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.

I actually wanted the chicken…

So after going for a walk over my lunch break I decided after thinking about it for a while that I fancied something spicy, so decided to visit Nusa Kitchen.

Nusa Kitchen

It’s at times like this that I really should read my own blog, as on my previous visit there I wasn’t impressed.

My initial reaction on opening the box was one of disappointment, I was expecting grilled chicken, it wasn’t grilled, well it might have been but there was no grilled look or flavour. The sauce was scattered across the chicken, however it lacked flavour. I couldn’t detect the coconut in the coconut rice, but it was otherwise cooked well, nice and separate and not sticky. The salad was fresh and interesting. Even with the disappointment of what it looked like, alas the eating experience didn’t change my perspective, and it was a disappointing meal overall. I don’t think I will return.

One of there reasons I blog about my eating experience is to remind me not to buy and eat at places I had eaten at.

So forgetting about my last experience completely I went there again. I vaguely remember eating from there before, but I couldn’t recall exactly what I had ordered and what it had been like… simple solution read my own blog!

I chose the Vietnamese Chicken, fragrant flame grilled chicken served with coconut rice and salad, which is what I had before and was disappointed with.

This time I was disappointed again, not because it wasn’t any good, but I never got any, as they had sold out of the chicken.

Looking over the menu I went with the Asian Inspired Tofu & Mushrooms.

Asian Inspired Tofu & Mushrooms

The tofu was interesting, but the mushrooms lacked flavour.  The sauce was scattered across the tofu and the mushrooms (as before) and it also lacked flavour. The menu describes the rice now as just rice, no mention of coconut, this was cooked well, nice and separate and not sticky. The salad was fresh and interesting. 

However as before the overall experience was this time just okay. I must remember both this meal and the previous one, next time I go out for lunch.

Time for a cheaper pizza

In the past we’ve had some good experiences at the Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway and we’ve had some pretty poor ones too. We have been there a number of times, and they have revamped the places a few times over the years. Now it has a more of an American diner feel to it, rather than the Italian restaurant style it had before.

One of the key reasons we decided to return to eat was that we had a special offer. We used an offer code, so we only paid five pounds for each dish, which made the whole meal very good value for money.

Though we had to wait for a while, we were once our table was ready we were given a warm and friendly welcome and and it was quick and easy to place our order.

I ordered the Funghi Luganica – A ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

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

I’ve had this pizza before at Bella Italia and I enjoyed it last time, and I enjoyed it this time as well. The base is mushroomy (is that a word) and savoury, over the traditional tomato that you find on most pizza. The chunks of mushroom on the pizza were very nice and I really enjoyed them.

My son had the Queen Margherita pizza. Tomato and mozzarella base, oven-baked then topped with torn bufala mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, rocket and green pesto.

Queen Margherita pizza. Tomato and mozzarella base, oven-baked then topped with torn bufala mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, rocket and green pesto.

This looked great and he said it was fresh and tasty. It was finished off, which doesn’t always happen.

My wife had the fresh egg tagliatelle in a tasty carbonara sauce with crispy pancetta and leeks.

fresh egg tagliatelle in a tasty carbonara sauce with crispy pancetta and leeks.

However this didn’t look anything like the picture on the menu on the website when we got home, where are the leeks? Having said that she did say the pasta was very tasty.

Service was mixed, our main waiter was warm and friendly, but other staff looked rushed and flustered.

Overall though we had an enjoyable dining experience.

Time to enjoy the meal please…

Pizza Express at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol

I haven’t been to Pizza Express at Cribbs Causeway for a while now, I think it was for my birthday last year following a game of bowling.

Okay having checked my blog, yes it was last year…

Time for a pizza and some antipasto

With just the three of us, and having just visited the cinema we ventured in, having booked a table earlier that evening. That made sense as the place was quite busy and we were given a nice booth.

One of the features of Pizza Express is that they individualise their restaurants depending on location. The Weston-super-Mare branch for example has beach huts. Pizza Express at Cribbs Causeway has a number of Banksy inspired graffiti executed in his distinctive stencilling technique. I don’t think they are painted by him though.

Taking the time to peruse the menu I was tempted to have a salad, but in the end decided to go with the pizza option.

I was tempted by the Calabrese, which I have had before, but decided to try the new Funghi di Bosco. This pizza comes with portobello mushroom, tomato, mozzarella, rosemary and garlic oil, finished with fresh parsley and shaved Gran Milano cheese on a Romana base.

I was warned that despite no mention of this on the menu description, the tomato sauce that they use on this pizza was quite spicy, nice of them to warn me, but I decided to go down that road.

Before the pizza arrived we shared a portion of Calamari, described as lightly-crumbed, crispy calamari rings served with Çaesar dressing, a wedge of lemon and fresh parsley.

The squid was quite tender, even if the crumb wasn’t that crunchy. I thought it was okay, but I was a little disappointed. Regular readers of the blog will know that I find the way in which a restaurant serves squid or calamari, is a good way to compare or benchmark across various restaurants.

The pizza arrived and it was large, the Romana base, is stretched out and as a result is thin and crispy. I do quite like this kind of base.

Funghi di Bosco. This pizza comes with portobello mushroom, tomato, mozzarella, rosemary and garlic oil, finished with fresh parsley and shaved Gran Milano cheese on a Romana base.

I found the pizza delicious and tasty. There was plenty of mushrooms and they had a nice mushroom flavour, it was the reason I chose this pizza more than any other reason.

Our table also saw the Leggera Superfood Salad, a mix of black rice, edamame beans, red quinoa, mung beans, chickpeas, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and kale in a vinaigrette, on a bed of mixed leaves, rocket, cucumber, roasted peppers, red onion and fresh parsley with our light house dressing.

Leggera Superfood Salad, a mix of black rice, edamame beans, red quinoa, mung beans, chickpeas, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and kale in a vinaigrette, on a bed of mixed leaves, rocket, cucumber, roasted peppers, red onion and fresh parsley with our light house dressing.

This was delicious and fresh.

Another member of our party had the Fiorentina pizza on a classic base. This has spinach, free-range egg, mozzarella, tomato, garlic oil and black olives, finished with Gran Milano cheese. Apart from the olives, it was eaten with gusto and pronounced scrummy.

iorentina pizza on a classic base. This has spinach, free-range egg, mozzarella, tomato, garlic oil and black olives, finished with Gran Milano cheese.

Overall we were well pleased with the food, which was fresh, hot and tasty.

As for the service… well that’s a slightly different matter. To start off booking the table and the welcome we received was excellent. It was warm and friendly and we were made to feel right at home.

Alas our drinks order was incorrect and we had to send it back, even though I think it was a genuine mistake down to a noisy busy restaurant.

We had one big concern, the jug of tap water we were given without asking, was a nice touch. What did concern us was the huge crack in the glass jug which was leaking water. We were worried that the jug would break apart… We got a replacement, and an apology. That jug also had a crack, not as big, but still….

Our starter of calamari arrived promptly and we enjoyed eating it, but we hadn’t even finished our final mouthful when our pizzas arrived. I do like a bit of a gap between the starter and the main, and prefer not to have them on top of each other. We have gone out to eat and when going out it’s not just about the food, it’s the whole experience.

We hadn’t even finished our mains when we got asked a couple of times if we had finished. Rushing people isn’t needed (there were a fair few empty tables) and it can ruin what is actually a quite nice experience otherwise.

Overall not as good service as it could have been, the staff were certainly friendly, helpful and polite, but the service felt somewhat rushed and disorganised. When you get asked a few times if you want desert, you know that something is amiss.

Having said that we did really enjoy the food and overall the whole experience was good. Would we go again? Yes we would.

So what did you have for breakfast?

Since our London office moved to Fetter Lane and I have been working in London significantly more, I have been intrigued by the breakfasts on offer at the local eateries around the office.

One thing that I see a lot of is poached egg pots, this kind of breakfast dish is starting to take off in Bristol too. These pots usually consist of a poached egg and then some stuff.

I have to say that by the time I get to London I am not usually looking for breakfast and generally just go with a coffee.

The other day though I was somewhat peckish. I was tempted to visit Yolk, but there was a bit of a queue, so decided to try the poached egg pots from Coco di Mama. I went with the mushrooms and power beans.

Breakfast pot

The pot contains a big portion of mixed beans in a smokey tomato sauce topped with spinach, cooked mushrooms, lightly roasted cherry tomatoes, a poached egg and some greens which could be micro herbs.

It was certainly an interesting experience, the beans were tasty and had a kick to them, so much nicer than regular baked beans. The egg was nicely cooked. I did think the mushrooms were overcooked and be careful as the tomatoes were very hot (and I nearly burnt my mouth on them).

For a hot breakfast dish, I thought it was really nice, I thought the portion size was ideal, though the proportions were slightly out for me, too many beans. I think next time I might add an extra egg for a pound.

Time for some Italian food

It has been nearly ten years since I visited a branch of Carluccio’s.

I do like Italian food, but I’ve not really had the inclination to visit Carluccio’s in that time. Their menu always looks interesting, but for quick lunches it was always on the pricey side.

So staying over in London and needing somewhere close and not too expensive, finding and reading the set menu online for Carluccio’s which was a few minutes walk away, I thought, well why not. It might be nice.

This branch of Carluccio’s was very close to Spitalfield Market and inside was dark and atmospheric. There was limited lighting, complemented with candles on the tables. I felt that it spoke of mystery and intrigue, so different to brightly lit restaurants.

I had a lovely warm welcome from the waiting staff and I was allowed to choose my own table. I do like being able to choose my own table, I realise when it’s busy that may not be possible, but when the place is quiet (as it was when I got there) it’s really nice to have a choice, and not been placed somewhere because it makes life easier for the waiting staff.

As it was dark, it was challenging to read the menu, I am glad I read it online before I had gone out.

The set menu I was choosing from had four choices for each course. I went for the Antipasto Misto. This was
pane carasau with gorgonzola dolce & 14 month aged prosciutto, caperberries, olives, finocchiona salami, baby pepper with pesto, marinated green beans, caponata.

Antipasto Misto. This was  pane carasau with gorgonzola dolce & 14 month aged prosciutto, caperberries, olives, finocchiona salami, baby pepper with pesto, marinated green beans, caponata.

I’ve not had pane carasau before, it is a traditional flatbread from Sardinia. It is very thin and crisp. It is made by taking baked flat bread, then separating it into two sheets which are baked again. It was interesting, but I think I would have preferred some ciabatta or focaccia instead.

There was very little gorgonzola dolce, reflecting on this when writing this, I initially thought there hadn’t been any on the plate, but then remembered there was a small piece. The prosciutto and finocchiona salami were nice, and I enjoyed the caponata, but I think it would have gone better with some bread (and not the flatbread).

My main course I chose was the Risotto ai Funghi. This was a risotto made with porcini, chestnut, oyster, shiitaki, shimenji, baby king oyster, closed cup mushrooms and garlic.

Risotto ai Funghi. This was a risotto made with porcini, chestnut, oyster, shiitaki, shimenji, baby king oyster, closed cup mushrooms and garlic.

You could certainly taste the mushrooms in this risotto dish, and the risotto rice was al dente and creamy. I thought it was slightly salty for my taste.

I had intended to go with the cheeses for a third course, this was three Italian cheeses, truffle honey, pickled walnuts and ciappe crispbread. However I was feeling somewhat full, so didn’t.

When I was presented with the bill, they had added a 12.5% service charge which was “optional”. When I have had good service I do tip, however adding the tip to the bill always strikes me as presumptive and I find it insulting. It appears to be saying we don’t trust you to leave a tip, so we are going to add a service charge to the bill to make you feel bad. I also wonder how much of that “service charge” goes to the actual staff? As I didn’t have any loose change on me, I left the charge on the bill and paid. I know waiting staff are poorly paid for what is a busy and can be stressful job (I have done it myself), so I think tipping for good service is a good thing. If I receive poor service then I don’t tip.

Overall I did enjoy the food, the service was attentive and quick. The environment was nice and did not feel crowded, nor was I rushed. Would I go again, probably.

Late night visit

I had spent most of the day travelling, so after arriving late into London, and my first choice having closed their kitchen I popped into Prezzo.

The last time I went to Prezzo was five years ago (in York). We had some great food there, but in the end the service let us down. Not that I remembered any of that when I walked into the Euston Road branch of Prezzo. It’s not as though I have been avoiding Prezzo, but as a high street chain, which is slightly more expensive than other high street Italian chains, the other chains usually win out when making a choice. We have a new Prezzo down in Weston, but when we went out to eat we went to the Pizza Express next door. Both serve pizza and pasta and though the choices in Prezzo look inviting, they’re not inviting enough to make us choose them, it would seem. This time, even though there is a Pizza Express on the Euston Road, the branch of Prezzo was closer to my hotel than the Pizza Express branch. So into Prezzo I popped.

Despite the hour, I was given a warm welcome and shown to a table. They had some interesting choices on the main menu, and I was tempted slightly by the calamari, but decided to save some money and go with the set menu. It was nice that their set menu was available at that late time, so I went with two courses, the stuffed mushrooms and the chicken and pepperoni pizza.

The stuffed baked mushrooms were topped with mozzarella, onion and garlic.

stuffed mushrooms

I thought these might be bigger, and have more cheese. Having said that I did like them.

The Tre Gusti Pizza was topped with pepperoni, seasoned chicken and pancetta.

tri gusti pizza

This was really nice. The base was doughy but nicely crisp on the surface. The sauce wasn’t too salty. I did think it could have had some more pancetta.

Service was quick, excellent and friendly. Food was rather nice, I enjoyed the mushrooms and the pizza was fresh, hot and tasty.

Grilling in Euston

So I was staying overnight on the Euston Road before heading off to France on the Eurostar the following morning.

Having been walking around earlier I had noticed the Cattle and Co and it looked both inviting and interesting.

Cattle and Co

Having looked at the online menu I had quite liked the idea of chargrilled squid, which regular readers of the blog will know I quite like.

However the online menu must be slightly out of date as there was no squid on the menu, however to compensate there was a selection of grills that I hadn’t seen online.

Of the starters I did think about the Buttermilk Wings, but the “Now we talkin’” spice rating of the Buffalo Sauce made me think again.

I was tempted by a couple of items on the main menu. If I was really hungry I probably would have gone for the The Cattle Platter.

The formidable showcase of what we’re about here at Cattle & Co. St Louis Rib, Beef Short Rib, Smoked Chicken Thigh, Honey & Beer onion rings, and in just in case you needed something else; Fries. A wheelbarrow taxi service home also available upon request. No judgement here, we’ve all been there.

As I wasn’t starving (and I was eating alone) then decided that at £35 it was a bit extravagant to go for something that sounded delicious.

I also quite liked the sound of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken as well as the Angus Short Rib.

Now we’re talking. Our imported smoker really showing off its potential with this dish. Hickory smoked on-site for at least 12 hours (Low and Slow), Pickles, Sauce, AND Your choice of Fries.

In the end decided to go down the “specials” route and have a grill. The grills covered a range of prices, but was tempted by either the hangar steak or the lamb rump. In the end I went with the lamb.

It was served with a confit tomato, mushrooms, a green salad and some melted garlic butter. I did order a side order of truffle and parmesan fries.

Grilled Lamb Rump

I had expected the fries to be served with a large helping of freshly grated parmesan and grated truffle. That expectation was based on seeing a similar dish at one of the Bristol Street Food markets. However I didn’t see any real evidence of either parmesan or truffle. The fries were nice and I did enjoy eating them.

So what of the lamb? The lamb was cooked how I asked, the cut was full of flavour and it was really tender. I really enjoyed the chargrill which imparted a great flavour and hadn’t been overdone. I couldn’t believe how tender it was, easy to cut with a regular knife.

I also enjoyed the other accompaniments on the board. The tomato was lovely and tender, yet still full of flavour, so much nicer than just either a chargrilled tomato half or even an uncooked one. The mushrooms were nice as was the salad.

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. I should say it took some time for my food to arrive, but I wasn’t in a hurry and good food does take some time to cook. I think there were quite a few people in the other side of the restaurant by the kitchen, it was much quieter on the side I was in by the bar.

Would I like to go again? Yes I would.

Morning muffin and a coffee

Coffee

Arriving early for a meeting after an early start, I decided to get a morning snack and coffee. I don’t do this very often, but my usual haunt would be Caffe Nero, with a Flat White and probably an almond croissant. This time though I chose Leon after having a nice lunch there the other week.

There was quite a wide choice for breakfast, as well as yoghurt and porridge, there were a range of poached egg pots, muffins and a breakfast box.

I went with a mushroom and egg muffin and a flat white.

The coffee was actually rather good, but I would have preferred to have it in a proper cup rather than a cardboard one.

The muffin contained roasted Portobello mushrooms, egg, spinach and the spicy Leon tomato ketchup. The mushrooms were rather nice, I think I would have preferred a soft poached egg over the one in the muffin, but that would have made it much messier to eat. I wasn’t a fan of the ketchup, but it was interesting.

It was a nice morning breakfast after an early start and a long journey.