Risotto a la Milanesa

I recently picked up a box of Gallo’s Risotto a la Milanesa, which is risotto with parmesan & saffron.

This is prepared risotto rice to which you only need add water, though you can add butter and parmesan at the end of cooking to add a little bit of luxury and more cheese flavour to the dish.

I usually cook risotto from scratch and I hadn’t really read the box when I picked it up, so thought I was buying plain risotto rice with some saffron included.

What you actually get is a bag of saffron coloured rice which you cook in water for 12 minutes before adding butter and extra cheese.

It’s a really bright yellow, which might put people off, but it was rather tasty. If I can find it again I think I will get another pack. A quick and easy rice dish.

Time for Birthday Paella

Spanish inspired rice dish

When asked what was wanted for a birthday meal, the response was a seafood paella. Okay this is not paella, but is a dish inspired by paella. I have had authentic paella in Spain and from street food stalls in Bristol. I have been cooking this dish for a fair few years, but got told once by a Spanish person that what I was cooking wasn’t authentic paella, which is correct, so I normally describe this as a Spanish inspired rice dish.

In a large paella pan add a splash of olive oil. The add some pancetta (or chopped chorizo), a diced red onion, a diced onion, diced red pepper and diced yellow pepper. This is then cooked off slightly before I added some diced mushrooms and some sliced mushrooms.

Once the onions are softened I add the paella rice and stir it into the onions and peppers. I added a paella mix from Waitrose, but you could, of course, use your own spices, herbs and saffron. I then added some stock, I used a Knorr fish stock. I then added some tinned cannellini beans.

Spanish inspired rice dish

With hindsight I should have added the cannellini beans later in the cooking process as they got slightly overcooked and some fell apart.

I then gave everything a thorough stir. Then leave it to cook, don’t stir it again. As the stock reduces, add more stock to ensure that the rice cooks evenly.

I cooked the whole prawns on a griddle and did the same with the squid. I usually score the squid to make it look nice, but was out of time, so it went it as is. I also cooked some plain prawns and added them.

I usually cook the cooking chorizo separately as they seem to “leak” a lot of oil when cooking. I always try and using cooking chorizo rather than the dried ready to eat version you can buy. It’s softer and tastier I think in a dish like this.

I added the cooked fish, cooked chorizo and quartered lemons to the top of the dish and then served.

Last supper, well for a while

Before lock down and all the restaurants we usually frequent were closed we went to Wagamama at Cribbs Causeway. We had thought that places might close or be restricted, so took a final opportunity to go out and eat.

It was quite quiet compared to usual, but not to be unexpected. We were given a lovely warm welcome and we made our way to the table.

Looking over the menu and feeling quite hungry I decided that as well as my main course I would order a side of hirata buns. I really like these and have in the past been tempted to order them from Wagamama, but not really had a chance or wasn’t hungry enough, or more likely I chose the chilli squid instead.

The menu describes them as Mixed Mushroom Hirata Buns – two fluffy asian buns stuffed with mixed mushrooms, panko aubergine, coriander and mayonnaise.

ixed Mushroom Hirata Buns - two fluffy asian buns stuffed with mixed mushrooms, panko aubergine, coriander and mayonnaise.

The buns were lovely and fresh, warm and soft. The mushrooms were really tasty as was the panko aubergine. I demolished them fairly quickly and was left wanting more. They were very tasty buns.

Usually when I am at Wagamama I seem to order the ramen, so deciding to be different I want with a curry instead.

I had the Nikko Curry with Sea Bream, which the menu describes as fragrant and citrusy. Coconut, lemongrass and turmeric soup, roasted butternut squash, tenderstem broccoli, mangetout, bok choi, beansprouts, chilli, coriander, ginger, fresh lime, and chilli oil. It came with a side of white rice with sesame seeds.

Nikko Curry with Sea Bream, which the menu describes as fragrant and citrusy. Coconut, lemongrass and turmeric soup, roasted butternut squash, tenderstem broccoli, mangetout, bok choi, beansprouts, chilli, coriander, ginger, fresh lime, and chilli oil. It came with a side of white rice with sesame seeds.

I felt the fish was slightly overcooked, but I really enjoyed the soup and the vegetables were lovely fresh, and cooked perfectly. The dish overall was really tasty and I was wanting more when I had finished.

I really enjoyed the meal and was a little sad as we left as I realised that we might not enjoy such a meal again for some time.

I actually wanted the chicken…

So after going for a walk over my lunch break I decided after thinking about it for a while that I fancied something spicy, so decided to visit Nusa Kitchen.

Nusa Kitchen

It’s at times like this that I really should read my own blog, as on my previous visit there I wasn’t impressed.

My initial reaction on opening the box was one of disappointment, I was expecting grilled chicken, it wasn’t grilled, well it might have been but there was no grilled look or flavour. The sauce was scattered across the chicken, however it lacked flavour. I couldn’t detect the coconut in the coconut rice, but it was otherwise cooked well, nice and separate and not sticky. The salad was fresh and interesting. Even with the disappointment of what it looked like, alas the eating experience didn’t change my perspective, and it was a disappointing meal overall. I don’t think I will return.

One of there reasons I blog about my eating experience is to remind me not to buy and eat at places I had eaten at.

So forgetting about my last experience completely I went there again. I vaguely remember eating from there before, but I couldn’t recall exactly what I had ordered and what it had been like… simple solution read my own blog!

I chose the Vietnamese Chicken, fragrant flame grilled chicken served with coconut rice and salad, which is what I had before and was disappointed with.

This time I was disappointed again, not because it wasn’t any good, but I never got any, as they had sold out of the chicken.

Looking over the menu I went with the Asian Inspired Tofu & Mushrooms.

Asian Inspired Tofu & Mushrooms

The tofu was interesting, but the mushrooms lacked flavour.  The sauce was scattered across the tofu and the mushrooms (as before) and it also lacked flavour. The menu describes the rice now as just rice, no mention of coconut, this was cooked well, nice and separate and not sticky. The salad was fresh and interesting. 

However as before the overall experience was this time just okay. I must remember both this meal and the previous one, next time I go out for lunch.

Time for some Italian food

It has been nearly ten years since I visited a branch of Carluccio’s.

I do like Italian food, but I’ve not really had the inclination to visit Carluccio’s in that time. Their menu always looks interesting, but for quick lunches it was always on the pricey side.

So staying over in London and needing somewhere close and not too expensive, finding and reading the set menu online for Carluccio’s which was a few minutes walk away, I thought, well why not. It might be nice.

This branch of Carluccio’s was very close to Spitalfield Market and inside was dark and atmospheric. There was limited lighting, complemented with candles on the tables. I felt that it spoke of mystery and intrigue, so different to brightly lit restaurants.

I had a lovely warm welcome from the waiting staff and I was allowed to choose my own table. I do like being able to choose my own table, I realise when it’s busy that may not be possible, but when the place is quiet (as it was when I got there) it’s really nice to have a choice, and not been placed somewhere because it makes life easier for the waiting staff.

As it was dark, it was challenging to read the menu, I am glad I read it online before I had gone out.

The set menu I was choosing from had four choices for each course. I went for the Antipasto Misto. This was
pane carasau with gorgonzola dolce & 14 month aged prosciutto, caperberries, olives, finocchiona salami, baby pepper with pesto, marinated green beans, caponata.

Antipasto Misto. This was  pane carasau with gorgonzola dolce & 14 month aged prosciutto, caperberries, olives, finocchiona salami, baby pepper with pesto, marinated green beans, caponata.

I’ve not had pane carasau before, it is a traditional flatbread from Sardinia. It is very thin and crisp. It is made by taking baked flat bread, then separating it into two sheets which are baked again. It was interesting, but I think I would have preferred some ciabatta or focaccia instead.

There was very little gorgonzola dolce, reflecting on this when writing this, I initially thought there hadn’t been any on the plate, but then remembered there was a small piece. The prosciutto and finocchiona salami were nice, and I enjoyed the caponata, but I think it would have gone better with some bread (and not the flatbread).

My main course I chose was the Risotto ai Funghi. This was a risotto made with porcini, chestnut, oyster, shiitaki, shimenji, baby king oyster, closed cup mushrooms and garlic.

Risotto ai Funghi. This was a risotto made with porcini, chestnut, oyster, shiitaki, shimenji, baby king oyster, closed cup mushrooms and garlic.

You could certainly taste the mushrooms in this risotto dish, and the risotto rice was al dente and creamy. I thought it was slightly salty for my taste.

I had intended to go with the cheeses for a third course, this was three Italian cheeses, truffle honey, pickled walnuts and ciappe crispbread. However I was feeling somewhat full, so didn’t.

When I was presented with the bill, they had added a 12.5% service charge which was “optional”. When I have had good service I do tip, however adding the tip to the bill always strikes me as presumptive and I find it insulting. It appears to be saying we don’t trust you to leave a tip, so we are going to add a service charge to the bill to make you feel bad. I also wonder how much of that “service charge” goes to the actual staff? As I didn’t have any loose change on me, I left the charge on the bill and paid. I know waiting staff are poorly paid for what is a busy and can be stressful job (I have done it myself), so I think tipping for good service is a good thing. If I receive poor service then I don’t tip.

Overall I did enjoy the food, the service was attentive and quick. The environment was nice and did not feel crowded, nor was I rushed. Would I go again, probably.

It was rather disappointing…

Nusa Kitchen

In my continuing adventures around Fetter Lane looking for places for lunch, I decided this time to try out the Nusa Kitchen at Adam’s Court. It certainly has a striking shopfront.

They have an extensive menu across soups, salads and rice boxes. I went with the large Vietnamese Chicken, fragrant flame grilled chicken served with coconut rice and salad for £7.95.

 Vietnamese Chicken, fragrant flame grilled chicken served with coconut rice and salad

The service was quick and efficient and though it wasn’t too busy when I went, I can imagine it moving faster when there is a queue.

My initial reaction on opening the box was one of disappointment, I was expecting grilled chicken, it wasn’t grilled, well it might have been but there was no grilled look or flavour. The sauce was scattered across the chicken, however it lacked flavour. I couldn’t detect the coconut in the coconut rice, but it was otherwise cooked well, nice and separate and not sticky. The salad was fresh and interesting. Even with the disappointment of what it looked like, alas the eating experience didn’t change my perspective, and it was a disappointing meal overall. I don’t think I will return.

Satay Chicken Hot Box

I have been intrigued by Leon for a while now, I was surprised to find a branch at the Strensham South Services on the M5. Also pleasantly surprised that their prices were the same as they are in their high street stores and not inflated because they are in the motorway services.

The reasons for my intrigue is the interesting menu of salads and hot boxes. The choice is varied, sounds delicious and look appetising.

I didn’t eat at Strensham as I wasn’t stopping to eat, but to be honest I was a little bit tempted. So it was no surprise when needing to buy lunch in London the other day I was pleased to see a Leon branch and I popped into to get some lunch.

As it was rather cold, I decided I would go with a hot box rather than a salad. There were some really nice choices, but in the end I went with the Satay Chicken Hot Box.

Satay Chicken Hot Box

This contained sliced chargrilled chicken thigh on Italian brown rice, served with a punchy satay sauce. Topped with fresh parsley, mint & toasted seeds.

The chicken was really tasty and tender, it was covered in a nice but not too spicy satay sauce. The slaw was crunchy and fresh.

I really enjoyed the box, it was tasty, fresh and full of flavour.

Going back to itsu

I haven’t been to itsu for a while now, since I stopped working in Oxford, I made quite a few visits there for sushi and pots of noodles. I haven’t been to the branch in London (too many other choices) however in December a new branch opened in Bristol.

As on my previous visit, there was a lot of choice and within the different types of food on offer lots of variation. I found it difficult to decide on what to have.

There is a big choice of salad and sushi in the fridges and then there are the hot options, pots of soup, rice, noodles or dumplings.

In the end I went with the Vietnam beef salad. This was roasted beef, hard boiled egg, spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning.

Vietnam beef (roasted), hard boiled egg (free range), spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning

It looked really nice and was well presented. I found the beef tender and actually quite tasty. The salad and rice was also really nice. The overall combination was delicious and I really enjoyed the salad.

Spicy!

If you live in Bristol you’ve probably heard of Chilli Daddy and you may have even eaten there. They have relatively recently taken on a stall in the St Nicholas Market and as that is a regular haunt of mine for lunch, I have been thinking about eating there for a while. When they first arrived in St Nicks I did find the menu somewhat confusing, since then they have appeared to simplify it.

winter1_1_orig

winter2_1_orig

winter3_orig

On my most recent visit to St Nick’s the staff from Chilli Daddy were offering free samples of fried spicy chicken, pepper chicken and mini spring rolls. All very nice and tasty. Though what I didn’t see was where they were on the menu!

Looking over the menu, I decided that noodles would be a messy affair so went with a rice dish, the Paojiao Chicken Rice Box.

So the dish didn’t look like the picture, well it was a square box.

Paojiao Chicken Rice Box.

The dish was mainly rice with ground chicken with some vegetables and some peanuts. The pajiao was Sichuan pickled chili pepper. This was a very interesting dish and I did find it both tasty and spicy. Even though I went for the level 2 spiciness it was still quite a hot spicy dish, I don’t really want to imagine how hot a level 5 dish would be.

Time for a new pan

paella

I do quite like cooking paella, and though I’ve not talked about it for a while on the blog, it has made regular appearances on the dining table. One thing I have been thinking about for a while was buying a paella pan to cook it in. I have been using a regular frying pan, but the idea behind using a special paella pan, was to ensure a more authentic dish. This would be achieved by having a broader pan, the resulting paella would be shallower than using the regular frying pan. It would also ensure that I didn’t need to stir the paella, which I have been told now is something you don’t do with paella. So when I was out shopping in Bristol recently I treated myself to a new 40cm paella pan.

For my most recent paella and using the new pan for the first time, I took some diced onion, pepper, mushrooms and courgette. In addition I also threw in some diced chorizo to the pan. After heating a splash of olive oil in the pan, I fried the vegetables and chorizo until they were soft.

I use a variety of methods when adding flavour, from making my own seasoning mix using saffron and paprika, to using shop bought seasoning mixes or pastes. For this paella I used the Marks & Spencer’s paella paste, this contains saffron, but also gives the paella a rich fruity flavour. The paste was added to the pan and mixed with the cooked vegetables.

I then added the paella rice. It makes sense to use the right kind of rice when cooking paella, to ensure you get the right texture. This was coated with the rest of the ingredients and then I added some white wine, before adding the stock to cover all the ingredients.

This was then left to cook over a simmering heat for 30-40 minutes, and I didn’t stir. Though after 25 minutes I did add a little more stock to the pan.

In separate pans I cooked the chorizo and the squid. The chorizo I used was the cooking chorizo, sliced into 4-5mm slices. This was cooked off in a medium pan with a little olive oil. They certainly sweat oil out and this combined with the paprika can stain, so be careful. For this paella I used regular squid, this was scored with a sharp knife before been cooked just before serving in a hot frying pan.

The dish was then constructed, the cooked squid and chorizo was placed on top with chunks of lemon, then served.

Delicious, and went down well.