More Salad

salad

It was a really hot September day, approaching 30℃ feeling very much like the continent, reminded my of the holidays I had in Spain and Greece. This wasn’t a day for a huge hot meal, nor for spending a long time walking around.

I didn’t have a huge break for lunch so popped to Birley Sandwiches for another of their salads. I had really enjoyed the salad I had there before.

There was something of a queue, so had to wait a while. I have to say I was tempted by their sandwiches which seemed delicious, huge and quite good value as well. Maybe next time.

I went with a salad without protein but was still delicious. They have a wide choice of protein, but I think it wasn’t really needed and didn’t add very much. I think I would have (if I was really hungry) have had some buttermilk chicken with the salad, or a chargrilled steak. However they don’t sell that kind of extra at Birley’s and I wasn’t that hungry in the heat.

I had pasta, rocket, mozzarella, olives, tomatoes, avocado, mixed grilled vegetables and croutons. It was dressed with a caesar salad dressing. I do like how the salads is made, dressed and mixed in front of you.

It was much bigger than I anticipated when I put it out on a plate, but it was delicious.

Time for some ravioli

Ealing Dickens Yard

Staying in London I drove over to Ealing Broadway to do some food shopping. However once there looking at the places to eat. I did think about Cote again. Though I looked at various menus, I wasn’t in the mood for Korean or Japanese. I ruled out the Bread Street Kitchen as it was too expensive. I did think about Bill’s which had a fixed price menu which was reasonable. However the last time I was in Ealing I remembered seeing Dicken’s Yard and this time I went and explored and found a pasta place called Pasta Remoli.

I rarely eat pasta out, as I have had some poor experiences, but this place looked good. I did walk around the block once more, but I was tempted by the pasta. The whole street looked very continental and it reminded me of similar streets in Italy, Spain and Greece.

They had plenty of tables inside, but no air conditioning. However as I hadn’t booked, I was allowed to choose where I wanted to sit inside, I sat down and looked over the menu.

It’s actually quite a simple menu, choose your pasta, choose your sauce and then choose your cheese.

You can either have a regular portion or a large portion.

I chose the large portion of Truffle & Mushroom Ravioli (for a £1.80 supplement). For my sauce I went with the simple butter and sage, described as the perfect accompaniment for any of our Ravioli dishes. I was reminded of the delicious pasta dish I had had recently at Bella Italia back in June. For cheese I went with Parmigiano Reggiano.

It looked great when it arrived.

Truffle and Mushroom Ravioli

It tasted great too. The pasta was al dente as it should be. The filling was rather good and the sage butter just added to the dish and didn’t overpower the truffle and mushroom filling. It was just about the right size portion for me. Delicious.

There were some other dishes on the menu beyond the three choices that looked good. There was a special of spaghetti with fresh clams (wasn’t quite sure how fresh the clams would be). I also liked the idea of Simone Remoli’s Signature Dish,  Fresh Lobster Spaghetti. Though at £19.80 was slightly beyond my budget. There are also some nice looking starters, sides and deserts.

I got the bill. Notice in London that they always add a service charge, this is also happening in Bristol as well. I always prefer to tip rather than a obligatory charge and will tip well if I had good service.

It looked like they had some good gluten free choices, but the following did start to ring some alarm bells.

*Gluten free: there might be contamination during the cooking process

If you are avoiding gluten, maybe not so much an issue, but if you are coeliac then this place would be a non-starter. I suspect the problem is that they cook the GF pasta in the same water as normal pasta. This is a pity as otherwise this would be a perfect place to visit if one of your party was coeliac.

Time for a tasty salad

Popped out for some lunch, it was late, so most of the street food stalls in Leather Lane were closing up. In the end I went to Birley Sandwiches and had a salad made up. Nice idea of choosing different ingredients.

It was a very tasty salad. I had a base of fusilli pasta with rocket, with crayfish, grilled Mediterranean vegetables, tomatoes, croutons and dressed with a Caesar salad dressing. There was a wide choice of things you could have.

Ravioli di Capra

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. 

We went for lunch at Zizzi in Cabot Circys back in August 2019.

Though I have pizza most times I visit Zizzi, on this visit, not being overtly hungry I went with pasta. I had the Ravioli di Capra. Goat’s cheese & spinach-flecked ravioli with a tomato sauce, super green pesto & pine nuts. 

Delicious but not a huge dish, so finished quite quickly. 

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.

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.

Simple Pasta Salad

pasta salad

Over the summer months we have been eating a lot of salad. To accompany the other salads we have, I sometimes make a simple pasta salad. I cook the pasta and when it is cooked, I drain the pasta, place it back in the pan and fill with cold water, drain and then repeat. The aim is to both cool the pasta down, but also stop it from cooking and getting too soft and sticky.

To the cooked pasta I add various ingredients, what I add depends very much what we have in the fridge. Some I cook, some I add raw.

Our usual favourites include, onions, pepper, courgettes and mushrooms. These are usually cooked in a pan, cooled and then added to the salad. Raw ingredients I have used include cucumber, tomatoes and spring onions.

The mix of pasta and other stuff, I season the salad with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Stir and serve.

I have been using gluten free pasta, which when fresh is fine, however unlike wheat based pasta doesn’t stay soft if you keep it until the next day, so it’s very much a matter of eat it today.

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.

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 for some delicious pasta

Paesan restaurant close to the Exmouth Market

I seem to be spending more time in London these days, and generally I am only up there for the day. Last month I was there for most of the week so stayed overnight. I was staying in a hotel that I actually wasn’t expecting to stay in, so I hadn’t had the time to do much research about places to eat nearby and I really didn’t want to end up at the hotel restaurant, as they can be terrible food and over-priced.

I really liked the look of Paesan close to the Exmouth Market as I walked past on my way to the hotel, and decided that this was certainly a possibility. I also liked the look of the menu at Paesan, simple yet sounding really tasty, as well as authentically Italian.

Inside the plain brick walls, wooden floors and simple furniture gave the place a rustic warm atmosphere. You can see into the kitchen and see what the chefs are doing.

The staff were friendly and welcoming and I was shown to my table and I looked over the menu.

I was tempted by lots of the small plates, particularly the carpaccio or the calamari alla griglia. To be honest I think I could have quite easily ordered all of them, however I wasn’t hugely hungry and I was on a budget.

There was a wide range of pasta on the menu, in the end I ordered the a large portion of the orecchiette pasta with nduja, pancetta & cime di rapa.

orecchiette pasta with nduja, pancetta & cime di rapa

I could see into the kitchen and it was interesting to watch the chef cook my food.

Paesan restaurant close to the Exmouth Market

The food arrived in good time and looked great. I did expect it to be slightly larger than it was, but glad I didn’t go for the smaller “primi” size (which would be ideal for smaller appetites or lunch).

To be honest this was the best pasta I have had from any restaurant. The fresh pasta was cooked to perfection, al dente, the sauce was just about right.

I finished my meal off with a very Italian espresso, more like a ristretto.

Ristretto coffee

The menu changes quite frequently so I am tempted to go back and try something new.