Gluten Free Cauliflower Cheese

I have in the past really enjoyed the truffled cauliflower cheese from M&S, however as before, it seems to have disappeared from the shelves at M&S.

For a recent Sunday lunch I decided that I would make my own cauliflower cheese, which would be gluten free.

I didn’t really follow a recipe, as partly I didn’t want to make too much, also not sure how appropriate recipes are when using gluten free ingredients.

I first made a cheese sauce, this was done by melting butter in a pan and then adding a similar amount of gluten free plain flour to make a roux. To this I added some milk to make a sauce. What I have found is that gluten free flour can thicken quite a lot, so don’t add too much. This is then cooked over a low heat to blend and thicken.

Once the sauce starts to thicken enough, I added greater cheddar cheese. I use a mature cheddar as I like a strong cheese flavour. I find you don’t want the sauce too thick, as cooking in the oven will thicken the sauce even more.

In an ovenproof dish I place the cauliflower florets, trying to ensure that they are all of a similar size. This is then covered in the cheese sauce and then place extra grated cheese on top.

Echoing the M&S dish, I added some small cubes of gluten free bread to add crunch.

This was then cooked in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Cheese and Ham Toasted Sourdough Sandwich

Made myself a cheese and ham toasted sandwich for lunch. I took two slices of sourdough bread and I lightly buttered one slice, to which I added some grated cheddar. I added a slice of Spanish Serrano ham.

In previous versions of my toasted sandwich I have used Gouda cheese and Emmental cheese as well. I used cheddar this time, as that was all we had in the fridge.

I put my frying pan on a low to medium heat. I added some sunflower oil, I placed the sandwich in the frying pan, then put a lid on the pan.

The plan is that you melt the cheese before the sandwich finishes browning on both sides. When I first tried to do this, I had a lovely crust on the bread, but the cheese hadn’t melted. I found a lower cooking heat and a lid, would melt the cheese and you would have a lovely crust.

Delicious.

Made myself a grilled cheese sandwich

grilled cheese sandwich

As a child I would often eat cheese on toast, these days not so much. Back then we even had a Breville sandwich toaster, which was a bit of a fad in the 1980s, but you can still buy them today.

I remember when a panini was something you would only find in Italy, then they were available everywhere.

These days I will avoid having sandwiches for lunch, and I can’t remember the last time I had a panini. One thing I have had a few times are toasted sandwiches, usually cheese and mushroom.

The other day we were up at the Mall and I needed a break to rest, so we decided to get some coffee and a quick snack. We eventually decided on the Soho Coffee Company, not one of my first choices for coffee, but it wasn’t too crowded. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat, I didn’t really want a cake, nor did I want a sandwich, so in the end I chose the mushroom & swiss cheese sourdough toastie. This was described as roasted mushrooms with garlic & black pepper. Swiss cheese & SOHO toastie sauce. Topped with even more Swiss cheese for extra ooziness! Though when it arrived I think the topping of Swiss cheese had been missed off. Still it was rather nice, crunchy bread, melted cheese and nice mushrooms.

So at home and wanting some lunch, I did think about what I wanted and I thought to myself I might create my own grilled cheese toastie. 

I had some M&S San Francisco sourdough bread, which I added some butter to the inside, a slice of Gouda (I had no Swiss cheese), some grated cheddar cheese and a slice of Serrano ham. 

In a frying pan I added some olive oil and some butter and once the butter was melted I added the (what was then) sourdough sandwich. I put a lid on the frying pan, so that the heat would be retained and melt the cheese. I then removed the lid so that the final part of cooking would crisp up the bread.

This was then put on a plate and served. The bread was lovely and crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. The cheese had melted and was oozing out of the sandwich and the ham added an element of saltiness.

It was really nice, so much so I did think about making myself another one, but I resisted temptation.

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.

Down at the Harbourside

It was a warm sunny day in August when I found myself with some colleagues at the Harbour House for a leaving do.

I was a little later than planned as I was trying to find somewhere to park. The party I was with were sitting outside on the decking in the sun.

Having looked online for the menu, I did quite fancy the Barnsley Chop, but this was not on the paper menu we had been given.

So in the end I decided against the steak or fish and went with the pork chop.

pork chop

The grilled pork chop was served with French fries and a light green salad.

The chop was cooked well and was full of flavour and very tender.

For my second course I went with the cheese, I do like cheese and biscuits.

cheese and biscuits

Personally I would have liked more cheese and less grapes. There were only oatcakes and these are my least favourite biscuits when it comes to cheese and biscuits. I did however enjoy the chutney that came alongside.

Overall it was a very nice meal and I enjoyed eating outside.

That Wahaca Time in Clifton

Now as we start to leave the third lockdown I have been reflecting on some meals I had out 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. 

I had forgotten that I had eaten at Wahaca in Bristol in 2017. I had got a money off voucher from a meal kit that I had bought in a supermarket, so though I wouldn’t normally spend the kind of money that this lunch would cost, with the money off voucher  it made it a lot cheaper and value for money.

This was my first (and to date) only visit to the Wahaca branch in Clifton, Bristol. I have eaten at a fair few branches in London over the years, but  I have only visited the branch in Clifton just this once.

I had a warm and friendly welcome and was shown to a table. It was later in the day for lunch so the place was quite empty.

I went with three dishes. The first of these was the Grilled Steak Tacos.

These are three flash-grilled skirt steak filled toasted soft corn tortilla tacos with chipotle & tomatillo salsas. You could have had it with grilled cheese, but I chose to go without. When I last visited Wahaca in London last year the cheese wasn’t optional, I don’t think it needs the cheese. The tacos were delicious, the steak was cooked well and the different salsas added heat and spice.

The second of my dishes as the Ancho Chicken Baja Tacos.

Two corn and flour tortillas inspired by the beaches of baja filled with grilled chicken thighs marinated with sweet & smoky ancho chilli, topped with  and jalapeño-pickled carrots. I really enjoyed these the salad adding freshness to the dish, with the warm tasty grilled chicken.

As for my third dish was a special, the Mushroom Fundido.

Mushrooms roasted in garlic, thyme, chipotle and hibiscus glazed, baked in mozzarella, cheddar and local queso fresco.

When writing this article I checked what the dish was called from my Instagram feed when I posted a photo of it back in March 2017.

I then did a Google Search for more details about the dish and this tweet from Wahaca came up.

As you can see what I got looked very different to how the dish should have looked. Having said that, the dish tasted a lot better than it looked.

Overall three tasty dishes, excellent service.

It’s back…

After lamenting on the blog that the Truffled Cauliflower Cheese from M&S had disappeared, it had come back.

On a recent visit to M&S I found it again, though it has to be said it was now in their Gastropub branding. I also think there was now more crunchy topping than before, but still same great taste.

Excellent.

Truffled Cauliflower Cheese is no more…

So the cauliflower dish I have been getting from Marks and Spencer seems to have been taken off the shelves.

The Truffled Cauliflower Cheese described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with a  cheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb was rather nice, and quick and easy just needing thirty minutes in the oven.

It was a really nice dish, plenty of cauliflower, nice sauce, good flavour of truffle. Though I think it needed more topping, this was more of a personal preference than a criticism.

Alas the last few times I have been to my local M&S there is no sign of it on the shelves, which was a pity. I didn’t think it was a seasonal dish, as it was there well before Christmas. There is a normal cauliflower cheese dish, but that doesn’t look the same and I suspect I would be disappointed.

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.

Christmas time at the Mud Dock Cafe

December is often the time for office Christmas meals. With the number of staff in our office, the main Christmas meal we have is often dictated by the availability of the venue and to be perfectly honest I have not been too impressed with the food at the last few I have been to. The fact you also need to order your choices weeks in advance is also a little annoying. What I fancy eating in November, may not be what I actually want on the day. Then again do you really go to an office Christmas meal for the food?

Having missed the main office Christmas dinner (intentionally) last December, I was looking forward to our team Christmas meal which was taking place the week after. There was only going to be a few of us so it wasn’t going to be that massive crazy kind of event. The plan was to have a meal at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol.

We had a meeting before heading off to the venue. What I did like about this meal was that we could choose from the menu. As I looked over the menu we were impressed with the salad that a neighbouring table was eating. However we couldn’t work out what it was and didn’t appear to be on the menu. I then cheekily asked the neighbouring table what they had ordered, they were very happy about the query and told us it was the Caesar Salad from the specials board up on the wall!

One of my colleagues was impressed enough that he ordered the salad for his meal.

It looked really impressvive and delicious. Though I was tempted by the salad, in the end I went with the Festive menu. For my starter I had the ballotine confit of turkey leg, cranberry compote and dressed leaves.

This was rather tasty, though as with these kinds of dishes, I could have done with more bread.

I wasn’t sure what kind of main course I wanted, but when I read truffled mushroom I went with the homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream.

This, though rather hot (as in temperature) was a rich comforting plate of food. It was tasty and I really enjoyed it.

I was persuaded to have a desert, so I went with the selection of West Country cheeses.

A rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

Overall it was one of the better Christmas meals I have had. It was nice to have a choice and choose on the day, rather than days or weeks in advance.

This year I don’t think we will be having any kind of festive office meal but if and when we can do that kind of thing, I hope to return to the Mud Dock Cafe.