Great donburi, disappointing hirata bun

For me it was a bit of a no brainer when I visited the Finzels Reach Market and I saw SheSellsSushi had their stall. As I joined the quite lengthy queue, I looked at the menu. They had a Japanese panko chicken curry, their beef donburi, hirata buns, sushi and Takoyaki.

I did think about the curry, but decided I would go with my usual favourite, the Bento box with the beef donburi and a hirata bun. 

There was a bit of a queue, but in the end I got served my box of beef and a bao bun. 

The hirata bun contained a piece of panko crumbed Katsu chicken breast in a charcoal bao bun served with house salad and sriracha mayo. 

I have to say I was a little disappointed. I found the chicken rather dry and lacking flavour. Compared to the tempura chicken hirata bun, the Finzel Flapper I’ve had in the past, this new version of the hirata bun was nowhere near as nice. I think if I order again I will go for the Takoyaki instead. It has also put me off trying the Japanese curry as it looked like that dish was based on the same panko chicken katsu. Having said all that it was so much better than the bao bun from Ah-Ma’s.

 The beef teriyaki domburi was delicious as always.

Tasty tender beef rib on a bed of sushi rice and served with pickle and spring onions.

Sunday Roast

I was staying over at the Drayton Court Hotel in West Ealing. Having arrived Sunday evening, I went to the bar to get something to eat. Sunday at the Drayton Court Hotel in West Ealing means that it is Sunday roast day.

I went with the dry-aged sirloin of Owton’s beef. On the plate was two slices of roast beef, roasted parsnip and carrot, roast potatoes, pan fried greens, cauliflower cheese, a huge Yorkshire pudding and served with red wine gravy.

This was probably one the best carvery meals I have ever had from a pub.

The dry-aged sirloin beef was excellent, it was full of flavour and really tender, melt in the mouth tender. I really enjoyed the vegetables too.

I think if I was going to make one criticism, was the temperature was inconsistent across the food, I think part of the issue was dishing up on a cold plate. However the food was delicious and the service was excellent.

Chilli con carne

tomatoes and chilli
Image by Kai Reschke from Pixabay

This is not an authentic recipe for chilli con carne, but a dish I cook that has lots of flavour, is spicy, contains, beef, tomatoes, beans and chilli.

This dish serves 4-5

500g steak mince the 5% fat kind. You can use cheaper mince, but I find I often need to drain the excess fat after cooking off the mince.

Tin of tomatoes. We did for a while use cheap tins of tomatoes, but found that they lacked flavour so generally now use a quality brand. I use a blender to break down the tomatoes into a passata style base. If I had a carton or bottle of passata in the cupboard I may just use that instead of the tin.

Tin of kidney beans. For this dish I find the budget range fine.

Tomato puree. Like the tin of tomatoes, I have found budget brands of tomato puree okay for some dishes, but this I want that real hit of tomato, so got for a better quality version.

Two onions, diced. Sometimes I use brown onions, other times I use red onions, depends what’s in the fridge.

Red pepper, diced.

One carrot, diced. This is about “hiding” some more veg in the chilli, as well as adding texture and a little sweetness.

Cajun spicing (optional)

Chilli powder

Garlic powder, though you could use fresh.

A beef stock cube

A splash of Balsamic vinegar.

To cook the chilli I do the following steps.

Heat a large pot (or pan) and then add a little sunflower oil.

Cook off the mince in the pan, ensuring that it is evenly cooked through. If you have used a mince with 10% or higher fat content then drain off the excess fat.

Add the onions, pepper and carrot and stir into the mince.

Cook for five minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the Cajun spicing, chilli powder and garlic powder, stir into the mince. I generally use half a teaspoon of each. If you like your chilli spicier then add more Cajun spicing, if you like it hotter than add more chilli.

I might try using fresh chilli in a future version, this I would chop (and deseed) and add with the onions and pepper.

Cook for another minute.

Stir in the tomatoes and tomato puree. Sprinkle in the beef stock cube and the splash of Balsamic vinegar.

Stir, put on a lid and cook on a low heat for thirty minutes.

Add the tin of kidney beans and cook for five more minutes.

Serve.

I serve it either with rice or tortilla chips. Sometimes I use the chilli to fill soft (gluten free) corn tortillas, which I cover with cheese and then bake in the oven.

What we had for Christmas Lunch

I like to record what we had for Christmas lunch, so next time I can improve on what we had.

This time we ordered from M&S and had three roasts.

For the third year running we had a Three-Bird Roast.This year was turkey, stuffed with chicken, duck and (gluten free) pork, orange and panettone stuffing).

This was rather good, not enough duck, but still very good. I felt I cooked it well and leaving it to rest meant it was easy to carve and the slices stayed together.

I also cooked a Dry-Aged Rib of Beef. This I sealed in a hot frying pan before moving to the oven. After cooking I let it rest and carved. The beef was beautifully tender, though not as much flavour as I thought it was going to have.

The final of our trio of roasts was the Stuffed Pair of Partridges. These were smaller than I thought they would be, almost quail sized. I think I overcooked these, so they were a little dry.

We had a range of stuffing and trimmings. Though I forgot to cook the Yorkshire Puddings.

Overall I was pleased with the meal (I was catering for ten) though I was disappointed with my roast potatoes. I think I didn’t par-boil them for long enough, and the oven was a little too crowded as well. Something to think about for next year.

We now have a tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We’ve done this for ten years now. We do this for a few reasons. On Christmas Day itself, the children are often too excited to sit down for a long meal, so don’t eat or enjoy the meal or the occasion. It also usually means I spend a fair few hours in the kitchen, which means I miss them opening and playing with their presents. I also find it quite demanding to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, whilst creating a wonderful dining experience.

Having the meal on Christmas Eve means that we can both spend a bit more time preparing the meal (less stressful in itself) and enjoy eating the meal (as do the children). As a result for them it helps pass the time on one of the more exciting days of the year as they anticipate the arrival of a sleigh full of presents being pulled by eight tiny reindeer!

As to what we eat on Christmas day itself, well we have lots of lovely leftovers, cheeses, pickles, hot bread, etc…. quick and easy to prepare and delicious.

Japanese BBQ Beef

Back in July I was working in London and out for lunch, I headed off to the Leather Lane street food market, where there are plenty  of choices of places to eat.

On Leather Lane is Mugen, a Japanese restaurant.

Contemporary Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar and traditional minimalist decor.

During the market they put up a food stall outside their restaurant and they had a good looking menu.

I went with the Beef Bavette BBQ Combo. This was a substantial lunch with a base of rice, stir fried, vegetables, egg, pumpkin  katsu and pickled ginger. On top is sliced baguette steak finishing off with a sauce.

BBQ Beef

I have to say, that though I enjoyed the food, it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be. The steak lacked seasoning and the pumpkin  katsu lacked flavour. Overall I was a little disappointed.

Conference Dining

As part of my job I will often attend events and conferences. Sometimes these will be in hotels and other times they are in dedicated conference centres. I usually have lunch, which usually defaults to some kind of buffet lunch. For some events and conferences I stay over and that means having dinner. Over the years I have had some very disappointing meals, I remember one conference dinner in Sheffield Town Hall which was really quite awful. It comprised an over-cooked chicken breast wrapped in a rasher of bacon, served with soggy tasteless vegetables. Other times I have had some outstanding food.

In September I was attending an “away day” at the Ashorne Hill Conference Centre near to Leamington Spa.

It was a lunchtime to lunchtime event, so there was dinner in the evening.

What I did like was that we could choose from a menu and so we didn’t all need to have the same food.

For my start I chose the crispy chilli beef.

crispy chilli beef

Well this was disappointing as it wasn’t crispy chilli beef, well not like other times I have eaten crispy chilli beef. It was rather chewy and the sauce didn’t really work and certainly could have had more chilli.

For my main I went with the chicken, something I wouldn’t usually choose, but it was served on a bed of wild mushrooms.

chicken

The chicken was tender, moist and full of flavour.

For dessert I went with cheese and biscuits.

cheese and biscuits

This was a nice selection of cheese, nice chutney and a selection of biscuits and bread.

Overall it was a meal I enjoyed, but certainly not one of the best conference dinners I have had.

Frankly it was rather disappointing

On visits to the Leather Lane market well before the Covid lockdown I had seen the Argentalia market stall a few times, but had not bought lunch there, though I did quite fancy the concept.

So on a recent visit a couple of months back, I had the opportunity to try out the stall. I went with the Argentalia Barbeque Box, which comes with Asado (ribs), Vacio (flap meat), Chorizo (sausage), Morcilla (black pudding), Pollo (chicken), Pork with chimichurri and variety of salads or fries.

This had the potential to be outstanding box of food, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

The salad was flat and insipid.

The fries were okay, but nothing special.

So what of the main attraction, the barbecued meat?

I think if the meat had actually been barbecued then this would have made the dish so much better than it was. The problem with the meat was that it was quite tough and chewy. It was almost braised, steamed rather than grilled.

I am not even sure I got everything on the list. 

Overall I was looking forward to a great box of barbecued meats, what I got was frankly rather disappointing.

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.

That time I had a Smoke Catering BBQ Box

Over the last year I have missed going to street food markets, so have been reflecting on nice meals I have had in the past.

Back in June 2017 I was working in Bristol and looking for a place to eat to have some lunch. I went to the Temple Quay Market which had a wide range of stalls from which to choose from.

In the end I chose the BBQ Box from Smoke Catering. I had really enjoyed the BBQ Box I had in March of that year. It was an easy choice to make as I liked the food.

The box contained homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. On top of the box was some smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and a smoked pork and chilli sausage. 

Smoke Catering BBQ Box - smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and a smoked pork and chilli sausage

It was delicious. The mash was smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The slaw was fresh and crunchy. The beans spicy and full of flavour.  

The smoked beef brisket was tender and delicious, it was melt in the mouth. I like the tender beef and the crunch of the barbecued outside. I remember when I went to a barbecue restaurant in Glasgow and ordering smoked beef brisket and getting a little disappointed as that beef was dry and nothing like the beautifully flavoured and tender beef brisket from Smoke Catering.

The sausage was very meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower.

I also enjoyed the smoked and pulled pork, which was tender and tasty, though I preferred the sausage and the beef.

Hopefully some time in the future I can get some more excellent food from Smoke Catering.

Reminiscing on the bento boxes

Finzel Reach Market

Now as we leave the third lockdown I have been reflecting on some street food I had over the last few years which never made it to the blog. Sometimes I just run out of time to write up a review and sometimes I forget to write up the meal. 

Back in May 2019 I had visited the Finzle Reach Street Food market in Bristol. At the market there are various stalls however I was drawn once more to She Sells Sushi. As usual I was tempted by the ramen or the sushi, however I went with my favourite which was the bento box with the Beef Donburi and Hirata Bun.

So I 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

As usual it was delicious and full of flavour. The beef was meltingly tender and the garnishes added to the dish. 

I had 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.

Finzel Flapper

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.

Lisa from the stall always takes real care to cook and create great tasting and wonderful looking dishes.

I am looking forward to getting back to working in Bristol so I can once more eat some delicious street food.