Sunday 31 July 2016

Feasting @ Bakchich

You might have noticed from my Instagram that I've been to a couple of Lebanese restaurants recently. First, Aladdin's in Withington and most recently, Bakchich just off of Oxford Road. Both serve incredible food, but the vibe in Bakchich is as sleek as it is kitch; you definitely don't go to Aladdin's for the decor, but that's nothing against their culinary skills.

Today though, I'm talking you through Bakchich, as I was invited to come down and review the menu...

So, one Friday after work, James and I ambled down from the city centre to Chester Street. From being someone who practically lived on Oxford Road as a student, I hadn't ventured down 'that' way for absolutely ages - for some reason I'd got it into my head that it was 'miles' out from town, but it's not - a fifteen minute walk from Portland Street at most. So definitely do-able as a central place to grab something to eat.

The decor reminds me of Comptior Libanais; Middle Eastern mosaics, pop art style prints on the wall and colourful chairs. I loved it. We sat in our own booth and watched the place fill up with families, couples and friends out to enjoy food on a Friday night. It was nice to see a restaurant nestled in student town still busy even with the summer holidays in full swing.

We kicked off with a ginger, orange & carrot juice and James had the panache smoothie as a recommendation from our waiter. They were both lush; zingy and fresh and a perfect palette cleanser!

We ordered a selection of hot and cold mezze dishes as well as our mains - and oh my god, there was enough food for four of us!

We had:

  • Falafel
  • Babaganoush
  • Lebanese bread
  • Fatat Hummous 
  • Lebanese sausage
  • Halloumi Meshwi (this had pomegranate molasses on top - a really interesting sweet sauce to have on the cheese, it worked surprisingly well!)

The hummous was so nice - it had crispy pieces of Lebanese bread in a layer at the bottom which offered such a nice texture. I also loved how the falafel and halloumi came with salad - juicy tomatoes, pomegranate and cucumber, lemon and olive oil dressing. 

For the main affair (which is brought out at as and when it's ready; a concept I am fully on board with), I went for the Shish Taouk (chicken skewers cooked in Lebanese spices), which is served with fragrant rice and more of that delicious salad.

James went for the lahma meshawi (lamb skewers) with fries. The lamb was gorgeous, and I'm not going to lie, so were the fries!

Despite being stuffed, our waiter insisted on dessert.. so there was only one thing for it: BAKLAWA! One of the first times I had Baklava was from a middle eastern deli on Gloucester Rd in Bristol, and I fell in love with the sticky pastry, and gooey mix of crushed nuts and honey.

Our waiter also brought over coconut cheesecake (also insane: creamy and perfectly whipped, with a crunchy biscuit base) and mint tea, which was the perfect way to finish off the epic feast.

Everyone was so friendly, in particular the manager and our lovely waiter, so if you want to feel really looked after and valued as a customer, Bakchich is your place.

My only 'err' moment came when I found out they didn't serve alcohol, especially as I fancied a cheeky drink on a Friday. However, with the arrival of the juices it was surprisingly easy to forget about the drink, and focus on the food. So please don't let this put you off, it's an amazing place!

I'd definitely come back, it seems like the perfect place to swing by on a week day for a feast.

Bakchich kindly took care of the bill for this review but as ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own...


Thursday 28 July 2016

Double Chocolate Nicecream

I know, I know. I've raved about 'clean' banana icecream time and time again, but this one is UNREAL. So creamy, milky and genuinely 100% tastes like icecream.

The secret?! Unflavoured whey. Organic unflavoured whey, to be precise, from the Good Stuff Organic (more on them later).

This tastes so nice even James, who has been 'polite' about healthy desserts I've made in the past, has said that this is the best one yet.

For this masterpiece (if I do say so myself), you will need...

Serves 2

  • 200g frozen banana (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs (also from the Good Stuff Organic)
  • 2 scoops unflavoured whey 
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Truvia 
  • Pinch of salt
  • White chocolate sprinkles to throw on top

Chuck everything into your blender, and whiz until you're left with a smooth, thick, creamy, but slightly frozen, consistency. Spoon into bowls, top with white chocolate sprinkles and dig in.

If you make it, you'll know what I mean when I say it's really creamy. The whey gives it a proper 'icecream' taste; milky and thick. The cacao nibs add a rich crunch and the white chocolate is the icing on the cake, really.

Give it a go with unflavoured whey, and let me know what you think!

Also, I mentioned The Good Stuff Organic at the start of this post - they're a new start up company based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire and they kindly sent me a selection of products to try out. It's run by two people, Tom and Alex. I've only spoken to Alex, but she's lovely. It's so nice to work with people who are passionate about what they're doing day in and day out.

They pride themselves on no added nasty crap in their products, 100% natural, with no artificial flavourings. They bill themselves as "the supplement for the athlete that cares about their health as much as their muscles," and since having a snoop on their site and learning more about them, I love what they're about. I'd highly recommend giving them a follow on Insta or Twitter.

I'm looking forward to trying the baobab as I've never used this before, so holler with any recipes you think I should try.

Oh, and any more protein nicecream ideas, please send them my way!

Wednesday 27 July 2016


pic @spamellab
"Don't make friends on the internet," they said. "They're all weird and dangerous." Ahem...
Last weekend I packed my things and got on a rickety, hot and sweaty slow train to the Yorkshire countryside with four people I met on the internet.

No, this wasn't some sort of weird fetish mini-break, I was going away with Pamela, Vicki, Sophie and closest fellow foodie / fitness bloggers, who I'd 'met' about a year / eighteen months ago on Twitter and Instagram.

Over the past few months we've met up IRL loads, going from organised blogger events to nights out, brunch dates, dinner and now, a weekend away together.

We hired the most beautiful cottage from Air b'n'b; an 'upside down' glass-fronted place with bedrooms tucked away downstairs and a light, airy open plan living space on top. It was called Swallows Nest and the photos don't do it justice - it was adorable!

If you follow any of us on social you'll have probably seen a selection of these posts on Insta or Twitter, so sorry for the spam.

The influx of natural light beaming down from every angle was too much in the way of excitement for us food bloggers, and we set about trying to snap up as many food pics as poss.

Other than than, Friday night was spent catching up over antipasti, prosecco and a lush cake Pam made for Vicki's birthday.

pic @spamellab
We were up & at 'em early doors on Saturday, with a HIIT workout led by Vicki. It was a killer, and she finished us off with hill sprints that wiped us all out.

Cue brunch: smoked salmon, smashed avo, poached eggs & coffee for days.

Afterwards we donned our walking gear and headed off on a big ass country walk to explore the surroundings. We ended up ditching the map and found a reservoir that we walked around, before ending up in the village for coffee.

Slaithwaite during the day is quaint, cute and very kitch. Mink painted cafes selling artisan bread and lattes, art galleries and a lovely big Aldi (essential).

We ate at Vanilla Bean on Saturday night, and found out they'd just had a re-launch with a new menu. I'd really recommend the place! The food was so delicious and we definitely overdid it on the tapas...

My two favourite dishes were the spicy chorizo in red wine sauce, and the king prawns. Insane.

(I've also since learnt that Vanilla Bean filmed with the Hairy Bikers on their Meals on Wheels series, and if it gets the Hairy Bikers approval, I'm in...)

Slaithwaite at night (or "Slawit", as the locals call the town..) didn't quite do it for us and so we retreated back up the mahussive hill to chat and eat chocolate.

On Sunday, we thought it would be a great idea to run downhill for 2 miles, to then come back up, running (on what can only be described as the steepest hill that went on forever) for 30 secs, walking for 30 and lunging for 30 (annnnd repeat to the top), before our glutes had had enough.

We were then really kindly invited by one of the guys who works at the local fitness centre to try a class for free, and so Soph & I gladly drove to get involved with the Les Mills Body Balance class that was taking place. It was a blend of vinyasa yoga, pilates and tai cai, and it was epic. Really helped the hamstrings chill out after our tough hill runs, and everyone at the leisure centre was lush. I'd never done a Les Mills class before then, but I'd definitely give another one a go! I didn't realise the class is taught on the same week everywhere in the world, which I thought added a really strong sense of community to the workout.

This makes it sound like we were constantly sweating it out. Believe me, we spent so much time on Saturday and Sunday lying out in the garden, baking, eating, drinking and chilling, I went home feeling really refreshed (James was dying from a hangover and was not impressed, ha).

I would absolutely recommend the cottage (it sleeps 5) to anyone looking to escape to the countryside who lives around Manchester. It took about 45 mins on the train and not too much longer in the car either. The scenery is so beautiful and the pace of life is lovely and slow (unless of course, you were sprinting up the hill at 9am on Saturday morning...)

It was such a perfect weekend - a proper "good food, good wine, good people" vibe and so relaxing (even if my glutes were still on fire on Monday).

I guess the essence behind this post is that friends come in all shapes and sizes and are met through different means and mediums - but it doesn't mean that they mean any less. My "internet" pals are no different to my "non-internet" friends, in the sense that I respect them, value their opinions, look to them for motivation and inspiration, they make me laugh.. and are great fun to get pissed with!

Watch this space, the #BlogGalsOnTour have plans!!

PS. If you liked this post, you should check out my weekend away in Dartmouth, and escaping to France in the winter...

Sunday 24 July 2016

Wednesday @ Wagamama

Last week Wagamama invited me to their Spinningfields branch to sample their refreshed menu. It was a really hot evening, so we were looking forward to some light, refreshing food.

I started off with the blueberry spice juice (blueberries, ginger, apple & carrot) and James had a pint. It's great to see restaurant chains offering a wide selection of fresh juices, and hit the spot perfectly to cool me down.

We then went to town on the menu. Edamame beans, shredded crispy duck wraps with a cherry hoisin sauce and pork ribs (if you read my post here you'll know it's a firm favourite of James's...)

The duck wraps were absolutely amazing, perfectly light wraps, sticky but not sickly sauce and crisp veg to go with the meat. We had loads of pancakes and meat each, which was a great amount for a hearty starter.

The edamame was great, but a little pricey (£4.95).

We also ordered the Korean barbeque beef steamed bun to share, which was lovely.

For mains, James went for the Katsu curry (not pictured, but a firm favourite in both our opinions and really tasty). I went for the spicy chicken ramen - spicy noodle soup with red onion, spring onion, beansprouts, chillies, coriander and fresh lime and grilled chicken.

Oh my goodness this was lovely. The gift that kept on giving (i.e. there was loads of it), with layers of sauce, spice and flavours with each mouthful. I would 100% order this again; the chillies really did pack a punch, so not for those that don't like the heat!

The Spinningfields restaurant is light and airy, and a lot bigger than I remember. It suited us perfectly for a quick bite to eat mid-week, and I was so impressed with the food.

I've only recently got into liking Ramen so if there are any other flavour combos you'd recommend, please let me know!

PS. I really love the steam effect on the Wagamama homepage - it looks really cool, check it out...

Wagamama made a very hearty contribution to the cost of our meal but some was also paid for by me, and as ever, all views & opinions are my own!

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Parma Ham, Fig & Mozzarella wrapped broccoli

When I was younger, I really hated broccoli. I thought it was foul tasting, awkward to eat and the thing I'd always try and leave on my plate. So, if younger me found out that I was actually going to base a recipe around this veg, they'd probably disown me.

For the record, broccoli is now a key staple in my diet, I steam it and eat it a few times a week at least, and now genuinely like eating it (plus, who doesn't like it when Joe Wicks goes on about his beloved midget trees so often?!). So, when Tenderstem got in touch and asked me to create a recipe with broccoli at the centre stage, I knew that simple and steamed wouldn't do.

I've tried to put a twist on this dish that's ordinarily associated with chicken. It makes a really nice light starter, or you could have it with a roast chicken breast and rice for a main. 

To make 4 servings, you'll need:

1 pack Tenderstem broccoli 
2 large figs
1 ball mozzarella 
1 pack parma ham

First, lay out one big stem (or two) of broccoli per person. Next, drain the water from the packet in your mozzarella and slice into eight pieces. 

Lay the mozzarella on top of the broccoli. Then chop your figs in to thin slices and place on top. Open your parma ham and wrap a slice (or two) around the broccoli, mozzarella and fig. This isn't graceful, and figs will fall, so be prepared to 'juj' the ham until you're happy that everything is enveloped. 

Then, place these on grease-baking paper and put in a tray, into the oven at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes. 

The ham should have crisped up, the mozzarella melted (don't worry if you've got some excess water from the cheese, just carefully drain this before taking off the baking tray), and the broccoli dark green and tender. 

Carefully place each wrap (you might need to use fingers to hold it together) on a plate, and serve!

It's a great way to spice up a really bog standard veg. 


Tuesday 12 July 2016

Sushi @ Sapporo Teppanyaki

You’ll find Sapporo Teppanyaki just down the road from Beetham Tower on Liverpool Road, not far after the MOSI.

I’ve eaten there before and would highly recommend the “experiential” restaurant to anyone. If you haven’t been before, or aren’t sure of the context, the premise is that you sit around a large square open kitchen, and the chefs chop and fry and season and sizzle your food right in front of you. The flames are explosive and the atmosphere is lively and really, really fun. It’s the perfect place to go with a big group of people for a birthday / leaving do (but maybe that’s because that’s the only capacity I’d visited it in, until last week…)

But if you don’t fancy catching potato pieces tossed to you by the chef, don’t panic! Last week, I was invited to try their summer cocktail and sushi menu. This suited me perfectly; I’d eaten out all weekend and have a few more meals out planned this week (it’s a tough life), so to try something light and semi-healthy was a winner.

First up, we were taken to the lounge, which I’d previously thought was just an area for drinks. It was a lovely, light part of the restaurant, and the back wall is all floor to ceiling glass. James Bay was playing in Castlefield Bowl behind us, so we pretty much got free seats to the gig! The only thing about sitting here was that you did slightly lose the upbeat vibe from the open grill, but actually, it was nice to be able to watch the madness from afar!

We kicked off with cocktails; I went for the Vanilla & Lychee Martini and James chose a Suntory Old Fashioned. His cocktail literally couldn’t have been better suited to him - oaky, tart and strong, it was exactly what he’d go for in a cocktail (i.e. it wasn't overtly girly with a floral garnish): whiskey with Cointreau, aloe vera, agave and orange. My martini (lychee, Cointreau, vanilla vodka with lemon and cherry) was great. Citrusy and a little bit sweet, I’d recommend this one to start your night.

Now, sushi is the type of food I always worry about when ordering, for fear of there not being enough. I don’t know if you’re like me but I always worry that I’ll still be hungry, and usually panic order loads. I always seem to forget that it’s *really* filling. With that in mind, we ordered…

  • Special Sapporo Sushi (nigiri, maki, California rolls and sashimi)
  • Chef's selection of Sashimi (tuna, salmon and sea bass with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce)
  • Edamame beans
  • Duck rolls
  • ...and barbecue spare ribs, because James loves them

I’m not a huge fan of ribs and granted it didn’t really go with the raw fish kind of vibe, but in fairness, I tried two and they were very meaty and the sauce was lovely, not slimy and fatty like I usually assume.

Needless to say, they weren’t the most photogenic of dishes, so I didn’t spend much time trying to get the perfect shot of these…

My favourites from the Special Sushi platter have to be the salmon nigiri (a classic but a goodie) and the California rolls.

The portions with the sashimi were very generous; huge hunks of salmon, tuna and seabass served with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. It was delicious. Cold, fresh and packed an absolute punch in taste sensations with a big hit of wasabi.

The duck rolls (duck breast wrapped in a pancake with mixed veg served with a raspberry coulis), were good, but really not what I was expecting. I was expecting what I traditionally assume duck pancakes are in an Asian restaurant - a light pancake with shredded meat. The pancake here was quite thick. The meat was lovely, but the raspberry coulis and thick pancake didn’t quite do it for me this time around.

The edamame beans deserve a shout out of their own because there were so many of them! Thick rock salt was crumbled atop the mountain of beans, making them a delicious interlude between fish dishes. I find it so satisfying popping the beans out of the shell!

What do you do when you're absolutely stuffed with sushi? Order another cocktail and have a look at the dessert menu, of course!

This time, I went for a Japanese Slipper (Midori, Cointreau and lemon juice), and James opted for an espresso martini. Mine literally tasted of holiday, but in a non-sickly sweet way. It was lush!

We definitely didn’t need dessert, but I saw the word ‘legendary’ on the description of the chocolate spring rolls, so we ordered that.. (legendary milk and white chocolate spring rolls served with homemade vanilla icecream) - Ooops!

Getting the fruit in focus to make it look healthy...ish

This was great. The chocolate oozed out from the crispy shell once we'd cracked it open, and ran all over the icecream, which we gladly mopped up. It was well worth it!

I was really impressed with the food, in particular the sashimi and California rolls, and I'd go back in a heartbeat. Thanks for having me, Sapporo Teppanyaki!

Sapporo Teppanyaki kindly paid for my food and drinks but as ever, all opinions are my own - you should definitely go here for dinner :)


Sunday 3 July 2016

MET-Rx Protein Pack Giveaway

I've got something a little bit different for you today. It's been a really hectic few weeks, and with a holiday in the middle of everything too, it's thrown me out of sorts a little. But I'm back. And there's loads more to come.

Anyway. I digress. I hadn't heard of MET-Rx until about three months ago, when, on one of my lunchtime 'powerwalks' (it's *so* bad for my bank account working in the city centre - and let me tell you, I've had some of my most intense, heart rate rising powerwalks trying to nail Zara, H&M and Boots in one go)... I stumbled across their shop in the Arndale. Intrigued, and in need of a post-lunch pick me up, I went in to treat myself a protein bar (wild).

A few weeks later I got an email from their team letting me know that they've just recently launched as a new sports nutrition website - - and to celebrate, they've given me some of their favourite protein products to giveaway!

The Protein Pack I'm giving away will contain a selection of protein essentials such as;
  • A MET-Rx Shaker 
  • MET-Rx Complete 4-in-1 Powder Strawberry (908g)
  • MET-Rx Supreme pre-workout powder in fruit punch (510g)
  • MET-Rx Xtreme Thermo Crush capsules
  • MET-Rx Supreme Whey Vanilla 
  • MET-Rx EFAS Triple Omega 60 Soft gel capsules
So it's ideal if you're short on essential protein supplies. I've never actually had any of their protein before, so dear winner, I'd love you to let me know what you think!

To enter, just follow these really easy steps below...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The competition runs from today until the 23rd July, and I'll announce the winner on social! I'll also post out your pack to you :)

Good luck! xx

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