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Next week in Manchester is the annual Food & Drink Festival.  All week long there will be different foodie offers at various eating establishments around the city, and a number of ‘fringe’ festivals in suburbs of the city. 

My regular grocery shopping district is Chorlton, a part of Greater Manchester that is stuffed full of wonderful places to buy, eat and enjoy excellent food and drink.  Recently we heard about a newish restaurant called Ostara, a ‘modern British restaurant’ that claims to serve food made from the ‘finest organic and locally sourced ingredients available.’

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N and I decided it sounded well worth sampling to see if the food was as good as it promised.  Situated on a busy street in Chorlton, Ostara greets you with a warm but stylish interior of mossy green walls, sleek but functional wooden furniture, framed botanical prints, and vintage bottles filled with seasonal flowers and foliage.

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We ordered Fentiman’s Old Fashioned Lemonade while we looked through their weekday set menu.  At 2 courses for £11 and an option for 3 courses at a price I can’t remember, it seems very good value for money if they provided the quality ingredients they advertised.

The menu was full of options that I would have happily chosen.  In the end we opted for starters of a goats cheese and onion tartlet and a wild mushroom pate with carrot chutney, and for mains N chose bangers and mash and I decided to try the savoury steamed pudding with leek, spinach and Red Leicester cheese.  I have searched online for their menu so that I could give you the full description of these dishes, but to no avail.

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N’s goats cheese and onion tartlet was deliciously creamy and very cheesy.  It came with corn salad (or mache to some people) and something that tasted like an unusual pesto – if only I had written down the description from the menu.

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When my pate arrived I was delighted.  I was expecting a smooth pate, but it was in fact a very coarse pate made from wild mushrooms, many of which were distinguishable.  In a small dish I had what was described as carrot chutney, which was in fact marinated grated carrot with what I think were coriander seeds spotted through it – it was delicate, and fragrant and spicy and went wonderfully with the pate and toast.

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my savoury steamed pudding, and when it arrived to first look at it was slightly odd.  A large dome of soft beige pastry.  However, once I dug my knife into it, out of it oozed this buttercup yellow sauce dotted with tiny chunks of vegetables.  It was as delicious as everything else we had eaten so far, although I did struggle towards the end with some of the pastry. 

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N’s ‘bangers and mash’ were in fact two fat sausages (I believe from out door reared piggies) and a colcannon mash which was laced with slithers of savoy cabbage.  The fat sausages were perfectly browned, and meaty but not overpowering (like some we ate in Italy, which were a little too meaty for our tastes). 

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Both our dishes were accompanied by the same vegetables, which we found refreshing compared to restaurants that serve different vegetables with each dish.  These were cooked exactly to our taste, tiny carrots soft and giving but still with bite in the centre, vibrant green sprouting broccoli that hadn’t been cooked to a mush, and finally some green beans, still crunchy in the middle.

What a treat!  Ostara serves up delicious, British-inspired, seasonal food that leaves you feeling like you’ve just eaten a wonderfully prepared homecooked meal.  If you’re in Manchester – don’t forget to stop here for a bite to eat.

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purple sprouting broccoli with mustard hollandaise

purple sprouting broccoli with mustard hollandaise

I’m not quite sure where I would be without food at the moment.  It is my little bit of space to escape to, whether it’s lovingly prepared home-cooked food, or the guilty pleasure of frozen pizza comfort food – it’s there for me in a quite, steady way. 

Last night we made a simple but delicious dish of Purple Sprouting Broccoli with a Mustard Holandaise sauce.  It was the first glimmer of those summer dinners which are flung together from a few ingredients but turn out to be to be the most satisfying and memorable.  Amidst the snow storms and freezing temperatures that have descended on us this week, this was my first taste of the new year.

Delicately cooked spears of purple sprouting broccoli smothered in a glossy egg yolk sauce have been a food dream for a couple of weeks now, and one of my favourite recipe books helped my realise this meal.  The recipe was taken – and always it seems in my case, adapted – from the Riverford Farm Cook Book from the people who bring us the Riverford Organics box scheme.  This is a fantastic book for anyone who needs a bit of inspiration for cooking with vegetables, although it does include some meat elements in some of the recipes.  It is truly a celebration of the humble vegetable. 

The recipe, slightly adapted to my just-got-in-from-work-and-not-enough-time needs, is simple – boil the spears of purple sprouting broccoli.  Whip up a hollandaise sauce (a sensible thing to attempt for the first time, I feel, after a long day at work…).  Pile the broccoli on a plate and drizzle over the sauce.  Eat standing up, at the kitchen counter, with a fork (and a knife if you wish).  And don’t forget to mop up any remaining sauce with your finger!

It took my two attempts to make the hollandaise, the first I cooked the egg yolk and lemon juice just slightly too long and it went all lumpy. I am not good at admitting defeat, but it was well worth it to accept it had gone wrong, wash the bowl out and start again. The resulting sauce was beautiful.

Our local box scheme – Northern Harvest (www.northernharvest.co.uk) – supplied the first of the seasons English purple sprouting broccoli, and the eggs were laid by my colleagues hens.  That’s local enough for me!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli with  a Mustard Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 2

200g purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed

For the hollandaise
125g unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add your broccoli – cook until just tender but still a vibrant green.

In a separate pan, gently melt the butter then remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolk and lemon juice in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, just until it starts to thicken. Then start to gradually add the melted butter, a little at a time, whisking it until each amount has been incorporated. This is when the sauce will start to thicken and go glossy.

When you’ve whisked in all the melted butter, you can take it off the heat and stir in the mustard, and season it with salt and pepper.

Drain the broccoli and let if briefly steam dry. Pile onto a plate and drizzle over the hollandaise sauce.

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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