Winter’s here in Manchester, and the days are getting colder and wetter. In order to keep yourself in peak health, nutrition and good food are key. A colourful plate, filled with nutritious fruit and vegetables, is just as helpful as a lemsip when it comes to fighting off the Winter blues.
Whilst England has a lot to offer in terms of fresh food, there’s nothing quite like European fruit and veg to uplift your meals. Last week, we attended an event hosted by I Love Fruit and Veg from Europe at Canto in Ancoats and were treated to a menu featuring the very best of their seasonal selection.
First, a bit about I Love Fruit and Veg from Europe. Co-funded by the European Union, their mission is to promote the seasonal purchase and consumption of European fruit and veg, with a particular focus on organic and quality foods. To put it more simply, they’re interested in “farm to fork” where everyone can access the same quality of sustainable, safe food.
For example, they promote prickly pear fruit grown in Sicily, which contains one of the highest concentrations of Vitamin C out of any fruit! The vitamins and minerals are evident in the vibrant colours of the fruit on display tonight, which put sad supermarket offerings to shame.
We started off with some lovely cocktails, a refreshing watermelon tequila cooler and a gin limoncello cocktail. Our meal began with a range of starters and appetisers to share: bread, dark butter, scallops, mushroom croquettes, pickled radish, confit baby artichokes, cheese and charcuterie boards, and padron peppers. There were a few obvious stand-outs. The scallops came with caramelised onions in a bed of salt, and the mushroom croquettes were a creamy and crispy taste sensation.
We were handed a cheese board packed with a range of soft and hard cheeses, which paired nicely with crackers and chutney. Our padron peppers were exquisitely green and salty: we gobbled down a whole bowl of them! With each course, we were given a specially chosen wine. A glass of Le Rifra Libium Il Foyer from Italy paired particularly well with the cheese board, providing a pleasant lightness to the course.
For my main course, I had stuffed aubergine with goat’s cheese, red pepper sauce, and basil. A hearty and rich dish, this would be perfect for warming up on a cold evening. My companion tried the chargrilled peri peri chicken, which she found moist, succulent and perfectly spiced. It came with a mound of yellow chips which were more akin to crisps.
Our sides came long before our mains, which was an oversight that meant they were devoured before they could be tried alongside each other. The grilled asparagus com ajillo were gorgeously crispy and a welcome addition to our plates. We also had kohlrabi, rucula, green lettuce, and walnut salad, which showed off the leafy greens at their best. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to try the appetising-looking grilled peach panzanella, green and red lollo, toasted almond and burrata salad but from what I heard it was delicious – a great take on making a sweet peach into a savoury side!
By this time, we were as stuffed as the aubergine! And there was still dessert…
All of which featured more delicious fruit on offer. We tried the mulled wine-poached pears, which came with thick double cream, and tasted like Christmas in a nutshell. The classic Italian tiramisu was divine: creamy, indulgent and the perfect balance of alcohol and coffee. The perfect finish to the night.