Saturday, 23 May 2015

Harissa Chicken with Bulgar Wheat Salad

Next up: this North African rice and chicken dish from the Hairy Dieters cookbook.

I made a mistake from the outset by only putting 1 lemon in the shopping list- I needed one to season, another to serve. I got by with a spare lime.

I could have sworn I bought a tablespoon after a recent recipe. If I did, I can't find it. A replacement is on my shopping list. Regardless, the recipe asked for a tbspn of harissa paste. Tesco sell this in a pot not much bigger than container of lip balm. There's no way a tablespoon would have fit- the teaspoon I used only just made it through.

It took nearly 2 hours to cook and prepare- whether this is due to my memory difficulties slowing down the process or whether this is just one of those lengthy recipes is something you'd have to tell me after having a go yourself.

Verdict: Chicken tasted great. Salad predictably dull.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Cajun Chicken

A simple and tasty Hairy Dieters recipe, this Mississippi-inspired dish was quick to cook and lasted a few days.

A few minor problems: measuring out spices with a teaspoon got a little messy, and a teaspoon of oil to coat a tray full of wedges seemed stingy. I could do with buying a larger measuring bowl, although saying that I could do with a larger kitchen altogether. But hey, I'm not Roman Obramovich.

Timing the cooking of different components of the meal is still a challenge after all these years, and I found the chicken a little slow to cook. The wedges could have lasted longer in the oven, but they were still more than edible. Forgot the limes the first time around and left them on my kitchen work surface- I reheated a breast and a few wedges for the next day's meal. A squeeze of half of a lime brought the dish to further life.

End result- delicious. Easy on the tongue and the brain.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Cranberry and Almond Muesli

The first recipe I've tackled this month is a breakfast from the Hairy Dieters cookbook.

I made the mistake of buying whole almonds instead of flaked, but I went back for the correct type. The mistake now provides me with something to munch on in work that isn't going to put weight onto me.

I mixed up all of the necessary ingredients but found that none of my tupperware boxes were big enough, so I used my blender to physically shake it up by hand (not by turning on the blades).

It tasted nice but a little bland. Blueberries and yoghurt livened it up somewhat. This will be my breakfast for the next few days.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Silly girl

A minor exchange between myself and an American girl regarding Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the death sentence a Boston court handed down to him on Friday. I screenshotted these on different days, hence the profile picture change. The @handle, as you'll notice, is the same.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Scene at Spinningfields

Spinningfields' first Indian Restaurant opened last month. Scene, on the Left Bank of the newly developed corner of Manchester, occupies the unit previously home to Strada Italian restaurant. I dropped in with meetup group Manchester Social Nights

They're a good group with regular attendees so you get to know the people rather than dealing with a steady turnover of members. The venues for meetups are good choices, as was Wednesday night's.

The opulent and well-placed venue sports oak and deep red tones, creating a private ambience, and the arched doorways within the building carry a traditional Indian feel. We were led through the high-ceilinged entrance through to the large dining room and to our own table with attached apex roof, giving us a certain element of privacy.

We were served appetisers of plain and spicy poppadoms, the latter of which contained black flecks of spice and nearly blew my head off. Impressive.

One of our group was a young Indian man with impressive knowledge of his native food, so although the menu was clear enough we had a little extra advice on what might be to our taste.

I started with a tasty and suitably small king prawn appetiser, and moved on to their signature dish, the chicken makhani. Deliciously mild, this is a great choice for those- like me- whose taste buds aren't at vindaloo-level endurance just yet.

The business still has a few growing pains- when I went on Wednesday they were still waiting for their supplier to send till roll, so the bill was hand-written. There were a few errors on it which we straightened out, but presumably when the tills are properly up and running these mistakes won't occur to affect customers.

The group leader also somehow managed to get us 25% off the bill, a perk to joining the meetup group. Get involved!

Check out the Manchester Evening News' writeup for more info. Their photography picks out the intricate metalwork and woodwork of the d├ęcor.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Cooking on Gas

I've written a lot about working out and about cooking recipes. The former I do quite a lot, the latter not enough. It's well-known that you don't get the results you want at the gym and in your physique unless you eat the right food to begin with. But what is the right food?

I've been following recipes from the Hairy Dieters Cookbook for a few years now. The meals are packed with meat and vegetables- protein and vitamins. These recipes are perfect for if you're trying to lose weight (which I now am) and also if you're building muscle (which I always have been).

I've been cooking them few and far between, though. And I've been relying on chicken stir-fry, chicken fajitas and omelettes for too long. It's time to vary things up and include a bit more veg. Hence, for a month I'll hammer the Hairy Dieters book, trying out the breakfasts stews and pies. I'll also try the recipes that came with my soup-maker, and I'll write them all up here. Throughout this I'll get to the gym as much as possible and see what PBs I can beat. Let's see if I can get my weight under 70Kg again.

Cooking a meal, from writing a shopping list of ingredients through to sitting down and eating it, is a process that contains its fair share of steps. For most people those steps are quite straightforward, but for those of us with disabilities that may take a little more effort than people realise. Writing a shopping list may be a necessity (it is for me) but through trial and error you learn to not just write down the ingredients you need but also to check you have the right equipment- for example a meat recipe might require string, or a soup recipe might require a ladle. You learn through time, whether learning disabled or not, to watch out for minor problems along the way. But these problems can be overcome through practice- hence this project.

In a month, I hope to be a lot sharper and a more competent chef.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Meetup- Don't Stay In

Further hammering of the Meetup social media site has allowed me to make more friends, eat good food, visit cool bars and restaurants and spend more time in the fantastic city of Manchester. A good number of groups have sprung up over the last few months, so recently I've checked out a few of them.

On Bank Holiday Monday I went to meet the people from Manchester Social Nights, a group for over-30s. The event is listed here. Dockyard is a bar at the river's edge on the opposite side of Spinningfields to Deansgate. Great relaxed atmosphere, modern yet traditional and pubby. The burger I had went down a treat, although the table I sat at was strangely uneven. We then stopped off at the recently-refurbished and still-fantastic Alchemist

Manchester Social Nights is a good group. The organiser also introduced me to a few other meet-up groups that I'll mention after I've visited them.

Next up in my calendar: Manchester Social Scene. I went to meet them on Friday for drinks in the Northern Quarter. It rained a lot on Friday night (hey, it's Manchester) but a good number of us made the effort. We checked out Bluu

and Bar 21, formally TV 21.

Interesting night. Got told I looked like Jack Shepard from Lost.

Fuck it, I agree.

Also, a girl branded me “a bit of a knob” because I turned her down. She wasn't one of the group. Honestly not my kind of place and I think I've been there enough times now, but I'd meet with the group again.

And then Saturday: I woke up strangely early (insomnia can hit at both ends of the candle) and I fell back asleep in the afternoon. I needed to get up in time for the evening as I was running a Lads' Night through the 20s and Early 30's group. But I didn't hear my alarm and I missed the beginning of the meetup, along with phone calls and texts from the rest of the group. Thankfully the group organiser had turned up and was commandeering. They'd already met in Bluu, gone on to Trof and Apotheca and were a few drinks in by the time I found them in The Bay Horse, a small but smart pub in the heart of the Northern Quarter.

We moved on from there and all the ideas I had had been kind of exhausted, so we looked for places we'd not tried and landed on Hula, a Tikki bar in Stevenson Square. We queued for 15 minutes and paid the £4 door charge, but tikki bars are what they are- rammed Jamaican-themed shacks with straw on the floor, badly-mixed contemporary and old-school R'n'B, photos plastered to the ceiling and bamboo fixtures. Fine women, though.

Hopefully we'll get another, more popular lads' night scheduled for the likes of Spinningfields or The Milton Club, and I'll sleep properly beforehand and guide the night a little better.

Forthcoming nights out planned with Meetup: A Thai restaurant, a pub night with media creatives, a body-art-themed Asian restaurant and an exclusive party night. These events are in Manchester but the Meetup site is worldwide, and as the site becomes more popular more and more people will be setting up events near you, so get involved.