Monday, 29 February 2016

Andrew Whiting - Beech's Fine Chocolates, Preston

This months foodie is Andrew Whiting - Chairman of Beechs Fine Chocolates, Preston. A wonderful local chocolate company who's chocolates are absolutely delicious, they even have a range of chocolates suitable for vegans. Their fine chocolates can be found online or via many fine retailers. Onto our questions, you know the drill......

Recently featured on BBC Televisions "Who's the Boss !" the company has been making chocolate since 1920.

What is your favourite cookery or food book or publication ?
I learned to cook for myself at university and then found I could “mimic” most things I had eaten elsewhere. I enjoy cooking but would love to know how to make amazing ring doughnuts and French macaroons.  My favourite food writer is Nigella Lawson.

What sentence sums up Lancashire Food to you ?
Lancashire food is delicious and I’d say “Oooh aaar, that were greeeat!”

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you like to be?
Since I was a boy I have always wanted to be a pirate. However, these days I think I would be happy travelling around the world on a long holiday, but I admit that still sounds a bit like being a pirate.

Which piece of kit could you not do without?
I think my iPad would be very difficult to do without. I use it for everything and I write notes on all sorts of things while on the move. Recipes, meeting notes, research, novels and reminders.  The to do list is the most used item on the device.

Who would join you at your ultimate dinner party and why?
My guests would be my entire family and Jimi Hendrix, (if we are allowed a non – living guest from the past). My wife and children are all wonderful and there are a number of questions I would still like to ask Jimi.   

What advice would you give to your younger self ?
The advice I still give is “if you can imagine yourself doing something that you have never tried before, you can treat it as experience”

Describe your style in three words
Positive and fair

What was your latest foodie gadget purchase ?
Well I recently bought two smoothie drink makers which I know are a current trend.  They were Christmas presents for two of my children but if I had a smoothie maker I would make lots of different and delicious home made soup.

What is your greatest achievement to date ?
The greatest achievement was turning Beech’s Chocolates from a loss making company to a profitable company after the initial purchase. This took much effort and teamwork with the workforce. The food industry is a roller coaster.

What is the worst mistake you have made ?
Apparently this was when I once put a navy blue shirt on with black trousers

Tell us a secret about yourself ? may be something we wouldn’t expect !
Something I tend to keep secret is that I have never let the last drop of wine empty into my glass since 1978. This is a superstition from when I lived in France at that time. It’s supposed to be bad luck but apart from this, I believe that “you make your own luck.”

Friday, 19 February 2016

Pesto, Appley Bridge - a review

Last weekend we popped over to the cute Lancashire village of Appley Bridge to visit Pesto at the Dicconson Arms, a beautiful marriage of pub meets Italian food and not just any Italian food, piattini no less. Situated just off the M6 junction 27 as you head towards Parbold, its really easy to find.

The decor is classic country house with contemporary Italian touches, I particular liked the chunky Mediterranean pottery and flashes of lime green and orange in the decor. The facilities were lovely. very clean and nicely furnished too.

The staff were warm and friendly and on arrival we were shown to a delightful window side table, furnished with the chunky pottery as previously mentioned. We ordered drinks as we perused the extensive menu, which caters for all. Even though it was fairly early into the lunch service we were soon joined by plenty of other diners.

The ambiance in the restaurant was good, the tables were decadently spaced and unlike a lot of other contemporary styled venues, it wasn't echo prone.                                          

Piatinni for those not in the know is the Italian version of tapas, i.e small plates, well for me that's almost food heaven. Italian food but with the ability to taste anything and everything, so we did just that selecting from across the wide and varied menu. Here's our selection

Bruschetta al salmone affumicato - just enough for two, crunchy bread topped with smooth cream cheese and moist flavourful smoked salmon.

Olive miste - mixed olives, tasty and more than adequate, but not the best olives I have every eaten.

Selezione di pane Italiano - bread basket of various breads, including sun dried tomato, ciabiatta. On the menu this is supposed come with oil and vinegar, ours didn't arrive, minor point and frankly we didn't notice until comparing the menu and what we had ordered for this post. Sure if we had mentioned it would have arrived pronto.

Insalata Toscana -  one of the stand out dishes, mixed salad with beans, avocado, tuna and red onion. Perfectly seasoned and with a delicious dressing, just enough to enhance and not drown the salad.

 Calamari fritti - a personal favourite, lightly battered squid rings with a punchy dip

Gamberoni all’ aglio e peperoncino - tasty king prawns with hints of garlic and chilli

Polpette di manzo - Spicy meatballs, served with a tasty tomato sauce, enough spicing to keep them interesting yet not blow your head off.

Pizzetta rustica - Cute little baby pizza, topped with goats cheese and rocket. Very tasty, just wished we had ordered two. Nice crust on the pizza

Fettuccine alla carbonara - an Italian classic, pancetta was crispy and the sauce silky, pasta al dente. Very nice would order again.

Arancini - classic milanese risotto (saffron) balls in a crispy crumb, stuffed with melted mozarella. I was recommended by a friend who eats regularly at the Trafford Centre Pesto, they were nice but thought they lacked a dip or sauce to eat them with.

Followed by desserts to share

Affogato - two balls of ice cream, we chose chocolate and vanilla, topped with a hot shot of espresso, delicious and very refreshing,  I love affogato and the combination of coffee with chocolate was sublime.

Tiramisu - served in a cute little pot, we were warned the portion were small, but we didn't think they were at all, just the perfect size. Lovely light sponge, creamy filling and more coffee flavour.

We really enjoyed our lunch and were impressed with the standard of food , we noted that they have an offer of 3 piatinni dishes for £8.95 or £10.95 at certain times and days, which looks to be good value for money. Pesto is a small and growing chain so check out if there is one near you.

Interestingly enough one of the waitresses mentioned that most men don't get the concept of piatinni , Mr LF had no such trouble !

The staff had no idea that we were undertaking a review until it came to settle the bill, so we received exactly the same service standards as anyone else visiting. We were mightly impressed by Pesto, the venue and concept is unique in the area and we are already planning our next visit.


Our lunch was provided free of charge for review purposes, all views and opinions are our own.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Gluten free, dairy free chocolate cake, with vegan frosting

I love this cake, its so virtuous but so so delicious and really you can't tell its gluten free or dairy free, its so moist and chocolatey and very decadent yet light even with the frosting.

Our latest cake club theme was free from cakes and as I  have made this cake a few times gluten free previously successfully, I wanted to challenge myself and make it dairy free too, as often ceoliacs also suffer dairy issues as well. Amazingly this cake is even better dairy free and the vegan frosting is fabulous and if I dare say it, I think I prefer it to true buttercream.

Apologies for only one photograph, but whenever I make this cake it disappears way too quickly, the recipe is based on Phil Vickery's Gluten Free Chocolate fudge cake but made dairy free and with a vegan frosting.

For those of you who don't normally bake gluten free or dairy free, you'll be relieved to note that the recipe doesn't call for loads of weird and wonderful ingredients, and you can find everything you need in any decent supermarket.

What you need
  • Vegetable oil spray - for spraying your cake tins
  • 225g plain gluten free flour ( I mix my own by using rice flour, finely ground polenta(cornmeal) and cornflour)
  • 1 tsp xanthum gum (not absolutely necessary if you don't have it)*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb
  • 50g Cocoa powder (I like Green and Blacks)
  • 100g vegetable spread (I like vitalite)
  • 250g dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs - free range
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 tsp glycerine (not vital if you can't find it)*
  • 200ml - dairy free milk substitute( I used Coconut Dream)
*Both these ingredients assist in the texture of the cake but its still good without them

For the frosting
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 50g cocoa
  • 50g vegetable margarine (vitalite or pure sunflower are both good)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable milk
  • Couple of drops chocolate essence (optional)
Optional Dessicated coconut to decorate.

What you do
  • Pre heat the oven to 180c
  • Oil spray and base line 2 * 20cm round cake tins
  • Sieve the cocoa, flour, baking powder, xanthum gum and bicarb on to a plate
  • In a stand mixer, cream the vitalite and sugar until lighter in colour and fluffy
  • Add the eggs, vanilla and glycerine and a little of the flour, mix slowly, continuing to add the flour, then add the milk to the bowl and continue to mix until a smooth well mixed batter is achieved.
  • Divide the mixture into the 2 prepared pans evenly, level the tops and place in the oven
  • Bake for approx 25 minutes, until the cakes test cooked with a cocktail stick
  • Remove from oven and cool in the tins for approx 10 minutes and then on a wire rack until fully cool.
  • To make the frosting, mix all the frosting ingredients in a mixer bowl and beat until you have a smooth fluffy frosting, cool in fridge before using to fill and decorate the cake
  • The frosting mixture is enough to fill the cake and frost the sides and top
  • To finish sprinkle a little dessicated coconut around the edge to finish

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Beech's Fine Chocolates - Giveaway

60g bar selection 

Taste testing chocolate, oh its a tough job but someones got to do it !

Our friends at Beechs' Chocolates in Preston sent us a selection of their delicious chocolates for taste testing recently and what fun we have had.

Beechs' are some what of a Lancashire Legend, formed in 1920 this Lancashire Chocolate company have been supplying the fine people of Lancashire and  the world with delightful chocolate treats for nigh on a hundred years. Their factory is in Preston so pretty local to us and still in its original location.

60g Bar various

So onto our taste testing, we tried the dark chocolate selection first, the Dark Chocolate is 54 - 55% cocoa solids so its not a dark dark chocolate, personally I prefer a higher percentage but that a question of personal taste and we still really enjoyed the selection, the ginger  and mint crisp deserve particular mention , the ginger warming and aromatic and the mint cooling and smooth. The Lime and Chilli starts like a chocolate lime and progresses to a warm heat to finish. All in all a good range of flavours.

Dark chocolate / Dark Chocolate with Ginger / Dark Chocolate Lime and Chilli / Dark Chocolate Mint Crisp.

White Chocolate

Rich smooth and creamy, classic white chocolate with a distinct vanilla hit, melts well.

Selection of 60g bars

Milk Chocolate / Milk Chocolate Anglesey Sea Salt / Milk Chocolate Popping Candy / Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel / Milk Chocolate Crunchy Honeycomb

The milk chocolate is 30% cocoa solids and is noticeably richer in taste than the average high street bar, all the milk bars were creamy and we loved all the flavours, particularly the Anglesey Sea Salt and Salted Caramel as the salting was very well handled and just subtly added to the bars flavours. The popping candy bar is novel and lots of fun and was the favourite of Mr Lancashire Food, plenty of pop !

Gift Boxes

Milk Chocolate Coconut Macaroons - 9 square pieces of rich and very coconutty macaroon in a presentation box

We are loving the packaging, its colourful and bright and is traditional showing Beechs' roots yet modern at the same time, inside the 60g bar pack you will find a clear cellophane wrapper containing the chocolate bar, a bit of a surprise if you aren't expecting it, but you can clearly see what you are getting. The boxes are dinky proper little boxes of chocolates with a tray and corrugated topper and of course the lovely contents, the boxes make a great gift and are really pretty too.

Beechs' chocolate are available in many fine retailers including Booths Supermarkets, at various fine food fairs, QVC UK and also on line via their e store 


Would you like to win a Beechs Fine Chocolate Tasting Pack, just like ours ?

Well you can, we have one Prize of 10 of the 60g bars of chocolate (various flavours) and also the four gift boxes, just like in our taste test, delivered to UK addresses only.

Entering is easy, just use the rafflecopter widget to enter

Terms and Conditions

1. Complete the Rafflecopter widget below to verify your entries
2. Entries are by blog comment, Twitter, Facebook etc
3. Closing Date: 14th February 2016
(For more information on how to enter blog giveaways using Rafflecopter please see this short video

You can win more bonus entries by tweeting on a daily basis. Good Luck ! 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Kevin Stickley from the Cottage Loaf Bakery in Eccleston

This months foodie is Kevin Stickley from the Cottage Loaf Bakery in Eccleston, Chorley. Kevin is very shy like most bakers so we don't actually have a picture of Kevin. Needless to say he's an earlier riser like all craft bakers and proudly still bakes on the premises.

I have been at the bakery since April 1989, when my family moved from Northampton. After getting married in 1998, my parents and sister retired and left me in sole charge. With a good team of staff and help from my wife, Lesley-Ann, the bakery is still going strong today.

We produce traditional bread, cakes pies and sandwiches, and also supply local businesses as well.

What is your favourite cookery or food book or publication ?
The Craft Bakers Book of Bread Making.

What sentence sums up Lancashire Food to you ?
It’s straight forward, tasty and well worth searching for a good producer.

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you like to be ?
I nearly joined the Navy before I became an apprentice baker, so, a Naval officer by now.

Which piece of kit could you not do without ?
I need my oven and mixer, but I have a scotch scraper that I have used for 27 years, it’s still got a few years left in it.

Who would join you at your ultimate dinner party and why?
Paul Hollywood, to keep the wife happy, and Peter Kay, very funny man and I think he appreciates a good pie as well.

What advice would you give to your younger self ?
Choose staff more wisely, don’t be frightened to experiment and try new ideas, take more time out.

Describe your style in three words
Laid back, traditional and dedicated

What was your latest foodie gadget purchase ?
My 1955 Hobart mixer has died, so I have joined the world of spiral mixers.

What is your greatest achievement to date ?
Surviving for 27 years, while 6 bakeries around us have disappeared.

What is the worst mistake you have made ?
Putting business before family.

Tell us a secret about yourself ? may be something we wouldn’t expect !
Considering the fact I get up at 1AM, I hate early mornings.
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