Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2020

This year I have written 120 blog posts, last year I did 58 blog posts and the year before just 36.

With the lockdown I went out to eat a lot less than I have in previous years, however not going out, meant I had a little more time to play catch up finishing off reviews of meals I had eaten in 2019.

So at number ten was a blog post on the Rum Aero.

Rum Aero anyone?

Looking over old sweet wrappers (online and for a charity quiz as it happens) I realised how much I missed out in the 1970s and 1980s on various flavours of Aero.

In ninth place, having been top for both 2018 and 2017, dropped down a place in 2019, now dropping seven places was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google. was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was my version of the classic Beef Wellington.

The eighth most popular post was from August 2020, about the closure of Frankie and Benny’s in Weston-super-Mare.

Well after blogging about the closure of Pizza Express in Weston-super-Mare, it is now rumoured, but not confirmed, that the branch of Frankie and Benny’s in Weston-super-Mare will not be reopening after closed for lockdown.

Seventh most popular blog post was Truffled Cauliflower Cheese from Marks and Spencers which was a review of some very nice cauliflower. It’s described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with a  cheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb.

My top post from 2019 dropped five places to sixth, Chilli Squid from Wagamama was a post reviewing some squid I had in Leeds back in 2011. This looked fantastic, was beautifully cooked and tasted delicious. I really liked the squid and the dipping sauce added to the dish without overpowering it.

Ten years ago I tried some pasta from Sainsbury’s, Basil & pine nut margherite. Was the fifth most popular blog post dropping two places since 2019.

Climbing two places into fourth place, was Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions which was written back in 2009. I had cooked and enjoyed Marks and Spencers’ Pork Medallions with a cider and shallot sauce.

Lidl Coffee Ice Cream

In third place was Lidl Coffee Ice Cream which was a short review of the coffee flavoured tub of ice cream. They are not huge tubs, but what you get is a tasty creamy coffee ice cream, with a little chocolate in there as well.

The second most popular blog post was from February 2020 and was a recipe for a Gluten Free Chocolate Loaf Cake. This is a tasty rich chocolate loaf cake.

So the most popular blog post on Time for a Coffee in 2020 was Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes which was posted in June 2020 about some fish croquettes I had picked up from Lidl.

Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes

I really quite enjoyed them.

Quite refreshing to see posts from 2020 being half the top posts in 2020.

Christmas Gravy

Over the last few years I have taken a different approach to making gravy with our Christmas lunch.

In the past I would utilise the cooking pan that the roast meal had come in to make the gravy. It would have to compete for hob space with the vegetables and pan frying the brussel sprouts. It would all then be a bit of a stress to ensure everything was cooked and the gravy arrived on time.

I have started now to make the gravy first! This does mean I can’t use the roasting pan, so I create my own roasting pan.. I use a roasting pan, into which I add some chopped root vegetables. These are usually carrots, onions, parsnips, leeks, as well as some mushrooms. I also add some chicken, either wings or drumsticks. I add some olive oil and garlic to the pan. I then roast this in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, the idea is that the chicken is cooked and there are juices in the roasting pan.

Having taken the roasting pan out fo the oven I place it on the hob, if required I add some extra fat, usually butter and let this melt before adding a couple of spoonfuls of flour. This is then whisked into the melted butter and cooking juices to form a roux. I then add some port (or red wine) and chicken stock and let the gravy cook for a while. Strain and place in a saucepan. This can now be heated up later when you’re about to serve, you could even use the microwave if you are short of hob space.  I do find it easier to heat up the gravy than make it from scratch as I am about to serve hence making it first.

Missing some Heroes

Over on the Twitter there was an image shared of an old Wilkinson’s Christmas Catalogue.

What caught my eye was the carton of Heroes.

We have seen the return of the Crunchie, but alas no Picnie, Time Out or Fuse (remember them).

Of course if you go to Wikipedia you can find out what is currently included and what has disappeared over the years.

  • Fudge
  • Dairy Milk Caramel
  • Dairy Milk
  • Wispa (Added in 2015)
  • Twirl
  • Creme Egg Twisted (Added in 2009)
  • Eclair (Added in 2008)
  • Double Decker (Known as “Dinky Decker”, added in 2019)
  • Crunchie (Originally as Crunchie Bite. removed in 2008 but re-added in 2019 as Crunchie Bits)

Missing or removed includes

  • Bournville (Added in 2008, removed in 2013)
  • Dairy Milk Whole Nut (Dairy Milk with added hazelnut in the centre. Added in 2002, removed in 2008)
  • Dream (Removed in 2008)
  • Fuse (Removed in mid-2000’s)
  • Picnic (Removed in 2007)
  • Time Out (Removed in 2007)
  • Toblerone (Added for Christmas 2013, 2014 and 2015)
  • Nuts About Caramel (Cadbury’s Caramel with added hazelnut in the centre. Removed in Mid-2000’s)

I did quite enjoy when they included Toblerone.

May contain milk

If it may contain milk then it isn’t vegan. Just saying.

Saw this Galaxy vegan chocolate bar in the Free From aisle at Morrisons, where I was getting some gluten free stuff.

I did think that the only real ingredient in chocolate bars which isn’t vegan is the milk.

I can appreciate that it may not be possible to set up a separate factory, but seems a lost opportunity as I suspect many vegans will not bother with these as they don’t want to take the risk of accidentally eating a milk based product.

 

So on this day two years ago….

On this day two years ago I was in London for various meetings. Over lunch I went for a walk around Covent Garden and enjoyed looking at the Christmas decorations. Since 2015 when  I started working at my current organisation I would go to London quite frequently and in December it is really nice to see the different ways in which they decorate Covent Garden and other places around London.

Covent Garden

Of course since the Covid-19 lockdown I’ve not been to work or meetings in London since March.

However back to 2018, so I headed towards Kimchee on the Strand to get some lunch. Since my previous visit a few months earlier they have changed dramatically how they sell and serve food. Before you would pick things up from the hot and cold units and then either (as I usually did) take it back to the office or there were tables you could eat at. However now there was a big kitchen area, you would place your order, get a buzzer thingy and wait until the food was cooked to order. I quite like getting freshly cooked food, so was happy to wait.

I ordered the Deopbap Chicken Bulgogi and the Pa Jeon. I then had to wait for my order. Deopbap Chicken Bulgogi was Korean BBQ Chicken in a rice bowl.

The grilled chicken marinated in a blend of ginger, dark soy and garlic, was coated in a sauce and served on a bed of rice and salad. It was quite tasty, but not really barbecued chicken. It was just okay and nothing special and at nearly nine pounds I thought it was overpriced and wasn’t value for money.

I really liked the sound of the Seafood Pa Jeon, a Korean savoury pancake. Pajeon is a variety of jeon with scallion as its prominent ingredient, as pa means scallion. It is a Korean dish made from a batter of eggs, wheat flour, rice flour, scallions, and often other ingredients depending on the variety.

However the end result was a greasy stodgy undercooked pancake with no real flavour. I couldn’t actually finish it. I certainly won’t be going again.

On a later visit to London in 2019 I found that the branch of Kimchee had closed down. I wasn’t too surprised as the essence of what they had which worked was lost, as well as the downturn in the quality of the food as well as more expensive dishes. It also took longer to get served and I am sure that had an impact on those wanting to pick something up quickly and head back to their workplace.

Quick lunch in Cardiff

Last November I was attending some meetings in Cardiff, after they were over I was walking back to the car park to get my car and drive home. I realised I was hungry and decided to get something to eat.

Cardiff has quite a bit of choice of places to eat, but I didn’t really have the time to look round find somewhere so in the end I chose Barburrito.

I’ve had Barburrito tacos before at Paddington and Bristol Airport, so it was something I knew I liked.

I had three Barburrito tacos with pork and chicken. You also get a handful of tortilla chips and salsa. I like how you have some choice over which salads and extras you get with your tacos.

Though I always think with Barburrito that the meat is generally overcooked, however I did enjoy my tacos and the salad and toppings tasted very fresh.

Winter Salad

Though usually salad is synonymous with summer, every now and then I quite like a salad even when it is cold and frosty outside.

I recently made a winter salad which consisted of mixed leaves, to which I added sliced heritage tomatoes, chunks of cucumber, slices of sweet pepper, spring onions, sweetcorn, roasted butternut squash, thin green beans and some cashew nuts.

I added my homemade French dressing. 

Delicious.

French Excellence in Edinburgh

Last November I was off to Scotland, staying overnight in Edinburgh, for some meetings and events. I took an afternoon flight from Bristol. I took the tram to the heart of Edinburgh and then walked over to the hotel the Radisson Blu. The room was nice and modern. After dropping off my stuff I went for a walk around Edinburgh.

I realised as I walked around Edinburgh having checked into my hotel, that I have been to Edinburgh many times over the last twenty years for work, but have never actually visited the place in a personal non-work capacity. I go to London a lot for work, but also go there with family to visit and explore. So I am thinking about possibly visiting Edinburgh in the future to explore and have a proper look around.

It was getting dark even though it was only 4pm, well it was November. I walked around the old town before heading up to the castle.

It was way too late to visit the castle proper so I just took in the evening views across Edinburgh.

There was a couple of shops I wanted to have a look at before I went back to the hotel so walked further into the heart of Edinburgh with the intention of walking around Princes Street and back to the hotel. On my way I passed what looked like a really nice French place, Petit Paris on Grassmarket. The menu looking really interesting and inspiring. They had a pre-theatre deal that looked good value. It was not as though I was going to go to the theatre, but  could take advantage of the deal.

As it was afternoon, I continued to explore Edinburgh, however as I walked around the weather got worse, so I stopped at a Caffe Nero for coffee and catch up with work stuff. I went back to the hotel more directly to get changed and then I headed out to get something to eat.

I went out to Petit Paris for dinner. The place was quite busy and I was given a nice welcome, before being taken down into the basement where there was a free table.

I looked over the menu and there was so many tempting dishes on there. I had to make a choice though, so for my starter I went with the garlic mussels.

This dish reminded me of snails in garlic butter, but this dish was done with mussels. It had just come out of the oven was really hot, so I was careful not to scald my mouth when eating it. Very strong garlic flavours, slightly overpowering the mussels, but still a nice start to the meal.

There was a lot of choice for the main course, in the end I went with something that I probably wouldn’t have ordered, but did so as I wanted to try a new kind of dish. I went with fish in a cream sauce with mashed potatoes.

It was delicious and very nice. The potato was smooth and creamy, the sauce was tasty and not too rich and the fish was cooked really well.

I didn’t want a sweet end to the meal and I like cheese so I went with some cheese.

There was a nice choice of cheeses.

Overall this was one of the best meals out I have had for a long time, the food was delicious.

If I get a chance to get to Edinburgh again I think I will try and visit Petit Paris again for a meal.

It’s the most delightful time of the year…

The first post on this blog was the 26th June 2007, however that didn’t mean that’s when I started drinking coffee and eating food.  However it does mean that I didn’t really record some great meals and food.

On this day fourteen years ago, back in 2006, I went to London for a meeting and had one of the most delightful tasty meals that I can remember.

The meeting was at The Jolly’s Hotel close to St James’ Park. The hotel was all dressed for Christmas so was full of decorations and Christmas Trees.

It was a good meeting as I recall, but then it was time for a break. We had lunch in the hotel and we went down to the dining room. In front of me was this amazing display of Italian antipasto, salami, olives, anchovies and a range of salads. I thought what a wonderful delicious looking buffet. However I was little concerned about the amount of salt in the food so I asked one of the waiting staff if there were some more non-salty choices as I didn’t want to have too much salty food. He then pointed me over to the other side of the dining room where there was a carvery counter. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It was probably the best carvery I have ever had. They had a huge choice of meats, I went with some beef and new for me some veal. Adding all the trimmings, I sat down, it was absolutely delicious. The roast meats were tender and full of flavour. The trimmings were exciting and tasty.

After that it was back to the meeting and alas work.

It was one of those meals that I wish I could have again. I always meant to return to eat there again, however I never had a meeting in the hotel again, and never had a chance to go there to eat. Now fourteen years later I seriously doubt that even if I did go there it would be a similar wonderful experience.

Not enough time

One of the nice things about Aldi is also one of the annoying things about Aldi.

Each week they have new stuff, alas they only get limited stock in for that week and once it is sold they don’t get any more stock in.

This means that you can find something you really like, but you generally won’t be able to buy it again.

I recently managed to make some tasty raspberry and white chocolate cookies using a pack of raspberry and white chocolate from Aldi. This was one of their one week stock, as a result I am not able to replace the pack I finished.

A couple of weeks ago they had venison steaks for sale, I bought a pack and cooked them for dinner and they were some of the best venison steaks I have ever had. I cooked them in a frying pan in butter with garlic and herbs.

venison steak

The end result was tasty, delicious and really tender meat.  To go with it I made a sauce with pancetta, mushrooms and port. I really enjoyed and cooking the venison steaks.

However I wasn’t surprised when I went back to Aldi they no longer had any and weren’t selling it any more.

This week though they were selling venison fillet. I bought a pack and cooked it in a similar way. It was very nice, but was not as good as the steaks.

Next week, well there could be anything there…