Sunday 28 September 2014

Making Sushi

On Friday I learnt how to make sushi.

It was incredible. Ben from Sushi Night Fever came over loaded with sticky rice, fish, seaweed and gloves for lubing (very important).

We made everything below:

You make each type in rounds, and Ben's on hand to help should you begin to mess it all up (and take group photos, which is always very useful).

I was genuinely so surprised at how full we all were after the master class had finished!

Rows and rows of spicy tuna, chunky salmon, crispy salmon skin and avocado, mango, cucumber, ginger, wasabi, chives and seaweed... what a fishy feast!

Now, on to those lubey gloves (oh er)... You wear them to get down and dirty with your filling. Ben gave us all a squirt of mayo to get our fingers nice and, um, moist (which helps everything mould together), and away you go! We couldn't get enough:

My hosomaki:

So proud of these little beauties!

For a dinner party with a difference, it's definitely up there. Ben was great, managed around the space limitations (ten people and a modest dining table makes for an interesting seating plan...), and stayed for some drinks with us after (poor bloke). 

Their website's here: 

Saturday 27 September 2014

Reunion in Roa Island

A few weeks ago, Roa Island got a bit of a rude awakening when fourteen ex-uni pals turned up in convoy, each with a boot full of booze...

It's a weird old place on the southern most point of the Lake District, with coast to one side and lakes (a twenty minute drive) the other.

This RNLI lifeboat house backed on to the garden. We stayed in Roa Island House for the weekend - if you're planning a big get together in the Lakes with friends or family then it's worth checking it out.

The house is massive. With its own observatory tower(!), backwards ticking clock (and a hot tub mofooo's), it's pretty good for "getting away from it all". Ideally it could've done with another hot tub as it was a bit of a struggle with fourteen people, but after plural prosecco & gins personal space was soon forgotten.....

We didn't lounge about in the hot tub all day, we managed a big walk near Newby Bridge on Saturday, and had a picnic on the er, 'beach' the next.

After exhausting pizzas, barbecues and picky food we ordered caterers in to cook something amazing for us on Sunday evening.

It started out oh-so civilised...

 But. as with all good nights, things descended into chaos quite quickly..

We woke to a surprise on the last day of the cleaners hammering on the door and kicking us out.

Hanging our heads in shame at the remnants of the night before, we dragged ourselves off to a lay by on the island and had a breakfast picnic. You can tell how thrilled we all were at this situation:

One of the best weekends I've ever had!


Monday 8 September 2014

#Forage2Glass Cocktail Class & Gin

I didn't like gin until two years ago at Parklife festival, where a friend passed me a litre of Gordon's mixed with warm tonic and three lime slices. Classy.

Since that day I've grown to love it, craving nothing more on a Friday afternoon than gin sloshed over ice, crackly-fizzy tonic and a chunk of lime... oooh (it's Monday night: four more days, people!).

Anyway. I went foraging for cocktail ingredients with the Caorunn gin crew on Saturday; apparently foraging has become quite a thing of the moment! Stereotypes fully embraced, I donned a rain jacket and trainers...

We set off onto the Pennines in pouring rain, but David, our forage guide, wasn't going to let a bit of water put us off.

We found the five botanical ingredients found in Caorunn gin: Rowan Berries, Dandelion, Apple, Bog Myrtle and heather. We also found Sloe berries, mugwort, blackberries and a whole heap of other foragy-stuff.

In all seriousness, and I never thought I'd say this, foraging was great fun. From a health perspective it was interesting to learn about all the fruits, herbs & edible plants on my doorstep. Did you know there are 565 variations of blackberries in the UK, and 6000 types of apple?!

If you fancy a forage (oh, cheeky), David's company Discover the Wild can be found on Twitter here.

After we'd dried off and driven back to Manchester, The Lawn Club had cooked us lunch and foraged 'Wild Urban Bramble' cocktails were being made.

They tasted so good. Caorunn gin leaves poor old Gordon's on another level, it's smooth & spicy and really refreshing.

If you fancy trying a foraged cocktail, you can sample the very one above at Elixir Tonic & Treats - for this week only!


Saturday 6 September 2014

Exploring Elba Island

Elba Island is two train journeys & ferry away from Rome, and, if like me you can't call it a holiday unless a beach is involved, it's worth the five hour journey.

We stayed in Portoferraio, the island's main town. The port, town square and the beach were all within a five minute walk of our hotel, so we basically drifted between the three all week. It was heaven!

One of the nicest things about the island was that we didn't hear another English holiday maker. Not many people on Elba spoke English in fact, which made me feel so ignorant as I could barely pronounce simple pleasantries - it makes me want to pick up learning languages again!

We tried out Tripadvisor's no#1 beach recommendation in the area (Spiaggia de Sansone) and weren't blown away. To be fair, we'd gone on a cloudy day but the beach itself was nothing special in my opinion.

The restaurant on the cliff side of the beach however, was insane. The waitress didn't speak English so we sort of pointed and smiled at parts of meals we recognised. We ended up with a tuna lasagne, a king prawn ravioli and a bottle of local, dry white wine.

If you're staying in Portoferraio, go to BerBene Enoteca - it's a wine bar but it does great food too (try the anchovy bruschetta and the Ansonica white wine; a potent combination!)

Wanting to make the most of being on Elba, we hired a car for the day to explore. We ended up on the west side of the island at a place called Monte Capanne - the highest mountain in Tuscany. To get to the summit, you trundle to the top in a canary bird cage. I'm not joking. Look at this...

I'll admit that I was shitting myself pretty scared on the way up - you jog alongside the cage to get in it and it's quite shaky at times, but it's worth manning up and getting in it. The views at the top are awesome:

The journey back down was much calmer(!), and we set off in search for alcohol and a beach...

In the evenings we ate in the port, or in the town square just behind it. I couldn't fault any of the restaurants, in fact, I could've spent the whole trip sampling dishes from each place, the food was that delicious (note: I am carrying a pizza baby inside me as we speak, and really warming to the name Gelato if it's a girl)..

We sat and people watched at a place called Tender Bar, right on the port front, each night. A 'glass' (half a bottle) of prosecco will set you back all of three euros. On the last night the waitress didn't even ask us what we'd like to drink; she knew.

The sunrise on our last day:

Elba reminds me of a bigger version of Lopud Island. If you're visiting Rome or Pisa and you fancy yourself a bit of beach, big yachts and prosecco, put it on your to do list. 
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