Shugborough Food Festival

Last weekend I went to visit my good friend in Stafford. Knowing me well, she had organised for us to go to a food festival at Shugborough Hall, a historic country estate spread over 900 acres of parkland.  While the day started out very overcast and grey, it was at least dry, and, having strategically just had a fruit smoothie for breakfast, I was ready for a day of eating! We decided to share everything that we ate, therefore allowing for more tastes of more things (again with the strategic eating!)

There were so many food vans and stalls, it was hard to know where to begin! After working our way round one of the large marquees and enjoying a few free samples (including some rhubarb crumble fudge!) we decided to give Rita’s Mexican a whirl.

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We enjoyed a tasty shredded chicken and black bean taco with red cabbage colesaw, cheese, chili sauce and sour cream, mmm!

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Washed down with homemade lemonade.

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We kept spotting people walking around with impressive looking sticks with some sort of sliced potato snack on. Having  consulted the festival programme map we hunted down the relevant food stall!

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These fried “twisted potatoes” could be topped with a number of different flavous, we opted for beef steak!

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After a break to peruse some more stalls (from one of which I bought the Hairy Dieter’s cook book after hearing such good things about it, looking forward to trying out some new recipes soon!) I passed one of my true weaknesses – sweet honey covered nuts. I can not resit them!

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Later on in the afternoon we watched a Man vs Food eating challenge. The contestants had to eat a chilli vodka shot, an extra hot spicy sausage with mashed potato and gravy and a chilli and mango sorbet as fast at they could. The victory time was, I think, under 3 minutes – crazy! While we weren’t tempted to join in, it did make us fancy a sausage! There were so many different vendors to choose from, in the end we plumped for a really tasty classic British pork sausage to share, which made a change from a lot of the (equally delicious!) continental sausages that are increasingly popular at these sort of things these days.

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Towards the end of the afternoon, the sun made a sudden, and strong appearance! After enjoying soaking up some rays in the grass for a while, we grudgingly shunned our planned churros dessert for a more temperature-appropriate ice cream. I was delighted to spot Ginger’s Comfort Emporium on the festival listing, a local “ice cream van for grown ups” that frequents the regular markets in Chorlton and elsewhere in South Manchester.

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Previous favourites of mine from Ginger are marmalade on toast, plum crumble and dark chocolate sorbet. This time I opted for the lemon and orange blossom sorbet while my friend went for so-called Chorlton Crack – the ludicrously luscious peanut butter and salted caramel ice cream. While this is truly and utterly delicious, it is rather rich and heavy, and alas I had to help her finish it!

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All in all, it was a great day out. I’ll leave you with snaps of two of the other exceptionally cute food  stands that I came across

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It’s official; summer has arrived!

Rejoice rejoice! Summer has arrived! And living where we do, one must enjoy it while it lasts! I don’t know about you, but I literally feel like a different person in the sunshine. It just makes me feel so HAPPY and full of energy and like the little stressy things just don’t matter! Ahhh. And I just love summer eating too! 😉

The weekend before last we were up in sunny Scotland for a long weekend visiting friends and family and enjoyed some really stunning weather.

A beach walk with friends on the North Berwick coast was, of course, enjoyed with steaming hot fish & chips (plenty of salt & vinegar), eaten with fingers not forks (then you get to lick all the vingeray salty vinegary deliciousness off your fingers at then end!)

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While walks round the loch were topped off with creamy ice cream

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And after a hot hike up the hill we enjoyed barbecued salmon with lovely crispy skin, juicy sizzled sausages and homemade potato salad with freshly dug tatties and chives from the garden – perfection!

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Even the lovely Scottish gorse was out in force, a riot of yellow against a clear blue sky, the heady coconut scent shouting Summer is Here!

The blissfully gorgeous weather has continued this week in Manchester while we’ve been back which has meant more al fresco eating opportunities!


Toasted marshmallows at a friend’s barbecue. I love when the outside goes all charred and crispy and the inside is gooey, sweet and melting!


And an impromptu picnic in the park after a sunny post-work walk along the river last night! (That’s a rounded meal there!)

I hope that you all have lovely weather where you are too (especially my long-suffering fellow UK bloggers!) and are enjoying some fun times and good food in the sun!

First barbecue of the year! – Soy glazed swordfish and halloumi & pepper skewers

So last weekend spring finally fully hit Manchester! In fact, you could probably say forget spring, summer had just swooped right in, given we had TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS of bright sunshine and 20 degrees!! (Just a shame that one of them was a work day!) Except now we are back down to 8 or 9 degrees and I am staring out the window at the same grey skies and rain that we have had for the last four days and are forecast to have for the next four days… So I am going to reminisce about summer last weekend with this post about our first barbecue of the year!

I am quite probably halloumi’s biggest fan. It is just the most brilliant foodstuff ever, don’t you think?! So meaty yet cheesy and so satisfying. And oh so delicious when grilled or barbecued. I have made pepper and halloumi skewers whenever we’ve fired up the barbie for years now, as well as peddling them at the barbecues of friends and family too! So of course I was definitely making these for our first bbq of the year.

Given it was just the two of us, and we felt like being a bit healthier, we decided to barbecue some swordfish. I really like barbecued fish, it’s a nice change from the usual meat-fest and goes really well with a nice summery salad. I’d never tried swordfish on the barbecue before so was pretty excited to try these delicious steaks! In order to make sure the fish stayed really juicy and moist, I decided on a sticky glaze type marinade. I also wanted something that would be fast to do and faff-free – minimising kitchen time and maximising sunny garden time! I sort of made it up as I went along so don’t have the measurements, but it was so simple and worked a treat! – I glugged some soy sauce into a pan along with some dark brown sugar, and kept stirring until the sugar had dissolved, then took off the heat, squeezed in a little fresh lime juice and poured over the fish. The fish was then basted during cooking with more of the sauce. So simple but so tasty! It really coated the steaks well, kept them moist and juicy, and was very moreish!




Sunshine and Minarets

So I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about my lack of blogging recently but am still spending a large portion of my waking hours running around like a headless chicken so time is somewhat in short supply. So, as a bit of a quick cheat’s blog post, I thought I’d share some of my favourite non-food pictures from our trip to Istanbul earlier this year, which I wrote about in rather great lip-smacking detail in my first ever blog post! I’ve been thinking about Istanbul quite a lot these last few weeks, probably as I watch autumn creep in and wonder where our non-existent summer ever went… I’d give rather a lot to be meandering around the warm streets enjoying the hustle and bustle, sights and smells of this amazing city so full of culture and history right now… Sigh…


































































(Yes, I really need to learn how to display photos properly on here… Did I mention I was short of time?! That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)

Sunshine, cycling and brambles

On arriving home from work this evening, we decided to make the most of what was suddenly turning into a rather beautiful evening and head out for a bike ride. Cycling along with the dappled evening sunshine coming through the trees, warming my skin and raising my spirits, was bliss after a hectic yet dreary day in the office. Particularly as I had started the day shivering into my jacket standing on a tram platform in the sort of incessant drizzly rain that completely soaks you through and saps your spirit in a way no other rain quite does. I think the key to this terrible summer is to really open your eyes and be ready to jump at every opportunity the weather brightens, the day’s are so crazily changeable at the moment that the most horrendous of days can quite suddenly turn into a lovely evening, and vice versa!

As we whizzed along I savoured the feel of the breeze in my hair and on my legs as the skirt of my dress swished around. We continued along our route for a while before passing by a woman with a discarded bicycle at her feet rummaging around in the bushes. We slowed down to stop and I realised there were clumps of brambles, juicy and ripe for the picking. I got quite excited! I adore brambles! Is there a better ingredient out there for a crumble?! They’re also great in cocktails! 😉 However, we had nothing, absolutely no receptacle what-so-ever, in which to take home our forages. I shall have to return, and be more prepared in future!

The picture’s not great as it was taken on a phone, the sky was actually a lovely pale blue with wisps of fluffy clouds, but unfortunately this got rather over exposed!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Yesterday we had a bbq to celebrate 1 year (and a bit!) in our house. Last summer we had a bbq around the same time for our housewarming as well as to celebrate the other half’s 30th. This year we were more lucky with the weather – no rain so we didn’t need the gazebo and we didn’t even need to light the chimnea til 9.30pm! The sun didn’t quite shine but the clouds stayed a relatively pale shade of grey and it was pleasantly warm! Our friends arrived and we ate, drank and were generally merry. Last year I had made a Caribbean brownie cake (with ginger, rum and pecans!) for desert, this year I decided to go with something that didn’t involve turning the oven on (given how humid the weather has been these last few days!) and ended up making cheesecake stuffed strawberries after seeing the recipe in the Guardian magazine last weekend. No actual baking, plus the use of strawberries means it’s healthy, right? 😉

I adjusted the amounts a little as follows;

  • 2 large punnets (bar the odd one that went straight in my mouth!) of strawberries (try to pick largeish strawberries as they’ll be easier to hollow out and stuff!)
  • 300g cream cheese
  • Around 6 tbsp icing sugar (you can adjust depending how sweet or not you like it)
  • 1 tsp of good quality vanilla extract
  • Smashed digestive biscuits

Cut the tops of the strawberries and hollow out the middle. If I had more time I would have saved the flesh I was cutting out and maybe made a sorbet or something with it. As I was in a bit of a rush with guests arriving any minute, I’m afraid most of it just got eaten…. oh well!

Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract then use a piping bag to to fill the strawberries. Bash up some digestive biscuits (very satisfying!) then sprinkle over the top. Yum!!

I had planned to take more bbq food pictures but somehow after a few beers got a little waylaid…

We also ate pepper, red onion and halloumi skewers (I really don’t think  there are many things nicer than barbecued halloumi!)

As well as chicken strips marinated in my Turkish kebab mixture (see earlier post!), chicken strips marinated in lemon, olive oil and herbs, and some yummy pork and honey sausages!

Oh, and mustn’t forget the toasted marshmallows! 😀

Iced peppermint tea

So Summer has finally arrived in the UK! We had the first week back in May and this will no doubt be the second and last week of it now… Still, while the sun shines we shall remain optimistic!

Everything just seems so much better in the sunshine. Standing on the sunny platform waiting for the tram to work this morning was almost pleasant!

Anyway, a little bored with the usual soft drinks, I was seeking inspiration for a new cold and refreshing drink for this hot weather and came up with iced peppermint tea.

I usually make mint tea by just adding a handful of mint leaves from my garden to hot water, however I found it a bit difficult to get the intensity of flavour required in the small amount of hot water used to make this so I used a peppermint tea bag. Make around a third of a cup of peppermint tea and let it brew for a few minutes, I like to give the bag a bit of a mash to release extra flavour. Pour the tea into a glass filled with loads of ice cubes, these will immediately cool the tea and some of the ice cubes will melt straight away lengthening the drink. Delicious, cooling and refreshing! I can’t get enough of it! In fact, I’ve always found cold minty things to be exceptionally refreshing, mint choc chip is clearly one of the best ice cream flavours and childhood trips to France were never complete without the obligatory Kimmy menthe ice lolly! Yum! Hhmm quite fancy making some more now…