Posts Tagged ‘cake’

Nerdish Brownies

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

I am supposed to be doing work right now, but I have news that needs immediate discussion. This morning was the first time my library-buddy, Joe, and I have been working in the Central library together. As per usual, at 10.30am I headed to the library café to buy my morning coffee. Before departing, I asked Joe if he would like anything. A cheeky look spread across his face as he suggested we share one of the cakes on offer. I agreed.

Joe trusted my cake-selection abilities and so I chose the chocolate brownie, an item I had sampled thanks to some bite-sized tasters the café sometimes makes available, however I had never purchased an entire slice.

Holy moly.

Never would I have guessed that I would find one of the world’s best chocolate brownies in the café at the Manchester Central Library. It is rich, dark and gooey on the inside with a slight crunch on the outer layer. There are small pieces of walnut scattered throughout, breaking up the intensity of the chocolate.

Library brownie – served in a lovely cardboard box/plate/dish/thing

Library brownie – served in a lovely cardboard box/plate/dish/thing

I am very, VERY picky when it comes to chocolate flavoured sweet goods and I never give praise unless it is deserved and this was bloody awesome. And so my first official work day of 2015 has been delicious. I haven’t done enough work, but finding a delicious brownie is a far better use of my time.

My Favourite UPT

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Throughout my trip to Northern Ireland, I learnt more and more about the Unique Personality Traits (UPTs) of family members and the local population in general. It didn’t take me long to work out what my favourite local custom was – the tray bake. I have never before heard the phrase ‘tray bake’ used as frequently as I did in this country. After confirming that a ‘tray bake’ is Irish/British for what I would call a ‘slice’, it amazed me how regularly it popped up in conversation.

While I was never offered of a tray bake during my stay (although at our first family member visit the table was covered in pikelets, meringues, short bread (one could argue that this is a form of tray bake), biscuits and eventually a trifle, but we had already eaten) I did discover that many of Sir Pubert’s family members had freezers full of pre-prepared tray bakes. And not only tray bakes but scones, soup, and entire meals, all frozen and ready to go on demand. One aunt had nine types of scones in her freezer – now that’s my kind of household. Baked goods on demand.

In honour of what I learned on my trip to Northern Ireland, I spent the afternoon at home today and whipped up a little carrot cake in order to use up some eggs. While it won’t go in the freezer and it isn’t a tray bake, I feel it is the least I can do to recognise the tray bake phenomenon of Northern Ireland.

Carrot cake

Walnutty, carrotty goodness.

Super Mega Fun Birthday Crazy Times!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

I am now officially closer to being old. Luckily my inner 12-year old lives on and she was particularly disappointed this morning that my birthday has been and gone. Why does time speed up on birthdays? The injustice.

Yesterday was my 29th birthday and my lovely boss, Myself, gave me the day off work to pursue the pleasures of being the Birthday Girl. I am particularly good at being a Birthday Girl and greatly annoy everyone around me by constantly reminding them of my elitism. Luckily it is only for 24 hours (if you don’t include the count down period and the week-long extended celebrations I like to undertake.).

Sir Pubert Gladstone was my elected chaperone and slave for the day and what a day it was! I slept in! Amazing. Breakfast and present opening involved delicious homemade muesli from Dad, stewed damsons from my friend Hannah, and opening a little white box containing one of the best looking black resin and pyrite rings that I have ever seen in my life. Pubert had clearly picked up on my previous blog-inserted hints and had sourced a ring from one of my favourite local jewellery designers, Jade Mellor. It is a truly beautiful object and it is sitting proudly on my hand as I type this. Fabulous work, Jade, and thank you, Pubert.

Designed and made by Jade Mellor

Designed and made by Jade Mellor

After completing a few errands, Sir Pubert took me for a weirdly timed meal (at 11.30 it was neither morning tea nor lunch) at Teacup where I had my first piece of cake for the day. Slightly dry but still quite tasty, this pear and almond cake sat nicely in my birthday belly.

Pear and almond cake from Teacup

Pear and almond cake from Teacup

Then there was Skype and present opening time with the family back home. I am becoming very experienced at not having my family at my birthdays, however no matter how frequently it happens or how old I get, it is still hard to not get a hug from my Mum, Dad and bro on the Most Important Day of the Year.

My family in electronic form.

My family in electronic form.

So to cheer me up, Sir Pubert and I decided to expand our minds by visiting the Museum of Science and Industry for the Hadron Collider exhibition. I had won two tickets to see the exhibit so was looking forward to learning about particles and Higgs Bosons and what exactly happens in that giant doughnut. To be honest, it was a little disappointing. We entered not really understanding much about what goes on in the collider and we left with just as much confusion. At no point do they really explain what the Higgs Boson is, despite it being a fairly significant finding within the whole collider-building-thing. I learnt a lot about how the collider works but I did spend most of the visit with an “I don’t understand…” frown on my face. Any additional wrinkles on my forehead are due to this confusion and not old age. So if anyone would like to explain Higgs Boson particles to me, please do.

Whoa, technology.

Whoa, technology.

With our tired brains we headed to the twenty-third floor of Manchester’s tallest (and essentially only) skyscraper to the Hilton hotel’s Cloud 23 bar. This swanky, overpriced and poorly decorated bar offers some great views over Manchester and the surrounding countryside and I had been wanting to come since moving to Manchester. The scattered cloud yet relatively clear sky produced some excellent views and Sir Pubert and I slowly drank our expensive (yet tasty) cocktails while staring out the window. It was Monday night and the bar was practically empty, so my Cloud 23 experience was better than what I had been told by some friends who had been before. Definitely a great place to watch the sun set on my birthday.

Goodbye, sun.

Goodbye, sun.

But the day didn’t finish there; MORE FOOD was needed so Pubert and I went to one of the reasons I moved to Manchester – Australasia. I love this restaurant. The decor is stylish but not trashy, the staff are friendly and know what they’re doing, and the food is just damn good. We shared salmon and black rice sushi, yellowfin tuna, goats cheese with beetroot, and seared teriyaki beef. Oh and the boy wanted chips.

Seriously tasty yellow fin tuna with sushi rice and just enough chilli

Seriously tasty yellow fin tuna with sushi rice and just enough chilli

Salmon wrapped in black rice

Salmon wrapped in black rice

Beef.

Beef.

Cheese of goat.

Cheese of goat.

But even the chips were the best deep-fried pieces of potato that I had ever had. It was well crafted, beautiful and delicious food and it made me very happy. What made me ecstatic was the chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce and raspberry sorbet that I had for dessert. It was sadly a little undercooked and therefore a bit eggy, but it was rich, gooey and choc-tastic. The raspberry sorbet added the perfect amount of tang, while the tiny pile of vanilla salt added absolutely nothing.

Hello chocolate soufflé

Hello chocolate soufflé

It was a seriously good day and I really was sad when it all came to an end. Now I have to wait another 364 days until I can do it all again. I wonder where in the world I will be next year and who will be coming to my 30th birthday party…

Surprise Birthday Wrap

Friday, August 29th, 2014

My birthday Two-Or-So-Weeks have begun in the form of delicious food. My friend and fellow Classroomer, Alam, surprised me with a halloumi and falafel wrap and a piece of carrot cake from the Veggie Kitchen at the Manchester Markets. Alam is always teasing me with his delicious cheesy wraps and so, to celebrate my birth, he went and bought me one. It may not be his Audi R8, but in my world a cheesy, chickpea filled wrap with a slab of cake is WAY better. Thanks, Alam!

Mmmm… birthday wrap...

Mmmm… birthday wrap…

Mmm… birthday carrot cake...

Mmm… birthday carrot cake…

 

Kurt, Steven and Yelp are Close to my Heart

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Last night brought another delicious Yelp Elite Event into my life – this time we were welcomed by Bar 21 in the Northern Quarter to sample their wares and check out their disco-tastic dance floors. In recognition of Bar21‘s ‘Movie ‘n’ Music’ theme, the evening was to be focussed on all things famous. It was suggested that we dress up as something film-related. Considering my very poor effort at the previous Elite event where we were asked to dress in ‘Summer attire’ and I wore sunglasses, I decided to actually think about my outfit for this event. With the use of my office’s printing facilities, a pair of scissors and a box of safety pins, I transformed an average red dress into HOMAGE TO B-GRADE MALE ACTION MOVIE STARS THAT I LOVE.

So many handsome men have attached themselves to me.

So many handsome men have attached themselves to me.

Steven, Kurt, Chuck, Jean-Claude, Arnie and co were well received by my fellow Yelpers and there were some mighty fine film and music related tees worn on the night as well.

I had never been to Bar21 before and, to be honest, I had purposefully avoided it. From the outside it had always appeared a bit concrete and uncomfortable, so I was pleasantly surprised when I ventured inside and discovered a bright and cheery bar full of memorabilia. Anywhere with a giant photograph from Back From the Future on the wall is a winner in my world.

We were allowed to choose a drink from their extensive Happy Hour list and Hannah and I were particularly happy to see that Doom Bar ale was an option. An excellent start to the evening.

The super friendly staff made us feel very welcome and took us on a tour of their downstairs dance floor. I think I will need to return for some serious hot-stepping one evening. It has been a long time since my last dance session… too long.

Next was a cocktail master class where we were shown how to make two drinks and then allowed to sample the tasty concoctions. Unfortunately (although probably luckily for our brain cells) there were 30 Yelpers and 15 glasses of each drink so there were a few sharpened elbows pushing their way through to get their drink of choice. Humans + free alcohol = messy. Hannah and I decided sharing is caring and went halfsies. The cocktails were good although neither would be something I’d normally choose. One had a cream layer and the other tasted like liquid Haribo. SWEEEEEEEET.

Mixology madness

Mixology madness

After the cocktails we were all in need of some food and we were overwhelmed by the smorgasbord of dishes put out for us to gorge on. It was a meatlovers’ delight with chorizo, salami, ribs, burgers and more kinds of chicken wings than I’ve seen in a long time. And it was tasty! I wouldn’t normally have chosen to come to Bar21 for food but I was really impressed with what I ate. The beef burgers were served with proscuitto and blue cheese – so good. Sadly, they were also drenched in some sort of brown sauce that was far too strong and completely overpowered all of the flavours. After I had attempted to remove most of the sauce the burger was definitely a winner on my plate.

Food! Photo credit: Hannah's phone.

Food! Photo credit: Hannah’s phone.

Dessert came out as we were still stuffing our faces – lime curd or chocolate mousse tartlets were our choices. Surprisingly I went for the lime as the chocolate didn’t look dark enough for my liking. And the lime was good – nice and sharp and served in a deliciously buttery pastry. Yum.

If we hadn’t consumed enough, out came a birthday cake to celebrate Yelp Manchester’s 10th birthday. Marzipan covered red velvet cake anyone? Yes please. As we forced the cake into our mouths (ok, there was no force involved. It was delicious.) Bar21‘s Thursday night quiz began and in our teams of 4, 5 or 6, we competed to the death to win great prizes and ultimate glory. My team failed miserably and finished in third-last place. We were largely let down by the Australian on our team who didn’t know how many stars were on her own country’s flag. Yep. For shame.

As the evening came to a close and I headed home to bed like the Grandma I have become, I felt that great sense of pure satisfaction after you have had a great night out. Good food, good drinks, good friends, good times. Looking forward to Yelping it up once again in September.

P.S. My stupid phone died during the cocktail master class so I have a serious lack of photographs of food. Very disappointing.

Deutsche Torte in Edinburgh

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

My trip to Edinburgh reminded me of how much I miss good food. While Manchester’s food options are slowly improving, it was so nice to be back in a city with small, independent cafés and bars and little pockets of suburban shops and restaurants. Edinburgh city centre is easily walkable with residential areas close by. I was staying in an apartment that was a ten minute walk from The Mile and the main action of the Edinburgh festival. It was also a five minute walk from streets lined with cute cafés and one-off shops and on my final morning, Les and I went for morning coffee at one of the local hang outs.

German heaven.

German heaven.

Falko is a German bakery and café that sells a jaw-droppingly joyful array of German bread, cakes and meals. It was rye central. As we walked in we received a very German welcome – our lack of decision making skills as we stared drooling over the cakes meant we were holding up the woman in charge. She was to the point, frowned a lot and wanted to run her business. We were disrupting that. It was wonderful – I felt like I was back in Germany being an annoying non-german-speaking tourist.

When we had finally chosen our cakes and ordered hot chocolates each, we sat outside (another faux pas as no one else was sitting out there and that meant additional work for Frau) and awaited our delights. When she delivered our cakes and drinks and we complimented her on the quality of her products, she decided we weren’t that bad and we even received a smile. Win!

I want.

I want.

Let me start with my apple torte – huge, juicy chunks of apple embedded in a not-too-sweet custard filling and perfectly baked pastry. I was instantly transported back to 2007 when I used to eat this every sort of thing every day. No wonder I got fat that year. Coupled with a glass of hot chocolate that was made from actual chocolate. Yes, you’ve heard of the stuff. Dark-brown and kind of sweet. Frau was proud of her hot chocolate and its real-chocolate content and so she should have been. It still wasn’t quite rich enough for me but it was three-hundred-million times better than any hot chocolate I have consumed in Manchester in the last year.

There's real chocolate in that glass.

There’s real chocolate in that glass.

It was one of those eating experiences that reminds me how much I love food and how I could happily spend the rest of my life surrounding myself in apple torte. In 10 days it is my birthday and I am concerned that I won’t be able to find a birthday cake to live up to my high standards. I might need to make my own to avoid the crushing disappointment of excess icing and tasteless sponge. In the meanwhile, my Falko apple torte sits fondly in my memory bank. Happy cake times.

Sheffield’s Resident Pig

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Last weekend I went and caught up with my brother and sister-in-law in Sheffield. It is handy living a 50 minute train ride away from my family. It is a significant improvement on a 24 hour plane ride; that’s a long way to go for a hug. My visits to see Ben don’t generally involve much other than sitting around drinking coffee, cooking dinner and then going to bed early. But sometimes it is this sort of relaxed comfort that is exactly what you need to remind yourself of the good things in life.

Saying this, on Saturday afternoon things turned wild when Ben and Zoë took me to Heeley City Farm to meet the animals residing in central Sheffield. Nestled in a residential zone of the city, Heeley City Farm is a community based animal farm, café and garden centre. It is a fantastic space to bring kids and is also highly entertaining for us older folk. Who doesn’t like looking at lambs? Here are some of the characters we met on our visit:

Goat butts.

Goat butts.

What?

What?

Winner of the Best Animal of the Farm competition.

Winner of the Best Animal of the Farm competition.

We think this is a chipmunk but there was no signage to confirm or deny.

We think this is a chipmunk but there was no signage to confirm or deny.

We went to the café for afternoon tea and each had a piece of homemade cake. Flavours included a vegan pear cake, lemon polenta, and I had a sticky ginger cake. They were all quite delicious and clearly made with love and community spirit. Happy cake always tastes better.

Disappointing Dessert

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

I had high hopes for Rosylee Tea Rooms in the Northern Quarter. They opened their doors towards the end of summer last year and I had been wanting to try their food since. On Thursday night, after being ‘arty and stuff’ and attending an exhibition opening, Pooja and I had dinner at Soup Kitchen before heading across the road to Rosylee for dessert. We were excited. We had heard good things and the photographs on their website suggested we were going to be very happy.

It wasn’t a great start – the staff ignored us as we walked in and looked obviously annoyed that we had entered their restaurant at 8.30pm when they had seem some potential for closing early. We were eventually invited to take a seat of our choosing and we then were presented with dessert menus. Rosylee has a fancy-vibe going for it. Lots of shiny things, black and white furnishings and the waitstaff look like they want to take your coat. It could be elegant but the restaurant was half-empty so it just felt a bit uncomfortable.

I went down a classic route and chose the plum and apple crumble served with cinnamon clotted cream. It was the clotted cream that got me and I promised to share some of it with Pooja. The chocolate item on the menu was a chocolate marquis with cherry which I knew I wouldn’t like because chocolate should never, ever, ever be put together with cherry or orange. Plus I was feeling like something cozy and comforting so crumble it was.

Apple and plum crumble

Apple and plum crumble

It was disappointing. I could have made a better crumble – the apple and the plum were both undercooked and the crumble topping had nothing interesting to it. Plus the custard was lumpy. The clotted cream was good (of course) but that’s because it is clotted cream and it is impossible for that not to taste amazing.

Pooja chose a Baileys crème brûlée which tasted nothing like Baileys. And it was overcooked and slightly curdled.

Baileys crème brûlée

Baileys crème brûlée

Both dishes looked very pretty and there was a moment of joy when they were placed in front of us. But sadly the joy ended as we dipped our over-sized spoons into delicate pots. Such a shame.

We had both independently decided against ordering tea when we had seen the price – £3.60. That’s a lot of money for some hot water and tea leaves. We were sad that our Rosylee Tea Room experience hadn’t been more successful, and while we agreed they weren’t the worst desserts we have ever eaten, they were overpriced and just not great. The final interesting moment was when our bill was plonked down on our table, signalling it was time for us to leave. And most likely never go back.

Hills, Lakes and Cakes

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

I am not an outdoorsy-type but I would like to be. I am amazed by people who go for long walks, have camping holidays and who own jackets that make that water-proofed swishing/crinkling sound. These people own boots that don’t matter if you walk through puddles and muddy ground, and their cheeks have a healthy red glow from outdoor activity. I want to be one of these people with their bright blue Northface jackets, fleecy beanies and thick socks. I want to go on long walks up hills, along rivers and through valleys even when it is raining and for it not to matter if I get saturated. It is freedom and adventure far beyond my usual explorations of museum galleries and city back streets. I think I will always want a clean toilet and warm shower (let’s not get too crazy) but getting back to nature looks like so much fun.

On Saturday I had a taste of this wild adventure when my cousin Les took me to the Lake District to walk up a hill. A one and a half hour drive north of Manchester, this area of England is a stunning collection of hills, lakes (although there is technically only one ‘lake’ in the Lake District – the rest are waters/meres/etc) and cute little towns with thriving tourism industries. As we left Manchester, it was, of course, raining. My mood suited the Mancunian cloud as my not-so-great week made me a not-so-great driving companion for poor Lesley. But as we drove further north both the rain and my mood lifted and soon we were surrounded by rolling hills, fluffy white clouds, golden sunshine and happy sheep. Happy sheep will always make a happy Jess. Always.

On the way we stopped at Low Sizergh Barn, an organic farm with a shop and tea room, for a cup of coffee. What would be the point of going to a tea room if you don’t sample the homemade cakes? Les and I each had a scone served with homemade jam and cream. As we sat stuffing our faces with large balls of dough, we could see into the cow milking room (the source of the cream we were happily consuming.) I think that if you can see where the fat originated from then it is good fat.

More cream? Why, yes please!

More cream? Why, yes please!

Re-energised, we continued on to the town of Grasmere where we parked the car, changed our shoes, donned our waterproof/windproof/mountain-lion-proof gear and prepared ourselves for the climb ahead. It would be tough. It would be gruelling. There was a chance we would not make it. A very, very small chance because it wasn’t a particularly large hill and there was no real danger involved.

Our aim was Silver How – a reasonably steep fell with an elevation of 359 metres. By this time the sun was shining, the wind had dropped and there were a few clouds around so it was perfect fell-climbing weather. One of the nicest aspects of the walk was the fact that for a large part we were heading up a rocky path that was also a small stream so I was able to put my second-hand hiking boots to the test as I tromped through flowing water. I could walk in water and mud without worrying about my shoes! Brilliant!

Les leads the way up the rocky path

Les leads the way up the rocky path

The views as we got higher were amazing – we were surrounded by other large hills, some of which had snow covered tops, and as we rose up above the town of Grasmere we could see down to the lake. We met other walkers along the way, exchanging nods, hellos and general good vibes. Everyone was happy to be walking up and down a hill, breathing fresh air and taking in the beautiful scenery.

We met a dog, too.

We met a dog, too.

After an hour and 15 minutes of walking we reached the summit of Silver How and were welcomed with a stunning 360 degree view of the Lake District. The hills, lakes, towns, snow, clouds and sky created a overwhelmingly beautiful display, demonstrating once again why so many painters have spent their time recording British landscapes. At the top the wind had increased and a small weather front was heading across the snow-covered Langdale hills. As the clouds passed alongside Silver How, the wind blew remnants of snow onto us and we sat at the top of our conquered fell with never ending views, patchy sunshine and snow falling on our waterproof jackets. The sound of snow on plastic hoods is fantastic. We were soon freezing and had wet bums from sitting on the soggy ground (jeans aren’t waterproof) so we headed back down the hill, eating our picnic lunch near the bottom.

Amazing views from Silver How.

Amazing views from Silver How.

After a brief exploration of Grasmere and a sample of their local gingerbread (wow.) we drove to Ambleside and to a café called Chesters where I had my second piece of cake for the day. A two-pieces-of-cake day is always a good day. Although I guess if you count the small gingerbread sample I had, then that’s a three-cake-day. My very large square of carrot cake was particularly good with large chunks of apple and walnut throughout and a marzipan carrot on the top. Delicious.

That's a big piece of carrot cake.

That’s a big piece of carrot cake.

While we sat and ate our afternoon tea, Les had the idea of visiting some of her friends who live in the area and we organised to meet them for dinner. We ate at a local pub in Ravenstonedale and went back to their house where Will showed me his vintage buses. They run a vintage coach hire company and take tours and rent out their beautiful classic coaches.

It was then time to drive back to Manchester and we arrived home just before midnight. It had been a long and adventurous day full of food, activity and good times. Being surrounded by the impressive hills and lakes of the Lake District and being out in nature reminded me of how small I am in the big picture and how there’s so much to see and do and explore in the world. Life’s little annoyances are just that – little and annoying. If you spend too much time worrying about the meaning of life, you will miss out on noticing the green-patchwork on grassy hills, the way in which  sunlight bounces off dampened ground, the sound of snow hitting plastic jacket hoods, and the wiggle of happy sheep bums.

On top of the world

On top of the world

Birthday Pie

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I wish to officially announce that I am one of the luckiest people in the world and that I am friends with some of the greatest, coolest, best-looking and down right bonza people EVER. Last night I was reminded of this fact when my friend, Pooja, invited me to her house for dinner. Pooja had spent the day saving lives, performing surgery and puncturing people with scalpels and needles and yet still managed to get home and whip me up a SUPER SPECIAL SURPRISE-FILLED BIRTHDAY DINNER!

This three-course menu consisted of home-made beef and mushroom BIRTHDAY PIES served with sweet potato chips and salad.

Birthday pie!

Birthday pie!

This was then followed by TWO dessert courses! I know a friend is a real friend when they feed me two desserts. The first round – a banana BIRTHDAY CAKE adorned with a significant number and cats in candle form.

Birthday cake!

Birthday cake!

The second, two flavours of ice cream, strawberries and meringue. Pooja also bought a bottle of something pink, fizzy and containing indistinguishable ingredients that when combined had created a potentially dangerous drink that just tasted like cordial.

We sat by her window and had views out over the Manchester ship canal while discussing the highs and lows of getting old. We’ve now decided that 38 is the new 28 which was the new 18. So we still have another ten years to go before we have to become serious adults. It was a great night. On top of all of this, Pooja bought me a vintage red Parker Pen from 1964 – the perfect instrument for a writer who is slightly obsessed with red. A major thank you to Pooja for looking after me and being my surrogate sister. I still think we could be identical twins, if only we looked more alike.

The older you get, the more impressive the fire you can create on top of your birthday cake.

The older you get, the more impressive the fire you can create on top of your birthday cake.