That time I was in London for tacos

On one of my last visits to London before the lockdown I did pop to Wahaca at Oxford Circus. I have been there quite a few times and have enjoyed the atmosphere and the food.

As we were in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, this was a couple of weeks before the full lockdown, the place was still open. I was a little cautious about going to a restaurant and sitting down with others to eat. With hindsight I probably wouldn’t have gone, but at the time the risk seemed quite low and there was sanitiser available, and I was washing my hands a lot.

Each branch of Wahaca has it’s own charm and style, there are similarities across the different restaurants, but each has an element of individuality.

I was given a warm welcome and there were plenty of seats available. I looked over the menu and decided to go with some old favourites as well as trying out a new dish.

For my first choice, I chose a dish that I have had a fair few times before, which was the crispy cauliflower bites.

crispy buttermilk-battered florets of cauliflower, with roast serrano allioli

These are crispy buttermilk-battered florets of cauliflower, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious and lovely and crispy. I enjoyed the allioli which complemented the crispy florets. They are very moreish and tasty,

My other favourite was steak tacos.

chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado

These are two tacos filled with chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. I much preferred these when the grilled cheese was optional, I don’t think the grilled cheese adds much to the dish. The steak was full of flavour and very tender.

The dish I ordered that I hadn’t had before, was the grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese

These are sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious, again not a fan of the grilled cheese.

I really enjoyed the three dishes which were tasty and delicious. The service was warm, friendly and welcoming, the food arrived quickly and efficiently.

At the time I was planning to come back to London later in March, so didn’t think this was going to be my last lunch in London for a long time. At the time of writing I have no idea when or even if I will be going back to London for work. As we know restaurants are closed and looking unlikely to re-open in the short term. I am though looking forward to the time when I can go back out to eat, but hopefully I will be able to visit Wahaca in the future and have some great food.

Time for Birthday Paella

Spanish inspired rice dish

When asked what was wanted for a birthday meal, the response was a seafood paella. Okay this is not paella, but is a dish inspired by paella. I have had authentic paella in Spain and from street food stalls in Bristol. I have been cooking this dish for a fair few years, but got told once by a Spanish person that what I was cooking wasn’t authentic paella, which is correct, so I normally describe this as a Spanish inspired rice dish.

In a large paella pan add a splash of olive oil. The add some pancetta (or chopped chorizo), a diced red onion, a diced onion, diced red pepper and diced yellow pepper. This is then cooked off slightly before I added some diced mushrooms and some sliced mushrooms.

Once the onions are softened I add the paella rice and stir it into the onions and peppers. I added a paella mix from Waitrose, but you could, of course, use your own spices, herbs and saffron. I then added some stock, I used a Knorr fish stock. I then added some tinned cannellini beans.

Spanish inspired rice dish

With hindsight I should have added the cannellini beans later in the cooking process as they got slightly overcooked and some fell apart.

I then gave everything a thorough stir. Then leave it to cook, don’t stir it again. As the stock reduces, add more stock to ensure that the rice cooks evenly.

I cooked the whole prawns on a griddle and did the same with the squid. I usually score the squid to make it look nice, but was out of time, so it went it as is. I also cooked some plain prawns and added them.

I usually cook the cooking chorizo separately as they seem to “leak” a lot of oil when cooking. I always try and using cooking chorizo rather than the dried ready to eat version you can buy. It’s softer and tastier I think in a dish like this.

I added the cooked fish, cooked chorizo and quartered lemons to the top of the dish and then served.

Gluten Free Mushroom, Spinach and Bacon Puffs

Gluten Free Mushroom, Spinach and Bacon Puffs

Having used the Jus-Rol Gluten Free puff pastry to make sausage rolls I decided to make them again, but also decided to try something new and make some Mushroom, Spinach and Bacon Puffs.

Jus Rol Gluten Free Puff Pastry

The Jus-Rol Gluten Free puff pastry comes as a ready rolled sheet which I sliced into squares. Into the middle of each square I put a mixture of mushrooms, chopped bacon and cut up spinach. I did consider pre-cooking the mixture, but decided not to. I then folded the corners into the middle and I then brushed the pastry showing with beaten egg. These were then placed on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

The puffs were then baked in a 180º normal oven or 160º fan oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

If I was to make these in the future I would probably add some cheese to the mix, as they were a little dry. Fresh mozzarella would add some moisture, but cheddar would add flavour. Something to think about if I made these again.

Last supper, well for a while

Before lock down and all the restaurants we usually frequent were closed we went to Wagamama at Cribbs Causeway. We had thought that places might close or be restricted, so took a final opportunity to go out and eat.

It was quite quiet compared to usual, but not to be unexpected. We were given a lovely warm welcome and we made our way to the table.

Looking over the menu and feeling quite hungry I decided that as well as my main course I would order a side of hirata buns. I really like these and have in the past been tempted to order them from Wagamama, but not really had a chance or wasn’t hungry enough, or more likely I chose the chilli squid instead.

The menu describes them as Mixed Mushroom Hirata Buns – two fluffy asian buns stuffed with mixed mushrooms, panko aubergine, coriander and mayonnaise.

ixed Mushroom Hirata Buns - two fluffy asian buns stuffed with mixed mushrooms, panko aubergine, coriander and mayonnaise.

The buns were lovely and fresh, warm and soft. The mushrooms were really tasty as was the panko aubergine. I demolished them fairly quickly and was left wanting more. They were very tasty buns.

Usually when I am at Wagamama I seem to order the ramen, so deciding to be different I want with a curry instead.

I had the Nikko Curry with Sea Bream, which the menu describes as fragrant and citrusy. Coconut, lemongrass and turmeric soup, roasted butternut squash, tenderstem broccoli, mangetout, bok choi, beansprouts, chilli, coriander, ginger, fresh lime, and chilli oil. It came with a side of white rice with sesame seeds.

Nikko Curry with Sea Bream, which the menu describes as fragrant and citrusy. Coconut, lemongrass and turmeric soup, roasted butternut squash, tenderstem broccoli, mangetout, bok choi, beansprouts, chilli, coriander, ginger, fresh lime, and chilli oil. It came with a side of white rice with sesame seeds.

I felt the fish was slightly overcooked, but I really enjoyed the soup and the vegetables were lovely fresh, and cooked perfectly. The dish overall was really tasty and I was wanting more when I had finished.

I really enjoyed the meal and was a little sad as we left as I realised that we might not enjoy such a meal again for some time.

Mushroom Tortellini

Mushroom Tortellini

This is a warming pasta dish that has a somewhat autumnal feel to it, but you can eat it at anytime.

I generally make this sauce (and variations of it) for a range of different pasta, but as I quite like tortellini, this time I had the sauce with filled pasta.

I use fresh tortellini, one day I might get round to making some by hand, I have made fresh pasta before, but then my pasta machine broke, and I haven’t replaced it. This was a spicy sausage tortellini from a supermarket which takes a few minutes to cook.

To make the sauce, in a large frying pan add a splash of olive oil. I also sometimes use truffle oil, which has a real flavour boost to the sauce. Then add some diced pancetta. My personal favourite of the moment is the pancetta from Aldi, however I also quite like buying it (when I can) from an Italian Deli and dice it myself. One the pancetta has started to cook, add chopped red onion and red pepper. Once the onion and pepper have softened, add some (well a fair bit) of sliced mushrooms. I usually add some butter as well at this point to help with the mushrooms cooking. I prefer using chestnut mushrooms, but also throw in some of the Woodland mushrooms from Morrisons as well. 

Stir.

When the mushrooms are nearly cooked, add a small bag of baby spinach. This will wilt down and should be stirred in.

I then add some creme frache mix into the mushrooms.

At this point I cook the pasta, which only takes a few minutes, drain, and add to the sauce. I then generously grate some parmesan into the sauce and pasta along with some freshly ground black pepper. 

Serve and add more parmesan to taste.

Pan fried Gnocchi

I quite like gnocchi, but though I buy fresh gnocchi, my usual cooking method is to simmer it in boiling water for a few minutes. I have seen people fry gnocchi on the television in cooking shows, but not tried it myself. They always appeared to fry gnocchi they had made themselves. I wasn’t sure how using shop bought gnocchi if that would work out.

So doing some browsing recently I was interested to see they had the Rana pan fried gnocchi on sale. So I bought a pack to try out.

Pan-fried gnocchi are crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside,

It had been in the fridge for a while when I decided to cook them.

I cooked some pancetta, onion and mushrooms and then removed these from the pan. I then added some butter and pan fried the gnocchi for five minutes.  Once the gnocchi was cooked I added the cooked pancetta, onion and mushrooms.

I did enjoy the dish and hope to cook this again soon.

Tasty Bao Buns

I quite like Bao Buns. I don’t actually recall when I had my first Bao Bun, a filled steam bun, but I think it was from the SheSellsSushi stall at one of the Bristol Street Food markets. I’ve had some really nice ones, and some which were rather disappointing.

Having enjoyed the buns from Master Bao the last time I was there, and needing lunch I decided to visit Master Bao again. As this is a shopping centre, there are a range of outlets all with a common eating area. You order at the counter, take a electronic gizmo and when it buzzes you collect your food. Not the best way I think of having a nice lunch, a bit too fast food for me, but it works. I ordered the lunch deal of two bao buns and a side dish

I had this before, but did enjoy it, the Shiitake Mushroom Bao – teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao - teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso

This was mushrooms cooked in a teriyaki sauce and served in a hot fluffy bao. The bun was warm and fluffy, and the mushrooms very tasty. It was a bit messy to eat, but I got there in the end.

My second Bao was the Mr Bao – slow braised pork with house pickles, roasted peanut and coriander.

Mr Bao - slow braised pork with house pickles, roasted peanut and coriander

The pork was very tender, and the peanut added a nice crunchy texture to the Bao. I would have liked a little more coriander, but otherwise it was delicious.

Both Bao buns were soft and fluffy and full of tasty fillings.

I had enjoyed the pork dumplings last time, but this time I went with the fried chicken.

fried chicken

This was not as good as I thought it could be, but the chicken was nice and crispy with a tasty sauce.

Overall I really did enjoy the meal,

 

 

Nice Bao Buns

I don’t actually recall when I had my first Bao Bun, a filled steam bun, but I think it was from the SheSellsSushi stall at one of the Bristol Street Food markets.

I’ve had some really nice ones, and some which were rather disappointing. I have also made them at home as well, well made is a strong word, I bought some ready prepared, steamed them, and added my own filling. That’s almost “made”, but I am keen to try and make some properly one day.

Needing lunch quickly and having parked at the Westfield Centre in West London, there was a wide choice of places to eat but in the end I did quite fancy giving Master Bao a try.

As this is a shopping centre, there are a range of outlets all with a common eating area. You order at the counter, take a electronic gizmo and when it buzzes you collect your food. Not the best way I think of having a nice lunch, a bit too fast food for me, but it works.

I ordered the lunch deal of two bao buns and a side dish. My first choice of bao was the shiitake mushroom bao.

shiitake mushroom bao

This was mushrooms cooked in a teriyaki sauce and served in a hot fluffy bao. It was rather nice, I wouldn’t say I was blown away, but I did enjoy it. The bun was warm and fluffy, and the mushrooms very tasty. It was a bit messy to eat, but I got there in the end.

My second choice of bao, was the chicken bao made with 24 hour marinated fried chicken, fried wasabi, kimchi and coriander.

chicken bao made with 24 hour marinated fried chicken, fried wasabi, kimchi and coriander

I enjoyed the crispy chicken and the accompaniments added a nice spicy extra to the dish. The combination of textures, soft vegetables, crispy chicken and soft bao, was a delight.

As I had chosen the chicken bao, I chose a side dish and went with the pork dumplings.

pork dumplings

These were nice and tasty, steamed and then finished off in the frying pan.

Overall I really did enjoy the dish and would certainly go again.

Homecooked Thai style stir fry

Thai Stir Fry

This is a recipe I cook quite often, it was inspired by visits to Sais’ Thai in the Oxford Covered Market. Though it has similarities to the dish I had at Sais’ Thai, it’s not quite the same, actually it’s quite different, but I don’t usually use the ingredients they do.

I cook some cubed pork belly in the oven, for about twenty minutes I then remove from the oven and stir fry in a wok with some soy sauce and fish sauce, along with finely chopped garlic and ginger. You could add chilli as well, if you like a bit of heat in your stir fry. I then take a range of vegetables, including but not always limited to: ribbons of carrot, pak choi, red cabbage, courgette, mushrooms (shitake and brown), baby corn, and onions. These are added to the wok. And cooked for a couple of minutes. I then add spinach and basil. I would prefer to use Thai Basil, but I have had trouble either finding it locally or growing it in the garden.

The dish is then served with a sprinkling of cashew nuts. It works well with rice, but I have also served it with noodles as well.

Time for a toastie…

Looking for a reasonably quick lunch, I decided to venture to Cafe Rouge at Cribbs Causeway. Parts of this venue are quite nice, those tables hidden away in the inside, the tables out towards the entrance are less cosy and it feels more like a service station or typical food court than a French bistro.

My phone contract often provides me with special offers, one of which time was with Cafe Rouge where I could have any burger or croque sandwich for just £5.

I did think initially to have a burger, but decided to have a croque toasted sandwich.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat’s cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I went with the classic grilled Emmental cheese sandwich on sourdough with béchamel sauce, served with frites. The filling I chose was Portobello mushroom with baby spinach, goat's cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I did think the béchamel sauce was overdone. I was expecting a bit more crunch to the bread, but overall there were some nice flavours.

The fries were a little overdone for my liking and a little bit too much salt.

Service was friendly and welcoming. Maybe a little too attentive, for example, I had literally just taken my first bite when I was asked how was my meal!

Overall it was a nice quick lunch, quite tasty, not perfect, but good value for money.