This post is a little different from me, as it contains no recipes! However after going to the Manchester Christmas markets today, I couldn’t stop raving about it, so thought I’d let everyone know how great it was.
To start, the weather was horrible…a whole lot of rain and icy wind, the day didn’t start off great. From Manchester Piccadilly we walked down towards the Market, and soon saw the wooden shacks representing the Christmas market. The first stall of note I came across was selling beautiful pieces of jewellery, made from miniature flowers! The roses were my favourite, and it was hard to walk away from the stall.
We passed many fudge and chocolate stalls – one stall was selling Christmas cake fudge, which sounded crazy! To the look of it, it was fruity fudge topped with marzipan. We weren’t feeling like fudge though, so we moved on.
After grabbing a coffee to warm us up, we continued down the street and saw a wide variety of wooden ornaments and plaques, great gift ideas for children. If you didn’t know, I adore anything penguin-related so was on a hunt for the best penguin item I could find. The first option were some adorable garden ornaments, made up of brown stick-like things, which were shaped into a penguin. Very cute, but I don’t have a garden so it wasn’t really suitable. On the same stall however they had the most amazing birdhouses that looked like castles and big houses. They were very cool.
We moved on to find some hot food. The Christmas markets originated in Germany, so it wasn’t surprising that there were many Bratwurst stands. Last year we tried a bratwurst with cheese in the middle – good but the cheese is so hot you can’t taste anything after eating it. This time we went for a standard Bratwurst, perfectly cooked with caramelized onions and mustard. Delicious.
|In case you weren't sure what a hotdog looked like...(from Google)|
We got around to Exchange Square, where we saw our first mulled wine stall. We both still had a lot of coffee left so avoided the stall for now, but had a spy on the flavours on offer. They included strawberry and amaretto, raspberry liqueur, passionfruit and Cointreau and an apricot and brandy. All spiced with cinnamon and other festive spices.
We then moved on to what would be my favourite stalls of the day. First was a cheese stall, run by the Saddlesworth Cheese Co. Two years ago, my boyfriend and I went to the markets for the first time and came across this stall. They had a cheese called Smelly Ha’peth, a creamy yet full-flavoured blue cheese. We fell in love, and the next year bought a large slab of it. This year we went even further and to my slight surprise, my boyfriend bought half a wheel of it. The cheese can be frozen, which is good as we ended up with over a kilogram of it, and the quality is amazing. If you go to the markets, I’d highly recommend their cheeses. If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, they make and sell other artisan cheeses that are sublime also. Their website is here if you’re interested.
|Smelly ha'peth (from the Saddlesworth Co website)|
My favourite stall was the next one along. It was all about alpaca fur, from hats and scarves, to rugs with panda designs on, and soft toys. I’ve never felt alpaca fur before, and oh my, it was like touching clouds. To my absolute delight they had made penguins out of the fur! Unbelievably cute and fluffy – I wanted to buy them all!
I was now rather hyper after my penguin delight, and we went to get mulled wine. We went for a large raspberry liqueur mulled wine, and got our 2016 markets mug! It was delicious as expected, and not as sweet as the strawberry and amaretto one we’d tried the year before. So now I was hyper and pretty tipsy as we continued our trip around the market.
As we continued our wanderings, we went to a stall selling Schokokuss, German chocolate kisses. The base is biscuit/waffle, and they are filled with a mousse like substance flavoured with all different things – chocolate orange, mint being key examples. They’re covered with a dark chocolate. We went for a bailey’s Schokokuss, and if you like Baileys, you will adore these! They’re not too strong (less strong than Baileys chocolates that can be bought in supermarkets nowadays), but have a lovely Baileys twang. So good, and I would love to work out how to make them.
|Schokokuss (image from Google)|
We love our sweets, especially ones I struggle to make. We came to an Italian stall, selling cannoli and amoretti biscuits, and a pastry known as sfogliatelle. No, we can’t pronounce it either, and always get weird looks when we try to… These are layers of super crispy pastry, forming a triangle shell with a sweetened ricotta filling. I’ve tried to make them once, and it was a bad day in the kitchen…the pastry has to be rolled out so thin (like filo), and then after rolling the pastry, they have to be filled and sealed, then baked. Somehow the filling doesn’t leak out! It’s something I am determined to work out how to do, and if anyone has any tips, they’d be greatly appreciated.
|Sfogliatelle (image from Google)|
We wandered the rest of the stalls, and saw some other cool items, one being a cushion with a cute cactus saying how no one would hug it. There was also an amazing stall selling scented coffee beans, which they sold whole or ground! We had a whiff of loads of them, some examples being blueberry muffin, fudge and baileys. Our favourite by far though were the chocolate orange beans – they had such a beautiful aroma of coffee and Terry’s chocolate orange. I bought 100g of the ground beans, and can’t wait to try them!
We ended up in a large square (my Manchester geography is terrible), where there was a huge inflatable Santa on a building. There was also a very impressive assembled two-story beer house, with a reindeer head poking from the second floor. It even sang Christmas songs! In this square we ate lots of freebies including delicious Serrano ham, and other cheeses. The best stall in this section for me was a lovely stall selling all kinds of amber jewelry, which were just so pretty and well priced! From rings to earrings and necklaces, they had so much variety – these would make a gorgeous gift for a loved one!
Our wanderings were over and we returned to Manchester Piccadilly, full of happiness and satisfaction. We travelled to the markets midday on a Friday, and spent about 3 hours walking around. We both took a day off work, as we wanted to be relaxed whilst walking around. If you do go, try to avoid evenings and weekend afternoons, unless you don’t mind being surrounded by people. Nevertheless it will be a great day out, and I highly recommend it to everyone!