We went out to eat

Our initial idea was to go to the cinema, though there was nothing at the cinema we could watch, so made the decision we would go out to eat at Bella Italia at the Mall. Virtually all the major chains in Weston have closed now, so wanting to ensure that the menu had gluten free options, we decided to head to the Mall. 

Well as we hit the M5 northbound it was chocked full and slow moving, we thought we made a mistake. But eventually it thinned out and we could go faster. We got to Bella Italia just in time.

We had a lovely warm welcome from the staff and they showed us to our table.

We had a good look over the menu. It looked like there was a lot more on there than when I last looked (which was probably last summer).

Though I like starters I usually don’t have a starter, but as others in the family were going for garlic bread, I looked over the possible choices. The calamari would have been an obvious choice for me. So I decided on the Calzonetti ‘Nduj, as I was thinking about pasta for my main course. However a last minute change of thought resulted in me actually ordering the Arancini al Granchio

There are crispy rice balls filled with crab, prawns and fennel with a side of lemon & cracked pepper mayonnaise.

They were very nice, not outstanding, but they were nice. You could taste the crab and the mayonnaise with the crunchy exterior.

For my main course I went with a pasta dish, Salsiccia Mezzaluna.

Fresh mezzaluna pasta filled with Luganica sausage & radiccio, cooked in a sage butter and finished with toasted hazelnuts and a beef dripping pangrattato crumb. 

This just sounded divine and to be honest it was totally delicious. The pasta was al dente, the filling had a nice flavour, I think it could have been stronger, but I loved the sage butter and the toasted hazelnuts and pangrattato crumb added real silkiness and crunch to the dish.

I loved it.

I wasn’t full, so went for a dessert, the raspberry and pistachio semifreddo with white chocolate and marshmallow sauce.

This was nice, but I felt it could do with more pistachio and more sauce. Having said that I really enjoyed it.

As for the rest of the family, my better half went with the  Funghi Crema made with chestnut mushrooms in a porcini, mascarpone & pecorino cheese sauce with fresh mafalde pasta ribbons.

She really enjoyed the dish and it looked great.

My youngest had a gluten free Marghaerita, whilst my son had the gluten free Pepperoni with tomato, mozzarella, salami piccante, red onion, garlic and rocket.

They both enjoyed their pizza.

My son also had the warm gluten free chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks served with vegan vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of honeycomb.

He finished off the plate of food

This was probably one of the best meals I have ever had at Bella Italia, really enjoyed the experience, the food and the service.

Woodland style pizza

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. 

Back in May 2019 we went out for pizza at Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway. I had the Funghi Luganica, a ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

Funghi Luganica, a ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella

I did enjoy this pizza and it was very woodland like in appearance and taste. It had a woodland or forest feel to it. I really enjoyed the mushrooms, which had very much a roasted flavour, rather than the insipid soggy texture and flavour you can usually find on some pizzas. The crumbled sausage added texture, saltiness as well as a meaty flavour to the pizza. I liked the fact that this was a ‘white pizza’ so no tomato. I do quite enjoy these kinds of pizza, however one day I will try and make my own ‘white pizza’.

I think this was the first time I had this pizza and enjoyed it so much that on return visits to Bella Italia I ordered it again in July at Cribbs Causeway and also ordered it when I was at a branch at Bella Italia in Leeds, which wasn’t as good as the versions I had earlier.

On my most most recent visit to Bella Italia which was way back in February 2020, just before lockdown, I actually went with a Calzone pizza. I don’t recall if the Funghi Luganica was on the menu or not, having checked the current menu it’s no longer there.

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.

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.

Time for some more Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Having enjoyed the butternut risotto the last time we had it, I made it again.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Having thought for many years that risotto was a complex dish to cook I now find it one of my go to recipes when we want something tastier than plain rice to go with a meal. Sometimes we just have the risotto.

One of the key ingredients for this is the rice, always use a proper risotto rice, it won’t work with other kinds of rice.

For this recipe I used:

      • 250g of Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice
      • 1 clove of garlic
      • 1 onion
      • 1/2 red pepper
      • 1/2 yellow pepper
      • 1/4 of a butternut squash
      • 4 chestnut mushrooms
      • 20g of butter
      • Dried Italian herbs
      • Splash of olive oil
      • 1 Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
      • 50g parmesan cheese
      • Water

Dice the onion, pepper and butternut squash.

Cut the chestnut mushrooms into chunks.

In a large hot frying pan add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has melted and is sizzling, add the garlic, diced onion, pepper and butternut squash.

When these are softened add the chestnut mushrooms.

The add the Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice and stir into the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture, until the rice is coated and well stirred in the pan.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Add the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and water to cover the rice. Stir well.

As the water and stock is absorbed, add more water and continue to stir.

Cook the rice for 16-18 minutes until the rice is soft tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm.

Stir in the  parmesan cheese.

Season if required.

Serve.

Orecchiette Pasta

I think it was the time I had some delicious pasta at Paesan in London that inspired me to buy some orecchiette pasta when I saw some on sale in Aldi. Though I did have a dish of this pasta back in 2014 at Bottelino’s.

Orecchiette are a pasta typical of Apulia, a region of Southern Italy. Their name comes from their shape, which resembles a small ear.

The pasta took 18 minutes to cook, which from experience of cooking a range of pasta types is quite long.

While the pasta was cooking, in another pan I cooked off some pancetta, onions, pepper and mushrooms.

To this, once it was cooked I added some creme frache.

Once the pasta was cooked I drained and then added to the pan with the mushrooms in. I added some grated parmesan, mixed together, finished off with some pine nuts, and then served.

Mushroom Risotto

Wanting to have something nice to go with some fish I was cooking I decided to cook some risotto.

One of the key ingredients for this is the rice. I like Gallo as the rice cooks well and the resulting dish is creamy and soft, but with defined grains of rice.

For this recipe I used:

      • 250g of Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice
      • 1 clove of garlic
      • 1 onion 
      • ½ red pepper
      • ½ orange (or yellow) pepper
      • 100g chestnut mushrooms
      • 100g woodland mushrooms
      • 20g of butter
      • Dried Italian herbs
      • Splash of olive oil
      • 1 Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
      • 15g of dried porcini mushrooms (rehydrated)
      • 50g parmesan cheese
      • Water
      • Parsley

Dice the onion and peppers.

Cut the chestnut mushrooms and the woodland mushrooms  into chunks. I used the mushrooms from Morrisons, but you can get similar mushrooms from Sainsburys and Asda.

Rehydrate the porcini mushrooms by placing in container and covering in boiling water, and set aside to hydrate. I used some from Lidl.

In a large hot frying pan add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has melted and is sizzling, add the garlic, diced onion and peppers.

When these are softened add the chestnut and woodland mushrooms.

The add the Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice and stir into the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture, until the rice is coated and well stirred in the pan.

Add the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and water to cover the rice. Stir well.

As the water and stock is absorbed, add more water and continue to stir. 

Cook the rice for 16-18 minutes until the rice is soft tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm.

Stir in the chopped rehydrated porcini mushrooms as well as the parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley.

Season if required.

Serve.

Back in January…

So there I was going though some photographs from January when I saw some delicious looking dishes from Wahaca. I realised that I had this great meal and hadn’t written (well I had started but not finished) a blog post about it.

Well, so back in January I was in London for a morning meeting, so I had been up early and was feeling hungry so was looking somewhere for lunch. I know how much I had enjoyed the food at Wahaca I decided it was pretty much a no brainer to go there for lunch, especially as I had a special offer in my email inbox.

The nearest branch to me was the Covent Garden one. Each Wahaca branch has its own style and feel. The Covent Garde branch is downstairs in the basement, but does feel quite bright and open.

There was a lovely warm welcome from the staff and I sat at the table and viewed the menu.

I had a special offer which meant I could get a dish for a pound.

Pack your January with veg and treat yourself with our ultimate range of vegetarian street food dishes. From buttermilk cauliflower bites to our mushroom and grilled cheese tacos there’s plenty of delicious veggie dishes to add to your meal. Just show this email to your waiter to get your dish for £1 

For me that was an easy choice and I went with the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious crunchy florets with a soft melt in the mouth centre, accompanied with a tasty allioli. I really like these and enjoyed these.

I had another dish, the prawn cocktail tostada. 

prawn cocktail tostada

This was sustainably sourced prawns with red chilli mayo, crisp lettuce & avocado on crispy tostada. This was the Wahaca version of the prawn cocktail. It was not as good as I hoped, the prawns lacked flavour, as did the avocado, but it was still fresh and tasty.

My third dish was grilled mushroom & cheese tacos.

grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

These were sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and I really enjoyed that strong flavour of funghi and spicy ancho. I do find that Wahaca often add crispy grilled cheese to dishes, which I don’t always see that it adds anything to that dish.

I was feeling hungry, so I went with another dish and went with the steak and cheese tacos.

steak & cheese tacos

This was chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. Again more grilled cheese. This use to be an optional extra, but now was part of the dish. I’ve had this dish a fair few times, and this was not the best version I’ve had of this dish, but it was still quite tasty.

Overall I enjoyed my four dishes, the mushrooms and cauliflower were certainly the ones I enjoyed the most.

February Funghi Calzone

I never really know if I like a calzone or not. So back in February after a game of bowling we headed off to Bella Italia for a meal. This was pre-lockdown and they had their full menu available.

I looked over the menu and decided that I would try a calzone. I went with the Funghi Calzone.

This was described as a traditional Neapolitan folded pizza filled with chestnut mushrooms, leeks, mozzarella cheese in a mascarpone and porcini sauce.

As with most times I’ve had a calzone, what arrives at the table looks like a large Cornish pasty!

I did quite enjoy the pizza, you could taste the mushroom in the dish and I finished it all. 

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Having thought for many years that risotto was a complex dish to cook I now find it one of my go to recipes when we want something tastier than plain rice to go with a meal. Sometimes we just have the risotto.

One of the key ingredients for this is the rice.

For this recipe I used:

      • 250g of Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice
      • 1 clove of garlic
      • 1 onion 
      • 1 red pepper
      • 1/4 of a butternut squash
      • 4 chestnut mushrooms
      • 20g of butter
      • Dried Italian herbs
      • Splash of olive oil
      • 1 Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
      • 15g of dried porcini mushrooms (rehydrated)
      • 50g parmesan cheese
      • Water
      • Parsley

Dice the onion, pepper and butternut squash.

Cut the chestnut mushrooms into chunks.

Rehydrate the porcini mushrooms by placing in container and covering in boiling water, and set aside to hydrate. I used some from Lidl.

In a large hot frying pan add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has melted and is sizzling, add the garlic, diced onion, pepper and butternut squash.

When these are softened add the chestnut mushrooms.

The add the Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice and stir into the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture, until the rice is coated and well stirred in the pan.

Add the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and water to cover the rice. Stir well.

As the water and stock is absorbed, add more water and continue to stir. 

Cook the rice for 16-18 minutes until the rice is soft tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm.

Stir in the chopped rehydrated porcini mushrooms as well as the parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley.

Season if required.

Serve.