Time for a Samba Box

I really do enjoy visiting street food markets. It’s something I have missed during the pandemic and lockdown. I have been virtually working from home every day since lockdown in March 2020 and therefore haven’t needed to go out and grab some lunch. I’ve gone out, just not for lunch.

I have visited our offices in Bristol now and then, but have only had a couple of meals from the street food markets, some great paella and a delicious bento box.

With some in-person meetings and really an opportunity for a change in scenery and routine I spent part of the week up in London, the first time I had been working in London since March 2020.

It was a nice if a little grey day, so I headed out for a lunchtime walk and see what there was around.

In the part of London where our office was, it felt quiet and empty, again compared to Bristol which is much busier and more crowded. The streets were deserted and there was very little traffic. I was not surprised to see many of my coffee haunts and places I would go for lunch were either shut or had closed down. However there were still some places operating, but a lot less busy than eighteen months ago.

As I walked around I did wonder if the Leather Lane street food market was up and running and I was pleased to see it was. There wasn’t as many stalls as there has been on previous visits. It also didn’t help that I was having a late lunch, so many of the stalls were either shutting up or had run out of food.

After browsing the stalls I took the decision to have a Brazilian Samba Box. I had to queue, and then it started raining, but I stuck with it and stayed in the queue.

I chose the chargrilled chicken thighs which were served with Rio rice, black beans, coleslaw and lettuce.

It looked great and was very tasty.

The chicken was still tender and moist, I thought it might be a bit dry (as it was a last minute thing) but it wasn’t full of flavour. I liked the salad and the rice was nice as well.

I had mine served with chimichurri which was a nice accompaniment.

I really enjoyed the whole box and it was so nice to have something different, fresh and tasty.

Short supply or high demand?

On a recent shopping visit to Sainsburys I was disappointed with the number of empty shelves and lack of produce.

I was annoyed that quite a bit of gluten free produce wasn’t available.

It must be happening a lot as they had some specially printed shelf fillers.

Sainsburys put down the problem to “high demand”, so it’s the fault of the customer, panic buying and all that.

However the problem isn’t unique to Sainsburys and on Twitter there are photos of empty shelves in Tesco. I have also had issues with buying some gluten free produce at Asda.

Not everyone though thinks it is down to high demand, as seen on this sign in Waitrose that I saw yesterday. No shelf fillers, but a sign indicating that the lack of choice was down to “country-side supply issues”.

We know there are logistics issues down to a lack of HGV drivers, and combine that with Covid-19, Brexit supply issues we are approaching a perfect storm.

When we had the panic buying in March 2020, the retail industry assured us that supply wasn’t a problem and that if we only bought what we needed then they could supply everyone. The challenge we face now is that if there is an increase in panic buying now, the situation will only exacerbate as we have supply and logistics issues. The lack of pasta and toilet paper we experienced back then could become a lack of a much wider range of products.

It’s all quite worrying.

Probably the most authentic paella I have cooked

I cook paella quite a bit, though I have been told what I cook usually isn’t paella, but a rice dish!

This time I wasn’t even trying, however the end result was rather good. I admit I cheated slightly and used a Waitrose Paella Paste jar, but I think I got the cooking right as the taste and texture was reminiscent of the excellent paella I had from Riceminster last week.

It was towards the end of the month, so the fridge needed restocking and there wasn’t too much in the cupboards. I had decided to cook some cod croquettes, salmon and serve it with rice. However we didn’t have any plain (well basmati) rice left, but I did have some paella rice. I also had a har of Waitrose Paella Paste.

I quite like the jar and when I have used it in the past it has worked well, never quite authentic, but still tasty.

As I said there wasn’t too much in the fridge, so in a large frying pan, I cooked some smoked bacon (pancetta) and a chopped red onion. I would usually use some peppers and mushrooms, but there was none in the fridge. I did check to see if I had a tin of beans I could use, but though I had tinned lentils and kidney beans, there was nothing else.

Once the onions were softened, I added the paella rice and stirred the rice around until mixed in with the onions and bacon. I then added the Waitrose Paella Paste and stirred that in.

I then added chicken stock, made using a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot, covering all the rice. I then stirred and then left alone. Well not quite, as I added some frozen peas about 10 minutes later.

I once got “told off” for stirring my paella, so now I just as advised leave it to cook.

I think what I did this time however, was not to add further stock and just let the paella cook turning down the heat slightly as the stock reduced. I did think I should add more stock, but left it alone.

I served it up and I did like how it came out. I had mine with cod croquettes and salad.

paella

As for the taste and texture it was very similar to the paella I had from the Temple Quay market from Riceminster and those I have had in Spain. I think this was one of the best paella dishes I have cooked, certainly one of the most authentic tasting.

Gluten Free Red Onion Rings

Gluten Free Red Onion Rings

Having made some crunchy breaded chicken wings I had some of the seasoned flour and egg left. Not wanting to waste it and having enjoyed the onion rings I had cooked before, decided to mix it together with some milk and coat some onion rings and fry them.

As this was using leftovers, I didn’t measure anything out and so after mixing the egg and flour together I added some milk until the batter coated the back of the spoon.

I took a red onion and sliced it thickly across and then separated out the individual rings of onion. I kept the rest of the onion, diced for another dish. 

I used a smaller frying pan and shallow fried the onion rings in hot oil a minute or so on each side until the batter was cooked and a golden brown.

The end result was beautifully crisp onion rings, the batter had an excellent crunch, they had a succulent taste of onion on the inside. Unlike some I have had these weren’t greasy either, which I often think is a result of cooking rings twice.

These were delicious, the red onion providing a different flavour to the brown onion I used last time and a lovely light crisp batter.

As I had a little bit of batter left I did some green pepper strips as well.

Gluten Free Crunchy Breaded Chicken Wings

Gluten Free Crunchy Breaded Chicken Wings

It was time to prepare dinner and I was thinking about what to cook and how to cook it. I had decided to cook some chicken wings, and my usual recipe is to either make a sauce or use a ready made cooking sauce and bake them in the oven. I decided I would do the chicken wings two ways. One would be coated in miso sauce and for the others I would do as crunchy wings.

I usually cut off the nib of the wing and then cut them into two pieces, to make them easier to eat.

The wings were then coated in seasoned flour. I used gluten free self-raising flour (as we were short on plain four), some chicken seasoning, paprika and chilli.

I then set up a bowl of beaten egg and one of gluten free seasoned breadcrumbs.

Keeping one had wet and the other dry, the floured chicken is coated in the egg and then coated in the breadcrumbs.

These are placed on a lined baking tray (I use baking parchment for these). The chicken wings are done one by one and are then baked in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the coating is browned and the chicken is cooked. Mine took a little longer than planned as I had more in the oven.

They were lovely and crunchy on the outside and the chicken was moist and tender on the inside. Lots of flavour in the coating as well.

Time for some paella

There are some street food stalls which serve amazing food and I see them on a regular basis, but for whatever reason when I am decided and choosing what to eat, they don’t get picked and I go to another stall. I think to myself I will go there when I come back to this street food market. Riceminster who sell traditional Valencian Paella alas fall into this trap.

Today I was at the Bristol Temple Quay street food market and it was rather busy, busier than it was last week.

Bristol Temple Quay Market

There was a range of stalls, some familiar faces from last week, but plenty of others who were there this week and not last time. I was pleased to see it was busy, as that means there is a good chance that it will keep going and not be disappear. I was also slightly concerned as I was in a bit of a rush and most stalls had long queues.

Having seen the Facebook post about the market I had initially thought that I would hit High Steaks: Delicious Argentine inspired steak sandwiches using the best locally sourced beef, topped off with their signature chimichurri. 

Having seen both the ordering queue and the collection queue, I thought, I might not have time and I would have to rush my food. Looking elsewhere I saw that the queue for Ah Ma’s Dumplings was quite short (but there is still a cooking process for pan frying the dumplings). The queue for Riceminster was short as well, and I thought I did enjoy their paella and have been meaning to try their food again, so joined the queue.

Riceminster stall

It moved quickly and there was a choice of a chicken paella or a vegan paella. The only real difference was that the chicken one had chicken in and cost an extra pound, and the vegan one had mushrooms and vegetables.

I ordered the vegan version, I was given the chance to add garlic aioli for another pound, I said no, then lemon and chilli, I opted for just the lemon juice.

Taking it back to the office and eating at my desk I really enjoyed the paella. It was excellent, authentic and very tasty. Maybe a little salty for my tastes, but still really nice.

I thought I had been to Riceminster relatively recently, however back home, checking back through the blog (they weren’t on here) though there is a solitary Instagram photo of some delicious paella  from April 2017.

Had it really been four years since I had ordered food from them? It must have been as I do usually photograph my food. I can’t recall if I had had their paella between then and now, I may have done.

I did enjoy my paella today, so next time when I am looking for something to eat and try to remember get the paella, it’s tasty!

We went out to eat

Our initial idea was to go to the cinema, though there was nothing at the cinema we could watch, so made the decision we would go out to eat at Bella Italia at the Mall. Virtually all the major chains in Weston have closed now, so wanting to ensure that the menu had gluten free options, we decided to head to the Mall. 

Well as we hit the M5 northbound it was chocked full and slow moving, we thought we made a mistake. But eventually it thinned out and we could go faster. We got to Bella Italia just in time.

We had a lovely warm welcome from the staff and they showed us to our table.

We had a good look over the menu. It looked like there was a lot more on there than when I last looked (which was probably last summer).

Though I like starters I usually don’t have a starter, but as others in the family were going for garlic bread, I looked over the possible choices. The calamari would have been an obvious choice for me. So I decided on the Calzonetti ‘Nduj, as I was thinking about pasta for my main course. However a last minute change of thought resulted in me actually ordering the Arancini al Granchio

There are crispy rice balls filled with crab, prawns and fennel with a side of lemon & cracked pepper mayonnaise.

They were very nice, not outstanding, but they were nice. You could taste the crab and the mayonnaise with the crunchy exterior.

For my main course I went with a pasta dish, Salsiccia Mezzaluna.

Fresh mezzaluna pasta filled with Luganica sausage & radiccio, cooked in a sage butter and finished with toasted hazelnuts and a beef dripping pangrattato crumb. 

This just sounded divine and to be honest it was totally delicious. The pasta was al dente, the filling had a nice flavour, I think it could have been stronger, but I loved the sage butter and the toasted hazelnuts and pangrattato crumb added real silkiness and crunch to the dish.

I loved it.

I wasn’t full, so went for a dessert, the raspberry and pistachio semifreddo with white chocolate and marshmallow sauce.

This was nice, but I felt it could do with more pistachio and more sauce. Having said that I really enjoyed it.

As for the rest of the family, my better half went with the  Funghi Crema made with chestnut mushrooms in a porcini, mascarpone & pecorino cheese sauce with fresh mafalde pasta ribbons.

She really enjoyed the dish and it looked great.

My youngest had a gluten free Marghaerita, whilst my son had the gluten free Pepperoni with tomato, mozzarella, salami piccante, red onion, garlic and rocket.

They both enjoyed their pizza.

My son also had the warm gluten free chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks served with vegan vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of honeycomb.

He finished off the plate of food

This was probably one of the best meals I have ever had at Bella Italia, really enjoyed the experience, the food and the service.

Gluten Free White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten Free White Chocolate Chip Cookies

The process I used is pretty much the same as the process I have used on other cookies I have made.

Ingredients

225g of unsalted butter
125g gluten free bread flour
125g gluten free plain flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
100g caster sugar
120g light brown sugar
1 pack white chocolate chips
One teaspoon salt
One teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Two teaspoons of vanilla essence

Melt the butter in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. The aim is to boil off some of the water off the butter. Once the butter melted and had turned slightly brown this was removed from the heat and cooled to room temperature. I find it is better if it is room temperature, too warm and the cookies are not as good.

Cream the liquid butter with the sugar, vanilla essence. The idea is to mix it until it is light and fluffy. Use an electric mixer if you have one, ours was broken, so I did it by hand, which was hard work. Beat in the eggs until they are incorporated into the mixture.

Combine the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda.

Stir in the dry ingredients a third of it at a time until it is incorporated.

Using a wooden spoon fold in the raspberry and white chocolate.

Chill.

Place six small balls, about 2-3cm across, of dough on a baking tray and bake for 6-9 minutes.

This quantity of ingredients will make about eighteen cookies.

After cooking leave on the tray and then after three minutes move to a rack to cool further.

Eat!

Time to go back and visit Wagamama

The last place we went out to eat before the lockdown in March 2020 was Wagamama at Cribbs Causeway.

We had thought that places might close or be restricted, so took a final opportunity to go out and eat.

Though we have eaten out since that visit, wanting to go out and eat for Father’s Day my children decided that we would go to Wagamama. The fact that we couldn’t book a table didn’t seem to deter them…

We drove up to the Mall, and like on our recent visit a few days earlier the M5 was rather busy.

However we did mange to get their okay. We had decided to eat at 2pm, so we could miss the lunchtime rush. Despite that when we got into the Mall there was quite a long queue for Wagamama. Though I prefer not to queue, this time I knew there were very few alternatives around and my children had their heart set on going there, so we decided to wait. The queue actually moved quite fast and we took the time while we were waiting to peruse the menu.

I was really torn about what I was going to have. I did think about having the cod mokutan soba which I had back in 2019 and despite the initial dish being burnt the returned dish was much better. Interestingly back then I said

It was the kind of dish I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t have it again on another visit.

I did quite like the idea of having it again this time, shows what do I know about what I like!

Another dish which caught my eye was the grilled duck donburi. 

tender, shredded duck in a spicy teriyaki sauce. mixed with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky white rice and topped with a crispy fried egg, cucumber and spring onions. served with a side of kimchee

Or the teriyaki sirloin steak soba.

grilled sirloin steak with soba noodles cooked in curry oil with mangetout, bok choi, red and spring onions, chilli and beansprouts in a teriyaki sauce. garnished with coriander and sesame seeds

In the end after much consideration and flip flopping I went with the  shirodashi ramen

slow-cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg

The rest of the family went with their choices, yaki soba, chicken raisukaree, gluten free chicken ramen and chicken and rice noodles.

As is typical at Wagamama for me, everyone else’s dish arrived well before mine, and I was waiting for while for my food. The others trying to be polite wanted to wait, but I didn’t want their food to go cold. Anyhow I can eat quite fast, so was okay with them eating.

This serving as food as soon as it is ready, does mean that you get your food fresh, reality is that unless you don’t mind eating your dish whilst others have none, it strikes me more as lazy planning than “serving food as soon as it’s ready”.

Finally my food arrived and though not quite as good as the pictures on the website it did look nice.

shirodashi ramen  slow-cooked, seasoned pork belly on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso, topped with pea shoots, menma, spring onions, wakame and half a tea-stained egg

I had anticipated the slow cooked pork belly to be tender and soft, but actually was crispy, which I wasn’t expecting.

I did enjoy the ramen and it was very tasty and delicious.

I did think about having a beer with my ramen, but in the end went with a  jasmine flowering tea – flowering lily and jasmine green tea.

asmine flowering tea - flowering lily and jasmine green tea

It looked great and tasted nice, it reminded me of the flowering tea I had at Tea Monkey in Bath back in 2012.

I wasn’t going to have desert, but was persuaded to by everyone at the table, and it was Father’s Day. Though I did think about cheesecake, I went with the smoked chocolate caramel cake.

For some reason I wasn’t expecting to get a slice of cake! But I did, the cake was layers of smoked chocolate mousse, salted caramel crushed biscuits, chocolate fudge brownie and chocolate ganache, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

smoked chocolate caramel cake

Not as rich as it sounds and the ice cream added freshness and balance.

Overall we all enjoyed the meal, and the service was excellent.

Nice to be back.

Time for that delicious bento box

On Thursday this week I went to the office in Bristol, which was quiet, but the change of scenery and routine was very welcome. It was a nice warm day, but rather overcast. At lunchtime I thought I would venture over to the Temple Quay market and see what was there. I was thinking I might be in the mood for some chicken wings from Gurt Wings, but decided I would have a look around first. I got there quite early and was slightly saddened to see that fewer stalls than there was pre-covid, but pleased however to see the street food market still running. There was quite a range.

Niang’s Thai Snacks:  Authentic Thai street food using organic, free range and locally sourced ingredients.  Dishes include vegan yellow curry, penang pork, crispy marinated chicken and fried spicy noodles.

Alp Mac: Mac & cheese with an array of exciting ingredients such as truffled mushrooms, red wine and blue cheese salami, slow roasted tomatoes and confit chicken. Served with their signature 4 cheese blend sauce and trimmings.

She Sells Sushi: Serving up a new menu that has been going down a treat – outstanding Japanese dishes including chicken Katsu curry, beef Donburi, pumpkin Korokke and smoked tofu curry. Plus kimchi fries, Teriyaki and sushi.

Gurt Wings:  Buttermilk soaked chicken wings and strips, coated in herbs and spices and served with potter tots on the side and dips and sauces including Oh Gurty Carolina, garlic & lime mayo, sweet BBQ and fruit burst habanero.

Gopal’s Curry Shack: Vibrant and creative Indian street food, with contemporary twists on classic dishes made with seasonal local produce.  

Los Hermanos Combinados:  Inventive street food with big Spanish flavours including sugar cured pork belly, slow cooked chicken and chargrilled aubergine.

Woodchop Pizza:  Traditional Neapolitan style pizza made with quality Italian and local ingredients and a sourdough base, cooked in a wood fired oven. 

The Kitchen Chef:  Delicious handmade patisserie and cakes, with chocolate brownies, seasonal fruit tarts, legendary key lime pie, macarons… and so much more!

Such a choice and many of my favourites. I did like the Alp Mac van and their menu looked interesting.

I did think about Gurt Wings but after looking around I realised that the last time I had eaten She Sells Sushi was probably November 2019. I had been missing their bento boxes, so in many ways it was a no brainer, so I went with my favourite bento box with Beef Donburi and an Hirata Bao Bun. The menu had changed, and the choice for the Bao were Pumpkin Korokke or Chicken Katsu.

The Beef Donburi is succulent short rib slow cooked in a teriyaki style marinade of soy, fresh ginger and garlic. It was served on a bed of rice  with beni shoga, mayu and spring onion.

It was as I remembered, delicious and full of flavour. The beef was meltingly tender and the garnishes added to the dish. I’ve always loved the care and attention that Lisa pays to each and every dish. This isn’t just thrown together to order, this is food artistry made with love and passion. The result is amazing cooking and excellent food. I really enjoyed eating the dish and did think about going back for seconds.

I’ve always enjoyed the Hirata Bao Buns from She Sells Sushi, and was interested to see what the Chicken Katsu version was going to be like compared to the Finzel Flapper and pork belly versions I have had in the past. I did wonder if the chicken was going to be covered in panko breadcrumbs, but it was done in a tempura batter. The steamed bun is made with activated charcoal. It was served with some shredded cabbage.

Though very tasty and really enjoyable I did think the batter on the chicken was slightly soft and lacked the crispness of the Finzel Flappers I have had in the past. I did like it though.

The bento box from She Sells Sushi is one of my favourite street food dishes and I have really missed not just street food in general  over lockdown but this dish in particular.