Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 20th March


Every now and then I have a week where I’m completely devoid of inspiration for the week of meals ahead and this week was one of those weeks. Sadly my copy of the The National Trust Cookbook also arrived slightly too late to help out but I’m really looking forward to trying some of the recipes next week and I’ll also blog with my thoughts on the book in the next week or two.

For now though, I’m making do with some old favourites (including probably my all time favourite), a Diana Henry recipe (if you don’t know Diana Henry check her out, her recipes offer amazing inspiration whilst remaining relatively simple) and more help from The Spicery.

We started off today with the one that my husband and I could probably make in our sleep (and that would almost be the case today) – pasta and pesto. Not imaginative but an easy way to start the week at least.

Tomorrow will be the Diana Henry recipe which I actually found when browsing the Ocado site, you can find it here:

I’m looking forward to this one because Nasi Goreng always reminds me of living in Sydney at a time when I had zero responsibilities (and ate Nasi Goreng from the local takeaway about 5 times a week).

On Wednesday we’ll be having simple baked salmon with mash. The kids seem to be really into salmon again at the moment which is good news so here’s one to keep simple and serve with loads of lovely fresh veg.

Thursday is another long travelling day for me so the kids will be eating fish finger sandwiches and then on Friday the opposite of fast food, a steak pie. To make this I’ll slow cook some braising steak in stock in my slow cooker for most of the day and then add the filling to a shortcrust case. This was the meal I used to request on my birthday when I was a kid and it still feels special now, even if I have to make it myself these days!

And finally on Saturday I’m going to try out another recipe using my spices from The Spicery – a veggie tagine. I’ve mentioned The Spicery before – a spicing subscription which sends you bespoke spices as well as the recipes to make them – but having finally made my first full meal (a chicken jalfrezi plus accompaniments) last Friday I am now recommending it whole-heartedly. The meal was amazing and it was so simple to put together, great for if you’re having friends over and to push you out of your comfort zone. Looking forward to trying the next one.

And on Sunday it really has to be a day off given it’s Mother’s Day, hopefully I’ll get treated to something nice and I’ll be able to put my feet up all day (yeah right).

Have a good week!


Ladies that Afternoon Tea – An Interlude


As part of our ongoing intrepid search to find the best Afternoon Tea experiences in Manchester I thought I would report back on my recent visit to the newly opened Grand Pacific on King St. This is not an official entry to our Ladies that Afternoon Tea series as I visited on a work jolly rather than with my fellow LTAF reporters but nevertheless I thought I’d share my views for the sake of mothers out there looking for a bit of me time.  I’m all heart.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to visit Grand Pacific I would heartily recommend doing so even if just to have a nosey at the décor. The venue has only been open for a few weeks (previously home to bar and restaurant Room and the Reform Club) and Living Ventures have done another great job.  The place is opulent and stylish without feeling overdone and it really feels like you’re visiting something a bit special.

With this amazing backdrop and the fact that you’re having Afternoon Tea at 4pm on a workday surely nothing could go wrong? Well… not exactly.

Whilst we were instantly wowed by the overall impression of the place and the beautifully decorated tables (not to mention the free flowing prosecco), the issues with service became apparent pretty quickly. The wait for the sandwiches just went on and on and in the end it was well over an hour before they eventually turned up.

I’d like to say that they were worth the wait but a lack of choice (egg, coronation chicken or salmon) coupled with the fact that there were some bizarre additions such as dry, cold mini crumpets and Eccles cakes meant that wasn’t really the case. The bread was also worrying dry, tasting like the platters had been ready for the last hour but someone had just forgotten to actually serve them.  So far, not so great.

On the plus side, I felt that what was on offer (dry bread aside) was a pretty good quality – the potato cakes heaped with smoked salmon being a particular highlight – and there was also more than plenty to go around, if anything we ended up feeling slightly wasteful at being unable to put a serious dent in the servings.


Having waiting an age for the sandwiches the wait for the sweet course was, thankfully, far shorter. The platter once again looked pretty special and there were plenty of interesting and tasty things to try including extremely rich chocolate truffles, vanilla and raspberry cake pops, zingy lemon tarts and big servings of trifle.  The only obvious omission was scones – I mean I don’t think it’s illegal not to provide scones with an Afternoon Tea but I did feel a bit bereft at their absence.  I was looking forward to the clotted cream.


It was only when we were coming to the end of our lovely cakes that we suddenly realised that at no point had we been offered any tea. In fact, just as we were starting to put our coats on and collect our things, a waiter came to ask if we would like some.  At that point we’d been at the place for 2 hours.  For an Afternoon TEA.  Worrying.

Again, to err on the side of fairness the staff recognised some of the issues that we’d had and knocked 25% off everyone’s bill was probably the minimum reduction I’d expect given the experience.

All in all my scoring for Grand Pacific would be:

For sandwiches – a charitable 3/5 because the salmon was nice but my kids could have made them quicker – 60%

For cakes – a disappointed 2.5/5 due to lack of scone action – 50%

For drinks – a lowly 1/5 due to lack of tea in their afternoon tea and an average prosecco – 20%

For service – another lowly 1/5 because nobody should have to wait an hour for a sandwich – 20%

For atmosphere – a much more respectable 4/5 because the place is beautiful – 80%

All in all that gives Grand Pacific a total of 46% which tells you the story that this was a pretty below average experience only rescued by the beauty of the place. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re having some teething troubles but as it stands it’s a tough one to recommend unless you enjoy waiting long periods of time for someone to cook a tiny crumpet.