The Bistro delivers again

I have written before about our love for one of our all-time favourite restaurants, Bistro West and last night we had reason for a little personal celebration (which I won’t write about on here yet, but which I feel incredibly happy and relieved about) so it was the perfect excuse for our first visit in a while! Even better, the tram line extension to neighbouring Didsbury has just opened, which meant we could hop on for a quick two stop ride to get there! (Dangerously easy!)

For starters I plumped for the baked piri piri king prawns, red pepper and manchengo cheese. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the description of baked prawns, but it was delicious! It came in a sort of mini lasagne dish with some handy bread to mop up the melty cheesy salty deliciousness. Happy.

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Rob meanwhile went for the lamb and cashew nut kofta with mini falafel. These mini falafels were actually the real stand out, so full of flavour, they were like mini taste explosions!

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For mains I knew as soon as reading the menu description I had to have the rosemary, lemon and garlic chicken kebabs. These came with a “warm Sicilian salad” of aubergine, tomatoes, olives, chorizo and baby new potatoes – five of my most favourite things! All on one plate! And  I was not disappointed, it was insanely tasty! Only problem was the massive portion, I couldn’t quite finish it!

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Rob couldn’t resist the fillet steak. This had a nice summery twist as it was served with battered courgette strips (deliciously crispy and creamy) and summer cabbage, peas and grean beans. The cream and Dijon sauce was to-die-for, and, even better, came with big chunks of mushrooms  in it which I was allowed to pick out (as my dining partner insanely claims they are ‘mould’ – missing out big time!!) Oh, and the chunky chips were damn good too – cooked to perfection (I had to eat one or two, just for check for the sake of the blog post you see).

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Dessert had to be one of the famous Bistro Trios. This time the theme was orange – orange creme brulee, orange and almond cake and, the pièce de résistance, a COINTREAU ICE CREAM. I won’t even try to convey the deliciousness of this in words but let you imagine for yourselves! Thanks to the Bistro for another stonkingly good meal on a very happy occasion 😀

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Lebanese at Zaytoon’s

There is a little strip just around the corner from our house, less than a ten minute walk infact, where there are a handful of restaurants and bars. This cluster is home to two of our favourite bars in Chorlton as well as our faithful Yakisoba, always a reliable fallback when we don’t want to/don’t have time to cook.

There are a few other restaurants here that we have been meaning to try for a while and so on Friday night finally got round to visiting the rustic little Lebanese place, called Zaytoon. The place was busier than we have seen it before and we luckily arrived in time to secure the last free table. The owner came over within a few minutes of us sitting down to welcome us and explain the menu which was lovely. This is a small family run establishment with just a handful of tables and shelves down one side of the room stacked with all sorts of knick knacks, it sort of lent the feeling that you were sat in someone’s living room, which I thought was quite a nice touch!

We ordered a beer each and began to peruse the menu, aside from the fact I could see Barlow Moor Road out the window and the icy wind that was whistling around outside, I began to feel  a little like I was on holiday!

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For starters we shared some moutabel – a smoky aubergine dip similar to baba ganoush with toasted pitta breads, and some absolutely delicious falafel which came with tahini and a tasty spicy little salad. I am a big fan of falafel but do often find them to be disappointing – either too dry, too heavy or just plain soggy. These little beauties however were absolutely perfect in both texture and flavour, delicious!

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The menu is quite small, which tends to go down well with me, a few expertly cooked dishes are much better than a large menu of dishes that are just cooked averagely. The owner also reeled off lots of tempting sounding specials however, including lots of fish and lamb dishes, some specifically for two or more people. We decided to order off the menu this first time however, although next time we visit (and there will definitely be a next time!) I think we will sample some of the specials.

Rob ordered a chicken shish kebab while I went for the chicken shawarma, both were served with plenty of hummous, more pitta breads and a lovely big helping of salad. The salad, which had a special name but unfortunately I can’t remember it, was liberally sprinkled with sumac. Sumac has quite a tart, lemony flavour, and it worked really well on top of the salad. I love lemony citrusy flavours anyway (zingy!) so this was a big hit with me, I have already been out to buy some as I think it will be a good way to get Rob to eat more salads!

The chicken kebab was incredibly juicy and moist with a lovely subtle garclicy flavour while the flavouring of the shawarma was a little more robust. Both were very tasty and it just felt nice to eat a nice healthy meal of grilled meat with lots of salad, bursting with flavour. I was impressed with how the sumac helped lift even the most tired bits of iceberg lettuce!

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The menu listed baklava as the only desert, although when you can eat baklava, you don’t need anything else in my opinion! We were trying to be good however so decided to sample this another time! And we definitely will be back to try out some more of these lovely simple homecooked Lebanese dishes, as we assured the owner on our way out the door! It is well worth a visit!


Chorlton’s Turkish Delight

Having developed a bit of an obsession with Turkish food since our trip to Istanbul in June, we decided to head to the Turkish restaurant in Chorlton, Turkish Delight. We’d actually been meaning to go here for a while, since before our trip, but had never quite got round to it. The problem with living in Chorlton is there are just so many yummy places to go and eat, we’re spoilt for choice on our doorstep!

My friend from work, who has previously lived in Turkey, and who taught me some little snippets of Turkish before our holiday, as well giving me a list of all her favourite things to eat to take with me, suggested we go here for a meal with her Turkish husband. It sounded like a good plan to me!

The restaurant has a takeaway on the front straight off the pavement and it had actually taken me a while to realise there was a restaurant there too. We sat down at our table and the waitress and our friends soon started chatting away in Turkish, a more authentic experience then! 🙂 I was pleased to discover we could order Efes beer!

We chose the mixed meze to share for starters. This consisted of little pots of hummus, ispanak tarator (spinach, yoghurt and garlic, this was my favourite!), taramasalata and havuc tarator (carrots, yoghurt and garlic) to scoop up and devour with slivers of warm pitta bread. We were also treated to glistening black olives, a salad with tabule, delicious green beans in a tomtoey sauce and some other beans (sort of like cannellini beans? I’m not sure what they were) also in a tasty tomato sauce. There were also cheese borek and some tasty little meatballs.


Faced with the menu of many delights, we also couldn’t help but order the iman baylidi, which I was very happy about as I adore aubergiene – people in this country really don’t appreciate or eat it enough!! Our Turkish friends also insisted we must order the sucuk – spicy Turkish sausage. This was also delicious! We remembered we sometimes had it on our Turkish breakfast on our lovely hotel rooftop in Istanbul…surrounded by fragrant flowers and overlooking the bosphrous… sigh….

Then it was onto the main courses. We both ordered the Iskender kebab – described as a special selection of charcoal grilled meats served on pitta bread with tomato sauce and yoghurt. When it arrived it looked very different to the kebabs we had become accustomed to in Istanbul! I missed the big puffed up naan-like breads we had with our kebabs there, and also would have liked a little more of the chargrilled tomatoes and peppers we got there – I must confess to having gotten a little meated-out with the below plate of food! The other thing that was different was there was none of the tasty bulgur wheat we had also got used to. I’m not sure where the tomato sauce went. The meat itself had a lovely chargrilled flavour however. I wonder if perhaps they are catering for the English market and perceive that the Brits are only really interested in the meat?! Our all time favourite kebab is still from the tiny street side joint, Aya Sofya Kebap on Küçük Aya Sofya Sokak in Istanbul, just round the corner from our hotel. Our kebabs from there feature in this post. If you ever find yourself in Istanbul, I highly recommend!!

My friend ordered the Adana kebab.

We were all very full after our Turkish feast, but I was not to be defeated, desserts were to be squuueeeezed in! We ordered kadayif – pistachios encased in shreds of pastry, and walnut baklava. Sticky, sweet and immensely satisfying!


Bringing the Turkish kebab back to Manchester

So I felt like a filling, satisfying but healthy tea tonight without the need to spend too much time cooking and so decided to try making a version of the chicken kebabs we so enjoyed in Istanbul a few weeks ago!

Here’s what you’ll need;

  • Diced chicken
  • bulgur wheat
  • tomatoes (preferably on the vine and sexily ripe)
  • natural yoghurt
  • tomato puree
  • peppers
  • lettuce
  • cucumber
  • lemon

For the marinade;

  • Olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • paprika
  • hot chilli powder
  • cumin
  • yoghurt

I’m not sure how authentic the marinade is, but I made it by throwing a few ingredients together that I thought would work and was quite pleased with the result. I put a slug each of olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl, then added some paprika, cumin and chilli powder. This tasted pretty good but seemed quite thin and I wasn’t sure how well it would coat the chicken so decided to add a few spoonfuls of the yoghurt I had to serve with the finished meal. This added a lovely tanginess as well as thickening things up a bit helping to coat the chicken and keep it lovely and moist. Add the diced chicken and leave for at least half an hour, preferably longer. I was going to put the chicken on skewers to cook but didn’t have any so just whacked them under the grill on a tray.

Meanwhile, chop up some tomatoes, ideally you want them to be juicy and almost bursting out their skins with ripeness. Add the tomatoes with two cloves of crushed garlic to some hot oil and season with a decent pinch of salt. Let this bubble away until the tomatoes have broken down.

When ready, stir in the bulgur wheat then add boiling water. I also added a little extra salt and some tomato puree at this stage for extra flavour. Leave to bubble away until ready. When the chicken has around 10 minutes left to go, add the sliced peppers and reaming tomatoes to the tray under the grill until just blackened.

Prepare the salad and when everything is ready serve up with some lemon wedges and a good dollop of yoghurt. Yum! If you’re lucky enough to enjoy a brief and opportune moment of sun on a grey overcast day as we were, eat in the garden! The only thing that was missing that would have been nice to have was the Turkish bread, perhaps I’ll have to investigate that for next time!

(And yes, I must admit, I did have to lick the delicious remaining yoghurty lemonyness from the plate…)


Eating my way around Istanbul

Well, after years of taking crazy amounts of pictures of food on holidays, food in restaurants and food that I’m cooking as well as generally liking to talk about food and recipes an awful lot, I finally listened to my friends and other half and decided to start a food blog. Maybe they think if I have an outlet I’ll stop bombarding them with so many food pictures and stories!

So, what better place to start than the trip to Istanbul I just got back from last week? I was pretty excited about Istanbul, I’d wanted to go for a long time and was very excited about the history, the architecture, the culture and, of course, the food! I sat in my dreary office in the days before leaving day-dreaming of endless mezze, fresh fish, kebabs and baklava.

The week of eating started well with a 3 course meal on the flight! Having rarely flown on a Proper Airline this was quite a novelty. This included potato salad with yoghurt, aubergine stuffed with chicken and bulgur wheat in a tomato sauce as well as some sort of cheesecake. After arriving in the city as dusk fell, we headed straight out in search of our first real Turkish kebab. We stumbled across a small kebab joint just round the corner with locals eating outside and took this to be a good sign. I can’t remember what my kebab was called, buy boy was it good. Firstly we were brought some cacik, a yoghurt and cucumber dip, sort of like a thinner tzatziki, with a delicious sesame covered naan-style bread.

This was quickly devoured and we were onto the main event. The kebab. Delicious chunks of juicy grilled chicken, perfectly chargrilled tomatoes, more naan-like bread, lovely thick natural yoghurt, bulgar wheat cooked with tomato and a big pile of lettuce, cucumber, tomato and peppers – who say’s kebabs aren’t healthy?! 

We were to return to this particular neighbourhood kebab spot several times throughout the week! Other kebabs we enjoyed included cubes of lamb on a puréed aubergine and yoghurt base as well as chunks of lamb and aubergine grilled together all served with delicious tomatoey bulgur wheat. The best place I ate this aubergine and lamb kebab was infact in a small local lokanta, like a canteen, where you stood at the counter and pointed out which food you wanted. I had mine with an amazingly simple but flavoursome spinach, yoghurt and garlic dish.

In fact, as you might expect, aubergine featured heavily in our Istanbul diet, from fried aubergine with yoghurt (divine) to roasted aubergine stuffed with rice, meat and herbs or onion and tomato. One particularly delicious stuffed aubergine (or patlican dolmasi) was enjoyed in a pavement cafe serving up massive trays of mezze. It was served cold and the rich tomatoey, garlicy filling perfectly complemented the taste of the aubergine. We just don’t seem capable of getting flavours like that out of vegetables in this country?! I guess we don’t enjoy the same fresh produce a lot of the time. Other mezze dishes that evening included; slivers of spicy tomatoey, vaguely grainy, deliciousness which we smothered on bread – I’m yet to find out what they were called, a delicious octopus salad with pickled vegtables, crispy rings of calamari, and cheese boregi – a pastry stuffed with feta cheese. All washed down with the local pilsner, Efes!

Another delicious foodstuff in Istanbul is of course fish – so fresh! While we saw lots of street stalls selling mussels and oysters, I wasn’t quite brave enough to count on their fresh status, I did however head down to the docks on the Eminonu where I enjoyed a fresh fish sandwich straight off the fisherman’s boat! Freshly caught grilled mackerel shoved straight into half a loaf of bread with salad and slathered with lemon juice and salt, perfection! What better or fresher lunch could you ask for?! And for the equivalent of around £2!

Before heading out for our day of eating, ahem sightseeing, the lovely local lady in our hotel made sure we were set up for the day with a big Turkish breakfast enjoyed on our delightful roof terrace overlooking the Bosphorus on one side and Blue Mosque on the other! Perhaps the best spot I’ve ever been lucky enough to enjoy breakfast! This typically consisted of big piles of fresh fruit – oranges, apricots, watermelon; tomatoes, cucumber, olives and feta cheese; hard boiled eggs, Turkish sausage, a delcious baked potato and creamy cheese dish, yoghurt with jam and a tantalising selection of homemade cakes. I must admit I got rather partial to eating a mountain of feta crumbled over watermelon every morning!

Now, following all the mouth-wateringly tasty savoury foods, of course, were the sweets, oh the sweets! The Turks really know what they’re doing here! Countless crumbly pastries with honey, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts… Before going to Istanbul, I had no idea there was any other kind of baklava than that stuffed with pisachio, but there are all sorts. Walnut was one of my other favourites, although I must admit I do love pistachio!

Baklava and the other similar desserts were a great afternoon pick-me up! Talk about a sugar hit! I’m not sure what these were called, but little bite-sized shredded filo pastry nests filled with a variety of nuts were also a big hit!

The spize bazaar was a great place to fill up on these moreish treats, as well as other delights such as apricots and dates stuffed with cashews or almonds.

Some of the delicacies had interesting promises to make!

The market was also full of delicious shiny globes of Turkish Delight. Little did I know that the soft squidgy Turkish delight dusted with copious amounts of icing sugar that you get are in fact made specifically for the tourists! Real Turkish delight is much firmer, often dusted in dessicated coconut as opposed to icing sugar,  and packed full of, you guessed it, more nuts! I actually really liked both kinds!

The last exciting thing in the spice bazaar was loose tea and, of course, spices!!

Unfortunately, we were not to discover our all-time favourite Turkish dessert until our final night! And only because we pointed at what the couple at the table next to us had and asked for the same! Kunefe, a baked shredded pastry dish stuffed with mild soft white cheese and topped with grated pistachio! The bite of the crispy pastry giving into the soft melty inside of this dish was just to die for!

Istanbul really is a fantastic and fascinating city, I highly recommend a visit and not just for the food!