What we had for Christmas Lunch

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake. This post is a little later than I planned, but it’s here now.

This year we ordered two Christmas roasts from Tesco. I was a little concerned as the night before the day I was going to collect the order I got a phone call from my local Tesco saying that part of my order had not been delivered to the store and offered a replacement. I wasn’t too happy with this, as it was quite short notice. In the end they had a late night delivery so I got my order in the end.

The main one was a part-boned turkey with chestnut stuffing. This was really nice roasted the chestnut stuffing was really nice too, with who chestnuts within it.

The second was a three bird roast, comprising a duck stuffed with goose and turkey. I remember once spending a lot of money on a Marks and Spencer four bird roast, which though very nice was mainly a big turkey with some duck, goose and chicken. So was a little bit of a disappointment, I blogged about that here, which reminded me not to go down that road again.

Along with the roasts we had roast potatoes, these I cooked in my usual way, which is as follows. I used Maris Piper potatoes, the type of potatoes I find is critical for getting crispy roast potatoes and a fluffy centre. I peel the potatoes and then par-boil for about ten minutes. Whilst they are in the pan of boiling water, I place the roasting tray in a hot oven with some sunflower oil (and I also add a splash of olive oil for flavour). This means once the potatoes are drained they are added to the pan which is pre-heated and has hot oil in. This speeds up cooking time and ensures a crispy roast potato.

I also did my regular dish of brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts.

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I did roasted parsnips. Along with them I did some festive carrots, I followed a Jamie Oliver recipe for carrots. I took a frying pan, this I filled with evenly cut carrots, either whole or halved in the main. I then covered them with boiling water. To this I add a large knob of butter, a splash of white wine vinegar, the juice from two clementines (or similar citrus fruit, or one orange) and some dried mixed herbs. Then let the carrots bubble away on the stove top for about 40 minutes. Once the eater has evaporated, the carrots should caramelise in the remaining sweet and sour mix.

We had a selection of stuffings and pigs in blankets.

Overall we were very happy with the meal, it was very tasty.

Carbon – charcoal grilled bavette steak

On a previous visit to London I found Carbon in Convent Garden, I was trying to find Wahaca when I chanced upon this eclectic charcoal grill. I said to myself the next time I need to buy lunch in London I am going to try it out. So the next time I was in London I did just that. I really like food cooked over a charcoal grill, I also really like freshly cooked ingredients for lunch too.

There was a queue, which in my experience is a good thing. There is a wide menu of stuff including lamb kofta, prawns, spiced lamb merguez sausage, or lemon and thyme seared halloumi.

In the end I went with the seared bavette steak. This was served with a chimichurri salsa, baked potato with cheese and a citrus tender leaf salad.

The Argentine from @carbonsoho charcoal grilled bavette steak with salad and a jacket potato.

I had quite high expectations about eating this and I wasn’t disappointed. The steak was perfect, I loved the chargrill, it was tender and full of flavour. The rest of the box was nice too. A nice mix of solid filling potato, light salad and piquant salsa.

Skimming over their Twitter feed I did like the sound of some of their specials. So the following day I went there again and the special was charcoal grilled leg of lamb with couscous and spiced vegetables. I thought to myself, yes please, alas many others had thought the same and they had sold out. Pity, maybe next time.

Well that was really tasty squid!

It was a Thursday and wanting lunch, well if you are in Bristol then the regular Temple Quay lunchtime market is really the place to be.

It was my intention to visit Low and Slow again after having a really nice lunch there a few months back. As I arrived (early) there was no queue, so I thought I would take the opportunity to check out what else was there at the market. There was a already a massive queue for the Thai stall, one day I might try it, but the queue always puts me off. The dumplings place had a queue and then I saw a new stall. It was called Crispy Squid!

Crispy Squid

Now, those of you who are regular readers of the blog will know that I have a soft spot for squid. It also one thing that when cooked well cane great, however my usual experience is that it is done badly.

So though I really liked the idea of the squid I was slightly sceptical that it might not be nice.

However I decided that it was worth the chance, so I looked over the menu, there were two choices, sweet chilli squid or salt and pepper squid. Both choices were served with potato, chorizo and salad.

I took the plunge and asked for a portion of chilli squid for £6. The lads at the stall got cooking and the dish was freshly cooked to order in front of me.

I have to say it looked fantastic.

Crispy Squid

It also tasted fantastic!

The batter was wonderful and crips and the squid was beautifully tender. I really liked the combination of squid, potato and chorizo, very Spanish and really tasty. I did feel that it was a probably a little too salty for my taste and I think if I was to order it again I would ask to “hold the salt”. The reason I chose the sweet chilli squid as I thought the salt and pepper squid would be too salty!

Update: have since realised the stall was called Audacious Squid.

Another visit….

the view from Waterloo Bridge

Back in London for a meeting and needing a bit for lunch, I did consider where I should go for lunch, and if I should go somewhere new, but did like the idea of Wahaca again. It wasn’t that long since I had been, but I had really enjoyed that meal. So off I went, over Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank to partake in some Mexican street food. So once more I went to the Street Food section of the menu to make some choices.

I hadn’t had quesadillas before so chose one from the menu. These are large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella, chorizo and potato. This is British chorizo, made to a special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

Quesadillas Large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella and classic Mexican ingredients.  British chorizo, made to our own special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

The large tortilla is folded and then cut into two. I did initially think that I had been given the wrong dish, as I didn’t think there was much potato or chorizo in the dish. There was more in the second though. I did enjoy the quesadilla it was nice and spicy.

My other dish was the smoky tomato fideus. These were east coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese and topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat.

Smoky tomato fideus East coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese, topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat. #wahaca

This was a much larger dish than I thought it was going to be. When Wahaca recommend 2-3 dishes, I usually go with three, but if this is one of them, then I think you can get away with just two, even if you are hungry.

This is very much thin noodles in a tasty spicy tomato sauce. I liked the avocado and cheese. There was a nice topping of crab, which to my surprise was chilled and hadn’t had a chance to warm up. I did like this dish and it was full of flavour, and something I wouldn’t expect in an Mexican eatery.

For my third dish, I did order a dish I had before, and went once more 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.

Tacos flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa with crisp grilled cheese

These were very generous filled with steak, more than I have had when I had these tacos before. These were delicious, I really enjoyed the chargrilled steak and the different textures and flavours.

The service was excellent, friendly, efficient and lots of smiles.

A taste of Peru

Temple Quay Market

So how often do you get a chance to sample some authentic looking and tasting Peruvian food?

One of my favourite features of Bristol is the weekly street food market that takes place every Thursday at the square in the newly redeveloped Temple Quay. It is open between 12 and 2, but I suggest you get there early, as there are large queues and many times dishes sell out (especially the vegetarian ones).

There are a range of regular and guest stalls, and when I went there was a real choice. I did like the idea of Greek, the halloumi pitta sounded and looked delicious. There was also a pulled lamb sub, that also looked very nice. After looking around, I went with Uchu Perú, as stall selling Peruvian food, my choice dictated slightly by the shortness of the queue and the interesting sounding menu.

Uchu Perú Menu

In the end looking over the menu I decided that I would go with the sample menu, so I could have a bit of everything. The sample plate has smaller portions of all the dishes from the menu.

If you stay at the market the stall provides a nice plate, but as it was starting to rain I got my meal to go and they split it between two boxes for me to take away.

Ceviche, which was sea bass cooked in lime with prawns, chilli, coriander, red onion, sweet potato and Peruvian corn. This was fresh and sharp and really tasty. I wasn’t so enamoured with the Peruvian corn, but it was something that I can see other people liking.

The Quinoa Salad was made from black and white quinoa with carrot, radish, coriander, broad beans, feta cheese and Peruvian yellow chilli sauce. I really liked how the team put this together, and was like the Ceviche was delicious. The ingredients were fresh, tasty and worked really well together.

The final dish in my trio was Causa, which was freshly piped potato puree with Peruvian yellow chilli paste, served cold with tomato, avocado puree, purple corn mayonnaise, sweet potato crisp, pulled chicken, topped with togaroshi mayonnaise. As I was eating I did wonder what the pink stuff was, but re-reading the menu, I realised this was the purple corn mayonnaise. Delicious components that worked really well together.

I really liked how the dishes were constructed to order and they looked beautiful. I’ve not eaten Peruvian dishes before, these were delicious and I would certainly go back to Uchu Perú.

I rarely go with the chicken

When I go out to eat I rarely go with the chicken, not that I don’t like chicken, on the contrary I cook it a lot when I am at home, as you can see I have written a lot about it on the blog. The main reason I don’t choose chicken is that, it is something I do cook at home and where possible when eating out I prefer to go with something I don’t normally cook at home. I also don’t choose chicken is that often the dish is chicken in some kind of sauce, or topped with stuff. In these dishes, the chicken is not the star of the dish, merely playing a bit part to the sauce. Another reason I don’t choose the chicken, is that generally the chicken used in restaurants is bland and lacks flavour, at home I usually go with thighs and legs as they have more flavour.

So even I was little surprised with myself when I recently had dinner at the Brasenose Arms in Cropredy and I chose the chicken.

the chicken, pan fried with lemon and oregano and served with crushed rosemary new potatoes and green beans

I will say it wasn’t my first choice, I did in fact want to have the roasted pork belly that was on the specials board, but that had sold out. So I chose the chicken, pan fried with lemon and oregano and served with crushed rosemary new potatoes and green beans, it was priced at £9.95.

The chicken was delicious, beautifully cooked and full of flavour, I liked the combination of lemon and oregano. I have to admit I was less impressed with the potatoes, they were nice, but were a little dry for me. I enjoyed the green beans. Overall I was really pleased with the dish, it was tasty, fresh and cooked with style and flair.

I liked the ambinance and friendly service that I had, I will certainly go again if I have the chance.

Rösti

Over the years I have tried to cook potato rösti and have generally failed miserably. Either the rösti was too soggy and grey, or was burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. Sometimes the whole thing just fell apart as I tried to turn them, or had stuck to the bottom of the pan. I had tried various preparation processes, cooking techniques with little success. In the end I use to buy prepared rösti from Waitrose, though very nice I took as a sign of failure.

However I think I have managed to get it right this time.

Homemade Rosti

I took some Maris Piper potatoes and I think that this was key, getting the ingredients right. I have found Maris Piper a really good potato for roast potatoes and thought that as a result it might work well for rösti.

I peeled the potatoes and then grated the potato into a bowl. I gave the grated potato a squeeze to remove some of the moisture. I then added some grated cheddar cheese. Now according to Wikipedia, true rösti is just plain potatoe, however some regional recipes do use cheese so I wasn’t that concerned.

I then using a flat frying pan added some sunflower oil and placed a handful of the raw ingredients onto the pan. I then pushed and shaped the pile into a round shape not too thick. When I was sure the bottom was cooked and from the edges looked nice and brown, this was the moment of truth, would they stick or turn?

It was a huge sense of relief as I turned the rösti over, it remained in one piece. After finishing that one off, I cooked some more and then placed them in the oven to finish them off and keep them warm.

The next test, was the taste test. I was so pleased with myself, the taste was perfect, I think the cheese added flavour and a hint of saltiness, whilst the texture was just right.

The next big test will be, can I repeat the process to cook rösti to the same standard, that remains to be seen….

Poached Chicken

Most Sundays we have a traditional roast dinner. This week I onlu had skinless chicken breasts in the fridge and I have always found roasting chicken breasts usually results in dry tough chicken. If using chicken portions, my preference is to use chicken thighs and legs.

So, in the end I sliced into the chicken, added a stuffing consisting of onion, mushrooms and basil. This I then wrapped in foil before poaching for twenty minutes. After cooking, I let them rest for at least five minutes before opening the foil parcels and slicing them.

PotatoesWith them I did some roast potatoes. Firstly you need to use the right kind of potatoes. It’s not as simple as buying any kind, the cheapest or whatever. This time I went with King Edward (as that was all that was available in the shop, well there were other varieties, but no Maris Piper.

After peeling and cutting into chunks the potatoes are blanched in boiling water for about 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the chunks. Now the size if dependent on how you like your roast poatoes and how long you have to cook them. Obviously smaller chunks means a shorter cooking time, whilst larger chunks though take longer are preferred by some people.

While the potatoes are blanched, place the roasting tray into the oven, with a good splash of olive oil and one of sunflower oil. The key here is to heat the pan and the oil. I put the pan into the hot oven (with the oil added) for at least five minutes, not too long though.

After blanching the potatoes, drain and the key here is to let the heat dry the potatoes. If they go into the pan “wet” they won’t crisp up well. The next stage is to slightly “bash” the potatoes by shaking the colander or sieve, this will aid the crisping process too. Then remove the roasting pan from the oven and add the potatoes, turning them and maybe a little more “bashing”.

You should also ensure that the potatoes are not too crowded, in other words they need air to be crisp.

Cooked for thirty to forty minutes (larger potatoes take longer). It is a good idea to turn the potatoes half way through to ensure a more even crispness. The end result should be tasty, crisp potatoes with a fluffy centre.

I also roasted some parsnips, carrots and onions. These I just cut into chunks. Place in a bowl, add some olive oil, mix to ensure the vegetables are well coated before placing in a hot oven for about twenty to thirty minutes.

Ready for roastingIn addition in another roasting pan, I took some diced onion, sliced courgette, mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes, these I roasted with a good dash of olive oil for ten minutes before adding some cubes of bread that soak up the juices and crisp up. Usually I will add these ingredients to the roasting tray I have roasted the meat in. However as I was poaching I just used a plain tray.

For gravy I made my own with a roux of butter, oil and flour to which I add stock and some red wine. Cook for at least five minutes.

To add colour and freshness I steamed some carrots, green beans and broccoli to serve with the meal.

Quick Roast Chicken

I do enjoy roast chicken, but sometimes I don’t have the time to roast a whole chicken.

ChickenWhen time is against me I will roast legs and thighs, which can be done in under half the time.

I do like to roast my chicken with “stuff”, usually onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and other things I can find in the fridge.

Why legs and thighs?

Well I find that the meat on these cuts of chicken are full of flavour compared to chicken breast.

After the chicken is cooked, I usually remove the chicken from the roasting pan, let it sit for a while. In the meantime I add cubes of bread to the roasting pan. These soak up the juices and crisp up, a great accompaniment to the chicken.

Alongside my roast chicken we had roast potatoes and steamed green vegetables.

Potatoes

The courgette was home grown and tasted great.

Greens

Steak and Black Pudding

The other week I was lucky enough to have dinner at the Mustard Seed Restaurant in Inverness. For my starter I had had the crayfish and salmon salad. For my main course I had the pan fried rump steak served with roasted fine diced black pudding and potatoes with parsley and garlic crème fraîche.

This was really really nice.

The steak was a rump steak, and I have found at many restaurants that rump steak can be quite tough, this one though was cooked to perfection and was very tender. I did ask for it to be cooked medium rare and I think that helped. The black pudding and potatoes were done well and really enhanced the steak. It was all complemented with the parsley and garlic crème fraîche, which had a subtle garlic flavour and the freshness worked well in opposition to the strong spiced flavour of the black pudding. Across those flavours you could still certainly taste the flavour of the beef.

Overall a really nice combination of ingredients, that was cooked well and was as a result delicious.