Back in time for nice pizza

Working from home, literally every day now, means I rarely go our for lunch. When I was working and travelling away from the office I would go out for dinner and lunch. So there I was working in Bristol back in February, and with a colleague we went out for lunch. I wasn’t sure where we could go, but in the end we chose Bella Vista.

This is an independent Italian restaurant and I have been there for pizza, but usually to takeaway. So I would get a pizza and take I back to the office. This time however we decided to sit in and go for their lunch offer, which was a menu of various choices including pizza and pasta, with a free salad buffet. The staff are friendly and attentive.

I went with the Pizza Vegetarian which came with the following toppings of onions, mushroom, peppers, olives and artichoke.

pizza

It came really quickly and I really enjoyed eating this pizza. It was freshly cooked and tasted great. These are delicious homemade pizza, I’ve enjoyed them before when I had them as takeaway, and I enjoyed it this time too.

There was a wide choice of salads along with garlic bread.

Overall a great place for lunch.

Back in January…

So there I was going though some photographs from January when I saw some delicious looking dishes from Wahaca. I realised that I had this great meal and hadn’t written (well I had started but not finished) a blog post about it.

Well, so back in January I was in London for a morning meeting, so I had been up early and was feeling hungry so was looking somewhere for lunch. I know how much I had enjoyed the food at Wahaca I decided it was pretty much a no brainer to go there for lunch, especially as I had a special offer in my email inbox.

The nearest branch to me was the Covent Garden one. Each Wahaca branch has its own style and feel. The Covent Garde branch is downstairs in the basement, but does feel quite bright and open.

There was a lovely warm welcome from the staff and I sat at the table and viewed the menu.

I had a special offer which meant I could get a dish for a pound.

Pack your January with veg and treat yourself with our ultimate range of vegetarian street food dishes. From buttermilk cauliflower bites to our mushroom and grilled cheese tacos there’s plenty of delicious veggie dishes to add to your meal. Just show this email to your waiter to get your dish for £1 

For me that was an easy choice and I went with the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious crunchy florets with a soft melt in the mouth centre, accompanied with a tasty allioli. I really like these and enjoyed these.

I had another dish, the prawn cocktail tostada. 

prawn cocktail tostada

This was sustainably sourced prawns with red chilli mayo, crisp lettuce & avocado on crispy tostada. This was the Wahaca version of the prawn cocktail. It was not as good as I hoped, the prawns lacked flavour, as did the avocado, but it was still fresh and tasty.

My third dish was grilled mushroom & cheese tacos.

grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

These were sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and I really enjoyed that strong flavour of funghi and spicy ancho. I do find that Wahaca often add crispy grilled cheese to dishes, which I don’t always see that it adds anything to that dish.

I was feeling hungry, so I went with another dish and went with the steak and cheese tacos.

steak & cheese tacos

This was chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. Again more grilled cheese. This use to be an optional extra, but now was part of the dish. I’ve had this dish a fair few times, and this was not the best version I’ve had of this dish, but it was still quite tasty.

Overall I enjoyed my four dishes, the mushrooms and cauliflower were certainly the ones I enjoyed the most.

February Funghi Calzone

I never really know if I like a calzone or not. So back in February after a game of bowling we headed off to Bella Italia for a meal. This was pre-lockdown and they had their full menu available.

I looked over the menu and decided that I would try a calzone. I went with the Funghi Calzone.

This was described as a traditional Neapolitan folded pizza filled with chestnut mushrooms, leeks, mozzarella cheese in a mascarpone and porcini sauce.

As with most times I’ve had a calzone, what arrives at the table looks like a large Cornish pasty!

I did quite enjoy the pizza, you could taste the mushroom in the dish and I finished it all. 

Lidl French Week

I do quite enjoy the way that Lidl does themed flavour weeks, and I often visit just to see what they have and get a few things.

This week is French week.

I enjoyed the Rosette Air-Dried Salami, so much so, that I went back a day later to get some more, but my local branch had sold out. It was tasty salami.

The Laiterie de la Montagne Tomme de Montagne was a delicious cheese. Soft and mild flavoured, I really liked it.

I also got some Pommes Noisettes from the freezer, these are tastier than the potato pots we get from Tesco. The last time Lidl did a French week, they did some Pommes Rissolées, however this time these were absent from the promotion.

I got a few other things as well and we have had some nice meals with the different things I bought.

There isn’t a barcode…

So I had popped out to Morrisons to get a couple of cucumbers for a picnic I was planning. However the two I bought from Morrisons were not very nice. They looked weird and didn’t feel right.

I think they had been frozen and then defrosted. As a result we had to put them in the food waste. It was challenging, via the Twitter, to get a refund, as they kept asking for a bar code, which didn’t exist.

I posted my complaint on the Twitter.

Morrisons did respond and asked for some information

Please can you DM me; the barcode of the item, your receipt, your More card number…

Well my response was a photograph of my receipt, my More card number and I said

No barcodes on cucumbers

Their response was

Hello James, I’m sorry to hear this. Please can you provide me with the product barcode so i can look into this for you

I said

They are loose vegetables so there isn’t a barcode on the cucumbers to provide.

As you can see from this photograph there are no barcodes on the cucumbers.

Their response was not to believe me, however I did get a refund.

On this occasion i have processed a refund for you. If this happens again please provide a photo of the product along with the bar code

There still isn’t a bar code though…

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Having thought for many years that risotto was a complex dish to cook I now find it one of my go to recipes when we want something tastier than plain rice to go with a meal. Sometimes we just have the risotto.

One of the key ingredients for this is the rice.

For this recipe I used:

      • 250g of Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice
      • 1 clove of garlic
      • 1 onion 
      • 1 red pepper
      • 1/4 of a butternut squash
      • 4 chestnut mushrooms
      • 20g of butter
      • Dried Italian herbs
      • Splash of olive oil
      • 1 Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
      • 15g of dried porcini mushrooms (rehydrated)
      • 50g parmesan cheese
      • Water
      • Parsley

Dice the onion, pepper and butternut squash.

Cut the chestnut mushrooms into chunks.

Rehydrate the porcini mushrooms by placing in container and covering in boiling water, and set aside to hydrate. I used some from Lidl.

In a large hot frying pan add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has melted and is sizzling, add the garlic, diced onion, pepper and butternut squash.

When these are softened add the chestnut mushrooms.

The add the Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice and stir into the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture, until the rice is coated and well stirred in the pan.

Add the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and water to cover the rice. Stir well.

As the water and stock is absorbed, add more water and continue to stir. 

Cook the rice for 16-18 minutes until the rice is soft tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm.

Stir in the chopped rehydrated porcini mushrooms as well as the parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley.

Season if required.

Serve.

That’s not a recipe…

That’s not a recipe, that’s just a way to construct a dish.

In my cookery book collection I have a 1980s recipe book from Sainsbury’s. There are some interesting recipes in there, but this recipe caught my eye, Prawn and Artichoke Vol-au-Vents.

No, this wasn’t a recipe which inspired me, it was more that I couldn’t quite see how this was a recipe.. This was a way to construct a dish.

Take some processed food and put it all together. Don’t make a sauce from scratch, just use a sauce mix. Throw in some canned vegetables and defrosted frozen prawns. Don’t make pastry, just bake some prepared frozen vol-au-vent cases.

To me if this was a recipe, it should be about making a sauce from ingredients, cook some vegetables over using canned. I’ll let the prawns go on this one. Make come vol-au-vents, rather than use ones from the freezer. The construction process isn’t wrong per se, just that I think it shouldn’t be in a recipe book.

Where’s my spinach?

As I was going through some photographs I realised that this meal I had last September wasn’t on the blog. I was up in Leeds  and staying at the Woodlands Hotel. This was a really nice hotel outside Leeds, so plenty of parking, and it was cheaper than a city centre Premier Inn.

I decided to go out to eat. I planned to go to Morley which had an interesting choice of restaurants, however the road there was closed due to an accident. So in the end I went to the Centre 27 Business Park and as I had a voucher, I went to Bella Italia.

I had a warm welcome and though the place was busy I was shown to a table and I looked over the menu. I ordered the Funghi Arrosto  mushroom starter, which was described in the menu as chestnut mushrooms oven-baked with wilted baby spinach leaves in a mascarpone and porcini sauce. Served with toasted ciabatta. It sounded rather nice. However when it arrived didn’t have any spinach.

Funghi Arrosto

When I complained initially I was told the spinach was mixed into the sauce. Knowing that wasn’t the case, the menu had said wilted baby spinach I had to go to the Bella Italia website and find the picture of the dish with the description.

Funghi Arrosto

I complained again, showed the picture and compared it to what I had received, and this time I was taken seriously. The dish was replaced.

This time it looked more like the menu picture, so much better, though I think the ciabatta could have been toasted more, but I was a little tired of complaining and I was hungry. I really shouldn’t have had to complain twice, I shouldn’t have even needed to complain once!

For my mains I had a mushroom pizza, can you tell I was in the mood for mushrooms. I ordered the Funghi Luganica – A ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

I’ve had this pizza before at Bella Italia and I enjoyed it last time, and I enjoyed it this time as well, though it was a little overdone to my taste. The base is mushroomy (is that a word) and savoury, over the traditional tomato that you find on most pizza. The chunks of mushroom on the pizza were very nice and I really enjoyed them.

I decided not to have a desert.

I did later complain and got a £20 voucher to spend on a future visit to Bella Italia.

That branch of Bella Italia has now permanently closed.

Gluten Free Choc Chip Cookies

Gluten Free Choc Chip Cookies

My son found a recipe online choc chip cookies which we tried, though we replaced the standard flours with gluten free variants. These were nice, but they were a little too crisp and a little too sweet.

He then adjusted the recipe and the result was tasty chewy gluten free choc chip cookies. What I and my son liked about them was that they were very similar in taste and texture to the fresh (non-gluten) cookies you can buy at supermarkets that he use to enjoy before he went gluten free.

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
85g plain chocolate chips
130g plain chocolate chunks or chopped chocolate bar
One teaspoon salt
One teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Two teaspoons of vanilla essence

The adjustments we made to the original recipe was to increase the amount of flour, reduce the amount of sugar and swap the dark brown sugar for light brown sugar.

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. The recipe said to go ensure the milk solids got a nutty brown. I was a little wary in case of burning the butter, so didn’t probably go far enough. Once the butter melted and had turned slightly brown this was removed from the heat and cooled to room temperature.

Cream the liquid butter with the sugar, vanilla essence. The idea is to mix it until it is light and fluffy. The recipe calls for an electric mixer, ours was broken, so we 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 chocolate chips and chunks.

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!

Simple Pasta Salad

pasta salad

Over the summer months we have been eating a lot of salad. To accompany the other salads we have, I sometimes make a simple pasta salad. I cook the pasta and when it is cooked, I drain the pasta, place it back in the pan and fill with cold water, drain and then repeat. The aim is to both cool the pasta down, but also stop it from cooking and getting too soft and sticky.

To the cooked pasta I add various ingredients, what I add depends very much what we have in the fridge. Some I cook, some I add raw.

Our usual favourites include, onions, pepper, courgettes and mushrooms. These are usually cooked in a pan, cooled and then added to the salad. Raw ingredients I have used include cucumber, tomatoes and spring onions.

The mix of pasta and other stuff, I season the salad with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir and serve.

I have been using gluten free pasta, which when fresh is fine, however unlike wheat based pasta doesn’t stay soft if you keep it until the next day, so it’s very much a matter of eat it today.