Time to choose the squash

I wanted those crispy cauliflower bites again, however in the end it wasn’t to be. It was time for a another visit to Wahaca, this time the branch in Fitzrovia which I have been to before and had a lovely meal.

It was early evening and I hadn’t expected the place to be so busy, but it was basically full. The manager though was wonderfully welcoming and made a real effort to find me a table. This level of customer service was excellent and made me feel welcome. The place was really busy and noisy, but that really added to the atmosphere. As with other branches of Wahaca, this one had its own style and decor. It was quite dark in the restaurant, but I am not sure if that was intentional, or that on the occasions I have visited the place it has been in the evenings!

Since that previous visit the menu had changed, as it does quite often. I had intended to have one of the specials that I missed out on my most recent visit to Wahaca which were the grilled fish tacos. Alas that wasn’t meant to be, as they had changed their specials to the Christmas ones, and I didn’t fancy the turkey dinner taquito! I did think about getting those crispy cauliflower bites again, however in the end I decided I should choose something new.

I was quite hungry, so I did order some nachos and guacamole. 

nachos and guacamole

There was a decent portion of guacamole and the nachos were crunchy and not too salty.

So what of my street food choices? Well I went with three dishes and my first choice was the duck croquetas, these are crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa.

duck croquetas, these are crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa

They were a delight, crispy outside and smooth tender inside. Great flavours and the smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa was delicious and really complemented the croquetas.

On my last visit to this branch I had really enjoyed the butternut squash.

I really enjoyed this dish, was full of flavour and very tasty. I think it could have been improved if the squash had been peeled, but the flesh of the squash did come away from the skin despite this. I really liked the chargrilled aspect of the dish and you could taste that in the squash. This dish is advertised as vegan, and I suspect people might avoid it, but if it comes back onto the menu, go for it, it was delicious.

So when I saw the roasted butternut squash tacos, with a creamy cashew nut and herb mole, citrusy tomatillo salsa and pumpkin seeds, of course I had to choose it.

roasted butternut squash tacos, with a creamy cashew nut and herb mole, citrusy tomatillo salsa and pumpkin seeds

It was a very different dish to what I had before. As you can see it was a couple of tacos filled with chunks of roasted butternut squash. The dish before had been very different.

Chargrilled Crown Prince squash grown by Riverford Organic, served with kale & cashew nut mole

It had consisted of large chunks of chargrilled butternut squash.

However though it wasn’t the same dish, I really enjoyed the new tacos version, it was full of flavour and very tasty.

My third choice was hard, I did consider the mushroom tacos, but in the end I went with something I had ordered before which was buttermilk chicken flour tacos served crispy fried with pink pickled onions & spiced mayo.

buttermilk chicken flour tacos served crispy fried with pink pickled onions & spiced mayo

They were delicious, great textures and flavours.

The table services was excellent, friendly and efficient. Despite how busy the place was, the food arrived in good time. You can tell how popular this place was, as I left there was a huge queue of people waiting for tables. Will I go again, well I will, if I can get in next time.

Time to kiss the hippo!

No I have not been eating hippo…

I was on my way to Coco di Mama in Fitzrovia when I noticed next door another really nice looking cafe, very fresh and smart. Lots of light wood, bright lights and wooden furniture.

Kiss the Hippo

A very bizarre name, Kiss the Hippo Coffee, but I am always willing to try a new place for coffee. I went in and there was a warm and friendly welcome. It was quite early in the day, so wasn’t too busy. I ordered a flat white. I was then able to sit down and the coffee was brought to my table.

I do like it when coffee places do that, so much nice, than standing around waiting for your name to be called in an impersonal manner.

So what about the coffee?

Flat White

Well it was lovely.

Time for Tacos and Cauliflower

I have been a few times now to the Wahaca branch at Soho and have enjoyed my meals there, so with time for lunch, I decided to head there again.

It was just after the lunch time rush, so the place was quiet, but I was given a warm welcome and lead to a table. Each Wahaca I have been to, has a different feel and look and the Soho branch has a unique individual environment. There is a somewhat industrial feel to the place, but it’s warm and friendly, not necessarily cold and inhuman.

I looked over the menu and as it has been some time since I last went to Wahaca, there were some new choices on the street food menu. 
I did think about having my usual grilled steak tacos. Last time I was at the Soho branch they did a new (more expensive) version of the dish with ribeye steak. Back then I said:

The new recipe called The Rib Eye, consists of two larger corn tortillas with chargrilled steak and is served with grilled cheese & fresh guacamole. You do get more steak and it is very tender compared to the skirt steak they use to do, but it is also more expensive, about three pounds more than the old steak tacos price (60% more expensive). It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the tacos, I did, but I felt that the original recipe was really good and this wasn’t much of an improvement and certainly not a 60% improvement. I probably wouldn’t order them again.

The new version is similar to the original version, but you have to have the cheese, unlike the original version where it was an option. However this time I decided that I would have something different and would not go with the steak.

I did think about having the buttermilk chicken tacos again, I have enjoyed them before. However as I was thinking about having the crispy cauliflower bites, I decided that I didn’t want too much crispy stuff, so decided to choose something else. For similar reasons I also decided not to go with the duck croquetas, crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa, which I really liked the sound of. When the waiter came to take my order, he showed me the specials, there were two, the grilled fish tacos looked interesting and tempting.

In the end I went with some beef tacos, grilled chicken tortillas and the crispy cauliflower bites.

The first dish to arrive were some slow-cooked beef tacos with mild spices, with black beans, served in three soft corn grilled tortillas.

slow-cooked beef tacos with mild spices, with black beans, served in three soft corn grilled tortillas

These were excellent, the beef was full of favour, not too spicy. I really enjoyed the addition of the pickled cucumber on top of the tacos. It was a great blend of tastes and textures. They are certainly something I would order again.

The next two dishes arrived at the same time. One of the things you either like about Wahaca or you don’t is that dishes arrived when they are cooked rather than all coming together. This is fine if you are sharing dishes or eating alone, but less great when as a group or a family you have ordered individual dishes.

The first of the pair of dishes was two larger corn tortillas, grilled and filled with grilled chicken and avocado, with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa.

two larger corn tortillas, grilled and filled with grilled chicken and avocado, with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa

These were generously filled and I really enjoyed them. The chicken was sightly over-grilled for my liking, but they were still nice. I liked the avocado and the green tomatillo salsa added some nice spice to the dish.

My final dish was the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

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

These sounded really interesting and they looked great and tasted even better. I was really pleased to have ordered these. The little florets of cauliflower were covered in a light buttermilk batter, deep fried and were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. When I have tried to cook this kind of dish at home, I find that my batter is too thick. This kind of dish and inspired me to try again with a lighter thinner buttermilk batter. The roast serrano allioli was interesting and really worked well with the cauliflower. I think this was my favourite dish of the trio I ordered and would like to have them again.

The service was excellent, warm and friendly welcome, attentive, efficient service. Overall these were three excellent dishes and I really enjoyed them.

Homecooked Thai style stir fry

Thai Stir Fry

This is a recipe I cook quite often, it was inspired by visits to Sais’ Thai in the Oxford Covered Market. Though it has similarities to the dish I had at Sais’ Thai, it’s not quite the same, actually it’s quite different, but I don’t usually use the ingredients they do.

I cook some cubed pork belly in the oven, for about twenty minutes I then remove from the oven and stir fry in a wok with some soy sauce and fish sauce, along with finely chopped garlic and ginger. You could add chilli as well, if you like a bit of heat in your stir fry. I then take a range of vegetables, including but not always limited to: ribbons of carrot, pak choi, red cabbage, courgette, mushrooms (shitake and brown), baby corn, and onions. These are added to the wok. And cooked for a couple of minutes. I then add spinach and basil. I would prefer to use Thai Basil, but I have had trouble either finding it locally or growing it in the garden.

The dish is then served with a sprinkling of cashew nuts. It works well with rice, but I have also served it with noodles as well.

Nice Pizza

To celebrate a birthday we decided to end up at Zizzi in Cabot Circus. The place was busy, and we had to wait about ten minutes for a table. Well to say the place was busy, was a bit of a poor description. There were plenty of free tables, but I think they were short-staffed, so couldn’t serve all the tables, or cook the food. Regardless of the reason, there were empty tables, and we were shown to our (small) table.

The welcome was warm and friendly and it was easy to order our food. Our dietary requirements were taken care of and we pursued the menu.

I went with the Rustica Primavera, which is their stretched pizza with goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes, super green pesto & rocket.

Rustica Primavera, which is their stretched pizza with goat’s cheese, artichokes, spinach, fire-roasted peppers, olives, mozzarella, sunblush tomatoes, super green pesto & rocket

The pizza was cooked well and there was an abundance of toppings, even so I would have liked a but more artichoke. The pesto was nice, and I quite like fresh rocket on my pizza, I feel I am eating something healthier than it actually is.

I really enjoyed my pizza, there is something consistent about the quality of the food and the service at Zizzi, which means I go there a lot, more than other chains. Having said that, looking over the blog, I realise not only am I going to Zizzi a lot, I am also basically eating the same pizza each time I go.

Time for a tasty pizza (again)

It was a nice pizza

Rusty Pizza

I think it’s time for a change, not just from Zizzi, but also from pizza.

That was an unexpected delight

It was a Thursday and I was in Bristol and it was the week that the Temple Quay Market was on in Temple Quay. Sometimes in the winter, inclement weather conditions can mean that the market doesn’t run. On this Thursday though I was lucky, the market was running.

I hadn’t thought much about what I might have, they usually have a really good spread of stalls and food choices. As I walked around I considered what to have, and then in an unexpected twist I nearly bumped into the SheSellsSushi stall. Well that was that I decided I would have something from Lisa’s stall.

I have had quite a few meals from her stall from the Finzel Reach Market on a Friday in Bristol, but as I wasn’t expecting her to be there, it was an unexpected delight that her stall was at Temple Quay. It was a double delight, as the last time I went to her stall at the Finzel Reach Market, it was rather late and she had sold out of virtually everything. This time I was early and there was all those wonderful choices.

I went once more with the Bento Box, and had the delicious Beef Donburi. This 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.

Beef Donburi, 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.

As usual it was delicious and full of flavour. The beef was meltingly tender and the garnishes added to the dish. I always love the care and attention that Lisa pays to each and every dish. This isn’t just thrown togther, this is food artistry made with love and passion. The result is amazing cooking and delicious food.

I once more went again with the tempura chicken hirata bun. The steamed bun is made with activated charcoal and inside I had the tempura chicken, known as the Finzel Flapper, complete with spring onions and Japanese mayo.

he steamed bun is made with activated charcoal and inside is chicken thigh deep fried in a crispy tempura batter and served with a range of sauces and garnishes.

I do like the combination of flavours and textures in the bun. She also does a pork belly hirata bun, which is just as tasty, but I like the textures you get with the tempura chicken.

So though I went with my normal order, of the bento box, I also added a side order of Takoyaki in octopus and duck varieties. These are freshly cooked on the stall and always look really nice.

dumplings with tonkatsu sauce, japanese mayo, toasted seaweed and bonito flakes

They are covered in a range of sauces and garnishes, and I couldn’t tell you what they were, but thankfully Lisa on her website describes them as dumplings with tonkatsu sauce, Japanese mayo, toasted seaweed and bonito flakes.  I did enjoy these and I was quite full, as might be expected.

Now though as the summer weather has gone, I might just try out the ramen next time. Oh and one day must try the sushi.

Tasty coffee in the hustle and bustle

In the midst of shopping decided to stop at Paterisse Valerie in Cribbs Causeway for a quick coffee. Actually we didn’t want a quick coffee, what we wanted to do was take a break from the crowds, sit down and have a coffee. We did consider going to Pret a Mange, but the queue was really long, and at least with Paterisse Valerie we could sit down and chat while we waited and while we waited for the coffee.

We ordered a few drinks, but I went with a flat white, whilst my eldest went with a latte.

For a French sounding place I feel I really should have had a cafe au lait, but the reality was that no such coffee was on the menu.

The flat white was strong and intense with the smoothness of the milk offering a nice contrast.

The place was busy, so service was slower than I might like, but we spent the time chatting, so it wasn’t an issue.

Time for a toastie…

Looking for a reasonably quick lunch, I decided to venture to Cafe Rouge at Cribbs Causeway. Parts of this venue are quite nice, those tables hidden away in the inside, the tables out towards the entrance are less cosy and it feels more like a service station or typical food court than a French bistro.

My phone contract often provides me with special offers, one of which time was with Cafe Rouge where I could have any burger or croque sandwich for just £5.

I did think initially to have a burger, but decided to have a croque toasted sandwich.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat’s cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat's cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I did think the béchamel sauce was overdone. I was expecting a bit more crunch to the bread, but overall there were some nice flavours.

The fries were a little overdone for my liking and a little bit too much salt.

Service was friendly and welcoming. Maybe a little too attentive, for example, I had literally just taken my first bite when I was asked how was my meal!

Overall it was a nice quick lunch, quite tasty, not perfect, but good value for money.

Time for a tasty pizza (again)

When it comes to chains, I really do like eating at Zizzi. Unlike some other chains, I don’t think I have ever had a need to complain. The branch at Cabot Circus is very nice and I have been there quite a few times. Despite the openness of the restaurant it doesn’t feel crammed with tables like a canteen, even when it gets busy.

We had a warm welcome and we could choose where we wanted to sit, which was nice. 

There is quite a varied menu, but in the end I went with the Classic Pinoli Pizza. This has goat’s cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.

Classic Pinoli Pizza. This has goat's cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.

Checking the blog I realised that I had been to this branch of Zizzi in Bristol back in March and had ordered the same pizza then as I had this time.

Back then it was tasty and this time it was equally tasty. Last time I had it on a rustica thin and crispy base, this time I went with the doughy classic base.

The service was quick and efficient, but we weren’t rushed at all.

Gluten-Free Biscuits Recipe

Gluten-Free Biscuits

This is a simple recipe for gluten-free biscuits. You could of course use the same recipe with regular flour.

They are quick to make and quick to bake.

Ingredients

1 standard egg.

Take the same weight of the egg in cold butter.

Twice the same weight of the egg in plain gluten-free flour.

Same weight of the egg of sugar.

Vanilla essence.

Take the flour, and add the cold butter, cut into small cubes. Combine the butter and flour by rubbing the butter into the flour, until there are no lumps and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 

Then stir in the sugar. 

Add the egg and vanillla essence combine until the biscuit dough is smooth.

How you could take spoonfuls onto a banking sheet, but what I do is wrap the dough in cling film and cool in the fridge for a fair few hours. This firms up the dough, so then you can roll it into a 2cm roll of dough and then slice it into 1cm rounds. 

These rounds can the be placed onto a baking sheet or tray.

One tip I have is to crunch up and screw the baking parchment into a ball and then unscrew it. This means it lies flat on the baking tray. The biscuits will spread to about twice their original size, so leave plenty of space around each

Bake in a pre-heated oven, at 180 degrees for about six minutes until the edges are brown.

Place on a cooling rack.

Enjoy.