Thursday, 22 September 2011

Collaborative Review: Bolton Market

This post is my first collaborative blog, with Sarah (twitter @NorthwestNosh), a fellow blogger whose blog you can find there (a mine of thorough reviews about Manchester eateries). We had a little expedition last Saturday to Bolton Market, I hoped on the train with my camera, and Sara showed me around the market which is her local. 
I really enjoyed it and I know I will be back to do more shopping there. Definitely for fish, cheese and unusual vegges.
Text below from Sara, photos from myself.

Foodies have long heralded the farmers' market; fair trade jute bag in hand, chatting to the suppliers over ears of freshly harvested corn and handmade gluten free cupcakes.

However we need to remember that the raise of the farmers' market is not just a modern phenomenon, but an extension of the traditional market that has been the mainstay of the populace's shopping experience for the past thousand years.
Bolton market is very much a product of the town's industrial past, housed in a Victorian market hall. The town has held the charter to hold a market since 1251 and I can happily say this tradition is still going strong.

We've started shopping at the market after becoming increasingly depressed wandering round brightly illuminated isles being over-charged for intensively packaged shiny fruits and not being able to find much on the farmers' market in our price range - lovely for a spot of browsing or picking up something specialist; but not great at filling the shopping basket for the whole week.

Bolton's a usual mixed market, split in two; with general wares in one section and food in the other. You'll find the food market by following the fresh fishy smell and shouts of "seabass for for a fiver." Get ready for your senses to be assaulted as you're greeted on all sides by amazing sights, smells and sounds.

First stop is the fish stalls - there's a great selection at HJ Grundy; a good looking stall with spanking fresh fish. There's always the usuals including staples such as cod and seabass, but it's also a great place to pick up the unusual. Last Saturday there were razor clams, live brown crab, prawns the size of my forearm, catfish and many others I've neither seen nor tasted before. The staff at Grundy's will clean, fillet and give you any bones of the fish you want. They're also very helpful when asking questions about what's fresh and when certain catches have come in. AND they stock local potted shrimps (Southport), something I stock up on at every opportunity!

On to Meat and Poultry for large, free range duck eggs and then over to Choice Cuts where you can get a good big slab of pork belly including nipple, a proper black pudding (Bury no less) and a cheeky chat with the guys on the stall. There's a handful of meat and fish suppliers here, so there's always plenty of choice for anything you need, including pigs feet and boiling chickens. As Bolton has a large ethnic community there are also a couple of Halal meats stalls, one specialising in super fresh Halal offal as well.

 After the meat and fish you pop through to the fruit, veg and bakery section; which really is a riot of colour. Browse amongst the stalls for the best fruit and veg - most providers have grown savvy to the current localism trend and now mark on whether the stock is from the UK and even where about it's from; one of the stalls has some cracking Hesketh tomatoes at the moment. There doesn't seem to be one veg stall that's better than the other; it's a case of browse them all, picking up the freshest and the best. However there is a stall right at the back that's overflowing with chillies, fresh dates, Asian vegetables and humongous bunches of gorgeous herbs adding their heady fragrance to an already mind blowing shopping experience.

Special mention needs to be paid to Purdons cheese stall, selling a wide range of European cheeses; plus a large selection of local one - this week I purchased a cracking Garstang Blue, which I decided upon with the help of staff (who kindly let me try a few). 

(Note from Easy does it: I bought some Welsh bomber and crumbly lancashire and I was certainly not disappointed!)

Also a mention to Unsworth Deli, a places where real bread reigns supreme and you can pick up specialities such as actual pancetta - not the flabby, little, flavoured lardons you pick up at the big four; but  a whole piece of cured meat off which you're sliced a lovely hunk. Plus the boy is very happy with their selection of pies (well he is Northern).

And last but not least Sweet Treats, found in the general side of the market. It’s a small, white sweet shop, but the only place you can find cream soda, plus put in a request for something you can’t find anymore and they’ll try to track it down for you. It’s recognisable by the yellow trays of Swizle Matlow sweets reminiscent of your corner shop when you were eight.

Bolton Market's a brilliant alternative to the weekly big shop, you can sort all you food out but can't get everything there (such as toiletries); there's plenty of choice, the food fresh and it's good to know that your money stays local.

(Note from Easy does it: I need to mention the little cafes across the market,so typically British, kitsch and cute:


Ps - Bolton Market has a market kitchen where they host cookery demos, even the Hairy Bikers have cooked there. AND they won best Indoor Retail Market 2010. Even more reason to pay them a visit!

Pps - there's no parking at the market, however park at Sainsbury's on Trinity Street, parking's free for two hours. The train station is a five minute walk from the market and there's plenty of buses running in from the surrounding area.

Bolton Market is open Tue, Thurs, Fri and Sat - 9am-5pm. There's a second hand section on Friday and a car boot on Sunday.

Bolton Market, Ashburner Street, Bolton BL1 1TQ.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Cantonese stir-fry crab

We are blessed in Manchester with numerous and very good Chinese restaurants. I go out a lot to these restaurants, and was intending to go with a friend last Friday, but she suggested we'd cook something together at home instead. I embraced the idea as I love cooking with other people and the food always end up being something that would not come out of a restaurant's kitchen somehow.
So we met up in Chinatown - 2 min from my home, so my usual food hunts place - not knowing what we were going to do yet. As we entered, the first thing we saw was the seafood, and in particular the lobsters and the crabs. We looked at each other and it was decided, crab it would be. My friend who is originally from Hong Kong and she immediately suggested a dish from back home. We only picked up a few other ingredients as my kitchen already contains all the usual Chinese basics suspects.

The crabs were of course alive so I had a little photo shoot with them before they'd die for the greater good of our stomachs. I must say I've always loved crabs, they are fascinating crustaceans.

To cook this dish (for 2 pers.)
- 2 medium crabs
- Fresh noodles for 2
- 2 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 thumb fresh ginger, chopped
- 1 red chili, chopped
- 6 preserved black bean, chopped
- 1 head broccoli divided in florets
- dark soy sauce
- light soy sauce
 -oyster sauce
- vegetable oil (I used rapeseed oil, healthier)
- 1 bunch spring onions, chopped in diagonals
- a handful of cornflour
- 2 tsp sugar

Prepare a big pan with boiling water, drop the crabs in it (the faster the least they suffer...) and put the lid on.
Take the crabs out when they are red/pink/orange(depends on the crabs used), it only takes a few minutes. Take the crabs out and set aside.

When they are cold, dismember them and break the claws, remove the non edible part of the body.

Chop together chili, garlic,ginger and black beans. reserve some for the broccoli (to be cooked and served separately

Heat oil in a wok, throw in the mix, stir-fry for a minute, throw in the spring onions,and cook some more, then add the crab, mix a bit, add a dash of soy sauce and oyster sauce then add the lid on the wok.

In a small bowl, mix cornflour and 1tsp sugar, add some cold water, stir well and add to the crabs, stir till thickened.

The dish is now ready.

Blanch the broccoli.
Heat oil in a wok, throw in the mix, stir-fry for a minute,add florets, soy and oyster sauce, stir well, cook for a few more minutes.
In a small bowl, mix cornflour and 1tsp sugar, add some cold water, stir well and add in the wok, stir till thickened.and the dish is now ready

Cook the fresh noodles in boiling water, drain in cold water and then pour boiling water (to keep them hot) on top in the colander. Dish o the plates. Add a filet of oyster sauce, a drizzle of light soy sauce, and finish with a filet of hot oil.

Serve the three items.

This dish is really easy to make and has this gorgeous taste of Hong-Kong Street food.
The crab brings a flavoursome sweetness, and the whole dish does not take much time at all.
The noodles cooked that way take a whole dimension, and don't even think a second of skipping the oil, that would be murder!

Source: My friend, this is a common Cantonese dish cooked in HongKong at home.
Photography: myself.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Review: The Northern Quarter Restaurant

The Northern Quarter Restaurant, Manchester

If you are going to Manchester, don't forget to pay a visit to the Northern Quarter Restaurant, Do not be fooled by its discreet and inocuous outlook. They focus their effort on good service and excellent food. Their prices are very reasonnable too. It took me a bit of time to get there. Simply because the menu seemed too European. But that was a big mistake. It is one of my very favorites restaurants around here.

The food is simple yet very fine. The flavours, presentation and taste get top mark. The surroundings for that level of cuising are surprisingly unpretentious. The restaurant feels very welcoming, intimate and confortable. The staff is well trained, discreet and knowledgeable (now that has to be praised, not that common in Manchester!).
I only have good things to say about them as you can see...
Here are a few dishes I had there:
Egg benedict
Egg benedict, a good test for a restaurant, this one was perfect, and the crispy bacon on top was a serious plus.
Black pudding and egg benedict
Back pudding: I hesitated to takle that dish, and I never regretted my choice, the blackpudding was light and moist, flavoursome
Steak and Guiness pie with peas and chips
One lunch I had guiness pie, peas and chips: the peas were ultra fresh and light with a hint of mint, The pie was like none I had before, the meat was tender and melting in the mouth, and the Guiness was not overpowering.
I had some fantastic fish and meat dishes cooked to perfection, well balanced and full of flavours, but I did not have my camera then, so you are very much missing out on their sight (hint: go check them out yourself).

The chef manages somehow to make his dishes very light (and the dishes above usually aren't), and one leaves the table feeling really good and satisfied.

The Northern Quarter Restaurant, Manchester

So give it ago -preferably during the week-, and please book or you might be disappointed. The experience is as good lunches and evening. They tend to have great offers mid week, check their website before you go for that: The Northern Quarter Restaurant.

Source: Photography by me.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Supper at the North Star Delicatessen

Last Friday, I attended a supper event in Chorlton, at the North Star Delicatessen.
Normally, reaching Chorlton has always been a bit of a chore, with overcrowded buses that take 25 minutes to get there. BUT, this time around, I have been able to get there in 15 minutes using the brand new Metrolink tram line. And what more, the North Star Deli is right outside the Chorlton stop. So, the evening started well I thought.
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First impressions: the Deli has a refreshing interior, white, clean, crisp and at the same time familiar and welcoming.
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On entering the deli, I met the friendly team, and had a browse to see the products sold there - only the ones shelved as the fresh produces were tidied away: it was after the shop opening hours -.

I was glad to spot a good selection of glass teapots (great to show off one's flower teas) as well as home roasted coffee, and teapig tea (I have a soft spot for their popcorn tea...).
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The shop is rather spacious, and the products well presented. A great incentive to browse. Also a good range of quality products (look, I'm not going to show it all to you, you'll have to come and see for yourself!)

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Anyway, back to the supper, with the menu below:

The meal started with a Mediterranean fish soup, not quite like my mum's, however very fresh with tasty pieces of white fish and a garnish of delicious shellfish. The rouille was not too garlicky - one of the chefs Deanna did warn us it might be quite strong - and I was rather grateful for that. Back home, my dad is the one in charge of the rouille (quite a delicate operation: it is not simply a mayonnaise with rouille spices...) and he overloads it with garlic, like anything he makes with it. Which means that you end up having garlic nightmares the whole night, and waking up realising it was not a nightmare, but a reality that lingers with the breakfast too.

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The dishes were presented and commented on by Deanna, and for the main course, Lee Frost the local butcher who provided the lamb, gave us a few passionnate words about his craft. That was very much apreciated by the foodies in the room.
An the lamb was..... amazing, cooked to perfection and tender o so tender it melted in the mouth. I am definitely set on paying some visits to the butcher now Chorlton is so easy to reach..
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And the dessert was the well chosen Manchester tart, the best one I've ever had, light, fresh, and I am not biased because they added my favorite fruit: raspberries, fresh and flavoursome.

I loved the very northern touch with the Vimto sauce...

Like after any good meal (I usually don't bother after a bad meal: it's a satisfaction thing...), I had a coffee, which happened to come with the wonderful Jenny's Salted Caramel French macaroons (yes Jenny, they are comparable to the french ones, you qualify to be honorary french for producing such goodness).
The meal was light on the stomach, the quantities were perfect, not too muc that woul;d make you regret having eaten too much nor not enough that would make you want to beg for more.
So if you add to the great meal the fab company I had, then it was a great evening all around, and a lot of very empty plates!
My last word will be to thank the chef and Deanna who worked so hard behind the scenes...
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Source: Pictures taken by myself