Gastro Goings On – November

November has brought many things. Cold weather, a teeny, weeny sprinkling of snow, and of course, Christmas preparations!

This month, as well as baking my Christmas Cake on Stir Up Sunday and shopping for my gigantic extended family, I’ve still found some time to get out and about!

Eating Out:
I finally got myself along to Leon at Grand Central after I missed their launch a couple of months ago. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, I was thinking it would be similar to train station stalwart EAT but I was pleasantly surprised that it was a bit fancier than that!

Their selection of hot boxes looked delicious with punchy flavours like Moroccan meatball, and super-healthy superfood salads cater for the more righteous. I, however, spotted the Halloumi burger straight away. There’s something wondeful about the gooey meltingness of Halloumi cheese, so it was an easy choice. I paired it with the Leon baked criss-cross fries and a Pearmint cooler.

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Considering this was ‘fast food’ I was impressed by the quality and the flavour. The Halloumi was perfectly gooey, with heaps of peppery salad and a delicious minty herb salsa.

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The fries were crispy, even after the journey home, and there were plenty of them too.

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So next time you’re at Birmingham New Street, when you’re faced with a super expensive Five Guys, a lacklustre Burger King or a limp supermarket salad that’s been sat there for a while, you should definitely try Leon for tasty, healthy, filling food.

On the subject of Burgers, I finally got to Annie’s Burger Shack in Nottingham with the guys from work. I’d heard so much about this place that I’ve been dying to go since I’ve worked in Nottingham, so I had really high expectations when I finally went!

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Just around the corner from the Arena, Annie’s is in a great location, and despite the restaurant being fairly big, it was packed even for a late lunch. We got a table straight away though and set upon the menu. Now it’s no understatement that the menu is HUGE. There are a plethora of burger choices all named after their inspirations, from the Elvis with Peanut Butter and Jam, to the Johnny Vegas with crispy bacon, toffee apple butter, grilled black pudding, sweet chilli paste and a homemade mini Guinness jelly doughnut! 

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Every burger is available as beef, chicken, veggie or vegan, but I went for the Thin Lizzy with a Rhode Island style beef and pork mix patty.

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The Thin Lizzy comes with cask-ale soaked red onions, sauteed mushrooms, homemade gravy and melted Swiss cheese. This burger was big, and very messy, I got into a right state trying to eat it! But it was fabulous. The beef patty itself was tasty and well seasoned, the onions and mushrooms in gravy were delicious and you could really taste the beer, finished off with nutty Swiss cheese, it was a very satisfying burger. Coupled with curly fries, it was a monstrous sized lunch, which I really could have done with a nap after!

Then finally I took my girlfriends to The Church in the Jewellery Quarter for a night of soul food and New Orleans hospitality!

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Cooking:
Seeing as last Sunday was ‘stir up Sunday’ – or the last Sunday before Advent – I decided to make my first Christmas cake. I always thought I didn’t like Christmas cake, but after buying a homemade one for my mum last year, I realised that it was actually delicious and I have been missing out for years! So, I dusted off my Bake Off Christmas book and set about making Mary Berry’s classic Christmas cake.

Mary’s recipe is jam packed with fruit soaked in Brandy, I made one or two substitutions down to personal taste, replacing some of the glace cherries with candied peel and replacing the brandy with rum. As directed, I left my fruit to macerate in rum for a few days in the fridge before baking commenced.

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After getting tipsy from the raisiny, rummy fumes from my fruits, it was onto the cake batter. A whole pack of butter, muscovado sugar, treacle and eggs went into a bowl to be beaten together.

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Then it was just a case of adding the flour, almonds and fruit and combining before popping the lot into a well greased cake tin.

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Just under 3 hours in a 140C oven and this baby was done. It took all my strength to wrap it up and put it in my pantry without eating some! But resist I must, as for the next few weeks I’ll keep feeding it with rum until it’s time to ice and devour!

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 Events
 I managed to get a sneak preview of Buffalo & Rye before it officially opened (thanks to Vicky at Brumderland) where I got to sample some of their food and got a mini cocktail masterclass.

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Then of course, one of the biggest events in the foodie calendar, the BBC Winter Good Food Show! This was the first time I received a press pass for the event, which was awesome, so I went along on Sunday for a spot of shopping. A full blog post with my haul will be appearing soon!

Until then, only 23 sleeps until Christmas!
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