Haver – Ancoats General Store Porridge Pop-Up

You know I like my porridge. A warm hug of a bowl to dive deep into first thing on a wintry December morning, it keeps you chugging until lunch and it certainly isn’t a modern day ‘health fad’, high in beta-glucans that benefit your heart health and soluble fibre which gives your gut some love. I have my own way of making the creamy oats, soaked overnight in a plant based milk, some chia or ground linseeds stirred through and topped with nut butter (ALWAYS) and whatever seasonal fruits take my fancy. Perhaps my daily bowl would look way too high maintenance for the average breakfaster, but I can’t do simple. It’s just not in my makeup. I like every mouthful to have different textures, flavours, temperatures, all the elements that make some damn good eating.

Occasionally there are days when I don’t want to make my own porridge and need it fancifying up, even more than I can muster. I have written a review in the past on 26 Grains, a porridge café in Neals Yard in London, so you know how much of a fangirl I am and how long I’ve been waiting for some genius to bring the same experience to us in Manchester. Thankfully Hester Lonergan, the face behind the brand Haver, has heard our cries and comes brimming with gifts.

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Currently popping up in Ancoats General Store on Great Ancoats Street in Manchester on Fridays from 7:30am-11am. All porridges are vegan, the flavours change weekly and in no way is this your mundane banana, cinnamon and peanut butter. Expect toppings galore of granola, compotes, caramels, nut butter, edible flowers and a lot of love.

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On the dreary November morning when I wandered into AGS (Ancoats General Store as it will be known from now on), tummy grumbling, eyes still bleary and legs already tired ahead of a long day of work. Hester was busy hustling in the corner surrounded by plants and with a soundtrack of ABBA quietly jingling in the background, it was enough to bring a smile to my face and crack the morning grogginess. Two choices on offer Pomme Classique and PBCB, the first a almond oats, apple and cinnamon compote, raisin granola, date caramel and walnuts a tough choice against the PCBC, coconut oats, banana chia jam, coconut crumb, maple peanut sauce and cacao nibs. Pomme Classique won the day, because who doesn’t love a good dollop of caramel?

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So I got chatting with Hester after ogling her masterpieces on Instagram for a while. We both share a strong love of the ManiLife Deep Roast Peanut Butter and porridge (DuUUHH), it was great to finally meet her in person rather than virtually whilst she was prepping my porridge. There are too many people I communicate with over Instagram, but have never met them in real life. 2018 goals I think!

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So the porridge came, and my oh my was it delish. One brilliant thing that Hester always asks, is whether you would like the sprinkling of salt on top which she strongly advises. Similar to salted caramel, the combination of fat, salt and sugar get all of our senses tingling, that little bit of salt elevates all the flavours and it’s a little tip I’m going to be adding to my own bowls. Nothing was overly sweet, just perfectly balanced. The oats had the subtleness you want with a almondy note, some sweet jewels when you bite into the raisin granola, the date caramel mixed with the salt brings out a rich almost treacly flavour, the compote was rich in cinnamon and alongside the crunch of the buttery walnuts it left me scraping the bottom of the bowl wondering where it had all gone.

However my tummy was full, I was set for my day and left hoping that the wait until my next bowl wouldn’t be very far away.

 

The last pop-up of the year is this Friday the 15th of December, if you can make it down expect some festive flavours. The most recent have been Terry: an almond oats, chocolate and almond granola, clementine, cacao caramel, almonds and zest, a posh Terrys Chocolate Orange of sorts and Drift: a snowy white spectacle with coconut oats, baked apple, coconut chia, blossom sugar and macadamia. Happily munched with carols gracing your ears, it’s a morning that surely will get you in the festive spirit. Christmas jumpers and antlers are optional. After then, I’m not too sure what’s happening on her agenda. Hopefully many more opportunities are on the horizon for Hester, where she can spread the word of porridge to more people of Manchester. If you’re after a beautiful bowl, the picture for Instagram is optional but recommended, there aren’t many other options in town, and whilst you’re waiting at AGS why not have a wander of the shelves or get yourself a cuppa or a coffee. It’s also one of the very few city centre options for a turmeric, matcha and beetroot latte FYI. It’s a wondrous store and gives rise to many other pop-ups like Haver, it’s the small and independent ventures we need to be celebrating. Much better than your Pret breakfast or lunch I can guarantee.

Get hurtling with those spurtles.

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November Nuances

November has felt like the month everyone wants to be over and done with to let the festivities begin. Aldi started selling their Christmas trees with well over 1 week until the big countdown, carols are jingling out the speakers in shops (indeed Bublé is in the mix) and maybe I have already started on the mince pies? For us in Britain, unless we have any American relatives, November is a bit meaningless. No thanksgiving, just a large empty space between November 5th and December 1st. Time spent saving up for the gifts for your beloveds, ie a month of having no money, stashing up on booze and slowing down on the cheese consumption, as soon there’ll be enough in the fridge to feed an army of mice. I’m sad that we don’t celebrate thanksgiving here, the chance for another turkey dinner I wouldn’t pass up, and don’t get me started on all the fruit and pumpkin pies. Perhaps another celebration would be overkill, and Christmas wouldn’t be as special, I’m going to keep telling myself that but if anyone fancies adopting an English girl for next year’s thanksgiving meal, I’d appreciate it very much!

I’ll bring the stuffing.

The past week or so we have been trying to avoid any talk of Santa Claus and what we would like for Christmas, but starting today, don’t know about you I’m ready to throw myself headfirst into the Christmas pudding. The supermarkets and takeaway lunch options are giving us some seasonal mix-up to our lunch routines. Pret offering three Christmas sandwiches and a salad alongside a whole host of drinks and treats, Leon also have two festive wraps (one of them vegan), a dinky mince pie with 20p of each sale going to Save The Children’s Make the World Better with a Sweater campaign, and a brussel sprout soup too. Find yourself in Tesco, Eat, Boots and M&S where you can eat your Christmas dinner between two slices of bread (or stuffed in a wrap), you most definitely won’t be allowed to do that any other time of the year, so get some whilst you can!

A round-up now of some highlights to my month, I have some nice seasonal posts coming up soon, but enjoy this meanwhile. I hope you have eaten your first advent calendar chocolate this morning, or if you have a gin calendar treated yourself to a rather cheeky G&T at 7 in the morning. Isn’t that what Christmas time is for…

 

#1 The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle: Book 1) by Patrick Rothfuss

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A good long read. One that slowly draws you in, you make new friends along the way to only feel saddened that they’ve left your life once the book is over. But not to worry there is another in the trilogy, and one book still in the making. A fantasy world has been created by Patrick Rothfuss, a combination between The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter best describes it. There’s magic, demons, faeries, murder, and mythical creatures there’s not much else I want from a book, oh and a bit of murder is in there for good measure too. Reading this on the busy commuter train has been the perfect escape for a good half hour twice daily, too busy to notice all the surrounding bodies when i’ve been so engrossed in the story. For a much better description and some ratings here it is on goodreads and if that tempts you enough buy it here.

 

#2 Persimmon (or Sharon Fruit)

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The bulbous bright orange fruits many of us walk past in the supermarket, wondering what on earth thy are and what on earth to do with them. Leave to ripen until very soft, some say they must feel like a water balloon when ready, if caught earlier they can be sliced in a salad and have a much firmer texture. A strong honey flavour with a jelly texture, just pierce the skin with your teeth and suck out the flesh. Or as I’ve seen others do, stick one in the freezer and once frozen slice the top off and scoop out the sorbet innards with a spoon. As delicious as it sounds I reckon.

#3 Jam from The Old Cow Shed  in Chisworth

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Seeking out local producers and adding their products to my cupboards and fridge makes me rather happy and contented. In a small little village called Chisworth, drive down a rough and bumpy road for a few minutes until you come to a farmhouse and there you shall find the 17th century converted old cow shed. A husband and wife team singly making all the sausages, black pudding, cured and smoked items, jams, chutneys, sauces and pickles all changing with the seasons. Their sausages are the best ones I’ve ever come across, meaty but not dense, made from free range rare-breed pork, they will amp up your regular meal of sausage and mash for sure. I’m not here today though to talk about sausages, this month has been all about the jam. A plum, orange and cardamom jam, but almost verging on marmalade territory with the bitter rind of the orange and lime. Sunday brunch has recently been ending with a half slice of toasted sourdough, salted butter and some of this jam. My idea of pure autumnal heaven and a little (not so) guilty pleasure 🙂

#4 The Handmaid’s Tale

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I’m quite late to the show here as this series featuring Elizabeth Moss, based on the book by Margaret Atwood has already finished on Channel 4 and I’m watching the re-run. The story-line disturbs me deeply, I’m not sure if that’s just me as a woman and relating to it in that way or if men get the same uncomfortable feeling too. I don’t want to give anything away, there’s not much for me to spill as of yet, but for a little background info: set in Gilead, a near-future United States of America which is under a christian military dictatorship. The story of Offred, a handmaid, whose place in the world is to have two functioning ovaries and provide a child for their owner. It gets complicated, too much for me to explain on here, way much more than I understand myself! It’s great watching though, dark and mysterious and leaves you itching to watch the next and the next one after that.

 

#5 Earrings from Geo Heaven

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A visit to the Christmas markets at the Hepworth Gallery over the weekend, intending to buy plenty of Christmas gifts, to only come away with gifts for myself. Don’t we all? A selection of the UK’s best crafters of home wares and accessories, a few hours were spent oohing and ahhing and a slight sense of jealousy building for all those talented people showcasing their goods. My standout buy, these earrings from Geo Heaven. They are 3D printed, rose-gold plated and made in Yorkshire. Ticks all the boxes of coolness and look pretty amazing on too. Head on over to their website to see all the other jewellery available or pop over to their instagram page for some lust-worthy ideas for Christmas gifts, or do as I did and treat yourself.

#6 Faux Fur scarf from Pretty Little Thing

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I’m going to be frank with you, Pretty Little Thing isn’t my first port of call when shopping for clothes and accessories. The world of Boohoo, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing and the likes may have changed a lot since they first appeared on our web browsers but I still picture them as the cheap bulk clothing they once were. After talking to a girl who was wearing some awesome leopard print flares and she said how long they are, too long in fact, well that got me clicking away. I’m in desperate need of a new pair of flares so ordered some in black and some in red, plus a faux fur scarf just to bulk up the price for free delivery (don’t we all?). In the end, the flares were returned and the one item I wasn’t intending on keeping has stuck. A powder pink and grey-blue fluff, when wearing it I was told I looked like I was being strangled by a raccoon, does that paint a good enough picture? Well it’s pretty snazzy and keeps your neck warm too, plus it doesn’t look cheap. It’s no Fendi or even Shrimps but it’ll do until the day when I can justify paying top dollar and still have money leftover to feed myself for the month. It’s now sold out sadly but instead there’s this bundle of joy that is still available, but don’t delay!

With as much festive jingley love that I can muster, crack out the mulled wine and mince pies it’s time to embrace Christmas!

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ChicP Hummus and some fancy toasts

It’s hummus time again. Dips are things that have to feature everyday, otherwise withdrawl symptoms start to ensue. My carrot sticks don’t know what to do with themselves if there’s no tub to hand, what else can you really dunk them in? On days like those resort to tahini, close I suppose and a pretty good substitute, but it’s definitely no hummus.

Of course making your own tends to be the better option, meaning you can make it to your own taste, varying the beans if you like and making flavours that you would never find in the shops (see THIS black truffle and chilli hummus). But we all know time and effort gets in the way. We finish work at 5, get home for 6 no one wants to be whipping up their own hummus to delve into before dinner. The Tesco Express is usually the better option, either their organic hummus or just the original one (it’s cheaper and tastes as much of hummus as the first), stick it in your own bowl and drizzle with some nice extra virgin olive oil (ooh fancy) and you’ll even be kidding yourself that you made the slightest bit of effort.

For those times you do want to push the boat out and search for a more artisanal product, there are a few on the market. One that I’ve had my eye on lately is ChicP. A young brand founded by Hannah McCollum, all using surplus raw fruit and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. She produces alternative, interesting and most definitely delicious dips with flavours you can’t find anywhere else, plus the the most popular with those in the know, the banana, avocado and cacao hummus.

 

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Sweet hummus, still the main component parts of chickpeas and tahini but the garlic, oil and cumin gets replaced with over-ripe banana, cacao powder and some avocado, plus a little agave for that touch of sweetness. Well…it is a sweet hummus. I really enjoyed it as a dip for apple slices, or smeared onto some banana, on toast was good, oh and don’t forget in porridge. That is one way not to forget about.

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Lovely Hannah sent me one of each variety of her hummuses. Hummusi? I don’t know where to stand on the plural. Anyway, I received a beetroot, horseradish and sage, a carrot, ginger and turmeric, a herby hummus and the banana, avocado and cacao. All a rainbow of colours, pretty tempting to dunk a spoon right into, or if you have company, I suppose some crudites should come into the mix. I was looking to do something a little more with the hummus. One evening I made a vegan pasta dish, roasting up some fennel, courgette, garlic and tomatoes then stirring them all together with the herby hummus the pasta and some of the cooking water plus extra herbs. It was creamy with a nice garlic hit, and ever so moreish. From the title, a pasta coma is inferred of course. It will be a meal on my mind for those times when hummus is leftover in the fridge (does anyone EVER have hummus leftover in their fridge? Not in our house anyway!), makes for a pretty good clear out of the fridge.

Fancy toast is what I’ve got for you today. A bit of hummus on toast is a lovely thing, breakfast, lunch, for dinner or a snack, it’s very versatile and is definitely a blank canvas to get creative. The Biona Rye bread is always my choice when we don’t have a fresh loaf of sourdough from the local baker. TOP TIP my friends! Once opened stick your rye bread in the freezer and just take out a slice whenever you want, toast on defrost and when it pops up toast again until crispy. Less waste and it keeps sooooo much longer.

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Not satisfied with just the one flavour I needed to do half’n’half. In the mix was the beetroot, horseradish and sage hummus, screaming out for some crunch of shaved fennel, and goats cheese crumbled on top. Asian vibes were coming my way for the carrot, turmeric and ginger hummus. Recently my way of cooking mushrooms has been to stray away from the pan and instead drizzle them with oil and some tamari and roast in the oven until shriveled and a little crispy. All the water evaporates, so the mushroom flavour is concentrated and meaty, once topped with kimchi and pleentyyyy of sriracha, that will be a few mouthfuls you will never ever want to end.

If you want to get your self some ChicP hummus, which I highly recommend you search high and low for. You lot in London will have a much better chance than us north of the border. Here’s a list of individual shops and online marketplaces to get your fix, or buy direct from their online shop. Even if you polish the whole tub off in one sitting (I’ll just hide behind my hands, I swear I didn’t), that’s fine, obviously, you’re doing your bit to combat food waste. And we can all do a little bit more in that crusade.

 

To be honest no recipe is really needed,  just a list of ingredients to pile up and create your own masterpieces with. Let me know what you top your hummus with, if you’re as avid a fan as hummus on toast as I am, I bet there’s some serious contenders out there. Better than avocado on toast? I think so. That might cause some arguments though, I might just leave things there….

Beetroot, sage and horseradish hummus on toast

Ingredients

  • 1/2 slice rye bread
  • A good scoop of beetroot, sage and horseradish hummus
  • Finely shaved fennel, reserve the fronds for sprinkling
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • Hard goats cheese (I used St. Helen’s Farm)
  • A few leaves of parsley
  • Black pepper
  • Lemon

Directions

  1. Pretty simple things here, toast your rye bread slice until crispy on the edges.
  2. Meanwhile pour boiling water over your frozen peas in a bowl and leave to sit for a few minutes, then drain.
  3. Time to assemble. Spread the hummus over the toast, place the fennel slices and peas over the top, however artfully you care to be. Top with the crumbled goats cheese, parsley, fennel fronds and a good grind of pepper and a spritz of lemon.

 

Carrot, ginger and turmeric hummus on toast

Ingredients

  • 1/2 slice rye bread
  • A good smear of carrot, ginger and turmeric hummus
  • A handful of chestnut mushrooms, quartered
  • Tamari
  • Kimchi
  • Coriander leaves
  • Lime
  • Sriracha

Directions

  1. Turn the oven to 180C. Toss your mushrooms in a roasting tin with a dribble of tamari and oil, then roast in the oven shaking a few times until crisped up and shrivelled. Can take around 20-30 minutes.
  2. Once the mushrooms are cooked, toast your rye bread and the smear on the hummus.
  3. Dot with the hot mushrooms, some kimchi, coriander leaves, lime juice and a good sized squirt of sriracha. THAT is the most important bit and must not be forgotten!

I would like to thank Hannah from ChicP for sending me the hummus to sample. All these words and opinions are my own, can you tell when I’m excited about something?  I definitely felt it about this brand who are setting a prime example to other young companies. Having won Best New Convenience Food at the World Food Innovation Awards, Trailblazer Award at Food Vision and shortlisted at the YBFs, I reckon we will be seeing ChicP in our own fridges sometime soon.

 

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October Offerings

The end of October, it’s Halloween. That basically means it’s Christmas, I won’t have any of you complaining that it’s too early. Forget about bonfire night, the Christmas season is upon us! All that prepping takes some time and much needed consideration. We have puddings to bake and mature, mince meat to jar ready for copious mince pies, cards to make, decorations to put up, presents to buy and Christmas jumpers to wear (the ugliest you can find). Not to forget advent calendars to slowly start working our way through. I’m after a dark chocolate one this year, torn between either this Hotel Chocolat one or this Montezumas one, if anyone has tried them previously and can say which is the best give me a shout!!

It’s been another busy month for me. A few days in Barcelona, doing a show in the Royal Albert Hall, going from modelling full-time to now only part time, starting working in a kitchen (yes not my own, but one where people pay money!!) and not forgetting going from the boring brunette I once was to now a bright red bob with a fringe. A bit of a dramatic change, I think i have shocked a few of my family and friends, but I absolutely love it! Having new hair totally makes you feel like a new person, a permanent alter ego. It’s refreshing, even if it means having to change my wardrobe a little…not that I’m complaining about that one bit!

Starting working part-time and going back to that daily commute and a routine is a tricky thing for your body to get used to. I’m finding myself ever-more sleepy than usual, maybe it’s due to the 5:45 wake up call, my legs are aching and standing all day is taking it’s toll on my feet. However, I really am enjoying doing something that I truly enjoy, working with great people and in an amazing environment. If you are ever in Manchester and find yourself at the new Mackie Mayor, come say hey!

So for this month here are my new finds.

#1 Boy Brow – Glossier

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They made it. Not sure how long it has taken exactly, all I know that we have been waiting way too long for the cult beauty brand, started by Emily Weiss of Into the Gloss, to fly it’s way over to our shores. ‘Starting with your skin and working your way up’, that’s how the peeps at Glossier’s minds are turning. We are all aiming for that glossy and dewy look seen on models from show to show at fashion week, well Glossier have your back. The hardest decision was what to splurge on, even though with the highest priced product only at £45 (and that’s a fragrance), that’s not much of a splurge at all. Boy Brow has been on my wishlist for a looooonnnnggg time, so that went straight into the bag, alongside Haloscope. A highlighter that doesn’t cast a grey-ish shimmer across your skin, just nourishing and sheer that catches the light just right. You’ll want to buy everything though. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

#2 Spoon Muesli – The Nutty One

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Some of you may be well aware of this brand and their granolas. I actually have never tried any of them, however with flavours of dark chocolate, apple and peanut or cinnamon and pecan I reckon I would quickly be a convert. Recently I’ve been on a bit of a muesli crave, and have found another favourite to add into the rotation. The mueslis from Spoon have only been available for the past couple of weeks, a choice of either nutty or berry, both to suit your breakfast needs. They contain a mix of grains: jumbo oats, malted barley flakes and some puffed quinoa, whole nuts, cinnamon, orange peel and some turmeric to give a little golden glow to your mornings. I like to soak mine in a plant based milk until soggy (sacrilege? I think not!) then top with yogurt, fruit, nut butter and extra nuts and seeds for some more crunch. I’m just extra like that. Make it into porridge one day, that’s a morning decision you won’t regret.

#3 Banana bread – recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson

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Who doesn’t love a good banana bread. That’s rhetorial, not even a question. Dense and gooey, not too sweet, some cinnamon warmth and chunks of raisins and crunch of walnuts. That’s just how I like it. After many (and I do mean many) failed attempts at various recipes, either too dry, too stodgy – in a bad way – too bland, just not perfect. But this one, now this is perfection. Nigella’s recipe is adapted from a book I’m also rather fond of, Jim Fobel’s Old Fashioned Baking Book. a paperback book free from many pictures, but full of treasured American baking recipes, which to me as an English girl is a rather fascinating insight. This particular banana bread soaks the raisins first in some rum until plump and juicy, not giving the end result a boozy flavour, just emphasizing the flavour of the raisins. I change the recipe slightly using four large very ripe bananas, subbing 2/3 of the plain flour with some wholemeal flour and reducing the sugar to only a third of the original amount. Find the recipe in her book How To Be a Domestic Goddess, do it not just for the wonderful banana bread you get to eat but also the glorious smell that lingers around your house for the rest of the day.

#4 Winter Squash

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I love this time of year. Prime time for all the beautiful British seasonal ingredients as the sun starts to cool and we wind down into winter. Beets, carrots, apples, parsnips, sprouts, all of the warming hearty fruit and veg come to their best, including squashes and pumpkins just in time for Halloween. It’s not the jack o’lantern pumpkins we’re after for eating, they are grown solely for size and lend a watery texture lacking in flavour, only just passable for a soup. Find a greengrocer or a local farmers market and search out all the wonderful varieties on offer. Some are indeed better than others, namely the onion squash, kabocha, crown prince and acorn are your best bet for roasting, boiling and mashing and all your soup needs. Spied a spaghetti squash? These can be split in half and stuffed with all manners of things. See here for some inspo. When the flesh is pulled by the tines of a fork, spaghetti like strands twizzle away. I’m not much into grain-free and carb-free meals, but add a side of garlic bread or some toasted sourdough, and that’s a pretty mega meal.

#5 Pompom beret – Monki

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The beret or the baker boy hat, which will win the fight for the hat of 2017? I know which one I would choose, and have done for the past couple of years way before they became insta-famous. Now thanks to all the fashion bloggers in the world, every other person in Topshop will be wearing either of the two hats. We all wear them in search of looking individual and unique but instead end up grouping ourselves together into flared trousers, sock boot, aviator jacket wearing fashion victims. Saying that I have a growing collection of berets and this baby pink beauty from Monki with a grey pompom fits in just nicely. You can always rely upon Monki for interesting hats, and for a reasonable price too. I also have my eye on this ball of cuteness, see you at the checkout.

#6 Breddos Tacos – Kingly Street, London

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Newly opened in the past couple of weeks, following the success of their Clerkenwell site restaurant. With influences from America and Mexico slinging it’s way back to the UK, the menu is exciting and so tempting you will want to order EVERYTHING! We wandered into the new Kingly Street branch shortly before 7, there’s no reservations, so expecting a 45 minute wait we headed downstairs to the margarita bar. A Sabina Sabe pour moi and a Nomade for my mum, they were ever so moreish and we staggered upstairs 20 or so minutes later perhaps slightly more joyous than before. A swift glance over the menu lead to some elote corn, the addictive Mexican street food classic of grilled corn smothered with habanero mayo and some montgommery cheddar. Next the baja fish tacos and the puebla style arebes tacos, and finally the king oyster mushroom and cauliflower barbecoa. Nothing overly spicy hot, but all layered with complex flavours, the mole on the cauliflower dish being the memorable element (alongside the corn of course). I could’ve eaten bucket loads of that! If you’re in either Soho or Clerkenwell I strongly recommend giving Breddos Tacos a visit, there will be a wait, it means a margarita or two, that’s not such a bad thing.

The clocks have gone back, now the imminent shorter days and longer nights are upon us. It may make some of us feel more downcast and less happy than in the summer months, but just embrace it. Snuggle up on the chillier nights, take a chance to relax, watch something on Netflix and get a good nights sleep. Don’t forget to top up your vitamin D levels either and get yourself a supplement and keep taking it until march!! Even though this life makes us feel we should be constantly on the move and never stop grafting a little reset is exactly what we need. Save all that energy for Christmas it’s only round the corner, and all that mince pie eating and mulled wine drinking requires LOTS of energy.

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Lifebox – Birthday Box

Lifebox. A monthly package delivered to your door, bursting at the seams with snacks, powders, treats, chocolate, drinks and teas to enrich your life, widen your tastebuds and make healthy eating easy and accessible in your busy lives. Jennie and her team have now been providing people across the country with their goodies for the past three years, I have been following them from the very off after finding them on Instagram and watching how far they have come since then.

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With a choice of four different boxes to either order as a one off or as a subscription there is something to suit every lifestyle and pocket. The everyday wellness box, the men’s health box and the women’s health box all costing £22.95, encasing full sized products from exciting new startups and old favourites on the market. Also there’s the Lifebox mini, offering samples of products featured in the everyday Lifebox for a smaller price, so you can dip your toe in the water before committing.

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Is there anything more enjoyable than receiving a parcel in the post? Not really. It’s like Christmas day for me! So the fact that if you subscribe to Lifebox every month you will receive a jam-packed white box, with food and drinks to fall in love with, that’s a pretty great thing to look forward to. Also included is a booklet with workout routines anything from HIIT to yoga and recipes from guest bloggers using ingredients found in the box so when you’re lacking some inspiration you know where to turn.

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So in this birthday box, first some things that were well-known to me:

Alongside that many new nibbles:

Standouts of the group have to be the Vild and Co. granola. Strong in cinnamon but a tart bitterness cuts through from the bilberries. It’s addictive. It’s granola, what’s not to love. The Wilde Nuts chocolate cashew butter is mightily good, creamy but with a good cacao hit. In porridge with raspberries…NEXT LEVEL. I’ve also been enjoying the energy bomb sachet from Your Superfoods in my overnight oats. Cinnamon typically is the only spice or powder that features in my breakfasts (maybe maca if i’m feeling fancy), but this mix-up of açai, guarana, lucuma, maca and banana powder is nice to switch things up a bit. Lightly sweet from the banana, supposedly great for energy levels, not that I’ve noticed a difference but as long as it tastes good, that’s what we’re here for really!?! A note on the Leithy Creates raw puds, specifically the peanut butter truffle, it’s a good job that you don’t get more than one they’re devilishly good and would be polished off in one sitting!

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Head on over to their website to see what’s in store for this months’ box. Follow them on instagram @lifeboxfoodco for some daily inspiration for recipes, the breakfast and drinks in particular are really rather funky, and the odd giveaway here and there. you never know you might be the lucky devil one day! Don’t miss out on the seasonal specials either, at Christmas time and Easter there tends to be a luxury Lifebox, full of seasonal treats. Better than your tub of quality streets?? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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The Nutty Group – Nutty Nibbles

Certain times and certain days require snacks. Copious amounts of them. On those kinds of days, there may have been a superrrrr early wake up, say 5:30/6, a rushed breakfast and lunch isn’t until 1pm. An apple or banana simply won’t cut it.

On days like these, my sweet tooth tends to kick in. A gooey medjool date may come to mind, but some nut butter is always preferable to cut through that richness. Instead, reaching for a bliss ball, where everything is handily packed into a transportable bite, that’s what I’m after. Cup of tea or coffee NECESSARY.

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The Nutty Group are a smoothies and juices start up and have now expanded their product range to nibbles. Available in 5 varieties, coconut blueberry, mango coconut almond, apricot and chia seed, apricot and cashew and their autumnal special, pumpkin pie. Simply organic dried fruit and nuts, to provide a treat or snack high in fibre and healthy fats.

My favourite has to be a toss up between the pumpkin pie and the apricot and chia seed. The pumpkin pie, has flecks of green from the pumpkin seeds and a hint of warming cinnamon spice. Anything with cinnamon in makes me one happy gal. The apricot and chia, is wonderfully caramelly, since they’ve used unsulphured apricots the darker and deeper flavoured than your typical orange dried apricots, and the chia seeds add a nubbly texture and some crunch.

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If you’re after some dried fruit and nut nibbles using organic ingredients and different flavours to those you tend to find in shops, then head on over to the nutty group’s online shop. You will also find their treats in the October Primal Snack box, or head to Veg Fest London on the 21st-22nd of October where they will be waiting with snaackksss!

I would like to say a big thank you to The Nutty Group for sending me over some of their bites to sample and spread the word to all of my lovely readers. I hope soon to be bringing you more product reviews, sometimes life is too hectic to make things yourself and we all need a bit of help and assistance!

Much love and nibbling

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The Allotment Vegan Restaurant – Review

The most unlikely of places for a vegan restaurant, it’s true. Fine dining vegan even more so! Manchester has the odd few places, V Rev for the times when you are in need of some serious junk food action and The Earth Centre for vegan comfort food like dahls, pies and soups. Then most places have some vegan options on the menu, but they never really stray much further than a bean burger or some fried tofu. Wander slightly further afield to Stockport however, a 20 minute drive, and there you will find what is starting to become a foodie mecca.

Down a steep declining hill from the market, on the corner of Vernon street you will find a bright, minimal but warm restaurant, stocked with hanging plants and succulents and a bustling open kitchen. We visited shortly before 7 on a Thursday night and it was almost full and by the time it hit 8:30 every table had guests, a good sign that they’re doing something right!!

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Starting with some water flavoured with cucumber, mint and orange as we browsed the menu, deciding between the 10 or 7 course taster menu, the a la carte or the early bird. The menu is short and concise, but even so I struggled making a decision on what to eat, everything sounded so tempting. The wine and beer list isn’t extended either, all the more easier to pick and choose, a few award winning wines and craft ales, also a wine pairing menu if you so wish. I would have walked out sloshed if that were the case.

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First out came an amuse bouche, aubergine, beetroot and cucumber, a perfect little tasty concoction whilst sipping on our chardonnay, just a little taster of what was to come. Don’t get me started on the plates, the temptation to lick the plate clean and stuff it into my handbag definitely ran through my mind.

Next along came the starters, one the courgette scallop with sea herb salsa verde. A pan-fried courgette scallop with a samphire salsa verde on a celeriac puree, tapioca pearl, apple and nori. A salty sea freshness and the smoothest celeriac puree that has ever graced my mouth. Alongside the allotments’ signature dish cauliflower hot wings with some roast garlic hummus. Addictive doesn’t even explain it. My mum is not a fan of cauliflower at all. No matter how much I try to disguise the flavours she will always shove it to the side of the plate for me to pick at. These went down pretty well though. How can they not really? They’re deep fried!! 😛

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I opted for the aubergine manchurian for main, an indo-chinese spiced confit aubergine, spring onion rice, chilli popcorn, lemon kale, pickled vegetables and fried enoki. Full of different textures and flavours, some spicy some sharp and the meaty aubergine to mop up all the lovely sauce. For my mum was the sweetcorn and pickled chilli. A fried sweetcorn and jalapeno fritter, lemon thyme and cumin potato puree, tomato marmalade glazed roasted romanesco, white bean, pine nut and avocado. All plants. Yep not a bit of meat, eggs or dairy in sight! And that’s coming from someone who when a dish isn’t feeling quiiiitteeee right, cheese is always the answer.

Another glass of wine down and out came an unexpected (and my favourite bit of the night). A PRE DESSERT. Can this be made obligatory at every restaurant. K thanks. A bottom layer of turmeric custard, topped with a pink fir apple compote and some toasted chopped hazelnuts. We could’ve eaten this by the bucket full. Only to be followed by the dessert, a sweet potato custard tart with meringue shards and lemon sorbet. Nicely spiced, in between an egg(less) custard and a pumpkin pie, a bit of crisp from the meringue, all cut with some zing in the lemon sorbet. We did share the dessert, I’m sure much to the dismay of some of you, but stuffed we were and it topped off a lovely meal.

Sorry that there’s no images of the pre-dessert and dessert, you’ll just have to picture it in your head. We just wanted to tuck straight in for once, it was my birthday, let me off!

I’d like to add that neither me nor my mum are vegan or even vegetarian for that matter. We tend to eat plant based meals the majority of the time, but still do enjoy some fish once or twice a week and the odd roast chicken or steak. That being said, dinner at the allotment was refreshing and inspiring, every plate full of varying textures and using ingredients together that you would not normally dream of. There is indeed a cheese course. Cultured nut cheeses served with seasonal nut cheeses and raw crackers, something that I am yet to try and anticipating it to be sooner rather than later!

Starters cost £6-£7, mains are between £17 and £18 and desserts are £7, it’s fine dining so don’t expect large portions, but that just means you can try more of what they have to offer. If you do visit though, please make sure to order the cauliflower hot wings. Just for me. Even if that’s all you go for, it’ll be completely worth it.

The Allotment Vegan, 6 Vernon St, Stockport, SK1 1TY

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