Saturday, 29 October 2011

On the move again

Yesterday was such a beautiful sunny day we decided to leave Castlefield and move to Worsley for a few days. The trees have all turned now and the colours were amazing, reds, yellows, oranges and browns.

I dropped Roger off at Monton so he could walk up and collect our car and after going and picking up our mail he met me at Worsley.

We have to be on the other side of the Big Lock at Middlewich by 7th November as it's being closed for winter maintenance, but for the next couple of days we'll do some more family visiting before we leave the car again. Unless anything exciting happens I probably won't post another blog until we set off again so have a good weekend, I'll see you here again next week.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

International Rescue

On Tuesday evening, our boating friend/chef/neighbour, Rob Owen-Brown, took his boat round to the sanitary station to empty the loo etc. but didn’t come back. Not only had he run out of diesel (they’ve only been boaters for 6 weeks) but his wife Michelle had fallen in the canal, between the bank and the boat, and cracked a couple of ribs. She was lucky! Rob managed to get the boat over to the tow-path side of the canal and they stayed there till morning when we could go and rescue them.

Michelle calls Roger “International Rescue” as he’s helped them fix a few bits on their boat ready for the winter, so as we pulled up alongside we had the theme tune to Thunderbirds blaring from the stereo, much to Rob’s amusement.

Roger tied the two boats together and reversed us both back round the bend and into an empty mooring space. The bow thruster was only used once, but as usual when you manage a perfect manoeuvre there was no-one watching! Rob organised a small delivery of diesel and Roger bled the air from the engine and got the engine going again.

After lunch we took the tram to Bury. I just love Bury Market. It’s huge and a real foodie’s paradise. I had to be very restrained in the meat and fish halls as our freezer is full but the temptation of a big, meaty oxtail was too much and I got the butcher to vac-pac it for me so it’ll last for a couple of weeks in the fridge - if we can resist it that long that is. If you ever go to Bury Market you just have to buy black pudding. It’s famous and delicious too. Normally I get a hot one with mustard to eat while we’re walking round but I had to resist as we were going out for dinner.

Rob had invited us to the Gourmet dinner which is held at the Mark Addy on the last Wednesday of every month. This was the menu:

Game Broth Shooter (intensely gamey, perfect to get the juices flowing)

Line caught sea bass fillet with Menai Mussels (delicately flavoured with beautiful crisp skin & meltingly soft mussels)

Saddle of Hare with Quinn’s Quince (served very rare, quinces for the sauce provided by one of the regular’s called Quinn)

Pheasant Breast with Chestnuts (only one word - superb! )

Vanilla & Saffron Poached  Pear William (pear was still a bit hard for me but it was tasty)

Leagrams Ramshackle Sheep’s Curd (day-old curd made a zingy end to the meal)

Normally so many courses would have me flagging half way through the meal, but the portions were just right and the whole meal was a delight.  If you're ever fortunate enough to be in Manchester on the last Wednesday of the month I’d heartily recommend you pay a visit (and no, we didn’t get a free meal so this is my unbiased opinion).

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Baby blanket

Today I thought I'd show you my latest finished crochet project. It's a cot blanket.

The pattern is based on Lucy's Hexagon Blanket, although I altered it slightly to make it quicker, I'm not exactly known for patience..........even so it's taken me about a month to make. I learnt a lot while making it, especially how to unpick when I made a mistake, but I'm really pleased with the results. Thanks Lucy X

Monday, 24 October 2011

Time for cake!

Do you remember a couple of weeks ago, the first time we came to Manchester, I told you about Patisserie Valerie and how I'd been drooling over all the wonderful cakes in the window?  Well today I caved in and bought one to take away. It was difficult to choose just one as they all looked so beautiful .
It came in it's own little cardboard box, inside it's own little carrier bag so I managed to get it back to the boat undamaged.

It had layers of a very light chocolate sponge separated by a bottom layer of cream laced with chopped strawberries and kiwi fruit and an upper layer of beautiful gooey custard. It was half covered with a thin chocolate ganache and topped with a fresh strawberry and a blackberry and was D E L I C I O U S.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Museum of Science & Industry

Today we went to the Museum of Science and Industry, MOSI.

It was extremely busy as it’s Manchester Science Festival, to coincide with the half term holidays.

It’s never very easy photographing exhibits in a museum but here are a few I thought you might like.

Later on we took Chico out for a walk along the River Irwell.  We almost got wet when the football shuttle boat came past as it’s wash was huge and almost came up over the banks.

Apparently Manchester United were playing Manchester City at home (can you tell I’m not interested in football? ) amazingly City won 1-6, no wonder there are so many police sirens going off all around town this evening!!!

We also found a garden complete with cows.

You can get from the Irwell onto the Manchester, Bury & Bolton Canal via this tunnel, unfortunately once you've gone up the locks there's nowhere else for you to go, until they restore the M B & B canal.

Friday, 21 October 2011

A walk up to the new marina

A couple of weeks ago a new marina was opened in Manchester, in the area which used to be known as Ancoats but which is being re-branded as New Islington. As we have no plans of taking our boat up that way in the near future we decided to walk up the towpath from Castlefield and have a look.
We started at Lock 92 which is beside the famous Dukes 92 and Albert’s Shed pub/restaurants. There are no bye-washes on this stretch of canal so the water level is always slightly higher than the lock gates which make them difficult to open.

Once you’ve cleared Lock 92 you pass through Deansgate Tunnel which is illuminated by colour changing lights and takes you underneath Deansgate to Lock 91 which again has an amazing waterfall flowing over the gates.

This then brings you up next to the area known as Deansgate Locks. The Comedy Store and several bars and restaurants overlook the canal and at weekends it’s a very busy area.

You can walk along the towpath as far as Canal Street where it disappears so you have to leave the canal and walk along the road between locks.  Canal Street is the ‘Gay’ area of Manchester and a few years ago, following a couple of deaths when drunks fell into the canal, they installed new railings all along the street.

Whilst it seems a bit excessive,  it actually adds to the ambience of the area as many of the bars have now installed seating areas outside overlooking the canal. At one time Canal Street was quite an intimidating place but in recent years it’s cleaned up it’s image tremendously and during the day it’s a nice, safe and friendly place to walk through. I can imagine it’s a bit different on a Saturday night though.

To reach Lock 85 you pass through another tunnel under the main road and office blocks above.

This used to be the most notorious of the locks on this section of the canal as years ago it was frequented by ‘rent boys’ and drug dealers. Again it’s quite different these days.  The lock area is fully illuminated and covered by CCTV cameras.

The dark corners where the undesirables used to congregate have all been filled in, the lock itself looks more like an indoor swimming pool and there’s a brightly painted mural alongside.

We carried on up the canal passing derelict properties and beautifully restored ones too.

The new marina might have been opened to boats for a couple of weeks but it still looks like a building site. Having looked at it online before we went I was expecting more and was quite disappointed.

We could only look through the very considerable railings as only moorers are allowed inside and the whole place looks very grim. New Islington as an area looks like it won’t be much better than the Ancoats area it's supposed to replace. The housing they are building is awful and looks like a slum in the making. The mooring fees might be extremely cheap at £1500 a year for a 60ft boat but you won’t find us going there!

The Ashton Canal isn’t far away so we walked over for a look at some of the modern buildings they have built alongside it and then headed back to Castlefield.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

More from Manchester

Yesterday our friends Martin and Maggie came to visit and after a bit of sight seeing we went out for dinner to a local Japanese restaurant, Sapporro Teppanyaki.  This was the first time any of us have been to a Japanese restaurant but it was an experience I can heartily recommend.  We sat around a huge hotplate (the table seats 8 so would be good for a party) and our personal chef came over and introduced himself as Ben. He brought all the individual ingredients for our meals and once we’d had our starters his performance began.

I must just comment on my starter before I go on. I have never had Tofu before so thought it would be a good opportunity to try it. I’d always thought Tofu would be firm and dry but I was served 3 large cubes which had been deep fried so that the outside was crispy but the inside had the texture of a creamy baked custard. It was topped with fresh seaweed, ginger and garlic and was an absolute revelation. I don’t imagine the Tofu you buy in the supermarket would be as good but I might just have to give it a try.

The main course started with saute potatoes cooked in front of us. Now I know these aren’t particularly Japanesey but they were the start of Ben’s performance as he took turns flipping the potatoes through the air for us to catch in our mouths - not easy to do when you are laughing!

tossing potatoes to other diners at our table
The next part of the act saw him juggling with fresh eggs which he then turned into a giant omelette to go into our fried rice. This was followed by the highlight of the evening when he set fire to the hotplate so that a dazzling whoosh of flames shot up in front of us. It’s very hot and very spectacular and took me by surprise so unfortunately I didn't get a photo.

Once the performance had ended he cooked our individual dishes in front of us, producing 4 very different but very wonderful meals. It was a fantastic night out and one we will definitely repeat.

Today the weather has been awful with torrential rain and hail but it didn’t stop us getting out and about as we took the free shuttle bus to get us into the town centre. There are 3 different routes around Manchester which make it easy to get around for free.

These are the fountains in Piccadilly Gardens which dance to a set routine. When it’s nice weather you often find kids playing in them but it was a bit cold today.

This is a memorial in Piccadilly Gardens. It’s the Tree of Remembrance to the civilians of Manchester who died between 1940 - 1945 in WW2 and stands on the edge of a line of natural trees so most people don’t even notice it.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Cookery Demonstration & inspiration

One of our fellow moorers in Castlefield Basin is Robert Owen-Brown, executive chef at the Mark Addy Restaurant which overlooks the River Irwell about ½ a mile from here and gets rave reviews for it's food.

Today he was giving a cookery demonstration at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival which has been on in Albert Square all week and we went along to watch.

The first dish he made was pickled tripe which held absolutely no appeal for me, but his second dish was loin of rabbit with wild mushrooms and a sherry and cream sauce which looked and smelled delicious.  After the demo he gave me his spare rabbit which I brought home to cook for tonight’s dinner.

After jointing the rabbit I coated it in seasoned flour and browned it in the frying pan in a bit of goose fat (worth buying as it makes fantastic roast potatoes).

I then drained the pieces and put them in the casserole while I softened some chopped carrot, celery and shallots in the remaining goose fat.

I added a bay leaf, 2 sprigs of tarragon, half a chicken stock cube (no doubt Rob would cringe, but good fresh stock is definitely a professional thing), a roughly chopped clove of garlic and a wine glass of chardonnay.

I let this bubble away for a couple of minutes while stirring to get all the sticky bits off the bottom of the pan and then poured it over the rabbit in the casserole dish. There wasn’t enough liquid to cover the meat so I topped it up with water before cooking for 1 ½ hours in the oven at gas 3. I would have preferred to cook it on top of the fire but it’s been warm today so we haven’t lit the fire yet.

After 1 ½ hours the meat was falling away from the bones so I took it out onto a plate, sieved the liquid to remove the veg and herbs which I threw away, and then poured the liquid back into the casserole and reduced it over a high heat until it was about half the volume and nice and tasty. I then added  a large pinch of finely chopped tarragon to freshen the flavour and replaced the rabbit to get coated in the sauce.
I was so eager to eat it I forgot to take the photograph until I’d already started eating, sorry……

It was delicious with cabbage and mustard mash YUM!!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

It's pie day!

I had a baking morning today, starting off with Cheese and Onion Pie based on this recipe 
I changed it a bit and simmered the onions for 15 mins. rather than frying them in butter to cut down on the fat a bit and I also added 3 diced leftover cooked potatoes to make the cheese go a bit further. It took an hour to cook at gas 6 but was worth it as it was delicious for lunch with some sweet corn. We’ll have the other half cold tomorrow.

I’ve never been much good at making pastry so I always use Jus Rol shortcrust pastry from the supermarket. It freezes well so is handy to have in on standby for when the pie monster rears its head.

The cheese and onion pie only used about ¾ of the pastry so I rolled the rest out again and used some windfall apples to make a kind of apple pie.

I put the rolled pastry on a greased baking sheet and pricked the centre section with a fork before spreading 2 spoonfuls of Aldi chunky marmalade over it. I like this marmalade as it’s very dark, almost bitter and has very thick chunks of orange peel making it good for toast or cooking.

I then peeled and thinly sliced the apples and piled them on top of the marmalade along with a sprinkling of sugar . These windfalls have been quite sweet, a bit like a Cox’s apple, so didn’t need much sugar. I then just pulled up the edges of the pastry to hold the apples inside, brushed it with milk and baked it underneath the cheese pie for 40 mins.

When it was done, I glazed the apples with a bit of melted marmalade to give it a shine.