Jam Street, Whalley Range, Manchester

May 26th, 2010

The best full english breakfast that I have had for a long time is in Jam Street, on the Saturday morning of a friend’s birthday.

The sign outside promises good food, real ale and eclectic events, it follows through on these promises. There is a very relaxed bohemian atmosphere to the place, with its mismatched furniture on an uneven checker board floor. Don’t expect the fastest service but also don’t expect to be hassled if you are taking your time.

There are two reasons that the breakfast was excellent.

Firstly they make a very good substantial breakfast with quality sausages, bacon, bury black pudding and the controversial addition of bubble & squeak as the potato products. I know it is a bit too pretentious but I liked the flower pots of toast.

In the evenings Jam Street is a bar that serves a limited menu of tasty food, the crucial thing is that they have beer on tap both real ale from Dunham Massey brewery or San Miguel and a good range of bottled beers. This is the second reason that the breakfast was excellent there is something a bit wrong about breakfast even a slightly late one with a pint that makes it better.

Iceland, Volcanoes and Beer

May 21st, 2010

In Europe we are under a cloud, it is a volcanic ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. That is mainly annoying to anyone wanting to travel by air, leading to trips being cancelled and David Lebovitz unpacking unworn swimmies.
Fortunately I have not been affected by this except the odd fruit or veg items that have not been delivered to supermarkets from other continents.
All this news about volcanoes, Iceland and ash got me to thinking of the connections to food or beer.
The first thing that I thought of was the cheese, thinking of cheese is almost a default position for me. The cheese that I was thinking of is the French Morbier cheese, cows cheese with a line of edible ash in the middle. Also some goats cheeses are rolled in ash to reduce the acidity of the cheese. The Morbier is an especially delicious cheese and is for me the acceptable face of ash , as it is much more less coarse than volcano ash.
Then I thought what is the food and drink of Iceland? So I googled Iceland Food and then Iceland Beer. Google offers up a suggestion of Iceland Beer Day. What a brilliant idea a day dedicated to having a cheeky pint.
However it turns out that the beer day does not come from an entirely happy place, for more than 70 years there was a prohibition the severity of which was reduced over time. It was ended on the 1st March 1989, a day when all of Iceland went to the pub and was able to enjoy a beer stronger than 2.25%. Following the joy of the first day that beer could be drunk, the annual beer day began. Icelandic beer is of the Continental European lager style.

The Boars Head, Hampton Lucy Warwickshire

May 12th, 2010

We pulled up in front of The Boars Head in the centre of the picturesque village of Hampton Lucy, small children outside hurdling rows of daffodils on the grass verge. It is a picture from Country Life.
There was a group of locals at the bar that filled the pub with a background noise of lively banter. Although the pub is slightly unsure of how much it wants to be a restaurant and how much it wants to be a pub, but importantly the beer was good in both quality and range on offer. It was easy to see why the Boars Head has been the local CAMRA branch pub of the year for the last 2 years.
The best beers that I had were an excellent pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord and a really malty Green King Mild.
I had a strong feeling of having picked the wrong meal after seeing the steak and ale pie arriving at the next table.
I had fish and chips, which was only remarkable for the rectangular shape of the fish. In a meal of unorthodox shapes the wife’s angus burger was star shaped. It wasn’t a bad dinner but there could have been a benefit in spending a bit less time on the shape and a bit more on the taste.
This did not stop me from leaving the pub with the feeling that I had a really enjoyable evening, and would definitely like to go back.

Interrupted Service

May 6th, 2010

There are few things more unforgiveable in blogging than not regularly updating and that is something that I have been guilty of in recent times. There is a combination of reasons for this transgression but the main issue that has recently been is that I have moved house and there was a period when the internet was a thing that I remembered from the old house but did not know of in the new house. Sorry for the interruption but it should be back to regular updates from now.
This has meant that there has been a period when updating the blog has been impossible I have not lost my keen interest in food or ale but I have not been able to communicate the exciting experiences in their full descriptions, but the best things that I have done are due to be published in the next few weeks. These include my discovery of Caribbean food, moving close to a great bar and some brilliant recipes that I have been cooking.
The new house features a much better oven than the old house so we are able to do much more baking, which is great.
The most exciting things are the ones we don’t expect. Coming home to find the wife has made a really delicious carrot cake. It is both a good surprise and I am sure the best way to get one of my five a day fruit or veg. It is surprising how quickly you can get used to not having a fully functioning oven, but when you get one back it is like discovering a whole new world, I feel like Miranda in the tempest “Oh brave new world” whilst all of you are out there thinking like Prospero “Tis New to thee”
What a revelation oven cooking is, I have even managed to make the homemade pork scratchings in last post and they are really delicious. Any way it means that we are cooking a lot of roast dinners and the wife who is magic with cakes is turning out some things that are a revelation in the lunch box.

Pork Scratchings

January 30th, 2010

I know that it is not good for you and probably actively bad for you never mind not good. Salty, fatty and with a teeth breaking crunch, there can be few foods even bar snacks that are less healthy than Pork Scratchings. If that is not enough to put you off then there is a strong chance that you will eat some bristly pig hairs if you have enough

This does not stop them being the best bar snack in the world and one that I genuinely love. So much so that at University a friend and I used to buy them from the butchers by the carrier bag. The soft texture of the salty fat followed by the firm deep crunch of the skin and if you are really lucky there will have been some crunchy meat for a real mix of textures and a great bundle of porky deliciousness.

All things are not created equally and just as the scratching is not the healthiest, not all scratchings are the tastiest. As a rule of thumb avoid the ones that you can’t see the actual scratchings through the packet, clear plastic bags are a sign of tastiness.

I have not taken the love of the scratchings so far as to make my own (yet) but here is a recipe if you fancy having a go.

Sausages with Butter Beans

January 11th, 2010

There is something that is brilliant about sausages, I really enjoy them in all their guises, but in this rich tomatoey stew they really pep me up especially from the cold that we are currently seeing in the UK. I know that the 5 inches (15cms) is not really a lot of snow in many places but we are unused to it. The snow proved to be difficult but the ice that followed prevented me from driving the half hour to work and put me in a two hour freezing bus ride from which the feeling in my feet has only just returned.

So to warm and cheer myself up I made the recipe below and it really hits the spot, with a bit of a warm Mediterranean feel to make you feel warm inside.

4 – 6 Sausages depending on size and appetite
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin Butter Beans
1 small red onion thinly sliced
2 table spoons tomato puree
12 cherry tomatoes halved
Herb de Provence
Salt /Pepper

Colour the sausages in a large heavy frying pan, then add the onions and sweat them down.
When the onions are sweated add the beans and tinned tomatoes cook for 5 minutes before adding the tomato puree.
When the sauce is starting to thicken remove the sausages and chop them into bite sized chunks, then return to the pan.
Add the Cherry Tomatoes and Herbs cook until the sauce is good and thick, about 5 minutes. Then season and serve.

Looking around I have found a couple of good looking recipes for sausages with beans.

The Crown Inn, Groombridge Kent

January 3rd, 2010

This is a great old pub with some interesting history going back to 1585. The pub has many good features, but my favourite has to be the superb cosy inglenook fire.
There was a friendly atmosphere in the bar that was full of locals, the pleasant burble of conversation that seemed to come from more people than where in evidence in the pub. We were sat in the restaurant side of the pub, which was almost empty but considering that it was the day after boxing day it is not exactly surprising.
The pub had some good beers I had the Larkins Traditional Ale which was a very drinkable session ale. I had the steak and ale pie with chips and slightly watery winter vegetables, the pie was generously laden with steak and a rich, delicious gravy. The steak would have benefitted from cooking for an extra 30 minutes stewing and I always feel short changed when a pie only has a lid and no sides or base even when it is delicious. The wife had the lasagne which was alright without being spectacular.
Overall a good pub with excellent beer and tasty food, friendly atmosphere and a perfect place to finish the 2009 Good Beer Guide before starting to look at the 2010 Guide.

Christmas Dinner and Beers

December 23rd, 2009

Christmas is great because it is an excellent opportunity to enjoy good food and drink with family and friends.
Christmas day food can cause a trip around the wine cupboard, this is not for me though I prefer something tastier to run in tandem with my dinner. The best beverage, in my opinion, to match with food is beer. So on Christmas day I will be sticking with this rule.
This year we are starting with the retro cool of prawn cocktail for the starter, the sweetness goes perfectly with a wheat beer.
The main course is a traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings, this like most turkey dishes goes excellently with a good lager like Pilsner Urquell.
The rich Christmas pudding for desert goes superbly with a good stout.

Twelve Days of Christmas

December 19th, 2009

I have just watched the Hairy Bikers twelve days of christmas, I love the enthusiasm that they have for all cooking. I thought that they would struggle to get the seven swans from the Queen, even more so when Dave got greased up and jumped in a lake. They ended up with a superb ale, from Severn Vale brewing.

Mince Pies and Christmas

December 13th, 2009

I have just had the first mince pie of this years Christmas season, it was a shop bought pie which was tasty but does not hit the spot like a really great home made mince pie.
Does anyone have a recipe recommendation for great mince pies?