Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The perfect slice

The best homemade pizza?

Pizza is one of those foodstuffs that elicit obsessive behaviour. Fanatics will  go to painstaking lengths to recreate the 'perfect' slice. Heston Blumenthal devoted an entire programme to it for his 'In Search of Perfection' series; and I have been guilty of indulging in such fanaticism! Having already put many recipes on trial, it was time to have a stab at the recipe from 'Modernist Cuisine at Home'.

The resting dough
I'd like to say by way of preamble that I won’t advocate trying to mimic a wood-burning pizza oven chez vous. The result might be rewarding but the expense and time detract from what should be a very simple, cheap meal. Buying a thin sheet of metal cut to fit your oven doesn't prove to be that expensive (and might be an investment if you often eat pizza) but what if you've not had the foresight to order one and want pizza pronto? What if you don’t fancy preheating your oven for an hour in this age of astronomical energy costs?  Above all, I felt compelled to master pizza cookery at home purely because the mark-up in restaurants is so high – a Margherita at Pizza Express costs £7.90 and I can imagine it costs well under £1 to make.

Pizza dough formed into balls

I find that placing a baking tray upside down in an oven preheated to its highest temperature will suffice. No, your pizza won’t cook in under 2 minutes per the ridiculous criteria set for authentic Naples pizza but, frankly, do you care? If you really want an authentic pizza you’re probably going to have to bite the bullet and pay for one. The high heat of a wood-burning clay oven will cook the base evenly and give it colour (undoubtedly the biggest challenge) and give you those lovely charred bubbles of dough. I often find that the slightly thicker crust is underdone by the time the topping has cooked.

The rolled and topped pizza

Rolling the pizza base very thinly is the best way to ensure a speedy cooking time and toppings that aren't cremated. The best way to learn how to hand-make a pizza is to watch a video then practice; it's deceptively hard work and tearing the dough while stretching it out is easy to do. Use a rolling pin if you're having trouble and try to ignore the sound of the purists jeering. The making of the dough itself will be that much easier if you own a mixer with a dough hook; though the dough can be easily kneaded by hand as it is not particularly wet.

Purified gluten

Now comes the time to admit that I've been a little disingenuous. The Modernist Cuisine recipe for Neapolitan pizza dough does require a specialist ingredient: Vital Wheat Gluten (Bob's Red Mill brand available on Amazon). Yeast-leavened doughs - like pizza dough - benefit from the addition of extra gluten in its purified form. It gives, in my mind, the right amount of chewiness to the crust and yields a dough that requires less kneading. A brief rest during the kneading process and then a 1 hour period at room temperature and you're ready to go. I'm sure you can forego this ingredient (given it costs £8/500g) as a decent kneading will develop the gluten networks sufficiently.

So, introduction over, now to the recipe:



500g '00' Flour (or '0' Pasta Flour)
310g  Water (cold)
10g     Honey or Agave syrup
10g     Salt
2.5g    Vital Wheat Gluten
2.5g     Active dry yeast

  1. Mix the flour, water, salt, gluten and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached until the dough comes together.
  2. Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.
  3. Let the dough rest for 10 mins (still in the bowl and attached to the dough hook) and them mix for another 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, divide into four chunks of roughly 200g each.
  5. Stretch and roll the dough into smooth balls to develop a network of gluten.
  6. Rub the balls with olive oil, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise at room temperature for 1 hour before using.
To make your pizza, preheat your oven to its highest setting (ours reaches 250 degrees) with an upturned metal baking sheet in it. Roll out your dough on a well-floured smooth board - I use the cheap, flexible plastic chopping boards as a makeshift pizza peel. As you can see from my attempt, there's no need to worry too much about getting a uniform circle! Make sure you add enough flour to the board so the dough will slide off easily onto your preheated tray. Cover with store-bought or homemade tomato sauce and your favourite toppings. At the given temperature, they tend to take 6-7 minutes to cook. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Livebait, Manchester

I bought Jamie a copy of Giles Coren's How To Eat Out before I really knew who he was (Coren that is, not my other half), and - rather naughtily - ended up reading it before Jamie knew he'd been bought it. It is anecdotal with snippets of advice littered throughout, and despite agreeing with Ramsay's comment on the cover, I rather annoyingly enjoyed it. The best - and I suppose most obvious - piece of advice he gives is: "Always order the fish". A delicate specimen, best eaten on day of purchase, it makes sense to let restaurants do the hard work - filleting, scaling, pinboning, and, of course, cooking. I therefore felt very content to accept the invitation of Livebait via Manchester Confidential to dine at their restaurant as a guest, and do nothing other than order the fish. Apologies for photo quality - we couldn't find our camera charger so had to make do with the iPad!

Jamie and I had actually eaten at Livebait not that long ago, and it holds the special place of being the first Manchester restaurant we reviewed on our blog. Whilst we had a thoroughly enjoyable time before, we were disappointed at how empty it was. We returned on another Wednesday to a slightly busier restaurant - though this might have something to do with its 50% off deal during January - and were acknowledged as soon as we entered, despite the manageress being on the phone.

We were offered an aperitif and the manageress knowledgeably recommended Tanqueray 10 with grapefruit juice (I remembered from my earlier years as a bartender in a posh hotel that this premium gin is supposed to have notes of the citrus fruit in it; I say supposed as all I get is GINGINGIN, but that's my unrefined palette for you). This proved to be a great aperitif as the bitter fruit perfectly prepares the palate for the dinner to follow. I, however, am not a fan and boringly opted for a Hendricks.

We were recommended the bread and homemade dukkah to begin, which was a surprising delight despite popping whole coriander seeds in the mouth in one go. Jamie commented that it reminded him of Modernist Cuisine's fish spice mix, and once we dissected the individual spices realised how clever it was of them to serve this unusual accompaniment: all of the individual spices in dukkah (hazelnuts, coriander, sesame, cumin, fennel and poppy seeds) compliment the flavours of seafood.

 We cheekily decided to start by trying a selection of the oysters - 3 tempura'd (that's definitely in the dictionary) and 3 natural. All were delicious, but I particularly enjoyed the deep fried ones, accompanied with a cucumber pickle. The waitress told us they used to do a crab and pickled cucumber spring roll but took it off the menu. Bring it back! Please! Having since read that 75% of raw British oysters contain norovirus, you've got carte blanche to stuff your face with the deep fried morsels. Get in!

J decided to go old-school and opted for the prawn cocktail. The waitress was very serious in letting us know that there was nothing fancy about this: like Ronseal, it does what it says on the tin. It was a pleasant enough dish, though I found it slightly odd that they served extra Marie Rose on the side of a sauce-heavy dish. I opted for the anchovy and tomato bruschetta as I can't get enough of those salty little sea monsters and will happily eat them by the bucket-load when I can get my hands on the fresh ones. These were delicious and plentiful so I was pretty happy, though felt the dish slightly off-balance. I wanted to taste the anchovies more but felt a harsher acidity was present - perhaps from an addition of red wine vinegar? Jamie, however, poo-poo'ed my suggestion and said that he thought the dish was perfectly balanced. (That's me told.)

Most of the mains sounded delicious and I was struggling to decide between the plaice and the bass. Suddenly my stupid brain went left-field and opted for the scallops. Five little beauties, served in the shells with a piece of chorizo on top of each. They were cooked beautifully, though I would have loved the coral to have been served with them, but I never understand why chorizo and scallops are served together. Maybe it's just me but I think the strength of the sausage is too overwhelming for the delicate seafood to fight against. I ate most of them without the piece of meat, and found that the hint of fatty spice from the chorizo's juices worked well. If it were me, I'd consider serving them with just a chorizo butter (or foam as Jamie suggested: he's been reading too much Mugaritz). I'd been forewarned that they came as they were, but I couldn't help feel that a little more effort could have gone into making the scallops into more of a dish. Maybe I'm just talking rubbish though, and I'm just trying to turn a more than decent seafood restaurant into something it's not.

Or maybe it's just because I had serious food envy of Jamie's sea bass, which I'd originally wanted. It came with a sorrel and garlic sauce and potato galette. It was so good. I would actually go back just to have this dish. The skin was crisped to perfection - maybe they'd read my last write-up! ;) - and you could taste the beautifully browned butter on the delicately cooked fish. We accompanied the dishes with chips, because we're heathens, and the waitress made us feel good about doing so, so she gets brownie points too. Having recently been disappointed with neighbourhood's excuse for fries, I was very happy with these. Being something of a chip aficionado, I'm going to make a bold claim and say these are probably my favourite fries (very different from chips though, please note). They actually surpass the old-style Burger King ones and take pride of place in my fried potato hall of fame.

Our meal was accompanied by a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, a recommendation from the waitress. We'd told her we usually went for an Albarino when eating seafood, and had suggested this as an adventurous alternative. A fairly dry white, it complimented all of the courses well and would happily opt for this again.

Dessert saw us share the trio of puds - something chocolatey with delicious salted caramel, a fresh cheesecake with homemade honeycomb, and something lemony. All pleasant enough, though nothing to steal the spotlight away from the oyster tempura and the sea bass.

All in all, the meal and service were definitely good enough to say that I would go back, and I was glad to see that they'd corrected the fatal flaw of floppy skin from last time! Obviously we were guests, so one would hope our experience would be good, but everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves and their food as well. I have to say, it's such a wonderful space that I really do wish Mancunians would try it out more, as I would absolutely love to see it buzzing. I'm not sure what the plans for 2013 are for the restaurant but I hope they give a nod to some of the current food trends as several are made for this place.

I think my only criticism is of myself, for not listening to Giles. Instead of opting for shells, I should have heeded his advice and ordered the bloody fish...

22 Lloyd Street, Manchester
M2 5WA
0161 817 4110
Livebait on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Tequila has a bad rep.

And I’ll freely admit that until recently I was among its detractors. I’m betting most people’s impressions of tequila are associated with the cheap stuff reserved for shooting - the stuff that leaves a foul taste in your mouth, even if you omit the obligatory salt and lime. I, for one, not so fondly remember drinking far more tequila than any 15-year-old should, looking deeply into my then girlfriend’s eyes and promptly throwing up all over her lap. The experience put me off this Mexican spirit for the next decade; but now all that’s changed.
5 years ago if you’d scanned the back bars of the better-stocked establishments in town, I can guarantee there would have only been a limited selection of tequila. Fast-forward to the present day and more and more tequila is making its way across the ocean as consumers outside of Mexico and America are realizing how deliciously sophisticated this spirit can be. The aged tequilas easily rival single malts, cognacs and bourbons in their complexity and flavour profiles.
Tequila is made from the hearts of the cactus-like blue agave plant and produced in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The agave hearts, which can weigh as much as 45kg, are steamed then mashed with water before being fermented. The resulting liquid is distilled and bottled or aged for various lengths of time as you will see below. When aging tequila, producers might use barrels that once contained bourbon, wine or scotch in order to impart different flavours to the base spirit. Combine these flavours with the distinctive agave taste of tequila and you’ve got a very diverse product, which sits comfortably between ‘white’ and ‘brown’ spirits.   
So what should you look out for when choosing tequila? Look out for 100% agave or agave azul on the label (although this isn’t necessarily a signifier of quality, take Jose Cuervo Tradicional for example). In the UK, you’ll usually only encounter three types of 100% agave tequila:

Blanco – usually bottle immediately after distillation or aged for less than 2 months and clear to straw-coloured in appearance.

Reposado – aged for at least 2 months but no longer than a year in primarily oak barrels giving a darker appearance and a smoother more developed flavour.

Anejo – Aged for over a year but no more than 3 in small oak barrels giving an amazingly complex dark brown spirit.

There also exist extra anejo tequilas which tend to be rare and prohibitively expensive. Blanco tequila has a distinctive flavour with light aromas of charcoal, flowers and vanilla. It takes on bolder characteristics as it matures and, depending on the types of barrel it’s aged in, can resemble a fine, unctuous white wine or a bold, fruity cognac.     

So if you want to break free from the salt, lime, and shots here are my recommendations:

3 Straight-sippers
If you glimpse these behind the bar, order one of these straight up if you can take it, or on the rocks if you want to soften the blow.
El Jimador Reposado
Tapatio Reposado
Don Juilo Anejo

3 Cocktails in the city
Beginner: for the tequila initiate, why not try Sandinista’s ‘Zapatista’. This is a tequila-based take on an espresso martini using Patron silver and Patron XO Cafe. The tequila is subtle enough that a newcomer won’t be put off but holds its own against the coffee background.

Intermediate: wanna go a bit further? Try Corridor’s take on a ‘Fool’s Gold’. I’m not sure if it’s still on the menu but I can testify that the bar staff will happily make you one...or three. This is not lengthened as much as the Zapatista so expect more tequila but balanced harmoniously with chocolate and orange (or at least that’s what I get!).

Advanced: if you can handle a real tequila hit then opt for The Gaslamp’s Margarita. The classic combination of tequila, cointreau (or other orange liqueur) and lime is lifted by using a very good reposado tequila and increasing the level of booziness. If you like this, you’ll be hooked! 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Hervé This - Building a Meal : From Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Constructivism

For many there could be nothing more tedious than reading a philosophical and scientific investigation into the preparation of six ‘bistro favourites’; for foodies of a particular bent (read me!) there could be nothing more edifying.

Let’s start with the title. Read the words ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ and your brain will probably conjure up a beatific mug shot of Heston Blumenthal and images of Masterchef contestants unsuccessfully trying to create caviar out of things that don’t normally lend themselves to roe-like presentation. In short, it’s become the buzzword(s) for weird and wonderful ways of dealing with ingredients. Read ‘Culinary Constructivism’ and most of you will already be heading for the door, asking yourselves ‘Am I back at uni? The only –ism I cared about then was plagiarism’. I’m not going to even attempt to broach the topic of constructivism, that’s a lesson for another day. Suffice it to say, Hervé This analyzes why we have chosen to construct dishes in certain ways: the pairings, the cooking methods, the chemical reactions and our various responses to it all.

A small amount of background: Hervé This is a renowned chemist and head of the world’s first lab devoted to molecular gastronomy. He is the spiritual father of Blumenthal, Adria, Achatz and many other chefs who have pushed the boundaries of culinary science and practice. By his own admission he is crazy: “Some who wants to change the way people are cooking, you have to be crazy”. Watch him on film and it’s not hard to imagine a future where he resides in a padded cell muttering incontinently “an egg white coagulates at 61oC...an egg yolk coagulates at 620C...onsen tamago...mayonnaise”; and every once in a while tries to discover the specific heat of a nurse’s arm or at what temperature human-brain proteins denature.

Anyway, to return to the text: when you read the list of dishes covered (hard-boiled egg, simple consommé, lamb and green beans..) you might remind yourself that Monsieur This is French and thus the bistros he eats in are different to the ones you or I would frequent. In fact, listening to him, he’s probably not eaten in a bistro since the 70s, hence the anachronistic menu! Never have I seen a hard-boiled egg with mayonnaise on a bistro menu; however, the dishes have been selected as they permit the examination of some important cooking methods: egg-cooking, stock-making, braising, grilling, deep-fat frying, custard-making, and so on.

The results of Hervé’s investigations are fascinating. Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite:
  1. For cooked green beans to retain their green colour, it is not a matter of ‘fixing the chlorophyll’. It is dependent on several factors: the beans must be fresh enough that the chlorophyll has not been degraded; they must be cooked quickly; and the water they are cooked in must not be acidic, lest the magnesium in the chlorophyll molecules be eliminated.
  2. Bringing out the flavour of meat depends in part on how much fat the meat contains. British chemist David Mottram discovered that Maillard reactions (the reactions which cause that lovely brown crust on a steak) produce different odorant compounds depending on the presence or absence of fat.
  3. After you take your chips out of the fryer, you only have a minute to wipe off the excess oil before the pressure inside the chips drops and it absorbs the oil on its surface. This applies to all fried food!
  4. If you want soft cookies, pre-cook the flour (in an oven or under the grill) and the gluten proteins are deprived of their ability to harden the cookies.

These examples will give you some idea of whether this book is for you (and whether you want to spend £10.99 on it!). I would like to clarify that the text does contain more than just intellectualized cooking tips. What Hervé has to say about diet is particularly interesting, especially for his lampooning of conventional wisdom: for instance, the Mediterranean diet (as if it existed) is constantly being extolled yet around a third of children in Greece are obese. One caveat, the book can have the whiff of ‘manifesto’ about it at times, which can become tiresome. For what it’s worth I think if you’ve given yourself the goal of changing the public’s attitude towards cooking then you’re probably going to come across as self-righteous and a little doctrinaire.

So, if you’re a hopeless skeptic, as I am, then you will be spurred on by Hervé’s endless probing: ‘Making a stock? It’s so simple that it hardly seems worth explaining. One puts meat in water and heats it. Ah but what sort of meat? From what part of the cow, if it is a beef bouillon? Fresh meat or meat that has been aged? And how much meat for how much water? What kind of water? Salted? Heated in what sort of pot?’ It goes on. Make no mistake, this book is not for the faint-hearted foodie: the chemistry can be complicated and his philosophical meanderings might try the patience of a commis chef whose been given the unenviable task of plucking a million partridges; but I would encourage those interested in the science of cooking to persevere. And if challenging culinary orthodoxy is your thing then grab a copy of Harold McGee’s ‘On Food and Cooking’ and you've got the two testaments of modernist cooking.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Top Ten Cheap Eats in Manchester

Need I bother with an intro? You know the score, it's January, we're broke, the weather's pants and we're getting sick of staying in. Given that the Guardian's version of Manchester cheap eats is hideously outdated, we'd thought we'd do the chivalrous thing and provide you with a selection of places to dine when dealing with a 5 week wait from one pay day to the next. The numerical order is simply for ease of reading purposes, and in no way is meant to resemble a reverse Top of the Pops. I ought to also pop in a disclaimer that as Rusholme residents, places listed are generally within easy reach of our natural habitat.

1. Yuzu, 39 Faulkner street, China Town

Chloe Sevigney supposedly claimed Yuzu served the only decent food in Manchester whilst working here. Having been both for lunch and dinner, I can verify her claim (though would contest the rest of the hip New Yorker's outlandish statement). Their lunch menu ranges between £5.95 and £7.95, with classic Japanese dishes such as tonkatsu and sashimi all served with rice and miso soup. We'd already checked out dinner and though disappointed at their lack of fish (on a seafood-based menu) I can confirm that their gyoza and karage are the best you'll get in Manchester and their ponzu dipping sauce takes fried chicken to a whole new level. Special mention also goes to showing China Town how to do ambience with simple and relaxing jazz tunes.

Yuzu on Urbanspoon

2. Al Jazeera, 22 Wilmslow road, Rusholme

Ty, the doorman at Jamie's work, really set our expectations high when he told us this place does the best rice in the whole of Manchester. Not comparable to the sticky white rice of Japanese cuisine, their offerings are just as honourable: flavoursome and perfectly separated grains. We've yet to arrive early enough for the Qabili Pulao (spelling varies) but I could eat their kobeda kebab time and time again. The chicken's not bad - flavoursome enough - but slightly dry when I tried it, though who's complaining when £4.50 gets you a half chicken with rice. I'm bold enough to proclaim they do the best naan in Manchester: lovely blackened edges and thin enough to stop the bloat. This caff, pretty it ain't (nor warm, keep your coat on!) but it's worth a trip for the kobeda kebab alone.

3. Frankie's Fish Bar, 178 Burton Road, West Didsbury
NOTE: This place has now been overtaken by 'Fishbait'. I'm yet to try their deep fried delights!
Posh fish and chip shop, Frankie's deserves a mention; at least for making it feel acceptable to eat deep fried food not just on Fridays (disclaimer: I am not condoning daily consumption). Haddock, chips and (at lunchtimes) a complimentary side comes in at £6.50. They regularly offer mackerel as a special for £3, as well as sweet potato fries if you want to mess with traditionalism. Their sausages are from Axon's down the road if saveloys were never your thing (personally, I miss them), and thankfully, they're not too posh for pies. It's not exactly buzzing with atmosphere but it makes a nice change to see a chip shop championing sustainability in fishing, and at a reasonable price, even for Burton road. Coca-cola in glass bottles adds a nice touch for kids (and Jamie), although you should obviously be keeping them away from fizzy drinks and fried food (I do try, but at 5'11 it's hard to store them out of his reach).

Frankies Fish Bar on Urbanspoon

4. Kyotoya, 28 Copson Street, Withington
I was apprehensive about this place for a while before I tried it. It was hard to believe that there could be another Japanese cafe in Withington, and that it would be any good. I'd already been let down by little Samsi, so I was hoping that Kyotoya would be my sushi savior when in need of a healthy hangover cure. I was pretty happy when it lived up to expectations. Talking cheap eats, you need to get the deal for 2 for £22. For £11 each, you share the following courses: miso soup, sushi, gyoza, chicken teryiaki and beef kimchi, served with rice. The first time we went, I asked if I could swap the gyoza for tempura (I was an uninitiated fool having never eaten gyoza before). Chef wouldn't hear of it and insisted I try the gyoza and the tempura for no additional cost. The main dishes also came with Chinese greens, and we had plenty left over for lunch the next day. Service has greatly improved over recent months as they seem to be more prepared for how busy they're likely to be, and on our last trip our party of eight were given complimentary ice cream "because it's a hot day". Nobu it ain't, but for Withington, it may as well be; this really is one of those 'hidden gems' you always hope to find... and now you have!

Kyotoya on Urbanspoon

5. Jaffa, 185 Wilmslow road, Rusholme

If ever a place could sum up Rusholme so well, it's this one: a total melting pot of ages, genders and nationalities. From students to families to business men in smart suits, Jaffa attracts everyone. A little apprehensive on my first visit as there didn't appear to be an orderly queuing system (how British of me!), but the friendly staff soon sorted me out. Within minutes I was munching happily away on a chicken schwarma, accompanied by a plate of mixed mezze (around £7 in total). Having seen some of the teenagers gorge on pizza-looking things, I was determined to go back to try the fatayer (the Middle East's answer to a steak bake). Personally, I don't think they're for me - slightly too stodgy, but Jamie enjoyed his, and so I still recommend you see for yourself. I was much happier with my falafel and another portion of mixed mezze; their hummus is beautiful and I love the chick peas in the spicy tomato sauce. They also usually have a special, for example lamb pilau with soup for £4.50. More please!

Jaffa on Urbanspoon

6. Phetpailin, 46 George Street, China Town
Most of the eateries on the list so far have been closer to the cafe persuasion, usually not offering alcoholic beverages nor being the kind of place you'd want to drink one. Phetpailin falls into the former category, but is one of those rare breeds of non-Indian dining establishments that every city needs - it offers BYOB. Though the menu itself isn't 'cheap', it isn't expensive, and being BYO, it certainly drives down the cost of a meal, thus justifying a dinner out in the bleakest of current account months. It's also great for groups - our friends had a leaving party here where we paid £18 p/h for a selection of starters and mains, and pretty much tried every dish on the menu (the tamarind duck and the panang curry being stand out dishes in my mind) with leftovers for everyone. A meal for two comes in at around £35, with two courses, though I suggest you attempt to skip the first course as the portions are generous (this is harder than it sounds: the mixed starter selection is a variety of deep-fried delights). Special mention also goes to Jamie's favourite, Choo Chee Pla, a tender tilapia fillet cooked with red curry paste, coconut cream and lime leaves; it's a little too hot for me to handle, but even Jamie - as adventurous as he is - chooses it every time.

7. I am Pho, 44 George Street, China Town
George Street, it appears, is faring well. Nestled next door to our above entry, we have I am Pho, another welcome addition to Manchester's China Town. All I've heard is good things about this place; unfortunately we didn't give the menu as comprehensive a seeing to as Hungry Hoss & Manchester Confidential (click for reviews). This Vietnamese basement cafe boasts brilliant pho (Jamie was thrilled when the waiter told him his pronunciation was 'spot on'!) in a variety of flavours as well as other Vietnamese classics such as summer spring rolls and Banh Mi. Jamie went classic (beef), and I opted for the prawn and pork; both delicious, and with the option to spice it up as much as you liked with fresh chillies on the side (as well as Thai basil, coriander and beansprouts). Our noses running, we were happy and most definitely full. I'd wanted a starter though had managed to resist as I had heard how large the portion sizes were. Jamie couldn't resist the Vietnamese chicken wings and can confirm that these are up there with his fried chicken favourites.

I Am Pho on Urbanspoon

8. Antalya Cafe, 78-84 Wilmslow Road, Rusholme

Another great Rusholme find, as recommended once again by Ty. Jamie couldn't get over how good his chicken schwarma was - stuffed to the brim with salad, chilli sauce and garlic yoghurt - all sat comfortably on a huge, soft piece of Turkish bread. It's £4 whether you sit in or take out, and it's worth sitting in as you also get chips with it if you do. There's not much to say about this other than it's the best schwarma we've had on the Curry Mile, and was worth every penny. I can't wait to go back for the marinated & barbecued sea bass, served with chips and salad. The price? A mere £7.

9. Seoul Kimchi, 275 Upper Brook Street, Victoria Park

Seoul Kimchi - a hybrid of Japanese and Korean cuisines - serves up great one bowl dishes that will see you through to your next meal time just as well as Shreddies, though it's hard to resist their other offerings (the gyoza nearly as good as Yuzu's). On various trips, we've managed to try their sushi, donburi, bibimap and bulgogi. The tastiest (and most expensive of dishes tried) was definitely the latter, experimenting with Korean surf and turf in the form of pork and squid; I developed serious food envy. The eel donburi was also delicious though I felt they were a little tight with their fish (though having recently seen eel on sale for £30 a kilo, I can see why). The prawn bibimap was also short on our fishy friends, though complimentary sides of kimchi and miso helped bulk up the meal. Expect to pay around £10 per head, and a little less for takeout at lunchtime.

Seoul Kimchi on Urbanspoon

10. Dosa Xpress, 19 Copson street, Withington
Having never actually set foot inside, I suppose this review ought to be taken with a pinch of salt, though I would argue that food which can survive the transit from Withington to Rusholme is likely to be even better on its home turf. Gobi Manchurian was the stand out dish in my mind, somehow feeling meaty despite its vegetarian status. The paneer chilli dosa was equally as good, and the individual pots of chutneys and sambars complimented it beautifully. I'm not well informed enough to be able to differentiate them all, but the one that tasted like South Indian pea soup was heavenly. The daal and butter chicken were also good, though I wasn't so keen on the Oothappam dosa; I'm happy to blame this on my ignorance as I was expecting something more like the traditional dosa, rather than an Indian take on the Spanish tortilla. This place is a bargain - £24 fed two of us over two meals, both times stuffed to the brim. A unique place with great home delivery!

DosaXpress on Urbanspoon

We make no claims that this list is all encompassing and would love to hear what other purse-friendly favourites you have to share with us; this is but a small selection of cosy and cheap eateries where we have enjoyed several meals, and hope you might too. Recommendations tell me that Vnam Cafe on Oldham Road, and This & That in the NQ are also worth a trip. If you want to taste the best falafel wrap you've ever had then Go Falafel at the start of Rusholme is the place for you, and at just £2.50 - with regular free falafel if you're waiting a while - it's healthily nudged its way into my favourite hangover food.