Stuff for pasta

Pasta is a quick and easy dish in our house. For a sauce I usually start off making a base of pancetta, onions and pepper in a frying pan. Start off by cooking the pancetta until browning and then add the onions and peppers. When the onions and pepper are softened add sliced mushrooms. As the mushrooms cook add some spinach.

This is the base for a variety of pasta sauces. 

Add to freshly cooked pasta with pesto for pesto pasta.

Add a tin of chopped tomatoes (or a carton of passata) for a tomato sauce.

For a creamy sauce, I usually stir in a jar of crème fraîche. I always try and use a quality crème fraîche rather than the standard supermarket own brand.

Add parmesan to taste.

I sometimes cook some mushroom separately and add those as an addition to the pasta.

Time for a change

Back in at the end of November I was in London working and needing lunch, wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for, but after walking around Leather Lane market I made a decision. I decided that I wanted a salad.

I had enjoyed my salad from Birley Sandwiches so joined the queue.

I had a pasta salad with rocket, tomatoes, mozzarella, avocado, croutons and olives.

I do like the way they make the salads fresh to order, they toss the salad in the dressing for you.

When I got back to the office, I put the salad on a plate and tucked in. It was nice, but not as nice as the salads I have had there before. It was a little too salty for me. Maybe it’s time for a change, when I next get a salad.

In the end we ended up at Amarone

Edinburgh Castle

I have been to Edinburgh many times for work and have eaten out there when staying overnight. I had an excellent French meal back in November 2019. However though I have been there for work I have never been there for a personal visit. So when planning a short holiday for the summer we decide we would visit Edinburgh in August for a short city break.

On our first night we decided that we would go to Bella Italia, but they were full, so we then decided we would visit Wagamama which was just around the corner from the hotel. You can’t book a table for Wagamama, you just have to turn up and hope for the best. Alas there was a long queue for Wagamama so we needed so go somewhere else, and of course we hadn’t booked anywhere else either.

I was looking at booking a place on my phone when we checked across the road from Wagamama and there was an Italian restaurant called Amarone which was open and had free tables.

Amarone

So in we went and were shown to a comfortable booth. The decor was nice if a little over the top really, however as the place had once been a bank you realised that explained the high ceilings. It reminded my of Harrods with the lights and pillars and use of brass.

There was quite a good menu, however it was a limited menu due to Covid restrictions in the kitchen.

I chose a pasta dish, the rest of the table, one had a vegan pizza, the other two had gluten free pizza.

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare, this was mixed seasonal fish and shellfish with olive oil, garlic & parsley. I was given a choice of rich tomato or bianco sauce, I had the bianco sauce.

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare

This wasn’t a huge dish of food, but there was a generous serving of fish and shellfish. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce was delicious. I really enjoyed this plate of food.

The vegan pizza was interesting and tasty. The Ortolana Vegana was a hand-stretched & stone-baked sourdough pizza base, vegan mozzarella, marinated and grilled courgettes, aubergine, mixed peppers, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.

Ortolana Vegana

I had a slice and it was interesting and tasty, not so sure about the vegan mozzarella.

The gluten free pizza were simplistic but tasty.

gluten free pizza

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. We had a lovely welcome and given time to both order and eat despite the busyness of the place. Certainly somewhere I would go again if I was back in Edinburgh.

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 Circus 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.