The Millstone at Mellor

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All work and no play during a very busy week can really help you build up an appetite.

So, this week when my boss offered up a new business meeting in Blackburn followed by a slap up lunch at The Millstone at Mellor, how could I possibly refuse?

Surprisingly when we arrived at 12.30pm after a sucessful meeting at one of the top breweries in the north, the restaurant was empty, but within half an hour had filled up with a mix of older affluent couples and groups of ”ladies what lunch” – needless to say it was all extremely civilised and the staff were polite and incredibly efficient.

The restaurant has recently been refurbished to a very high standard of class and comfort, with the ambient lighting helping to warm up all the different areas and alcoves.

Their menu was great value for money, I had the Fishmonger’s Deli Board and it was a delicious seafood treat!

The potted smoked fish pate was the highlight for me – creamy but still with shreds of fish, not overpowering and not over-flavoured with dill.

The thing that caught my attention straight away was the lemon on the platter… A full half, tightly wrapped in cheesecloth meant I could go to town with a pip-free Squeeze Of Lemon!

Other deli board items included:

A generous helping of smoked Scottish salmon – draped over a pile of fresh peppery rocket
Smoked trout fillet, covered with salty capers
Peeled atlantic prawns with a seperate dip of Marie Rose sauce and freshly sliced seeded bread

Overall I would say The Millstone at Mellor is a fantastic venue for a posh-nosh lunch, and would be a great place to go with the parents or in-laws for a birthday treat!

 

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Lentil Daal

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There are times in life when another trip to the supermarket that week would just be about enough to tip you over the edge and ruin your desire to ever cook again.

This Thursday was one of those times.

Despite my usual Sunday afternoons being filled with meal planning and a weekly trip to our local Morrison’s, with every intention to ”make it last the week”, I somehow manage to find an excuse to hit those shelves another three times a week at least. A missing ingredient or a last minute mind change can really start to make you feel like you might as well just move into the fruit and veg aisle.

Summoning my inner chef though, this week I forced myself to raid the cupboards and see what I could rustle up. With two cupboards full of a random mish-mash of tinned and dried ingredients – surely I can do this!

I started with an old tin of lentils, then discovered a tin of tomatoes hiding at the back and started to get inspired… A few teaspoons of randomly guessed spices later and I was pretty impressed – a lentil daal style dish that I managed to pad out with a grated carrot and flaked almond salad, and some naan breads from the freezer.

So, incase you”re ever stuck and have a tin of lentils laying around, here is my cheap and healthy winter recipe:

Ingredients

olive oil
1 small onion – finely chopped
1 clove garlic – crushed
1 heaped tsp garam masala
1 heaped tsp mild curry powder
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin of lentils – drained and rinsed
1 tbsp tomato puree
pinch of salt & pepper
fresh coriander or flat leaf parsley if you have it

Add the oil, onion and then garlic to the pan and soften until golden

Add all the spices and stir until you have a spicy onion paste

Pour in the tin of tomatoes and when warmed through tip in the rinsed lentils

Finally squeeze in the tomato puree and stir through

Season and leave to simmer for a few minutes – then, when you’re ready, sprinkle withe the fresh herbs and dish up!

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Garlic Bread

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Love garlic bread? Me too. But occasionally I just can’t bring myself to put another frozen, sliced pre-buttered baguette in the oven, as yummy as they are, sometimes you just want RUSTIC!

For a great rustic alternative to a garlic baguette, treat yourself to a fresh batch loaf from the bakery. Find some large garlic bulbs, surprisingly Costcutter have the biggest and best I have found. Slice the top off the entire bulb of garlic and roast in the oven for around 45 – 50 minutes until the cloves are brown, sweet and sticky. Then you can just scoop them out with your knife and spread warm straight onto your bread, so delicious and takes away the calories from the butter!

Top tip: put the bulbs in the sections of a Yorkshire pudding tray and fill half full with water ‚Äì this will protect the bottom of the garlic bulb, and help to steam them whilst they’re cooking.

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Blackhouse, Leeds

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Every now and again, my boyfriend surprises me with a mystery date night…I get told to dress up nice and he whisks me off to an unknown location for dinner.

This week it was Blackhouse in Leeds, a gorgeous grill and steakhouse we have visited several times for different occasions. It’s dark, heady atmosphere mixed with the chicly dressed staff and live pianist giving out renditions of Frank, Paulo and other lounge classics make it the perfect venue for a romantic meal for two. Equally though, book online mid-week and they will happily discount 50% off your entire bill, large group bookings included.

The menu consists largely of… well, steak really, but there are some fantastic starters and the fish entres are not to be overlooked‚ pricey though: the whole Dover sole comes in at a purse busting £29 and try adding a skewer of garlic prawns to your fillet steak and you’re looking upwards of £30 with a side of champ potatoes!

The staff are friendly, helpful and certainly earn their tips‚ I watched for a few seconds as one of the waiters meticulously polished gold-fish bowl wine glasses and lined them up perfectly on the large mahogany shelves. They’ll entice you in to the pre-dinner cocktail and persuade you that the seasonal, steak of the month‚ is absolutely delicious and well worth the money, but there are some great options if you just want to sit in a dark corner with your other half and get stuck into some casual, rustic dishes…

I went for the fish and chips (£13.50), chunky hand cut chips, two large goujons of the freshest, softest, flakiest haddock served with minted peas and a miniature jar of pickled onions that took my breath away when the vinegar hit the back of my throat. Dom opted for the steak and ale pie (£15); a truly rustic looking and tasting feast. This had a great puff pastry top and although the filling appeared a little bit watery, the bottom of the pie dish was filled with goodies. All topped off with a bottle of Tarquino Shiraz Malbec (mid range at £22.50).

Over the last few years, Blackhouse has become one of my trusty faithfuls – budget small or large, hungry or just a bit peckish, the central location makes it the obvious choice for any Saturday night treat in Leeds.

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How to Balance Thai Flavours

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You will have undoubtedly heard many TV chefs talking about the four elements of most Asian cuisine – sweet, salty, spicy and sour.

The sour elements of Thai food comes mainly from ingredients such as tomatoes, tamarind and limes to name but a few. The sour Thai ingredients will often form the flavour base of your dish. Think of the rest simply as seasoning. Here are a few tricks to draw the most out of these delicious Thai and Asian flavours:

Too sweet? Add a little bit of fish sauce, only a tiny bit at a time though
Too salty? Add some basil, as much as you want! The more the better in my opinion!
Too spicy? Add some sugar, just a teaspoon or so and this will take the burn off the chillies
Not spicy enough? Add some fresh chilli, remove the seeds and slice it how you like it or alternatively soak some dried chillies in warm water for around 10 minutes before finely slicing and adding to your dish.

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Pot-roasted Sausages with Boozy Bourguignon Sauce

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My very good friend Rebecca is the best home-cook I know. She’s often rustled up plates of yumminess for me and knows exactly how to please a crowd with her cooking. However, even our Boxing Day dinner party was a tall order for such an accomplished cook…

6 of us in total, and nearly every single one of us had a different dietary requirement:

Lactose intolerant
Allergic to shellfish
Pregnant (eliminating blue cheese, rare meat, shellfish, peanuts and alcohol)
No mushrooms

So what is a girl to do? A combination of mixed Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails instead of a sit-down starter was a great idea, from smoked salmon bellinis, wontons with plum sauce and some melt in your mouth BBQ belly pork meant everyone’s tastes were catered for and we could have a drink and a mingle before sitting down to tuck in to our main course: a very scrummy and exceptionally hearty pot-roasted sausages with boozy bourguignon sauce.

Well, she certainly pulled it out of the bag. Rebecca used wine in the cooking sauce, but made sure all the alcohol was cooked out. And the button mushrooms she threw in for some added earthy flavour were taken off my plate before it was served to me‚ until I looked around the table I would never have known they’d snuck in.

Served up with perfectly cooked broccoli, crusty bread and the crispiest golden roast potatoes, we were all suitably impressed, and suitably full.

The table was decorated beautifully and it really was Christmas entertaining at its best.

A big thank you to Rebecca and Danilo for being great hosts and to Rebecca for kindly sharing her recipe.

You will need:

3 tbsp light olive oil
8 large good quality sausages
140g/5oz pancetta cubes
1 large onion, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
150g/5¼oz button chestnut mushrooms
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
good splash of brandy
150ml/5fl oz fresh beef stock
150ml/5fl oz red wine
1 x 400g/14 oz tin of butterbeans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/375F/Gas 6.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a wide casserole dish. Add the sausages and fry over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until nicely browned all over. Remove from the pan and rest on a plate.

Add the remaining oil to the pan with the pancetta and cook for one minute, then add the onion. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes when the onion should be soft and the pancetta beginning to crisp.

Add the garlic and the mushrooms and fry for one minute more, then stir in the tomato puree followed by the mustard.

Turn up the heat and stirring all the time fry for about 30 seconds.

Pour in the brandy and allow the alcohol to burn off. Next add the stock and wine. Allow to come to the boil then season to taste. Tip in the butterbeans and put the sausages on top. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Serve in deep bowls with a sprinkling of parsley and loads of crusty bread.

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