It’s so tempting and it’s my favourite

I am not in Bristol on many Friday’s so I often miss the Finzel’s Reach Market. At their first birthday though I was lucky enough to be in Bristol and went to the market. There is usually a wide choice of stalls to choose from.

In the end I splurged at Lisa’s SheSellsSushi stall. I know I could have chosen something new or different, but SheSellsSushi is really delicious, very tempting and certainly a favourite of mine. So though I try not to have what I have had before, this time I went with what I had before.

I took a bento box with the Beef Donburi, which is slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce with a hirata bun.

This time there was a choice of two hirata buns, pork belly with kimchi and a chicken tempura. Both served in a charcoal steamed bun.

It was hard making a choice, so in the end I went greedy and had both.

The Donburi beef was as usual delicious, the flavour is great, it was well balanced and so tasty. Served with rice and spring onions, great rice with some really tasty savoury tender beef.

slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce donburi

I really enjoyed the tempura chicken hirata bun, the chicken was flavoursome, as well as being nice and crispy. I did enjoy the charcoal steamed bun it came in.

hirata bun with tempura chicken

The pork belly one was nice too, but it wasn’t as good as the ones I have had previously.

hirata bun with pork belly and kimchi

Overall it was really nice, delicious food and I will probably have it again.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2017

This year I have written 37 blog posts. In 2016 I wrote 28 posts.

In the Birdcage

The tenth most popular post on the blog was about the Pret A Manger Italian Chicken Salad I had in 2013. I have had it quite few times since.

Ninth place, was a reminder from 2013, that if I ever go to Frankie and Benny’s again, don’t order the pasta! I have never had pasta again at F&Bs.

The post as number eight was about Sainsbury’s Cooking Chorizo, Having used cooking chorizo from Tesco, Marks and Spencers and Sainsbury, I much prefer using the chorizo from Tesco or Marks and Spencers.

The number seven post was from ten years ago, Pasta in Tomato Sauce. A recipe for a very quick and easy dish with a lovely piquant tomato sauce.

Pasta in Tomato Sauce

Sixth post was about the Wagamama Pork Ribs I had in 2011.

Post number five for last twelve months was Basil & pine nut margherite, a simple pasta recip.

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the fourth most read post on the blog.

The third most popular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers’ Pork Medallions.

Second most popular blog, having been top for two years was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

In at number one is Chilli Squid from Wagamama, climbing one place. This popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, however it is now quite old being from 2011 and the visit was the same one that I had the ribs.

So popularity appears to be dependent on older posts being found via Google searches. Hopefully 2018 will see more posts and more people seeing those posts.

Finzel Friday

So there I was in Bristol on a Friday, well that means I can visit the Finzel Reach Market down at, well you guessed it, Finzel Reach! The market has grown slightly since I last went. It use to be just one row of stalls, now there are stalls facing each other. This is good news, it shows that the market is working and is popular with punters. As usual there was a wide choice of street food stalls including some of my favourites. I was tempted by the Crispy Squid from the South Kitchen, likewise the barbecued meats from Low N Slow was also looking very tasty. In the end I went with SheSellsSushi and a bento box with Teriyaki Beef Donburi and a Hirata Bun.

I have had these before, slightly breaking my own rule of trying new and different things, but last time I really enjoyed the Donburi and the Hirata Bun, so this time decided to repeat the experience.

Donburi Beef

The Doburi was slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce, served on rice with garnishes. The beef was tender, tasty and scrummy.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, sorting onions and tasty sauce.

The Hirata Bun was a black charcoal bun with delicious tender pork belly, spring onions and tasty sauce.The bun was light and fluffy, the pork tender and delicious.

Again a lovely eating experience.

Time for breakfast

breakfast at The Walton

I occasionally have to stay away as part of my job, and I find it surprising that I have become something of a breakfast snob when it comes to hotel breakfasts. I know that it is nice to have someone else make you breakfast.

A recent breakfast experience at the Holiday Inn Express was very disappointing, with minimal choice, not much different a previous experience a few years back. However recently I was able to repeat the breakfast experience at The Walton Hotel in Nottingham. I first stayed at The Walton back in 2016.

The Walton Hotel in Nottingham

This is a unique hotel experience and nothing like the bland chains that I usually find myself in. The quirky decor and furniture makes fort a very different hotel experience.

The Walton Hotel in Nottingham

Last time the breakfast was very quirky in its presentation.

breakfast at The Walton

This time I was expecting something different, as I had noticed that the dinner menu was radically different to what I had seen on my last visit. Last time I had a really nice pork done three ways. Looking back through the blog I realised I hadn’t blogged about that dish or the breakfast.

Pork done three ways

That pork dish was very clever and delicious, but as you can see it had quite a quirky presentation. I think I remember seeing a similar sounding lamb dish back then, so was looking forward to having that this time on my return visit. However looking over the menu it was apparent that they had changed chef and were going for “safe” options such as steak and chips, steak and ale pie, fish and chips, etc…

The new menu didn’t inspire mess so was expecting a more “traditional” breakfast. However this time the breakfast was similar, it was served on a plate, though the beans were still in a miniature saucepan.

breakfast at The Walton

The mushroom was full of flavour and well cooked, not broiled for ages as you find at a breakfast buffet. Likewise as it was cooked to order the bacon was very tasty and not dried out, the eggs were also similarly freshly cooked and still had runny yolks. I liked the beef tomato that came with the breakfast. The sausage was meaty and tasty. The breakfast came with some nice toasted bloomer bread and a cafetière of freshly brewed coffee.

These were high quality ingredients and were cooked well and tasted delicious.

She doesn’t just sell sushi!

One of the regular stalls at the St Nicks market in Bristol on Friday is SheSellsSushi and it is one of my favourite, even if I have never actually had the sushi from there…. yet!

My usual lunch order with the stall is the bento box containing a choice of two dishes from the menu. I usually go for the Donburi, which is slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce combined with some octopus (or duck) balls (takoyaki).

Donburi Beef

However Lisa, on the stall has been recently selling steamed Hirata bun, so in my bento box this time, I once more had the Donburi, but this time I went with the Hirata bun.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, sorting onions and tasty sauce.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, spring onions and tasty sauce.

The bun was light and fluffy, the pork tender, all in all great flavour. I really wanted another one. I do like the takoyaki I usually go for, but now, I will always go with the Hirata bun.

The Donburi beef was as usual delicious, the flavour is perfect, you can sometimes overdo the teriyaki, but this was well balanced and so tasty. Served with rice and spring onions.

I have spoken to others who really recommend the sushi, so I think I will have to try that next time (with a Hirata bun).

Asian inspired

It’s being a while since I did any stir frying so last night I was inspired to get the wok out and cook some Asian inspired dishes. My first was Thai style stir fried pork with pal choi and cashew nuts.

Thai style stir fry

This dish was my take on a meal I use to eat a lot when I worked in Oxford. In the covered market in Oxford there was a lovely little eatery called Sais’s Thai that cooked and served delicious Thai dishes. One of my favourite was the stir fried pork with pak choi, Thai basil, vegetables and cashew nuts. I have tried many times to recreate it and have got a reasonable facsimile of the dish now.

I took some pork belly and cut it into chunks before roasting it off in a hot oven. A long slow cooking might be better, but even with just twenty odd minutes in a hot oven, it still managed to render the fatty pieces of pork belly down into tasty chunks. This is set aside. I don’t mind preparing my own vegetables, however I did have a pack of rainbow stir fried vegetables from M&S that I had bought, which had been reduced, and included carrots ribbons, red cabbage, spring onions, baby sweetcorn and pak choi. I added some red pepper and mushrooms to the mix. I started by heating up a little oil in the wok on a high heat. To this I added the vegetables and tossed them around. I then added some soy sauce, fish sauce and a little vinegar. Turning the vegetables once more I then added the cooked pork. The dish was done, once the pak choi was limp. In the past I would add some spinach leaves and basis leaves, alas I had none in the fridge. I have tried to grow Thai Basil in the garden, but have not had much joy there. It’s quite challenging to find it in my local stores.

Alongside the pork stir fry I also made sweet and sour pork balls. For this I first cooked chunks of pork belly in the oven. These were done in a covered roasting pan, they were covered with foil. What I was trying to so was actually slow cook them, but this was challenging as I was short on time, but also the oven was quite hot, as at the same time I was roasting the other chunks of pork belly for the stir fry dish. This was cooked for about twenty minutes, the pork should look cooked, but not caramelised as if it had been roasted. The result is soft tender pork. This was cooled. I meant to coat the pork in flour, but didn’t, so they went straight into a batter mix of self-raising flour (I actually used gluten-free flour), egg and milk. The key is less about the quantities but getting the consistency right. It should coat the back of a spoon, if the batter is too thin then the pork doesn’t get coated enough, too thick and you get thick stodgy battered balls of pork. The pork was deep fried in small batches in hot sunflower oil. I was really pleased with the results, the batter was crunchy and crisp, with the pork tender and full of flavour. The pork balls were served with a homemade sweet and sour sauce which included baby sweetcorn and red pepper.

With those two dishes (and as I did have hot oil on the go) I served some crispy rice noodles, deep frying dried rice noodles, along with regular cooked rice noodles.

Overall the meal went down well and everything was eaten.

Porcetta from the Piaggio

The Piaggio Ape is a three wheeled motorcycle based truck, which is seen all over the place in places like Italy. Here in the UK they are quite rare.

They are quite popular in the UK with some street food vendors, one which I remember was outside The Brewery in London serving really nice coffee from the back.

The St Nick’s market on Friday had a yellow Piaggio Ape serving Italian pork or beef sausages in a roll.

Piaggio Ape is a three wheeled motorcycle based truck

I have seen them before, but didn’t really fancy what had been on the menu. However as I passed I noticed they were cooking something different, though the blackboard talked of Italian pork sausage or beef sausage, on their griddle was some porcetta. They had some to taste

The porcetta was served with salad, mushrooms in a toasted ciabatta bun. There was quite a choice of toppings, with the first one free.

Porcetta from the Piaggio

I was really impressed with the service and the speed of cooking. The guy behind the grill, spoke a lot of Italian as he cooked, and he expertly took the cooked porcetta and heated it on the griddle along with (what I think was cheese, or could have been garlic butter). This was served in the bun with some (alas bland) iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and some tasty mushrooms.

The porcetta was delicious and I really enjoyed it, and it was something I would get again.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2016

So what food, drink and coffee blog posts were people reading this year? Interestingly none about coffee?

10 Trofie Pasta with fresh basil pesto, pine nuts and grated parmesan

9 A Taste of Peru

8 Wagamama Pork Ribs

7 Well that was nice

6 Christmas Four Bird Roast

5 Marks and Spencer’s Pork Medallions

4 Basil and pine nut margherite

3 Newquay Steam Beer

2 Chilli Squid from Wagamama

1 Sirloin for Beef Wellington

The top three posts were the same top three in 2015. Well here’s to some better and more exciting posts for 2017.

…but you don’t like it!

Kingston upon Thames

Down in London for a family visit, it was time for lunch. Kingston has a lot of wonderful places to eat, however with young children we chose Zizzi, partly as one wanted pizza and the other is gluten-free (and Zizzi do a nice gluten free pizza).

It was a Saturday lunchtime and the place looked packed standing outside, I didn’t hold out much hope that we would be able to get a table, especially as we hadn’t booked. However the branch of Zizzi in Kingston has an upstairs, which was a lot less crowded and we able to easily find a table for the seven of us. I quite liked the nautical theme of the decoration and furniture.

Zizzi in Kingston

I do like the rustica style pizza at Zizzi and have had their Carnosa before which I enjoyed. Going over the menu I was tempted to have the Carnosa again, but saw the new Rustica Pizza Pulled Pork Roma. This was described as slow-cooked pulled pork and crispy crackling on a white base of Fior di Latte and smoked mozzarella with pepperoni, sunblush tomatoes, thyme & smoked chilli jelly.

Rustica Pizza Pulled Pork Roma

I almost always avoid menu items with pulled pork in them, as I don’t like it. They usually contain a sticky sweet barbecue sauce, from the menu description it was apparent that this pizza didn’t. I should point out I wasn’t certainly expecting any kind of authentic Italian experience here either.

I like how they use the term, Fior di Latte mozzarella to make it sound exotic and authentic, what it actually means this is cheap mozzarella made from cow’s milk and not the buffalo milk that “proper” mozzarella is made from. However when it comes to topping a pizza, I don’t believe it makes too much difference when it comes to flavour. I do though think it’s amusing they are using the Italian terminology to make the pizza appear more “authentic”.

The rustica style pizza is a stretched pizza base, which is more authentic than most pizza you can buy, it’s also similar to the Romana style pizze you can get Pizza Express. I like the crisp and texture of this pizza. I liked the crunchiness of the crackling and tasty pork. The other toppings all added to the overall experience.

I did enjoy this pizza and found it a delicious combination of tastes and textures.

The service was friendly and fast, however though I ordered a starter, it never arrived, the waiter had forgotten to put it through to the kitchen!

The other starter arrived just as we started to eat it, all the main courses arrived, it was bread, so less of an issue, but even so…

So, nice environment, great pizza and okay service. Even if it is busy, you should still as a restaurant be able to manage, I was expecting Saturday lunchtime to be busy, so should Zizzi.

A little more Mexican market eating

You can tell how much I like somewhere sometimes whether I go again, so just a week after my previous visit, I found myself waiting outside Wahaca for it to open at midday to grab a quick lunch. There was a bit of a queue to get in, but I think that demonstrates how popular the place is to go and eat.

Wahaca, one of a chain of Mexican street food eating places that to be honest I only found out about last week! There are branches across London and England, there is even a branch in Bristol! I went again to the branch on the South Bank. The restaurant is situated on the South Bank next to Waterloo bridge. It is built from eight recycled shipping containers arranged across two overhanging levels, with both inside and outside seating.

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment

These brightly coloured containers make for an interesting eating environment. As with my previous experience the staff were friendly and welcoming.

There is a wide choice of dishes, the menu is split into nibbles, bigger food and street food. The street food menu is a range of smaller dishes. As I had missed breakfast, there was a cancelled train, so I had rushed to catch the earlier one, and was hungrier, so I went with three dishes, whereas in my last visit I had had two dishes.

I really wanted to try something different this time so made sure I didn’t go with the dishes I had before.

Of the three dishes I ordered, the first to arrive was some taquitos. These were two corn tortillas filled, rolled and fried into crispy cigars and served with shredded salads and salsas.

taquitos were filled with crab and shrimp in a gently spiced Veracruzan tomato sauce, topped with habanero slaw and fresh tomato salsa.

These taquitos were filled with crab and shrimp in a gently spiced Veracruzan tomato sauce, topped with habanero slaw and fresh tomato salsa.

I really liked the look of this dish, I thought it was well presented. The habanero slaw and tomato salsa were delicious and very fresh. As for the taquitos I wasn’t as impressed with them as I thought I would be. They were quite spicy and crunchy, but I couldn’t really taste the crab and shrimp. I was hoping that the crunch of the crispy rolled tortilla would be complemented by the fresh taste of seafood, but alas it wasn’t to be. I really did enjoy the slaw and salsa. It was reasonably priced at £4.95.

My next two dishes arrived together. One of these was one I was going to order last time, but in the end chose something different. I went with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa. They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole.

three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa

I really enjoyed this dish, the steak was cooked well and was very tasty. The accompanying salsa and guacamole added a little extra to the dish. Each tacos had two or three pieces of steak. These I thought were also reasonable priced at £4.50 for three.

My final dish was one of the specials, Gringa Taco. Described in the menu as Mexico city’s favourite street food dish. Grilled pork pastor, marinated in achiote and pineapple, served in a floured tortilla with toasted cheese.

Gringa Taco

I did wonder what achiote was and found our later that it is a Yucatecan condiment called recado rojo or “achiote paste”. It is made from ground Bixa orellana seeds combined with other spices. As a result the pork was very red and quite spicy. The floured tortilla was first spread with guacamole and the pork added as a layer to the top of that before a chunk of grilled pineapple topped the dish.

This was quite a spicy dish, but was delicious. The pork was very tender and the guacamole helped offset the heat of the spice. I did think that a spoonful of sour cream would have helped finish the dish, but I am guessing that is more American than Mexican. I did like the grilled pineapple which added a real contrasting sweetness to the spiciness of the dish and was fresh and tasty. Reasonably priced at £5.15.

The service as before was excellent and I really enjoyed my food and the meal.

Looking forward to next time.