It was a little disappointing…

With an overnight stay in Glasgow I needed somewhere to eat, and there was a lot of choice, both close by and not too far away. There are lots of choices and I did spend a little time looking over what was around on Google Maps, when noticed Smoke Barbecue. Well that was my choice made up for me.

One of my regular favourite places in Bristol is the Smoke Catering stall at the Temple Quay Market. They do a lovely piece of barbecued brisket and so was looking forward to having something similar up in Glasgow. As you can imagine having had some delicious barbecued food I had quite high expectations for Smoke Barbecue in Glasgow.

The venue is airy and somewhat industrial, lots of wood and metal. There are benches and tables and big windows.

They had a wide ranging menu with a lot of choices, but in the end I went with the Brisket plate. This is brisket, spiced & rubbed, then smoked for up to 18 hours. It comes with burnt ends, brisket hash and twice-cooked chips. I took my side order of choice of crispy onion strings. I added a portion of pit smoked chicken thighs as well.

When it arrived it was a big plate of food, well it wasn’t a plate it was a metal cooking tray of food. Yes I know it’s fashionable not to have plates, but okay serve it on a cooking tray, but provide a nice plate to eat it off.

brisket

It looked great and I really liked the look of it. The chips were nice, different, and then I tried some of the brisket…

Well…

It was okay, it certainly had a good bold flavour, but it wasn’t anything like the barbecued brisket I have had before, it was a bit dry and not as tender as I would have expected.

The Smoke Catering brisket, which I had eaten in Bristol, was tender, moist and melt in the mouth.

I had anticipated that the crispy onion strings would be nice and crispy, well some were, others weren’t. Good flavour though.

The pit smoked chicken thighs had been smoked previously and then finished off on the charcoal grill. I really liked the flavour of these, but like the brisket was a little dry.

There was a lot of food and I think upon reflection I wouldn’t have ordered the chicken as well as the brisket.

Overall it was okay, I think the challenge was I had really high expectations and I was expecting something amazing.

Carbon – charcoal grilled bavette steak

On a previous visit to London I found Carbon in Convent Garden, I was trying to find Wahaca when I chanced upon this eclectic charcoal grill. I said to myself the next time I need to buy lunch in London I am going to try it out. So the next time I was in London I did just that. I really like food cooked over a charcoal grill, I also really like freshly cooked ingredients for lunch too.

There was a queue, which in my experience is a good thing. There is a wide menu of stuff including lamb kofta, prawns, spiced lamb merguez sausage, or lemon and thyme seared halloumi.

In the end I went with the seared bavette steak. This was served with a chimichurri salsa, baked potato with cheese and a citrus tender leaf salad.

The Argentine from @carbonsoho charcoal grilled bavette steak with salad and a jacket potato.

I had quite high expectations about eating this and I wasn’t disappointed. The steak was perfect, I loved the chargrill, it was tender and full of flavour. The rest of the box was nice too. A nice mix of solid filling potato, light salad and piquant salsa.

Skimming over their Twitter feed I did like the sound of some of their specials. So the following day I went there again and the special was charcoal grilled leg of lamb with couscous and spiced vegetables. I thought to myself, yes please, alas many others had thought the same and they had sold out. Pity, maybe next time.

Finzel Friday

So there I was in Bristol on a Friday, well that means I can visit the Finzel Reach Market down at, well you guessed it, Finzel Reach! The market has grown slightly since I last went. It use to be just one row of stalls, now there are stalls facing each other. This is good news, it shows that the market is working and is popular with punters. As usual there was a wide choice of street food stalls including some of my favourites. I was tempted by the Crispy Squid from the South Kitchen, likewise the barbecued meats from Low N Slow was also looking very tasty. In the end I went with SheSellsSushi and a bento box with Teriyaki Beef Donburi and a Hirata Bun.

I have had these before, slightly breaking my own rule of trying new and different things, but last time I really enjoyed the Donburi and the Hirata Bun, so this time decided to repeat the experience.

Donburi Beef

The Doburi was slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce, served on rice with garnishes. The beef was tender, tasty and scrummy.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, sorting onions and tasty sauce.

The Hirata Bun was a black charcoal bun with delicious tender pork belly, spring onions and tasty sauce.The bun was light and fluffy, the pork tender and delicious.

Again a lovely eating experience.

Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings

Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings

I do like my slow cooker, but I certainly could use it more often, if I had the time! My most recent recipe was a beef and mushroom stew with dumplings.

To make this I took some shin of beef, which I cubed and then coated in seasoned flour. This was then browned in a pan before placing it in the slow cooker. The flour not only helps with the browning process but also helps thicken the stew during the stewing process. In the pan I used to brown the meat, I then added some carrots, leeks and onions. You could at this stage adding some other root vegetables such as parsnips or swede. These were cooked in the pan for a short time before also adding to the slow cooker. I then added some water from the kettle to the pan to deglaze it, before adding it to the slow cooker as well. I then topped up the slow cooker with water to not quite cover the ingredients.

I then added a Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot. I quite like these stock pots, not just for the flavouring, but how they thicken the stew as well. One of the challenges with a slow cooker meal is that the sauce doesn’t thicken in the same way that cooking in a oven does.

The stew was then cooked in the slow cooker on the medium setting for four hours. My slow cooker has two settings, low for eight hours or medium for four hours. Though you can change the time manually.

After four hours the stew was allowed to cool and was then left overnight. I do like leaving stews or casseroles to “stew” overnight as it seems to improve the flavour.

The next day I put the stew in the “normal” oven.

I then cooked some bacon lardons in a pan and once nearly cooked added a range of mushrooms. I used chestnut mushrooms, some chanterelles that I had alongside a range of woodland mushrooms. These were cooked lightly before the bacon and mushrooms were added to the stew and stirred in.

I have been using the woodland mushrooms from Morrisons for a while now. Now I know they are not from woodlands, but are farmed, but they make a nice difference to dishes that usually use common mushrooms. The woodland mushrooms include oyster, and some others that I haven’t identified! According to the Morrisons website the pack contains three of the following: oyster, shiitake, eryngi, maitake, shiro shimeji, enoki, and buna shimeji.

Woodland mushrooms

Tesco use to sell wild mushrooms in my local branch, however they haven’t for a while, but you may be luckier at your own branch.

Wild mushrooms

The chanterelles on the other hand were found amongst the range of exotic mushrooms mini packs that they do stock in my local Tesco. This range includes varieties such as oyster, shiitake amongst others.

Exotic mushrooms

On top of the stew I added some dumplings and the whole thing was cooked for about 25-30 minutes. The idea was that the dumplings would have a nice crust and the stew would be bubbling underneath.

Overall the stew was lovely, full of deep flavours. The beef was tender and melt in the mouth, whilst the vegetables still had texture. The bacon and mushrooms added a new dimension and by adding them later in the cooking stage they weren’t lost within the stew.

Yes I will be cooking this again.

Smoking again

BBQ Box from Smoke Catering

On a recent visit to the Temple Quay market I decided after looking around to have the BBQ Box from Smoke Catering. I have really enjoyed food from them before.

They were there with their big smoker and their choice of Texan style smoked meats. Their huge smoker always impresses me filled with delicious food and the surrounding aroma and smoke.

On the menu was nine hour beef brisket with homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. You could have chosen the seven hour pulled pork in a brioche bun with a smoked pork and chilli sausage, or smoked Beef Rib. They also had the BBQ box which was advertised as containing the beef brisket, pulled pork, a smoked pork and chilli sausage, served with the homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans.

However by the time I got there, the pulled pork had sold out, so with the BBQ Box the pulled pork was replaced with the beef rib. Which to be honest I was pleased with, as I had enjoyed it last time.

Generally the more popular stalls will run out , so my usual advice with the Temple Quay markets is to get there early and usually before half past twelve, though I did get to the market at 12:30ish, Smoke Catering’s pulled pork brioche was obviously very popular that day.

I don’t generally understand why some stalls are more popular than others. The Thai stall had a immense queue crossing the entire market and then some. They always have big queues, which to be honest is why I’ve not tried them yet. There are also other stalls which have no queue at all, it’s not as though the food isn’t any good, from my experience when I’ve tried them they were delicious and tasty.

I was also doubly pleased with a bigger portion of meat than the last time I had the box from Smoke Catering. The beef brisket was melt in the mouth tender, enhanced with the crisp “burnt” edges. The rib was also beautifully tender and full of flavour. I did feel that I was really getting my money’s worth with this box. The sausage was meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower. I enjoyed the combination of the slaw, mash and beans. The mash was wonderfully smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The beans spicy and full of flavour and it was great to mix in with the mash. The homemade slaw was fresh and crunchy, maybe a little too sloppy, but minor point, in what was a tasty meal. Overall a delicious box of food.

She doesn’t just sell sushi!

One of the regular stalls at the St Nicks market in Bristol on Friday is SheSellsSushi and it is one of my favourite, even if I have never actually had the sushi from there…. yet!

My usual lunch order with the stall is the bento box containing a choice of two dishes from the menu. I usually go for the Donburi, which is slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce combined with some octopus (or duck) balls (takoyaki).

Donburi Beef

However Lisa, on the stall has been recently selling steamed Hirata bun, so in my bento box this time, I once more had the Donburi, but this time I went with the Hirata bun.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, sorting onions and tasty sauce.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, spring onions and tasty sauce.

The bun was light and fluffy, the pork tender, all in all great flavour. I really wanted another one. I do like the takoyaki I usually go for, but now, I will always go with the Hirata bun.

The Donburi beef was as usual delicious, the flavour is perfect, you can sometimes overdo the teriyaki, but this was well balanced and so tasty. Served with rice and spring onions.

I have spoken to others who really recommend the sushi, so I think I will have to try that next time (with a Hirata bun).

Smoking…

The sun was shining and it was the right time to head off down to the Temple Quay market in Bristol.

Smoke Catering were there with their big smoker and their choice of Texan style smoked meats. There was beef brisket and pulled pork.

After very little thinking time I went with the BBQ Box from the top of the menu. The box contained homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. On top of the box was some smoked beef brisket, smoked beef rib and a smoked pork and chilli sausage.

As it was such a lovely day, the place to eat this was in Harratz Place on the quayside.

I have had their food before, and the slaw, mash and beans were just as nice as they were the last time I had them. 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.

Smoke Catering 9h Beef Brisket

The beef rib was nice, only a small slice, and I would liked to have more of this. The sausage was meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower.

It was more than I usually spend on lunch and I think for the price I would have liked a slightly bigger portion dog the barbecued meat.

Overall this was a really nice lunch.

Going back to itsu

I haven’t been to itsu for a while now, since I stopped working in Oxford, I made quite a few visits there for sushi and pots of noodles. I haven’t been to the branch in London (too many other choices) however in December a new branch opened in Bristol.

As on my previous visit, there was a lot of choice and within the different types of food on offer lots of variation. I found it difficult to decide on what to have.

There is a big choice of salad and sushi in the fridges and then there are the hot options, pots of soup, rice, noodles or dumplings.

In the end I went with the Vietnam beef salad. This was roasted beef, hard boiled egg, spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning.

Vietnam beef (roasted), hard boiled egg (free range), spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning

It looked really nice and was well presented. I found the beef tender and actually quite tasty. The salad and rice was also really nice. The overall combination was delicious and I really enjoyed the salad.

A little more Mexican street food

Those who read this on a regular basis will know that I have a fondness for the Wahaca restaurants after an introduction to their style of food on the South Bank in London.

Since discovering this delight of Mexican street food and realising they had a branch in Clifton in Bristol, I have been itching to try the food there.

Using a gift voucher I went there for a quick lunch. One of the quirks (or is just a nice feature) of the Wahaca chain is that every restaurant has their own unique style. I think what surprised me most about the Bristol branch was the TARDIS style dimension, it is very much bigger on the inside then it appears on the exterior.

It was quiet early and I think I was the only person the restaurant, which surprised me, I was expecting it to be busier. Certainly I have queued for the South Bank restaurant and down in the heart of Bristol the food places are very busy (even from mid day).

As is my usual lunch, I went for three items from the street food menu. These are small dishes and three is more than ample for lunch (in some cases with the larger ones you could get away with just eating two).

The menu had changed since my last visit with new market treats and of course the regularly changing specials menu.

I was tempted by the new hibiscus glazed wings, alas they must have been popular and were off the menu. Still there were two other things from the new market treats menu that sounded rather nice.

My first choice was the Huitlacoche empanadas. Crispy pastry parcels stuffed with mushrooms, truffley Mexican corn & melted cheese.

Huitlacoche empanadas

These were delicious. The filling though was, as might be expected when using mushrooms was a rather unappetising grey mush. Despite that, I did enjoy the parcels and really liked the presentation. One thing that I have started doing myself which was on this dish was adding thinly sliced radish as a garnish, for crunch and flavour.

My second choice were the crispy prawn tacos. Corn tortillas stuffed with chopped prawn, chillies, spring onion & coriander, cooked until crispy, served with guacamole, tomato salsa & chipotle mayo.

crispy prawn tacos

The tacos had been filled and rolled and deep fried giving them a nice crunch. You could taste the prawn filling and it was still fresh and tasty. The accompaniments of salsa and guacamole worked, but I did feel I had slightly too much chipotle mayo.

For my third choice I went with one of the specials, Beef mole taco, this was unctuous, slow cooked beef shin, cooked in a rich Oaxacan mole. It was served in warm corn tortillas with sweet plantain puree and fiery chile de arbor salsa.

Beef mole taco

You got two beautifully presented open tacos, the beef was rich in flavour, tender and tasty.

Overall three delicious dishes and very tasty.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2015

Illy Coffee

So what food, drink and coffee blog posts were people reading this year? Interestingly none about coffee?

At number ten is an article entitled, Alba Ristorante Part Two. Back in 2008 when attending Handheld Learning, one evening we went to a local Italian next to the Barbican in London. I do remember the meal, it was delicious. This was a really nice upmarket Italian restaurant but with quite reasonable prices, especially for London.

The ninth most popular post was a Classic Heineken Advert from 1976.

Classic Heineken Advert from 1976

The eighth post was about cooking Chorizo, Cooking Chorizo. as was the seventh post Chorizo Frito al Vino.

The post at number six was about Basil & pine nut marguerite and a simple pasta recipe was at number five, Pasta in Tomato Sauce.

The fourth most popoular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions.

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the third most read post on the blog.

The second most popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, this one was about the Chilli Squid from Wagamama.

The most popular post this year 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.

Well here’s raising a cup of coffee and wishing you all the best for 2016.