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 –


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



You Yube




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

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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.




Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission

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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:






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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.






Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission

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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.








Photos: © Taste Today. Do not reproduce without permission

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