IT’S COOKING GOOD COOKBOOK

 

As well as editing two blogs, I have a full-time day job. I work for Shoot The Moon, a digital design and photography agency, in Ancoats, Manchester. The majority of our clients are in the food and drink and hospitality industries but a few, such as the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, are not.

Sweet Mandarin’s Crispy Chilli Pork

 

Many Hands Fundraiser

For the past few years the charity has run the Many Hands campaign, which challenges businesses to fundraise through innovative initiatives. This year the funds will support The Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health Service at the Hospital. High-profile entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, of Dragons Den fame, is supporting the campaign for the seventh year running.

We love the charity and are in awe of everything they do, so this year we decided to join in with the Many Hands campaign ourselves. First, we had to come up with a fundraising idea to pitch to Theo. We wanted to do something that would make use of our skills and talents to ensure that we could raise the £1000 required to qualify for the pitch. This is how the recipe book came about.

Pen and Pencil’s Chickpea Curry

 

We Have A Cunning Plan

We formed a committee with a member of staff from each department; Account Management, Brand Communications, Digital Design, Social Media Marketing and Photography. A few ideas were batted about and one thing we were sure about was that we wanted a community-focused endeavour. We are based in Ancoats and have seen the area rise, phoenix-like, from a neglected, scruffy part of the city into the vibrant, creative environment it is today. We wanted to harness the local enthusiasm and creativity and produce something that exhibited the area to the rest of the world.

The recipe book was born. It would utilise all our skills and showcase all the amazing, independent eateries within Ancoats and the neighbouring Northern Quarter.

Established eateries, including Yard and Coop, The Abel HeywoodCottonopolisKettlebell Kitchen and Sweet Mandarin didn’t hesitate and jumped at the chance to be featured in the cookbook. New restaurants including Canto and NAM, both of which have opened in Ancoats this year, joined in the fun. Elnecot, recent winners of ‘Best New Restaurant’ in the UK and ‘Best New Restaurant in Manchester’ in the British Restaurant Awards 2018, also joined the line-up. We were cooking on gas, so to speak.

Seven Bro7her’s Stack

 

A Labour Of Love

That was back in February and for the last nine months we have worked our metaphorical nuts off to bring the book to life. In the end, we managed to gather recipes from over 20 eateries and even a tea emporium. We then invited their chefs, cooks and baristas into our studio, where they prepared their dishes, so that our award-winning photography team could shoot them in all their luscious glory. Our snappers were ably assisted by top food stylist, Clover Hutson, who made each dish look like a work of art. I have to mention our wonderful printers, Entwistle, who generously donated their services to produce the book.

In order to donate as much money as possible to the charity, we decided to run a Kickstarter campaign to cover the production costs of the book. It was a nervous, nail-biting time wondering if we would reach our target, but the good folk of Manchester got behind the campaign and at the end of it we received hundreds of pounds more than our target figure, meaning we would be able to donate even more money than we had originally hoped for.

In October, the draft copy was ready to go to print, so we set about arranging a launch event to thank everyone for their help. NAM, the rather wonderful Vietnamese bar and restaurant in Ancoats, offered to host the evening and gave us their downstairs room, as well as providing a very generous spread and drinks. We sent out invites to our Kickstarter backers, our production partners, the press and the restaurants involved. The response was fantastic and the evening was a huge success. The charity came along and showed a film which demonstrated how much the donations mean to them and the work it enables them to do with the children. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Elnecot’s Honey Panna Cotta

 

Buy The Book

The book is now on general sale through Amazon, (see the link below), so you too can cook the Ancoats and Northern Quarter recipes in your own home for only £10.99 plus p+p. The recipes themselves are easy enough for any level of home cook to prepare, so don’t worry, you don’t need a Michelin starred chef in order to cook up a feast. There are veggie and vegan recipes included, so no one gets left out. The book also makes a fabulous gift for the foodies in your life. Just saying. So, please order, help the charity and cook amazing food. Enjoy!

Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/2K7mlIE

 

Ancoat’s General Store’s Matcha Lattes and Drizzle City Bakes’ Cakes

Follow

Website  https://rmchcharity.org.uk

You Yube  https://youtu.be/B1ErpBll0rU

Twitter  https://twitter.com/RMCHCharity

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RMCHCharity/

 

Photos: © Shoot The Moon and STM Photography. Do not reproduce without permission

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MANCHESTER THREE RIVERS GIN EXPERIENCE

Hear ye! Hear ye! Clangs big bell. To all the gin lovers and the friends and families of gin lovers, you really need to read this. We have discovered the perfect gin gift for this Christmas. Or any other time of the year come to that.

The Experience

The Manchester Three Rivers Gin Experience has just been voted No.1 ‘Top-Rated Tourist Attraction in the UK after Premier Inn used TripAdvisor data to find the nation’s favourite places to visit. Not bad, when you consider the breath of attractions, we have available on this small island.

We recently visited the City of Manchester Distillery, on the edge of the Green Quarter to indulge ourselves in their 3-hour experience. This would culminate in us leaving with a bottle of gin, distilled by our own fair hands. Now, I have blended my own whisky before but I have never distilled anything, so myself and the pal I had taken with me, were quite giddy with excitement.

Because of the demand from people wanting to attend this popular event, the team have had to expand into a second railway arch on Redbank to be able to accommodate everyone. In the original base they have a capacity for twelve gin lovers, but the additional arch means they can now host up to thirty people.

We were first to arrive and were met by Manchester Three River’s, Louise Rivers-Hull, PR & Brand Director and one of the original co-founders of the marque. She showed us to the bar, where we were furnished with our first perfect serve Gin & Tonic of the evening and introduced to our expert gin host for the evening, Joe. Why do my G&T’s at home never taste this good?

Angel The Gin Still

 

Aviator Gin Cocktails

The History of Gin

Once our fellow distilling students had arrived and been similarly furnished with a drink, we were all asked to take a seat and watch a specially commissioned video presentation. The film detailed the history of the spirit and how it is interwoven with Manchester’s industrial heritage. I’m very proud of this noble city as it is and the passion contained within the video actually brought a proud tear to my eye.

When the lights came up, I noticed many others dabbing their eyes too. We then followed Joe downstairs to gaze in awe at the shiny, copper gin still, affectionately known as Angel. This is in honour of the area’s old name, Angel Meadows. We sipped on a violet infused Aviator cocktail, whilst admiring Angel’s smooth curves. Costing more than a small house, this piece of kit was imported from Germany and now master distiller, Dave Rigby, makes between 200 and 500 bottles of gin a day. All of which are labelled by hand. This is handmade, small batch gin making at its best.

The original vision for the brand, Joe explained, was that Manchester Three Rivers would work on three levels. It had to make a cracking gin and tonic, banging cocktails and to be a good sipping gin. Big brands like Gordons and Beefeater had only managed the first two but now small batch distillers have started to produce spirits that work just as well on their own, as they do in a cocktail or when paired with a mixer. In order to prove how good Three Rivers is, Joe passed round naked measures of the gin for us to taste. To me it was as good as a 12-year-old malt, which would be my normal straight-up tipple.

The Distilling Kit

 

Botanicals For Flavour

Distilling Our Own Gin

Then it was time for the main event. We were taken a couple of doors down the arches to the new distilling room, to make our very own gin. The large room holds around thirty mini stills and on two walls there are around fifty jars of botanicals. We each bagged a still and whilst we awaited further instructions, we were served another gin and tonic. Oh, if you insist.

As well as the stills and botanicals, we all had a brilliant bit of software which divides the elements you use in to flavour brackets, e.g. floral, citrus, spice etc and then how much to use of each. It really is a minute amount that you need for one bottle, so this programme is great for preventing merry distilling students making undrinkable gin. As you go along the computer builds your recipe and then stores it, so that you can order it again in future.

I wanted to make a Christmas gin, so that idea formed the basis of my recipe. A touch of allspice, a pinch of orange, a speck of almond, a shake of nutmeg and a sprinkle of oats. Before you think I’ve gone barmy; the addition of oats makes your gin a much smoother drink. Who knew?

Once distilled and decanted in to our bottles, we wrote the recipe on our labels, applied them and then Joe tested the ABV, as in what percentage proof it was. Most mainstream gins are around the 40°,Mine was 46°Wow! Obviously, I will drink it responsibly.

Our Mini Gin Stills

 

Someone’s Chuffed With Her Gin

Our Own Recipe Gin

Clutching our bottles, we bobbed back to the original arch, where we were thanked for coming with a champagne and gin cocktail. After which we wobbled off into the night and made our respective way homes. I think my Uber driver loved hearing my enthusiastic retelling of my evening, as he asked me for the website address and said he would buy an experience for his wife for Christmas. Either that or he was desperate to get this gin-soaked woman out of his cab.

Would we go again. You betcha!I have to say we had an absolutely belting night. Very slick, very professional but with a genuine warmth. The cost at £95 per head may on the face of it sound a bit dear but, you get three hours of fun and education, you learn a new skill and drink quite a lot of gin whilst you are doing it. Let’s not forget, you also get your very own 70cl bottle, made to you own unique recipe, to take home with you. If you think about it a bottle of Manchester Three Rivers usually retails around the £35/40 mark, so with everything else that you get as well, it is excellent value. I can guarantee if you bought someone this as a gift, they would think you were the most wonderful human on the planet.

We were guests of Manchester Three Rivers but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.

 

Website  http://www.manchesterthreerivers.com

 

Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission

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A MOOMIN CHRISTMAS

My love affair with books and reading began as a small child and I was quite voracious in my appetite to read everything I could get my hands on. Fortunately, we lived across the road from the tiny, local library that was housed in the scout hut. I spent every spare moment in there, even becoming the self-appointed assistant to the librarian. I don’t think I gave her much choice in the matter but in return for put the returned books back in the right places on the shelves, she let me take extra ones home with me.

For quite some time, I had a bit of obsession with tales from the North lands of Scandinavia. It probably began with the TV series, Noggin the Nog. A beautifully yet simply animated Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin series, charting the adventures of the kindly King of the Northmen and his eskimo queen, Nooka.

Gracing my bookshelves were Hans Christian Anderson’s slightly menacing fairy tales, the incredible shrinking Mrs Pepperpot and the madcap Pippi Longstocking. Along with anything to do with trolls and giants.

Another huge favourite were the Tove Jansson’s books about the magical world of the Moomins. These gentle creatures lived in Moominvalley, which was possibly somewhere in Jansson’s home country, Finland. They looked rather like hippopotami and the central characters were Moomintroll, his parents, Moominmamma and Moominpappa and his friends, The Snork Maiden, Little My and Snufkin. Their gentle adventures were an absolute delight and I read the books over and over again

Imagine my delight when I recently came across a website that stocks Moomin homeware products from Finnish designers, Muurla. The range includes enamel ware mugs and jars, candles and baubles, all depicting scenes and characters from the Moomin stories. Perfect as Christmas or birthday gifts. The enamel mugs are great for kids as they are virtually indestructible and a good, step-up from baby’ish, plastic sippy cups.

The website selling them, Nordic Mood, is actually based in my home town of Manchester and is a new online retailer run by Emma and Vermund. It offers a wide selection of Scandinavian style furniture and home accessories. They stock products that aim to capture the cosy contentment of Vemund’s traditional Norwegian childhood in Bergen and hopefully bring a touch of ‘Koselig’ lifestyle to the UK.

They are passionate about design and quality and take inspiration from their family holidays in Sognefjord and the soft muted colour palettes of its natural surrounds. Together they have curated a collection of furniture, lighting and accessories that encapsulates the warm, congenial mood of traditional Nordic home life and so promotes emotional wellbeing.

Follow Nordic Mood at:

 

Website  www.nordicmood.co.uk

Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/wearenordicmood/

Twitter  https://twitter.com/WeAreNordicMood

 

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FEMINISTS DON’T WEAR PINK (AND OTHER LIES)

 

Maybe being a feminist isn’t quite what you thought it was…

Five AMAZING women are coming together to celebrate the launch of the much anticipated book, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) at The Lowry in Salford on Wednesday 3rd October.

The woman joining the discussion are journalist, activist and blogger, Scarlett Curtis, who has curated the book and is co-founder of the Pink Protest, alongside Amy Trigg. Amy is an actor who appears in the recently released film, Mamma Mia! Here we go again. They are joined by Grace Campbell, activist and stand-up comedian; Sharmadean Reid, entrepreneur and founder of WAH nails and Deborah Francis-White, host of the hit podcast The Guilty Feminist. The evening aims to bridge the gap between the feminist hashtags and scholarly texts and to debunk the myths that surround feminism. The women will offer personal stories about what the F-word means to them.

This event will no doubt be a rich and lively discussion around navigating being a woman in today’s society, why we need to bang the drum for feminism and why feminists really do wear pink.

The book, which was described by Reese Witherspoon as “Brilliant, hysterical, truthful and real”, Feminist’s Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) will be published by Penguin on 4th October 2018.

£1 of each ticket will go to Girl Up, a global leadership development initiative, positioning girls to be leaders in the movement for gender equality.

For more information: https://www.thelowry.com/events/scarlett-curtis-feminists-dont-wear-pink

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Midlife Balinese Adventure

At what age should one stop having adventures? Frankly, never in my opinion. Which is why I found myself at 51 winging my way towards the Indonesian island of Bali.

My Mum would attest to the fact that as soon as I was able to walk, I was off seeking out thrills and adventures. At the age of 2 I climbed over the 6-foot fence in our front garden and took myself off to my friend’s house around the corner. At 3, I used to think it was great fun to ride a tea tray down the stairs, only coming to halt when I had scooted through the lounge door and hit the wall opposite. At 8, I scaled the 30-foot-high wall of the local quarry. I was like a monkey when it came to climbing. A girly girl I wasn’t. I was a tomboy, permanently grubby and covered in bruises and grazes and I loved it.

I never had any fear but that’s not to say I was reckless. I always weighed the situation up, working out the best route up a tree, whether my brakes were in good order before I hurtled at breakneck speed down the local steep hill or what the chances were of the pony with the evil look in its eye, depositing me on my bum shortly after mounting.

My favourite daredevil antics have often included water. My parents used to swear I had gills and I learnt to swim very early on. When I was small I had two favourite TV programmes. A very early Japanese anime cartoon called Marine Boy, because of which I would spend hours in the bath furiously chomping Wrigley’s Spearmint in order to breathe underwater, as he did with his special, oxygen giving gum. How I longed for a pet dolphin called Splasher and a mermaid for a best friend. The other was Barrier Reef, an Australian kid’s drama about marine biologists, of which a large part was shot underwater.

My hero was Jacque Cousteau and I watched his programmes avidly, dreaming of the day I could join him on the Calypso, sailing the seven seas and diving with sea creatures. I totally knew that one day I would don a wet suit and a scuba tank and experience the marine world for myself. I eventually learnt to dive in my 30’s and as I knew I would, I totally fell in love with it. Even doing my open water exam in a flooded, freezing, silty Lancashire quarry was magical to me.

As part of my trip to Bali I went to the Gili Islands, just off the coast of Lombok. Which involved a very hairy ferry trip, I use the term ferry loosely, across the Lombok Straits. Prior to the trip, I had found a dive school I liked the look of, Manta Diveand booked in for 2 one-to-one afternoon dives. Sadly, I missed the first day due to Bali belly. A word to the wise, be very careful what you eat at the night market, it tends to fight back.

The following day, still feeling a little queasy but determined, I arrived at the dive school on a bicycle borrowed from the hotel. There is no motorised transport on the Gilis, only horse drawn taxis, bikes or your own two feet. However, the islands are tiny, so it doesn’t take long to get anywhere.

As it had been a few years since my last dive, my lovely German instructor put me through a refresher session in the centre’s pool, before letting me loose in the open sea. Totally the correct and safe thing to do. Any dive centre that would just let you straight into the big blue, after a few years off, is obviously more concerned about their bank balance than your safety. Diving is a dangerous occupation and the ocean is unpredictable, so safety should always be the first concern, for everyone. I was glad to do the session for my own peace of mind too. Scuba equipment is complicated and with diving there is a lot to remember.

Once declared fit to dive again, a group of us headed off to one of the dive centre boats; a traditional Indonesian outrigger long boat and climbed aboard with our equipment. My tummy was full of nervous butterflies and the adrenaline was flowing. Woohoo! During the short trip to the dive site one of the instructors gave us a briefing on the position of the site, the conditions to expect and what wildlife we might see. This included black tip, white tip and reef sharks. I’m a child of the 70’s, I hate sharks but I always feel far safer being under the water with them, as opposed to being on the surface.

The boat anchored, we made our final equipment checks and waited our turn to enter the water. After a few minutes it was my go and my butterflies turned into a full blown murmuration of starlings. I sat on the side of the boat, back to the water, BC inflator in one hand and gripping my face mask and regulator with the other. 1, 2, 3…and I fell backwards in to the warm ocean. A quick blast on my inflator and I surfaced. All of a sudden, the nerves calmed and I felt the peace that being in the sea brings me. My instructor bobbed up at the side of me and after a last safety and dive computer check, time is of critical importance, we began to slowly let the air out of our BC’s and disappear under the waves. I was only a few feet beneath the surface when a hawksbill turtle quietly slid by us and disappeared into the sun dappled blue. Magical.

One of the first things to strike me when I first started diving in the sea is just how noisy it is. There are clicks and whistles, the sound of the currents moving pebbles, fish chomping the coral, outboard motors overhead, excited squeals when divers spot something. Quite a racket really. Off the coast of Menorca once, I have heard the bubbling of hot water escaping the tall flues on the sea bed. It made me laugh because it sounded like a jacuzzi on overdrive. The ocean is calm and calming but it is by no means quiet.

My instructor led the way over the reef to the drop off point. To those that have seen Finding Nemo, yes, this a real thing. It is where the reef drops away, often vertically, into the lower depths. I am qualified as an open water diver so cannot go below 18m, so we contented ourselves with peering in to gloom. Frankly that’s deep enough for me, as I struggle to equalise the pressure in my ears as it is. Plus, most of the interesting stuff is in the first dozen metres or so anyway.

As we followed the curve of the reef I was sad to see the state it was in. Parts of it were dead or dying. Discussing it later with my instructor, it appears that global warming and over-diving were the main causes of the devastation. I was partly to blame. It made me so sad.

However, there was still quite a lot of species calling the reef home and I squeaked with excitement when I saw quite a few Nemos, or clown fish as is their correct name, peeping at me through the waving fronds of anemones. There were clown fish in a different colourway living in a soft coral, that frankly looked like a bathmat. There was a very large moray eel, half in and half out of his cave, mouth open waiting for prey. A small stingray glided past, seemingly in no particular hurry to get anywhere. Scorpionfish blended in with their surroundings. Their venomous spines primed and ready. Comical looking parrotfish chipped away at the coral with their ‘beaky’ lips. Hawksbill and green sea turtles occasionally appeared out of the gloom. Then I saw it. A shark. Yes, an actual, bona fide, white tip shark. Ok, so it was a baby shark, about two-foot-long and it was hiding from us in a little overhang of rock, but it was the closest I have ever been to one. Thankfully I didn’t bump into its mother.

Eventually, we had to turn and make our way back in the direction of the dive boat. It was just before we started making our slow ascent to the surface that I had my best interaction of the trip. We came across a hawksbill turtle, grazing on the coral. We swam around him and to within a couple of feet of him and he just carried on doing what he was doing. I suppose he was used to the strange two-legged fish that invade his home several times a day. It was really tempting to touch him, but you should never touch anything under the sea. As my Grandma used to say, ‘Look with your eyes, not with your hands.’ However, if the turtle chose to touch me that would have been fine, but he didn’t, he was having his lunch and quite happy thank you very much.

The instructor and I surfaced, inflated our BC’s and our dive balloon, which we waved to attract the attention of the boat. We had a bit of a wait because they had several groups to pick up before us. We were last in the water, so we were last out. This is the bit that always makes me nervous because I can’t see what’s below me, without sticking my mask back on and sticking my head back under. We were hauled back into the boat and I was on such a high, it was several days before I came back down. Once back at the dive centre we had a debrief, including getting my dive log stamped. Always a nice memento of your time in the big blue and then I grabbed my bike and pedalled back to the hotel.

It was 10 years since my previous dives and 20 years since I learnt to dive so, how did I feel after, being so advanced in years? Well, I was tired but then diving does that to you, whatever your age but physically and mentally, it was no different to when I was in my 30’s. Diving is still the most incredible experience to me and I want to keep doing it for years to come. Will I carry on having midlife adventures? Hell yeah! I may no longer be able to spend days hurtling down black runs in the Alps or spend all day on the back of a horse but everything in moderation I say. Even hurling myself off the top of a Turkish mountain while attached to a quite an attractive gentleman and a parachute. But that’s a whole other story.

 

Photos: © Is It Warm In Here. Do not reproduce without permission

 

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Giggle Knickers

Stress incontinence. We’ve all been there. Whether through childbirth, obesity, our lifestyle choices e.g. smoking, or simply because of ageing. You laugh, cough or sneeze and do a little wee. It’s embarrassing, it’s upsetting and it’s inconvenient. Stress incontinence is a pain in the bladder. No more jumping up and down on trampolines for us. It isn’t normal and shouldn’t be accepted and you should seek medical advice for your symptoms.

In the UK alone, 1 in 3 adults, that’s over 3.5 million women, are living with this condition and the taboo’s surrounding it. From the moment we start being potty trained we are taught that we have to stay dry, to hang onto our wee until there is a toilet available. But what if we can’t simple hold on? What do we do if our leakage takes us by surprise?

The NHS recommends lifestyle changes such as losing weight, stopping smoking and cutting down on our alcohol and caffeine intakes. I have to say, since I stopped smoking cigarettes my bladder incontinence has improved, mainly because I now longer spend my waking hours coughing like a ship’s stoker. They say we should do pelvic floor exercises. Who, like me, does so many pelvic floor exercises that in theory they should have bladder muscles of steel, yet still leaks? There are surgical solutions and medications available but only as a last resort.

So, what do most of do? We turn to sanitary products. Panty liners, pads, Tena Lady’s and the like. Britain is the highest consumer of sanitary products in the EU. In 2018 it is estimated that we will consume 4.1 billion sanitary towels alone. Around half of those will go into landfill and unbelievably, the other half will be flushed down the loo, to end up in our rivers and on our beaches. Nice.

However, there is a solution at hand. A few months ago, I took part in some discussion videos based around the menopause, for a company called Esteem, who make clothing for ladies experiencing menopausal symptoms. Whilst there I met a lady called Anne, who along with her business partner Judith, runs a company called Giggle Knickers, making eco-friendly, washable knickers that are designed to securely hold onto those little leaks, whilst still keeping you dry.

Anne and Judith originally met 20 years in Henley, whilst both studying university courses. Anne was from Manchester, a mother to five and a teacher, while Judith was from London, also a mother and had a career in the fashion industry. The two became firm friends and vowed to work together at some point. That point came when one of them had had surgery and couldn’t find any suitable post-op underwear. Judith decided to try and design something that she wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in, that was economical and at the same time kept you dry.

The next couple of years she spent researching and developing the product around the kitchen table and eventually she cracked it. Underwear that is comfortable, made in high quality cotton yet because of its hi-tech, protective panel, keeps you dry by pulling liquids away from your skin and holding on to it without pooling.  The patent pending core that she developed is designed to comfortably hold up to 30ml or 6 teaspoons of liquid. The core itself is not bulky, it feels like panty liner thickness rather than a sanitary towel, so it is lightweight and discreet.

Once happy with the prototype, Anne came on board and they started to source manufacturers. Initially they tried to find someone in the UK to make them. They even approached the knicker firm, Kinky Knickers in Manchester, who had featured on the Mary Portas TV series, Mary’s Bottom Line. Unfortunately, for the volumes involved, British producers proved too expensive and so they turned to China. Being ethically minded, they ensured that the factories they use operate in an equally principled manner, to ensure that workers have safe working conditions, are treated fairly, paid a fair wage and that no child labour is used.

In the meantime, they began a Kickstarter campaign to fund the initial production and off the back of that, they were asked to appear on Dragon’s Den. Eventually, armed with a business loan, production commenced and the first batch of knickers went on sale in November 2017.

It is early days yet, so Giggle Knickers, like Henry Ford’s Model T, only come in one colour…black and in one design. However, they come in 5 sizes, from UK 4-6 to UK 18 and cost £12.99 per pair. As business builds Anne and Judith aims to produce more colours and signs. They also want to develop a men’s range. Giggle Knickers, is a company that wants to benefit as many people as possible, so 20p from every purchase is donated to the Free A Girl India charity, which aims to fight against human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Giggle Knickers are available online, direct from themselves, with 20% off orders of 3 pairs or more.

“Don’t let a trickle stop your giggle.”

 

Photos: © Giggle Knickers. Do not reproduce without permission

 

 

 

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The Gaddum, Windermere

Nestled on a hillside and with fabulous views of Lake Windermere stands The Gaddum restaurant. Part of the Brockhole visitor centre in Windermere, the estate was originally owned by Manchester silk magnet, William Gaddum. He purchased the land in 1896 and commissioned architect, Dan Gibson to build him a summer residence in the Arts and Crafts style, named Brockhole House. The family eventually made it their main home.

When William died in 1945, the house was sold and turned into a convalescent home. At this time the Arts & Crafts interior of the house was ripped out. How it pains me to write that. I have a special affection for this era and its style, but thankfully the story has a happy ending. The estate was eventually sold to the Lake District Park Authority and opened in 1969, as the first National Park Visitor Centre. Today there are a wealth of activities on offer and the part of the house that accommodates the restaurant and conference facilities has been sensitively and beautifully restored to its full Arts & Craft glory.

We drove up on a sunny Saturday morning, taking our time and admiring the stunning scenery. I have clients in Windermere but rarely get chance to see anything other than their offices, so it was nice to be there as a tourist. The Gaddum had only opened two months before and when we visited it was open for lunch and afternoon tea but will soon start an evening service too. I would imagine the views of the sunsets from the house will be stunning.

We were shown to the lounge area by the delightful Henry, who brought us menus and took our drinks order. Sat on a delightfully, squashy sofa and with our mouths already watering, we tried to make our dining choices. The kitchens are under the command of South African chef, Gerald van der Walt and he brings with him a wealth of fine dining experience gained in his homeland and lately at the 2 Michelin starred L’Enclume and Rogan & Co.

We were shown to our table in the charmingly elegant, period dining room, which has William Morris wallpaper and fabric, heritage paint colours and the original fireplace, which provides a focal point for the room. On the walls are Gaddum family photos taken on the estate. The room gives a real sense of how the house would have looked and felt during the Gaddum family’s tenure. While we waited for our starters I quickly went explore the Orangery that leads off it, where diners can also be seated. It was absolutely delightful; airy and sunlit and with a grape vine suspended from the glass ceiling.

Our first courses arrived.  Mine, a Beetroot & Cumbrian Goat’s Cheese Salad with candied walnuts and sorrel, was so prettily presented, it almost seemed a shame to eat it. The beetroot on the dish had been prepared in three different ways; sweetened, roasted and pickled. Goat’s cheese and beetroot is a classic combination and two of my favourite foods but the addition of peppery radishes, a verdant nasturtium leaf puree and the sweetness and crunch of the candied walnuts elevated this dish to a whole new level.

My dining chum had chosen the Fish Cake, consisting of lightly smoked haddock with potato and Gaddum chives and served on a bed of dressed mixed leaves and homemade Tartare Sauce.  The fishcake itself is generous in size and the fish is not Day-Glo yellow, which means it has been naturally smoked and this is apparent in the subtlety of the flavour too. Simple food at its best.

Our mains were equally joyous and pleasing. With the weather having been so wonderfully warm, I had chosen the Cumbrian Shorthorn Beef and Cracked Wheat Salad with a Garlic & Chive Flower Puree. Oh, my lord, the beef was simply amazing, and I quizzed Gerald later on what he done to it.  He takes seared beef skirt and then cooks it for 20 hours at 85 degrees and then air dries it overnight. The result is like nothing I have never eaten before, both in terms of flavour and texture.  This was so good and totally my kind of ‘happy’ dish.

My pal ordered the Cumbrian Chicken Paillard with crispy chicken skin. The term paillard refers to a piece of meat that has been pounded flat and then flash fried or in this case grilled. The meat was exquisitely tender and juicy and was served on a bed of buttered kale, with a warm kohlrabi salad and cubes of sautéed butternut squash. Proper summer comfort food.

Of course, being in the Lakes I had to order Sticky Toffee pud for dessert. It’s the law. The Gaddum’s is served with chocolate soil, fig puree and creamy Lakeland ice cream. The sponge itself wasn’t as rib sticking as the Carmel original, in fact it was quite light in texture, but to be honest for a summer menu it was quite appropriate and I enjoyed it. My friend ordered the Lemon Tart, which was presented as a dome of glossy lemon set custard on a cardamom shortbread, delicately piped with Italian meringue and accompanied by strawberries, a white chocolate crumb and a lemon balm granita. She loved it and I confess I did have a bit of pudding envy.

After our lunch I bumped into Gerald and he asked me if I would change anything about the dishes we had had, in order to improve them. I answered honestly, no. The restaurant is gorgeous. Frankly, I want to live there.  The staff are so professional, warm and friendly. A special shout out to our waiter, Henry, who had the skills and demeanor of a man twice his age. We loved the fact that he took the time to explain every dish to us and could answer our questions without hesitation. If he decides to stay in the hospitality industry, this lad will go far. As for the food, Gerald has brought all his haute cuisine and fining dining experience to bear but with a relaxed feel and at prices that won’t break the bank and more than justify the cost of the petrol to get up to Windermere. I really hope we can go back soon. Maybe I’ll take my local clients.

We were guests of The Gaddum but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.

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Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission

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Kit and Kaboodal

Well, what a summer we are having. If the weather carries on like this we’ll beat the halcyon Summer of ’76. Now, I don’t know about you, but it drives me mad that the high street is already starting to put out its Autumn/Winter lines while I’m still building my summer wardrobe. Guys, it’s only early July.

God help you if you have booked a holiday in September and not got around to buying your clothes and accessories by mid-June. As for bikinis and swimsuits, forget it after the May Bank Holiday. If you leave it too late, or heaven forbid book a last-minute break, you’ll end up going away with jumpers and knee-high boots, as I have learnt to my cost in the past.

However, this year I have discovered an online clothing company called Kit and Kaboodal, who still have plenty of summer stock in and are bringing on new lines every week. They are a family run business, based in the gorgeous market town of Boroughbridge, near Harrogate. They stock Lagenlook clothing, cosy knitwear and premium linen clothing and I have fallen in love.

For those who haven’t seen the term Lagenlook before, it translates from German as layered look. A good exponent of Lagenlook fashion is Helena Bonham Carter. It is quite a quirky, bohemian look, often very relaxed and perfect for hot summers and cold winters. I love this look. It is so easy to wear, especially when your waistline is expanding through the menopause, like mine is. But, it isn’t about hiding your figure, it is about complementing it with elegant draping, asymmetry and feminine detailing. It is a celebration of all shapes and sizes and it looks good on anyone.

Kit and Kaboodal is run by husband and wife team, John and Helen Marsden and Helen’s daughters, Naomi and Laura, who between them have decades of business and retail experience. All of which has made this company a huge success, not only on the UK but abroad too. The American and Australians are particularly in love with Kit and Kaboodal clothing.  Originally started in their own home, the company now operates out of purpose-built offices and warehousing just up the road. The stock flies out so fast that they have their own in-house photographic studio, in order to shoot it as soon as it arrives. Another thing I love is that they shoot their clothes on ‘real’ people; themselves, their staff and their relatives. No stick thin teenagers, who should be studying for their GCSE’s here.  Several times a year they open the warehouse doors to the public, so it is well worth keeping an eye on their social media.

This year I have bought several bright dresses and tops, a pair of wafty harem pants, (see below) and 2 pairs of sparkly espadrilles. All of which were exceptional value. Kit and Kaboodal also have frequent flash sales, so if you sign up for their regular newsletters you won’t miss out.

But don’t just take my word for how lovely Kit and Kaboodal clothes are. Whilst writing this piece I put a shout out on the Kit and Kaboodal Members Facebook page, in order to gauge what others think about the company and their products. Here’s just a few of the replies I received:

Karen – ‘I love K&K because it’s the best way to look original and stylish – but the best thing of all is it’s comfortable and affordable.’

Elaine – ‘Best thing that’s happened to me in a long time, lovely, well made clothes, just that bit different and affordable.’

Janine – ‘It has an edge. When you wear it you know you can be an individual. It’s for those women who don’t want to be beige.’

Jane – ‘Finally found my groove.’

Trudy – ‘Have to mention the K and K staff , they are amazing and their customer service is as well, nothing is too much trouble for them.’ (Have to say I totally agree).

Kit and Kaboodal have very generously offered you lovely readers an exclusive 15% discount. Shop online at https://www.kitandkaboodal.co.uk and enter the code WARM15 at checkout. Share your purchases with us on our social media. Discount code is valid for the next 28 days.

All photography is copyrighted by Kit and Kaboodal and cannot be reproduced in any format or on any platform without their express permission.

 

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NATURE’S BOUNTY

I love the countryside and have been lucky to have always lived in semi-rural places. To me, there could be nothing worse than living in a city. I need grass, trees and wild life. Having two dogs I spend a lot of time walking the local country park.

I am so blessed living where I do, perched on the side of the Pennines, two minutes from the site of a long gone country house. The grounds are open to the public and there is a variety of landscapes to explore from woodland to fields, winding pathways and the ruins of the old hall, its predecessor and the stable block. There are always amazing views over the Cheshire plain, Manchester and up towards the Peak District.

Foraged rosehips

In amongst the vegetation there is also a wealth of plants to forage. I have been walking here for the last seven years’, but it was only last Autumn that I realised I was regularly wandering past a treasure trove of nature’s bounty. It started with picking blackberries, which I have done before but then realising that there were also elderberries, rosehips, sloes, wild raspberries and apples.

Freshly picked blackberries

I started gathering the fruits and berries and looking up recipes. I made blackberry and apple crumble and a blackberry syrup for pouring over ice cream and pairing with prosecco instead of Chambord. I remembered the Delrose rosehip syrup I was given as a child to boost my Vitamin C, D and A intake, which I loved and decided to make some of that. In the end, I didn’t have enough hips, so I combined them with the elderberries. Rosehips have a wealth of health benefits besides the vitamins, especially for those of us with creaking joints. Elderberries also have great immune system boosting properties and are helpful when suffering with winter colds and coughs.

Recently the parklands’s verdant fields and hedgerows have bought forth another jewel. Blossom. Hawthorn, blackthorn and rowan trees have been heavy with frothy, tumbling blooms. The hawthorns have been particularly spectacular this year. In the last 3 weeks the white, lacy elderflowers have also appeared on the branches of the elder trees.

Elderflower blooms

I love the elderflower season because their delicate, floral taste can be used in so many dishes and drinks and it is one of the true flavours of a British Summer. It is such fleeting season, so you have to gather them quickly. But please remember, never strip a tree, leave plenty of blossom to continue to feed the insects and to develop into berries in Autumn to feed the wild life. Collect on a sunny, dry morning when the flowers are at their most fragrant. Don’t wash the flowers but gently shake to dislodge the tiny bugs. Elderflowers have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Steep as soon as possible after picking to make cordial.

Steeping the flowers

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL RECIPE

Ingredients

½ litre boiling water
500g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime, unwaxed
50ml of lemon and lime juice
10/12 elderflower heads

Method

Pour boiling water into a boil with the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add in zest, juice and flower heads and stir. Cover and allow to steep for 2 days. Strain through muslin and decant into sterilised bottles. Makes approx. ¾ litre. Keep in the fridge. Dilute with water and add ice for a cooling drink or even better, add a little to your G&T.

 

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RANDALL & AUBIN, MANCHESTER – NEW MENU ADDITIONS

Manchester’s finest brasserie, (in our opinion), Randall and Aubin, have added some seasonal flourishes to their already gorgeous menu, so we bobbed along to check them out. We love this addition to the local dining scene, it’s a little bit of Soho on Bridge Street and every time we go it is excellent, from the food to the service to the playlist. So what new treats were in store?

Randall & Aubin are known for their seafood and in terms of freshness and innovation, it is the best around but their menu isn’t just gleaned from the sea. They also gather the best dishes the land has to offer too. Prime steaks, rotisserie free-range chicken and roast Suffolk lamb steak to name but a few. Vegetarians and those trying to eat a more plant-based diet are also well catered for as we found out.

The man in charge of Manchester, James, bought me a delightful glass of fizz with the rather wonderful name of Astoria Fashion Victim.  An Italian rosé Prosecco-style wine with hints of strawberry and raspberry. This I loved. My companion chose a cocktail with a Manchester theme, The Bee’s Knees, made with local Three Rivers gin, honey and lemon. James also filled us in on what R&A had been up to since we were last in. He said that one thing they had noticed was that customers were bobbing in just for a drink on the way home from work but were then finding that their appetites were piqued and were ordering starters and sides to keep them going until dinner. So, the restaurant has added a new bar menu with small plates. Randall & Aubin are very good at taking notice of what their customers want.

We had free range to order what we liked and one thing that had caught my eye was a throwback to the 70’s. Devilled eggs. Visions of Fanny Craddock and poor beleaguered Johnny swam before my eyes. This simple but much-loved dish is enjoying a bit of a renaissance at the moment and thankfully R&A have moved it on from the garish morsel of the past to a more sophisticated hors d’oeuvre. The filling was herby with a nice hit of spicy heat and the eggs were garnished with crispy pancetta and delicate chervil. Alongside the eggs we had ordered a bowl of luscious, cheesy Bridge potatoes…pssst…that’s chips to us Northerner’s. Let’s face it, you can never go wrong with a chunky, cheesy chip. There are also Honey & Mustard Glazed Althams Sausages and Fish of the Day Goujons with R&A’s signature Tartare Sauce. Feeling decadent? There is always an excellent choice of oysters. Perfect with a glass of fizz.

For our mains we ordered two new dishes off the main menu. The daughter, who is trying to eat more of a plant-based diet, chose the Marseille Salad which came with grilled halloumi, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes served on a homemade, sumac flat bread with a zingy garlic & oregano dressing. All in all, a lovely, light dish that will ensure you can manage three courses and not feel guilty.

Seafood is my culinary heaven so I had to order the new Tagliolini with crab and prawns. A finer version of spaghetti with the best Devon crab and prawn cream sauce. Can we just take a moment to let that sink in and admire the photograph?  Is there anything more beautiful than a plate of perfectly cooked pasta, coated in a glossy, rich seafood sauce, studded with plump, pink prawns and sprinkled with herbs? I think not. This will go down in my Top Ten Most Memorable Dishes. I think I need to book a table very soon.

As we had eaten light, we found we still had room for a dessert. Who am I kidding? 99.9% of the time we still have room for dessert. I love Randall & Aubin’s pudding menu because the non-chocolate sweets far outweigh the choccy ones. But then that gives me the difficulty of choosing just one from Tarte au Citron, Crème Brûlée, Sticky Date Pudding and Baked Vanilla Cheesecake. Decisions, decisions. In the end I went for the Tarte au Citron, a good balance of creamy and sharp with a rich, buttery pastry case. It was served with a beautiful palate cleansing blood orange sorbet and spiced, thin ribbons of mango. Glorious.

Of course, my table mate chose the Randall & Aubin Chocolate Cake with Milk Ice Cream. I have to say it did look very impressive and very rich. It reminded me of a Viennese Sachertorte, with its mirror glaze and moist looking interior.  Frankie was in cocoa heaven.

We love seafood and we love Randall & Aubin, we love the staff and we love their ethos. We shall return very soon.

We attended the course as guests of Randall & Aubin but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.

 

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Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission

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