Friday, 10 December 2010
Manchester – Poached eggs, Christmas Market and baking (Dec ‘10)
We went up norf’ to Manchester last weekend, just because it wasn’t cold enough in London and we wanted to test out the sub-zero temperatures and wet weather the city is famous for. Boy oh boy was I looking forward to getting soaked by the rain, and then cooled off by the frosty winds. What more could a girl ask for then glaciers on her nose, and stalactites on the ears?
Weather aside, we had a blast of a time there – mainly because we were with good friends, had good food, and very importantly, managed to go to the Christmas market for the first time this year. The ones in London are a bit … meh. To me, anyway. They’re uber expensive, full of pushy people, and just quite angsty. One visit there and you need to take time out for the rage to subside.
So, we set off on the Friday, having taken the day off work. After sorting the car out with the what-nots (de-icer, a blanket in case we got stuck on the motorway and had to eat the cushion seats, snacks and crisps to avoid having to eat the cushion seats), we headed up north towards the bright and foggy lights of the M25.
As we didn’t have much time to get any breakfast on the way, we decided to stop off at the service stations for some nibbles. The place we stopped off at had the usual WH Smith’s (newspapers, pasties and cold drinks), some café place with quite good deals on muffins and stuff, a Starbucks, one of those hot food counters (overpriced everything) and a KFC. We went for the KFC.
One Zinger Tower Box Meal and 3 hot wings later, we were ready to resume the battle against the M25 traffic.
To cut a long story short, after replacing the car battery, going to watch the Interpol gig at the Manchester Apollo, and then drinking lots of mulled wine, it was Saturday. Time to begin the Eat-All-You-Can-Weekend-In-Manchester.
And it began with some fabulous poached eggs on granary toast.
Lovely, yellow yolk slowly drizzling down the buttery toast – each bite better than the last. I know LC is waiting for this moment of Poached Egg fame, so credit has to be given where credit is due. It was an excellent specimen of what poached egg on toast should be. Paved the way just fine for the sausages, stew, wine, pizza, mince pies and Chinese supper that was to come (more on that later).
We then made our way towards the town hall where the Christmas Market was. Even though we’d moved from Manchester about 3 years ago, we’ve been to the Manchester Christmas Market every year since then, so for tradition’s sake, we had to try out some of the stuff on offer. As I’ve had the bratwurst quite a few times now, I decided to try something new.
As I elbowed my way through the crowd (all part of the fun), we came across this stall which I’d previously just overlooked. The thing is, when I’m at a German Market (which this was, kinda), the last thing I wanted to do was succumb to English food. Which is why I’ve never bothered to try the Lancashire Hotpot even though I’m sure the stall is not a new fixture here.
For £4.50, we got the hotpot with pickled red cabbage, and added 50p worth of Pan Heggarty, which to me, looked a lot like potato dauphinoise. Boy was this one of the nicest things we could have had at that exact moment. Being slightly wet (it was drizzling), cold, and quite annoyed at the number of people there were at the market, this was just the thing to lift the mood. It was steaming hot and the stodgy combination of beef stew with creamy potatoes (with a slight hint of crunchy tang from the pickled cabbage) was just brilliant.
Savoury cravings satisfied, we moved on to the sweet. Best thing here is the mini pancakes. Seriously the best pancakes in Manchester. Despite only getting 6 mini ones for £3, each pancake (which really is mini) is soft, fluffy and light, without being too sweet, but still spiced with a little cinnamon, icing sugar and maple syrup. Absolutely one of my favourite things at the Christmas Market.
We bought some sausages also from the market, £10 for 7 types of sausages.
Tried some of them when we got back to our friends’ and they were very nice indeed.
After all that eating, we trooped back to our friends’ flat for more eating. Eating what, though, is the question. Eating mince pies and cookies, is the answer.
LC and RH were making mince pies from scratch, and I mean, from scratch. Like, without using frozen pastry. Even the cookies were made from scratch.
This was what it looked like – I won’t even begin to try and tell you what the recipe was as all I did was eat the raw cookie dough and take pictures.
I’d not had homemade mince pies before this, and it definitely is miles better than the store-bought ones. Yes, EVEN the Marks & Spencer ones, that’s how good it was. The slightly rustic-looking little pies were crumbly to the bite, and each crumbly nibble made me want another. Those cookies were chewy and crunchy at the same time, and tasted of warm, spicy ginger on a cold winter’s night. Perfect with mulled wine.
Some people came over for more eating on Saturday night, and we had a really nice time. Bearing in mind the fact that I’m not that sociable most times (the tube has that effect of making me not wanna be around other people), my dusty (and in fact, quite last season, dah-ling) social skills were brought out and we had an excellent time - plenty of mulled wine, mince pies, brownies, German Christmas cookies, Chinese supper of Szechuan stir fried spicy green beans, dumplings with spicy chilli oil, beef fried hor fun and indigestion tablets.
To be continued …