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.

Where’s my spinach?

As I was going through some photographs I realised that this meal I had last September wasn’t on the blog. I was up in Leeds  and staying at the Woodlands Hotel. This was a really nice hotel outside Leeds, so plenty of parking, and it was cheaper than a city centre Premier Inn.

I decided to go out to eat. I planned to go to Morley which had an interesting choice of restaurants, however the road there was closed due to an accident. So in the end I went to the Centre 27 Business Park and as I had a voucher, I went to Bella Italia.

I had a warm welcome and though the place was busy I was shown to a table and I looked over the menu. I ordered the Funghi Arrosto  mushroom starter, which was described in the menu as chestnut mushrooms oven-baked with wilted baby spinach leaves in a mascarpone and porcini sauce. Served with toasted ciabatta. It sounded rather nice. However when it arrived didn’t have any spinach.

Funghi Arrosto

When I complained initially I was told the spinach was mixed into the sauce. Knowing that wasn’t the case, the menu had said wilted baby spinach I had to go to the Bella Italia website and find the picture of the dish with the description.

Funghi Arrosto

I complained again, showed the picture and compared it to what I had received, and this time I was taken seriously. The dish was replaced.

This time it looked more like the menu picture, so much better, though I think the ciabatta could have been toasted more, but I was a little tired of complaining and I was hungry. I really shouldn’t have had to complain twice, I shouldn’t have even needed to complain once!

For my mains I had a mushroom pizza, can you tell I was in the mood for mushrooms. 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.

I’ve had this pizza before at Bella Italia and I enjoyed it last time, and I enjoyed it this time as well, though it was a little overdone to my taste. 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.

I decided not to have a desert.

I did later complain and got a £20 voucher to spend on a future visit to Bella Italia.

That branch of Bella Italia has now permanently closed.

Eating out (again)

The last time we went out to eat was in March, a week before the lockdown resulted in every restaurant closing their doors.

It was me eldest’s birthday and as a surprise we took him to Prezzo in Bristol. Most of the restaurants in Weston-super-Mare are still closed and we had some surprise guests for him coming from London, so Bristol was a better choice for us.

We had visited this branch in the old Leadworks before back in November, well before all the Covid-19 stuff and had a really nice meal.

This time, we booked in advance, as it was a Thursday, we couldn’t do the Government Eat Out scheme, but that wasn’t really an issue for us. Though from what we heard the day before with the Government Eat Out scheme they were really busy.

The Covid-19 restrictions meant that they had a one way system in the restaurant and they had reduced quite dramatically the number of tables in the restaurant. I think this was slightly exacerbated by the fact we were a party of eight, so putting all the tables together meant that it looked a little more sparse and barren than “normal”.

We were slightly early, but we were given a warm welcome and shown to our table. You can use an online process for ordering food and drinks, but we were given the option of ordering from the waiting staff, which we chose. We did this partly, as I didn’t want to use the phone to order, but also to ensure that when we did order the gluten free dishes we knew we would need that this would be taken down and recorded accurately. It was also nice to interact with a real person. Ordering by phone reminds of the self service tills you find at supermarkets, they have their place, but sometimes you need to or want to interact with a person. I think there is a time and place for self-service or automation, then there is also a time and place for service by a real person. When I go out to eat, it’s not just the food I am going for, but the whole dining experience, which includes service and atmosphere as well as excellent food.

We ordered some drinks, well coffee for me as we waited for the rest of the table to arrive. As we waited I looked over the menu. Prezzo currently have a limited menu, about 50% I think of the old menu, but there was still quite a bit of choice of starters and mains.

I wanted to start off with the calamari, but they had run out, so I went with the hummus instead.

This was rather tasty and there was a nice portion of fresh flatbread to go with it. It was a nice start to the meal.

For my main course I wasn’t sure if I wanted a pizza or something else. In the end I went with a large Mushroom, Spinach and Olives Pizza that came topped with rocket leaves.

Mushroom, Spinach and Olives Pizza

This was a really tasty pizza and I enjoyed eating it. 

It was nice not to be rushed, and we spent quite a bit of time in the restaurant eating and talking. We finished off the meal with some more coffee.

Waffling

This is one of our quick favourite meals, savoury grilled waffles.

I had an electric waffle iron for years (over twenty) and then it eventually stopped working, so we bought a double sized waffle iron, so we could make two at once.

My waffle mix is as follows, take a cup of self-raising gluten free flour, a cup of milk and one egg, Whisk the ingredients together until you have a smooth batter.

If you are making sweet waffles add some sugar and some vanilla essence.

I cook the waffles in the iron and then set them aside.

You can then choose which toppings you want. Some in the family like the classic ham and cheese, whilst others (like me) go for spinach,  mushrooms with onions and pepper, with cheese on top.

The waffles, complete with toppings are then finished off in a hot oven for about ten minutes.