Sunday, 13 August 2017

Dinner at Muse...

I enjoy going to restaurants in an area I have not visited before, so this week I was happy to dine at Muse*, a bar and eatery which is located in the pretty village of Uppermill in Greater Manchester. Muse is owned by the actor Rob Norbury and the venture is set in a pretty, rural area. The stone building adorned with hanging baskets of flowers creates an inviting first impression and inside, the contemporary style continues with exposed stone walls, plush leather booths, neon signs and a sweeping bar area which serves an eclectic cocktail menu. We were warmly welcomed and led to a table in the spacious dining area; the windows overlook the outdoor terrace and a wall of plants adds a tropical air to the space. The menu is varied, with a good selection of starters and sharers, flatbreads, skewers, salads, grill dishes and mains. I was impressed by the variety of vegetarian and vegan options too, something which is often surprisingly lacking in many restaurants.

I went for a starter of tempura soft shell crab with Asian salad and sweet chilli and ginger sauce. The tempura batter was light and golden and the succulent crab worked well with the tangy salad, while the sauce added a sweeter contrast. 

My dining companion decided on the gourmet burger sliders topped with Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce and tomato and served in brioche buns. The sliders made an appetising starter and these are also great to share. 

I consulted the cocktail menu and found a well-rounded offering of classics and more intriguing creations such as the rhubarb sour and the raspberry and cucumber crush. I went for a Rose Bellini and the combination of fragrant rose syrup and prosecco made this a pleasant aperitif, perfect for a summer evening. 

On to mains and I ordered the halloumi curry; this was my first time having a curry made with halloumi and it was creamy and mild with a subtle kick of spice while the addition of butternut squash, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and chilli spinach added a wealth of flavour. Fluffy saffron rice and naan bread completed this tasty dish which I would order again.

A friend had already recommended the skewers which are something of a signature dish at Muse, so my dining companion chose the mixed grill skewers and he was not disappointed. The plate arrived groaning under the weight of two skewers, laden with chicken and beef fillet, sausage, gammon and roast vegetables the tender meat was complemented by a dressing of Sriracha mayonnaise and the addition of charred piegata bread. This was a hearty main course packed with tasty flavours and ideal to satisfy a larger appetite. 

We also indulged in side orders of truffle Parmesan fries and hand cut chunky chips, both of which were a treat!

On to dessert and I have to say that the Nutella gnocchi alone make a trip to Muse worthwhile, they were crispy and light, reminiscent of a mini doughnut and the Nutella filling was lovely with the salted caramel ice cream and chocolate sauce.

My choice of New York style baked cheesecake with strawberry compote and granola was summer on a plate, with a burst of sweetness from the strawberries, welcome texture from the granola and an impossibly light baked cheesecake which was as good as any I tasted in New York. 

There are several things I loved about Muse, not least the modern interior, delicious food and drink but special mention must go to the service as well. I have spoken before about how much poor service ruins an experience for me, even when the meal itself is tremendous, and service at Muse was attentive and swift throughout from the friendly team. All in all, a lovely evening and I look forward to dining at Muse again. 

27 High St


What do you all think, do you like the sound of Muse and which of these dishes would you like to try? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



*I was invited to review Muse, this meal was complimentary. All opinions expressed herein are my own and honest. 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A feast with Santa Maria Latin American Kitchen...

I love to get in the kitchen and whip up a feast, so when Santa Maria kindly sent me some items from their Latin American range, I was eager to create some tasty dishes. I am a big fan of food which packs in diverse flavours and this range is perfect to keep in the cupboard, for those nights when you want a delicious dinner which does not take too much time or effort to make.

I was impressed by the variety of influences, with the products ranging from Brazilian to Argentinian inspired sauces, rice and rubs. Being around chefs so often has taught me that prep and mise en place are the keys to stress free cooking, so the first task was to get the kitchen tidy, wash and chop a heap of fresh peppers and marinate some Quorn steak strips in the Argentinian Barbacoa rub. I poured the sachet of spice rub in to a large dish, placed the Quorn steak strips in and mixed well, before leaving the Quorn to absorb the flavours for a while. The great thing about this dry rub is that while it is meant for use on steak, you can also replace steak with mixed vegetables or a meat substitute.

Once I was ready to start cooking, I decided to start by making the Quorn steak strips in Barbacoa spice rub. I poured some olive oil in to a griddle pan and fried a handful of the chopped peppers until they had softened, before adding the marinated Quorn steak strips and stirring regularly as they fried. You could use a saucepan, but I love using a griddle pan because it gives your ingredients that lovely charring which looks (and tastes) amazing.

Once the Quorn steak strips in Barbacoa rub were ready, I placed them in an ovenproof bowl and put it in the oven on a low heat while I set to work cooking the rest of the dishes. Next up was the Cuban chilli Sofrito sauce and I followed the same method as before, frying diced peppers in olive oil, before adding vegetarian chicken style pieces and frying them until they were cooked through. Next, I added the sauce and left the chicken style pieces to simmer in the sauce for a few minutes, stirring regularly until piping hot. Again, I transferred the Sofrito chicken style pieces in to an ovenproof dish and placed them in the oven on a low heat alongside the Quorn steak. Next, I fried the remaining peppers in olive oil, adding more chicken style pieces and frying until cooked through, before adding the Brazilian Xinxim peanut sauce to the pan and simmering over a medium heat for a few minutes until hot. I put the Xinxim chicken style pieces in to the oven with the rest of the dishes and I also placed some tortilla wraps in the oven to warm up.

Meanwhile, I put mature grated cheddar and sour cream in to bowls, heated up the Arroz Rojo (spicy red rice) according to the instructions (you can heat this on either the hob or in the microwave) and set the table with some cute watermelon napkins I bought at Tesco.

I love meals where everything is served communally and people simply help themselves to whatever they feel like, so I put everything on one table so that the feast could begin.
I also mixed up a cocktail which I thought would work well with the food, a Tropical Chilli Martini which was a real hit with everybody and complemented the food.

The dishes were all popular and I was amazed by how much flavour was concentrated in to each one. I loved the smoky barbecue taste of the Barbacoa marinated Quorn steak strips and the Sofrito was fiery and satisfying, while a garnish of fresh pineapple added a burst of sweetness. It was hard to choose a favourite, but mine was the Brazilian Xinxim peanut sauce, as the mild and creamy flavour was lifted by hints of zesty lemon and ginger. I served everything with a pile of warm tortilla wraps and we filled tortillas with each of the dishes, adding sour cream and a sprinkle of cheese on top.

It was a lovely dinner party and we enjoyed the dishes, I love the fact that the Santa Maria range means you can create a party at a moment’s notice and sit back and relax with your guests rather than slaving away in the kitchen all night. We did not get around to trying the Caribbean pineapple and chilli sticky sauce this time as we already had so much food, but I look forward to sampling it soon.

What do you all think, do you like the sound of the Santa Maria Latin American range and which of these dishes would you like to try? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Sunday, 6 August 2017

Summer cheesecake pots...

Summer calls for a lighter dessert and these cheesecake pots are the ideal sweet treat at the end of a meal and perfect for summer parties and barbecues. You can make these quite quickly, so this is a handy recipe to have lying around for when surprise dinner guests appear. 

They are simple to make and the zesty lemon adds a light and Mediterranean flavour, which is sure to bring a little dose of sunshine to the table even on gloomy days.

125ml double cream
250g cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)
100g caster sugar
1 lemon, zest and juice
130g crushed up biscuits (such as Hob Nobs)
50g Butter
Raspberries or strawberries to top
Dark chocolate squares to decorate (optional)

Place the biscuits into a clear plastic bag and seal, then crush with a rolling pin. Set aside.
In a pan, melt the butter over  a medium heat, then stir the melted butter in to the biscuit mixture to create the biscuit base mix. Layer the biscuit mixture in to the base of the cheesecake jars.
In a mixing bowl, whip the double cream with the cream cheese, caster sugar, lemon zest and juice until it forms a light and fluffy mixture. Spoon the cream layer over the biscuit layer, (you can also place another biscuit layer in between if you wish and top with more of the cream layer). Top with the fresh raspberries or strawberries and a square of dark chocolate if desired.

For a twist, I added a layer of crushed cornflakes to one of the pots (on top of the biscuit layer) and this version would work well as a brunch pot for the weekend. I think these would look great as a part of a breakfast buffet, served with a platter of pastries, fresh fruit, Mimosas and coffee. You can swap raspberries for redcurrants or blackberries too or try the desserts with pineapple or mango for a more exotic twist and sprinkle pomegranate seeds on the top. 

The problem is these look almost too good to eat when they are ready, almost that is! Instead of cornflakes you could also add granola to create another twist on the brunch pot version. 

What do you all think, do you like the sound of this recipe and would you try giving it a twist to serve at brunch too? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Saturday, 29 July 2017

Celebrating my birthday...

Time flies when you are having fun, or so the saying goes. I have been having fun over the past year, so that probably explains why it seems to have flown by so quickly. Work has been hectic and exciting, there have been a few major milestones in my career and suddenly here I find myself in my 36th year!
I wanted a quiet birthday celebration, so we booked a table at Fox, a restaurant I really like in Cheshire. I started the evening with a Spitfire gin with Fever Tree elderflower tonic and grapefruit zest, from their impressive gin menu. It was a refreshing gin and tonic, ideal for such a warm evening and the elderflower tonic added a floral flavour tothis classic drink. I am sure that calories do not count on your birthday weekend, so we started the evening with a garlic bread with cheese! Fox has a wood fired oven and their pizzas and garlic breads taste so good, with a slightly smoky flavour and a bubbly sourdough crust.

After the indulgent garlic bread, I continued the theme by ordering a margherita pizza, the beloved Napoli pizza is one of my favourites and the beauty of the simple flavours relies on great ingredients. The toppings of San Marzano tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella worked so well together and I loved every bite. Pizza with a gin and tonic is a good combination! 

My partner went for a calabrese pizza, topped with 'Nduya sausage, Calabrian sliced spicy sausage, buffalo mozzarella, tomato and oregano. We also shared some skinny chips and triple cooked I said indulgence was the order of the day! 

Time for dessert and I decided not to order one, but I did sample a bite of my partner's choice of lemon tart with mascarpone which was zesty and not too sweet, the ideal way to round off such a satisfying meal. 

For my dessert I thought I would sample another selection from the gin menu! I chose The Botanist Gin with Fever Tree tonic water, pink peppercorns and orange zest. 

It was another lovely meal at Fox and the perfect way to start my birthday weekend. I always love to go out for a meal to celebrate a special occasion

The Square
Hale road
Hale Barns
WA15 8ZN

How do you like to celebrate your birthday and which of these dishes catches your eye? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Sunday, 23 July 2017

Simple butternut squash curry...

Two words always guaranteed to put a smile on my face are ‘curry night’ and that is exactly what I was in the mood for earlier this week. I did not want to go to a restaurant and I also did not want to succumb to the idea of ordering a take away (tempting though that seemed!)
So, what is a girl to do when in the mood for a speedy and healthy curry, but to rustle one up herself? This recipe was quickly thrown together and it turned out to be very tasty and satisfying, so I thought that I would share. 

Couple of tablespoons olive oil 
One tin of reduced fat coconut milk
One red onion, diced
One butternut squash, peeled and diced 
One tin of chopped tomatoes 
One jar of Pataks tikka masala spice paste 
Couple of tablespoons tomato purée to thicken, if desired 
Red chillies, de-seeded and cut (to serve)

Firstly, dice the red onion and on a separate chopping board peel and dice the butternut squash (I like to dice the butternut squash in to quite generous chunks) then heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion until softened then add the butternut squash to the pan and fry until it is lightly browned. Next, add half a jar of the spice paste to the pan and stir well, coating all of the onion and butternut squash. Fry the spice coated vegetables for a few minutes and then add 20ml water, the tin of coconut milk and the chopped tomatoes, stirring well. Turn up the heat, so that the curry is bubbling and then stir, then turn down the heat to simmer. Cover the pan and allow the curry to simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure the butternut squash chunks have softened before serving. Top with slices of de-seeded red chilli if desired (adds a fiery kick so I recommend this only if you like spicy food!) and serve with boiled basmati rice, vegetable samosas and mango chutney or your preferred curry accompaniments!

There you have it an easy, breezy curry which is perfect for a simple supper on any night of the week. If you prefer a milder curry, swap the tikka masala spice paste for a korma version. This was so full of flavour and best of all fairly healthy too. You could also try adding garden peas, sweet potatoes or carrots - a wide variety of vegetables would work well for this curry. 

Do you like curry and will you be giving this recipe a try? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,



Friday, 14 July 2017

Why doing things alone is important...

Time alone is such a luxury these days, the modern world functions at such a dizzyingly fast pace and our minds are bombarded with an overload of information from morning until night. I think that doing things alone is so important, not only to switch off from the world but also in order to get to know ourselves better. I think it is vital to spend time in your own company, yet for so many of us this something which we do not always prioritise. As a writer, I probably spend too much time on my own but I still relish the confidence I have now to walk in to a restaurant or a bar alone, something which only a few years ago I would have found too daunting to even contemplate. Dining alone is now a regular occurrence for me due to my work as a food writer, but I still remember the first time I went to review a restaurant on my own and how alien it felt to sit there and eat a meal without a companion.

I am not sure why being alone or being a loner has such a negative connotation, in my opinion spending time alone is how we get to know ourselves as people and I have become increasingly independent as the years go by, choosing to spend my free time only with people who I feel enrich my life in some way. Time is precious, so why waste it after all. When I was younger, I worried about whether people liked me or whether they understood me. In other words, I was a walking mass of insecurity still very much in the duckling phase while patiently waiting to become a swan. Now, I don’t waste time obsessing over whether people like or understand me, life is frankly too short. There is a reason for the expression to ‘spend time’, after all time is a precious resource so we should choose to spend it wisely. It is funny how we grow and evolve as people as we get older and I have much more confidence now than I did in my 20’s. I love going out to eat on my own, in fact as I write this I am sitting in one of my favourite places to dine solo, Brasco Lounge in Liverpool which is a lovely spot for brunch, lunch or dinner. The quirky cool interior includes details of brightly coloured furniture, a mix of vintage and industrial style light fixtures, polished wooden floors and walls lined with an eclectic mixture of art and mirrors. I collect my thoughts and find inspiration for the working day when I go out for breakfast on my own, it is that time of day when the hours ahead stretch out like a blank canvas full of promise and possibility. Although it sounds like a cliché, anything really is possible and I never thought I would be sitting here having just been on two work trips to Prague and Kenya, trips which have changed me forever because I had such incredible experiences.

Anyway, suffice to say I have really enjoyed my breakfast date with myself today and now I am full of delicious fuel for the day ahead. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and this is without doubt one of those places which gets it right every time. I had the veggie breakfast at Brasco Lounge, homemade veggie sausages, hash browns, baked beans, spinach, wood roasted pepper, fried egg and toast. The breakfast usually comes with slow-roasted tomato and sautéed mushrooms too, but I left those out.

The portion size was generous and everything was perfectly cooked and well-presented. The good food, reasonable prices and friendly service keep me coming back here for more. Full marks too, for a place which has a vegetarian full English style breakfast on the menu, something I love to see.

There is a great range of brunch options, sandwiches, salads, burgers, tapas and main courses on the menu as well as a children’s menu and I highly recommend paying it a visit when you are in Liverpool.

Brasco Lounge 
27a Mann Island Buildings, 
Liverpool Waterfront
L3 1BP

What do you all think, do you like doing things alone and do you like dining out alone? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post. 

Until next time,



Sunday, 9 July 2017

Speedy caramelised onion and halloumi tart

I don’t know about you, but by the time the weekend rolls around, the last thing I feel like doing is spending hours in the kitchen, so I love recipes which allow you to make a tasty supper with minimal fuss and effort. This week I want to share with you a recipe which is ideal for the summer months, my speedy caramelised onion and halloumi tart which is adapted from a recipe my Mum has made for years. 
Pastry is something I love eating but this recipe makes life easier by relying on pre-made pastry, which is found in the chilled section at most supermarkets. Don’t get me wrong, when time allows I love making my own pastry, but for sheer speed and reliability this recipe looks and tastes amazing. 

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp demerara sugar
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp tomato passata 
2 tbsp tomato purée
375g (12 1/2 oz) puff pastry
225g (about 8oz) halloumi cheese, sliced 
5-6 tbsp good quality mature cheddar, grated 
sprinkle of dried Italian herbs

In a non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and sprinkle the demerara sugar and Balsamic vinegar over the top. Allow the onions to cook until softened and browned, stirring frequently, then remove from heat and set aside. Do not fry the onions until crispy, as you are aiming to retain a soft texture. Roll out the pastry on to an oven tray, so that you have a rectangular pastry base for the tart. In a bowl, mix the tomato passata and purée together. Spread the tomato base mix over the pastry, leaving a 5cm border around the edges. Next, spread the caramelised onions on top. Sprinkle the cheddar, halloumi and herbs on top of the onions and add some dried Italian herbs to season. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200°C, fan 180°C and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is browned at the edges and the halloumi cheese looks golden. Use the below pictures as a guide for when the savoury tart is ready. 

This makes the most effortless evening meal and I love to serve it with a simple side salad and a good bottle of chilled white wine. The Mediterranean flavours work so well together and they are sure to bring sunshine to the plate at any time of the year. This could also be served as an extra dish at barbecues or sliced up to share at a drinks party. It can be served cold too, simply allow to cool after baking and store in the fridge. 

The sweetness and tang of the caramelised onions adds to the enjoyment of this savoury tart and you can also add a range of your preferred toppings to give the recipe your own twist; try switching halloumi for mozzarella or smoked cheddar and add cooked meats or tuna, sundried tomatoes or olives...the list really is endless if you feel like creating a different version of this or if you want to adapt it to suit the preferences of your dinner guests. 

If you like spicy food, try adding a pinch of chilli powder or chilli flakes to the tomato base sauce, or drizzle the tart with a fiery chilli oil when it is ready.

So, there you have it. An easy, tasty dish which has the wow factor without taking too much time to prepare, I just can't resist this and the only trouble is I find that my guests always want seconds when I serve this at dinner parties. 

The beauty of the savoury tart is that it makes a striking dish on its own, so you don't need to go to the trouble of making complicated side dishes, the flavours speak for themselves so a simple salad, new potatoes or a dish of cous cous make this in to a substantial meal. Just keep the chilled drinks flowing and you have a summer party dish to remember here! 

Do you have any recipes which you always rely on for an easy meal and would you like to try making this savoury tart? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post.

Until next time,