after Christmas!

I joined the boys sometime after 8 in the Wrens Hotel, which has been given a rather nice make over.  It's no longer a pub that I think I'm likely to be killed for food in, and is now a cosy little pub with rooms.  Well worth a visit if you're in the New Briggate area.

Anyway, we made it home sometime after 9 and I decided on spicy fried rice with cashews - and not a meat product in sight (much to Joe's surprise about half way through dinner!).  It was very nice, although a little late to be scoffing rice, veg and chilli - woops!

Spicy fried rice - and the picture looks rancid!

Monday Night Game

For some reason on Monday I decided to make a skewed Alice in Wonderland version of Christmas dinner...eliciting perhaps my favourite twitter comment in a while regarding the size of our sprouts...ha!  Anyway, it's not giant sprouts, but a tiny turkey, or a partridge as they're more commonly known.  Dead quick to make and really tasty - probably my favourite game bird so far! A Monday treat of partridge wrapped in bacon with parsnips, sprouts, and a spiced plum sauce. 

Sprouts with bacon
Partidge.  Is it me or do they look quite cute for dead, small, birds?!
And the world's biggest sprouts...or a very tiny turkey

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A Bonus Post - Thanks for the Prizes!!!!

Ok, I'll admit it - we have had a pretty good run of winning stuff over the past month or so and I just wanted to give a mention to the 2 most recent prize givers....

Quite often I re-tweet posts on Twitter. These are usually other peoples blogs that we like or to win things from other Twitter users who I guess use it as a promotional tool.

So last week we were the grateful recipients of a £10 + bottle of Pino Nior from Lattitude Wine & Spirit Merchants. It's a brilliant shop in the city center of Leeds and well worth a visit - below is a photo of Will from Lattiude handing me the wine in question;

A classic pose
The second mention goes to the very generous Mario Gusto Italiano who was running a competition through December that we were lucky enough to win too! The prize was a tray of tiramisu made by Marios fair hand, with a hamper of other goodies including pasta, sausage, ewe cheese (also made by Mario from Yorkshire sheep) and a selection of other delights! Thanks a lot Mario - we will be heading to my home (The Wirral) and the tiramisu will be the center piece dessert to feed a table of 13 on Christmas Eve!!

Jo and Mario
All the goodies
While I am at it, here is lunch which was the last tapas that we didn't have enough space to have last night - Rinones El Jerez/ Kidneys In Sherry......

Raw lambs kidneys
Cooked lambs kidneys!

Saturday's Tapas Feast (Jo Girl)

Anyone who knows us knows that Joe and I have a love of Spanish food, so much so that we're planning on going to Andalusia for our (first) honey moon next year. 

 During the week, Joe decided that he wanted to indulge in a tapas feast on Saturday - spanning the whole early to late evening, with some nice drinks and relaxing.  Cue some childish competition over who would cook what, and whose would be best!!

Joe went for the sensible option and actually did some research before buying ingredients - I was a little bit more haphazard than that!  I think that says a lot about us!  On Friday, Joe went to the Kirkgate market, returning with clams, mussels, baby squid, pork loin and lamb's kidneys, all to be turned into tapas treats!  We also picked up some sherry (it's very in vogue apparently!) and some Estrella Daam Inedit from Harvey Nichols, to accompany our dishes.  Estrella Daam Inedit is a Catalan Pilsner, made in conjunction with Ferran Adria of el bulli which is tipped as the first beer to be drunk specifically with food, like a good wine.  It is a really tasty beer, and definitely one to try.

I was first up.  I made a chickpea, squid and clam stew, with tomato, garlic, chilli, lots of lemon juice and parsley.  It was yummy - deep tomato and flavours of the sea.  I am also a huge fan of chickpeas, which are much maligned still.  This was then joined by patatas croquetas con jamon, also known as potato and ham croquettes!  These were also pretty tasty, served with lemon and paprika mayonnaise.  Piping hot, crunchy on the outside and soft on the middle, this was a good start.  2-0 to Jo Girl!

Squid, chickpea and clam stew
Patatas croquetas con jamon
A little bit later, Joe ventured into the kitchen!  Armed with his internet research, he produced tigres (stuffed, roasted mussels) and pinchos morunos, which are marinated pork kebabs with paprika, chilli, lemon and cumin.  The mussels were amazing - full of salty, sweet mussel flavour and a little kick of chilli.  I've never gone in for mussels like this before, but I will definitely have them again.  The kebabs were also very good and full of flavour.  These ones came with the Estrella and it was a match made in heaven!  Joe catching up on 2-2.
Estrella Daam Inedit
pinchos morunos
After some exciting time watching the Strictly final (I was initially a Harry Judd fan but defected to Chelsee Healy during the night - she was robbed!) I went back to the kitchen to make the final dishes: chorizo in sherry and stuffed, breaded peppers.  I'm not sure how Spanish the peppers actually are, but they were really tasty, stuffed with cheese, parsley and chilli.  The chorizo was full of deep chorizo and sherry flavour, with a little bread for soaking up the juices.  Yum.  I'd say an overall win to Jo Girl: 3-2!

By this time we were so full that the lamb's kidneys have been bumped!  They will make a fine lunch another day instead.
Chorizo in sherry
Stuffed peppers

Friday Night end of a long week

Thank god it was's been a long week, with me trekking to Newcastle and back every day for a trial, and Joe trying to get as much done as possible before his Christmas break.  Come Friday, all I wanted to do was flop in at home, have some nice wine and food and sleep!  It's a truly exciting life we lead.

So on a very rare occassion, I was just not in the mood for cooking.  Joe bought some rolled pork belly things last week which were defrosted and slung in the oven - tres hard work!  Accompanied by chips and some peppered cabbage, it was hardly a thrilling Friday night dinner, but it was ok (not a huge fan of the rolled pork - much prefer doing my own!).  Joe did at least cheer me up with a cheeky shot of homemade limoncello, which is amazing - what a talented boy he is!

Rolled pork - a bit too fatty and the crackling was rubbish.  Poor effort by the Co-op!
Black pepper cabbage
Pork, cabbage and chips.

Casa Espresso - Coffee Lovers Competition

This post is my entry for the Casa Espresso Coffee Lovers Competition:

I am not sure when my tastes around coffee changed, but I honestly can't remember when I last time had an instant coffee. I think it may have been around 2005, when I moved to Leeds. James and Kate kindly put me up in their place for a couple of months where after dinner every night the cafetiere was brought to the table. I guess I fell in love with the process of getting a good coffee into the cup as much as the flavour itself.

6 years have passed since, and my love of coffee had continued to grow. Coffee plays a significant part in my day to day life and I would definitely miss my double espresso, cafetiere, flat white or espresso martini if it wasn’t there!

Every week day morning Jo brings me a lovely coffee made with the fancy cafetiere that she bought me a couple of years ago, and the coffee beans are ground in a machine that the future in-laws kindly gave me last Christmas. Every day in the office I use an ace cup that doubles as a mini cafetiere (genius!) and every Thursday Jo and I have a light-hearted argument about whose turn it is to buy the Friday coffees (I am a little ashamed to admit they come from Stark Bucks but in my defence it’s the only coffee shout on the way to our respective offices! I have a flat white and Jo a skinny hazelnut latte.)

I love the theatre of coffee, and that it does take a little effort to get it just right. From the correct grind size and the measurement of coffee used through to the 10 second wait for just off boiling water and then the 4 minute wait before the cafetiere is plunged. I also have a Bialetti Moka that I was using regularly until a kind friend decided to gift their rarely used Gaggia coffee machine to a good home. I have used it every day since and I have loved working how to get the best possible espressos from it – I haven’t quite got there yet but that is half the fun!

If you were ever to come round to our flat, you would see that we have quite the collection of espresso cups! Some have been bought, but the majority are (ahem) ‘souvenirs’ from holidays that we have been on that all bring back memories of good times and great meals that we have had.

Lastly I love buying coffee beans. I am definitely not a coffee ‘geek’ but I do appreciate a good full bodied flavour to my coffee. This definitely comes from ace retailers like Casa Espresso or La Bottega Milanese, rather than the brands that you will find on a generic supermarket shelf – for me, I would always rather buy from people who are passionate about what they do and also have a good story to tell…..

Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks to Nino for putting this competition on – you did say the prize was one of your coffee machines right? ;o)