Chargrilled Chicken

Chargrilled Chicken

One of my regular dishes is chargrilled chicken thighs. I take some boneless and skinless chicken thighs. I flatten them out (slightly) before marinading them in a bowl. I use some olive oil and Schwartz chargrilled chicken seasoning and lemon juice. If I have no lemons then I might use white wine vinegar.

I have a griddle pan that I got from IKEA, which I put on a hot heat. I then add the chicken thighs. I turn them to get the crosshatched effect.

I usually use some greaseproof paper to cover the chicken to ensure that the thighs are fully cooked. It works like a pan lid in keeping the heat in the pan, but allows the steam (moisture) to escape, so the chicken is grilled and not steamed.

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.

Time for a Christmas Meal

Generally this time of year would be the time for Christmas meals, whether that be friends or family. I have been planning our traditional Christmas meal (for Christmas Eve) but in the past I have been to various Christmas meals for various things. 

My work would do a regular Christmas event with a meal, we didn’t have one last year (2020) due to the lockdown. I also didn’t go to the meal in 2019, as the one before in 2018 had been terrible. Rubbish food and awful service, didn’t want a repeat of that experience. I did  though have an excellent meal with the team I was in, in 2019 at the Mud Dock Cafe. Then I had a tasty homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream followed by a rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

I am not attending an office Christmas meal this year, my (newish) team is rather geographically dispersed, but I did recently attend a festive gathering of our Scout Leadership team (I am a trustee). We went to the Fork ‘n’ Ale Taproom & Kitchen in Weston-super-Mare.

I drove down to the seafront, parked my car and walked to the taproom, it was blowing a gale and it was bitterly cold. I was reminded of Bill Bryson, who in Notes from a Small Island said of Weston-super-Mare.

First, you were born. This in itself is a remarkable achievement. Being born was easily the most remarkable achievement of your whole life. And think: you could just as easily have been a flatworm.

Second, you are alive. For the tiniest moment in the span of eternity you have the miraculous privilege to exist. For endless eons you were not. Soon you will cease to be once more. That you are able to sit here right now in this one never-to-be-repeated moment, reading this book, eating bon-bons, speculatively sniffing your armpits, doing whatever you are doing – just existing – is really wondrous beyond belief.

Third, you have plenty to eat, you live in a time of peace and ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ will never be number one again.

If you bear these things in mind, you will never be truly unhappy – though in fairness I must point out that if you find yourself alone in Weston-super-Mare on a rainy Tuesday evening you may come close.

It wasn’t Tuesday! Well at least it wasn’t raining, though I wish I had worn a hat. I opened the door to the Fork ‘n’ Ale and the wash of heat was welcome and needed.

First things first after finding everyone, was to buy some drinks. They had a really interesting selection of beers. As it was festive I went with the Christmas Nectar, a light beer which was delicious.

The service was excellent, friendly, warm and efficient.

For my starter I had the pulled chicken and maple bacon terrine. It was supposed to come with toasted chunky bread, but we had chunky bread (untoasted).

It was certainly an interesting concept and though I enjoyed the dish, I think it was something I wouldn’t have again. The bread was excellent though.

The turkey choice on the menu was a breaded turkey escalope with ham, and though it was turkey, the dish didn’t sound very festive, so I went with the lamb.

This was a lamb shank with a red currant and port gravy. It came with roasted potatoes carrot and parsnips. I don’t think it came with the butternut squash mentioned on the menu! Served alongside were the Forks collard greens, which was peas, beans, courgette and cabbage. 

The lamb was kind of what I was expecting, slow cooked lamb in a delicious gravy. The lamb was very tender and I enjoyed it. I expected it was brought into the pub and then heated as required and served, nothing special, but still tasty.

I did think though that the accompaniments were excellent, the roasted parsnip and carrots were delicious and I really enjoyed the collard greens. I could have done with a few more potatoes, but they were nice and crisp.

I would have preferred cheese and biscuits to finish, but that wasn’t on the menu, so I went with the brownie and ice cream. They had run out of coffee ice cream, so we were given a choice of a range of flavours. I went with vanilla.

The brownie was moist and had a rich chocolate flavour. That was a great end to the meal.

I have in the past had some terrible festive meals, this one was rather good. Some interesting choices made about the menu, but I did think there was some really tasty food on offer.

I had never been to the Fork ‘n’ Ale pub before to eat, actually not been there to drink either. They have a great choice of beers and the food was interesting, I think I would visit again.

I do take photographs of my food…

…but I don’t always blog about them, nor do they always go on Instagram!

Usually it’s time, but sometimes it’s because the food wasn’t very good.

Back in July I went to Taka Taka. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hungry and the concept did seem interesting. I do like Greek food and have enjoyed the meals I have had from The Real Greek chain.

I looked at the menu and went with the Mix Meat Meze.

A freshly grilled mix of gyros, pork, lamb, chicken souvlaki, and sausage. Served with fries, pita bread, tzatziki, and authentic Greek Salad.

I went to Queens Square to eat, I opened the box. There were fries, three skewers of meat, sausage, tubs of tzatziki, and Greek Salad, as well as some warm pita bread. I was a little disappointed that there was no mix of gyros, I did consider going back and complaining, but was running out of time, and I was hungry.

It wasn’t very good. The meat was dry and chewy. I think it had been cooked and then stored. There is a (big) difference between freshly grilled kebabs and those that have been done and then stored in a warmer. There wasn’t really enough salad and the lack of gyros, was disappointing.

I haven’t been back!

Waiting for Wagamama

I have been to Edinburgh many times for work and have eaten out there when staying overnight. I had an excellent French meal back in November 2019. However though I have been there for work I have never been there for a personal visit. So when planning a short holiday for the summer we decide we would visit Edinburgh in August for a short city break.

On our first evening we had decided to visit Wagamama but the queue was horrendous so we then ended up at the Italian restaurant, Amarone. On our second evening, as it was late we ate in the hotel, what a mistake that was!

On our final night we decided we would go for Wagamama, though there was a queue it was shorter. We had to wait for a while, but once we were in, we were in. We were shown to a table and we looked over the menu.

I liked the idea of a rice dish so I went with the grilled duck donburi. This was tender, shredded duck in a spicy teriyaki sauce. mixed with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky white rice and topped with a crispy fried egg, cucumber and spring onions. served with a side of kimchee.

I have had this dish before (I think) and I really enjoyed it. The combination of sauce, duck, vegetables with rice and egg was delicious. The kimchee adds some nice spice and heat to the dish.

Also served to the table was a  chicken katsu curry. This is chicken coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs, covered in an aromatic curry sauce served with sticky rice and a side salad. 

I have to say I never like the look of this dish, but I was informed that it was delicious and the plate of food was polished off.

Another dish served to the table was a glass noodle salmon salad which was really enjoyed.

Overall we had a nice meal, the place was busy, but the service was attentive. It was noticeable though how the number of takeaway and delivery orders were impacting on the service to the customers who were actually sitting down in the restaurant. We know that there has been a huge growth in the demand for these services during the pandemic, but I am not so sure that restaurants have worked out how to manage the whole process, especially now that there are more people going out to eat in the actual restaurant.

Delicious Gastro Pub Food at the Canbury Arms

It was August and we were staying with family in Kingston. The night before we had had some great sushi at Obon and on this evening we were visiting the Canbury Arms.

This is a pub, probably what most people would call a gastro pub, there was a section of the pub for people who wanted to drink, but there was a larger section with tables for people who wanted a meal. There is a difference in decor between the two sections, the restaurant area looks a lot more like you would imagine a restaurant should look like, whilst the bar area has lots of wood.

We were shown to our table and I looked over the menu, I have to say I had cheated and looked at the menu online before, but even so looking at the menu in the flesh, I wasn’t sure what I would have.

For my starter I decided to have the calamari and share it with my son. I kind of default to calamari as a starter, something that I do enjoy, and I have had great calamari in a variety of places, but sometimes I think I should have something else as a change.

It was nice, but nothing special, I think if I went again I would choose something different from the menu.

My sister in law went with the farmhouse pork, black pudding & sage scotch egg, brown sauce.

Now it was only later when I had posted the picture to Instagram (as one does) that someone commented on the saucy nature of the presentation of the food. Having said that I was offered half of the scotch egg, to which I said, yes please. This was actually rather excellent, and I really enjoyed the intensity of flavour in the pork around the egg. I could have eaten all of that dish.

For my main, there were some lovely choices, but I decided that I would go against my usual choices and have the chicken. Usually I would avoid the chicken, as I have it quite a lot at home, but this time I decided I would go down a different route and I would choose the chicken. This was a chicken supreme, asparagus, butternut squash puree, sautéed wild mushrooms & tarragon butter. I think what sold it to me was the wild mushroom element of the dish.

The chicken was cooked to perfection, tender and moist and full of flavour. The butternut squash puree was to die for, it was so smooth, buttery and full of flavour. The mushrooms weren’t as good as I was hoping, but I did enjoy them. The tarragon butter was an addition that in my mind brought the dish together. This was a delicious plate of food and I really enjoyed eating every mouthful.

We had some great food across the table, some great looking steaks. I did quite like the look of the sea bass fillet, on crushed jersey royals, peas, spring greens, with caper butter.

The salad from the specials menu was also outstanding. Black Quinoa Salad with roasted cauliflower, feta, pomegranate and harissa dressing.

Overall we had a wonderful meal, delicious food and we left feeling very happy and satisfied.

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.

More Bao Buns Please

I really do enjoy a good bao bun and my first encounter with the Master Bao eatery at Westfield was back in December 2019 and  a return visit in January 2020. Restrictions have meant that January was my last visit to the Westfield shopping centre. However a recent return visit and needing lunch, meant I could revisit Master Bao once more.

I went with the meal deal of two bao buns and a side. I ordered the Prawn Bao and the Shiitake Mushroom Bao. The side I chose was fried chicken.

The Prawn Bao contained marinated king prawns, fried, pickled mooli, spiced spring onions.

Prawn Bao contained marinated king prawns, fried, pickled mooli, spiced spring onions

This was something I had not had before at Master Bao and it was rather good. The prawns tasted of prawn and the picked mooli added sharpness and bite to the softness of the bao bun and prawns. Really delicious.

Whilst the Shiitake Mushroom Bao had teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions, miso.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao had teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions, miso

I have had this a few times now, and it was nice, not as much mushroom as I have had on previous visits, but still delicious.

The fried chicken was nice.

fried chicken

Simple and served with some sliced spring onions.

I really enjoyed the food and it was nice to have it again.

Back to the Mediterranean

Back in London and it was time for lunch.

Didn’t really know what I wanted, the Leather Lane street food market was full of possible choices. In the end though I made a return visit to the Mediterranean Grill which I had been to a few weeks back.

I went with the large mixed salad box, but it came on a plate as I was eating in. I was asked to take a seat and they prepared the salad. I had the choice of rice or chips, I went with chips this time. The dish came with chicken and lamb and the salad was served with some chilli sauce, hummus and yoghurt.

The chicken and lamb were very tasty and tender.

The chips were rather nice, crisp and hot, if anything too hot.

The salads were nice and fresh and well seasoned. I personally would (again) have liked more yoghurt, but apart from that it was very tasty.

Yes it was basically a mixed kebab without the pitta bread. Even so it was fresh and delicious. I then paid my bill and again like last time left feeling happy about what I had eaten. 

I think next time I will have rice again, I don’t know if they do pitta bread on the side, but I might as well ask.