Time for a Samba Box

I really do enjoy visiting street food markets. It’s something I have missed during the pandemic and lockdown. I have been virtually working from home every day since lockdown in March 2020 and therefore haven’t needed to go out and grab some lunch. I’ve gone out, just not for lunch.

I have visited our offices in Bristol now and then, but have only had a couple of meals from the street food markets, some great paella and a delicious bento box.

With some in-person meetings and really an opportunity for a change in scenery and routine I spent part of the week up in London, the first time I had been working in London since March 2020.

It was a nice if a little grey day, so I headed out for a lunchtime walk and see what there was around.

In the part of London where our office was, it felt quiet and empty, again compared to Bristol which is much busier and more crowded. The streets were deserted and there was very little traffic. I was not surprised to see many of my coffee haunts and places I would go for lunch were either shut or had closed down. However there were still some places operating, but a lot less busy than eighteen months ago.

As I walked around I did wonder if the Leather Lane street food market was up and running and I was pleased to see it was. There wasn’t as many stalls as there has been on previous visits. It also didn’t help that I was having a late lunch, so many of the stalls were either shutting up or had run out of food.

After browsing the stalls I took the decision to have a Brazilian Samba Box. I had to queue, and then it started raining, but I stuck with it and stayed in the queue.

I chose the chargrilled chicken thighs which were served with Rio rice, black beans, coleslaw and lettuce.

It looked great and was very tasty.

The chicken was still tender and moist, I thought it might be a bit dry (as it was a last minute thing) but it wasn’t full of flavour. I liked the salad and the rice was nice as well.

I had mine served with chimichurri which was a nice accompaniment.

I really enjoyed the whole box and it was so nice to have something different, fresh and tasty.

Time for some Portuguese Tastes

Over the last year I have missed going to street food markets, so have been reflecting on nice meals I have had in the past. Whilst going through photographs of my food I realised I had never mentioned Portuguese Taste in all my blog posts on food from St Nicholas Market.

This was quite interesting as I realised that I had eaten there many times over the years I have been working in Bristol. It is one of my favourite stalls in the market. They have a real mix of dishes and every day there are different choices.

I had a delicious Portuguese Chicken meal back in December 2017 which consisted of chicken in a cream sauce served with rice, potatoes and salad.

It is a weird thing I find to have rice and potatoes, but that’s how they serve a fair few of their dishes. The menu has some quite inspiring choices and fish makes a regular appearance as does lamb and pork.

One dish I have had a few times is Portuguese Pork Steaks with Egg.

This was the plate I had in April 2016.

Whilst here is the same dish from a visit in July 2017.

The pork can be a little chewy, but the slow cooked onions and egg really add to the dish.

In May 2016 I had this dish.

I think this was also pork and egg dish, but came with a spicy tomato sauce and no salad!

Though the stall is somewhat small, they do have tables and chairs and I would usually eat my lunch inside the stall. Mainly as it was hot, and it came on a proper plate, but was a nice change from eating in the office out of a cardboard box!

Winter Salad

Though usually salad is synonymous with summer, every now and then I quite like a salad even when it is cold and frosty outside.

I recently made a winter salad which consisted of mixed leaves, to which I added sliced heritage tomatoes, chunks of cucumber, slices of sweet pepper, spring onions, sweetcorn, roasted butternut squash, thin green beans and some cashew nuts.

I added my homemade French dressing. 

Delicious.

Butternut Squash Salad

Butternut Squash Salad

I do quite like making salads using a range of ingredients. Even as it gets colder I do like a salad either as a meal in itself or as an accompaniment to something else.

This was a recent tasty salad that I made using butternut squash. I cut up the butternut squash into chunks and roasted in the oven with some olive oil.

Once this was cooked I constructed the salad. I started off with a bed of mixed leaves. I quite like butterhead lettuce you can get from various supermarkets, or the rosa verde salad bag from M&S.

To this I add cubes of cucumber, sliced tomato, slices of red pepper, sweetcorn, pomegranate seeds, mozzarella, thinly sliced radish and Serrano ham. I also used a nut and seed mix from Aldi to add some crunch.

You can dress the salad with a dressing, sometimes I do a simple French dressing, sometimes I let the natural flavours work their magic.

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.

Time for a Caesar Salad

I did quite fancy a Caesar salad for lunch, but I don’t buy the kits, partly as I prefer making my own, partly, as I like more than croutons and parmesan, and mainly as I need to have gluten free croutons.

For my Caesar salad I took some Romaine Lettuce and cut in half and set them across the plate. To this I added some white anchovies, quartered small tomatoes and peelings of parmesan.

For the croutons, I took the crusts of a Schär white loaf and sliced it into cubes. In a hot pan I added some olive oil and some butter, to which I added the cubes of bread and some dried Italian herbs. Once the croutons are browned I took them out of the pan and drained them on some kitchen paper.

These were then added to the salad, followed with some freshly ground black pepper.

I have variations, sometimes I prefer sun-dried tomatoes, but then I do like fresh, it’s a preference. 

I do sometimes add Caesar salad dressing, but usually have it on the side.

Little salad bowls

With this beautiful hot weather we have been eating a lot of salad. Recently I have been plating up salads for people using individual tapas style bowls. These I “picked up” from Lidl in their Sol Mar Spanish Tapas dishes in the freezer, which come with some useful little brown tapas dishes.

The advantage of these over plating onto the main plates is that they take up less room and it’s easier from a portion control perspective. The advantage of merely creating one big salad is that in the family some people like some salad items and others prefer something else. I like tomatoes, but another member of the family prefers grapes in their salad.

Depending on what we have in the fridge and the cupboard will determine what goes into the individual salad bowls.

I quite like to add a base layer of houmus to mine, to which I then add a handful of mixed lettuce leaves. I add slices of “heritage” tomatoes, slices of radish, sliced pepper, pomegranate seeds and diced cucumber.

Other ingredients I have used include batons of cucumber, grapes, sweetcorn, mixed pulses, sometimes raw red onion.

I rarely add dressing, but if I do, usually I just add a drizzle of olive oil and some white wine vinegar.

Time for an Italian salad

Fetter Lane

When the weather is hot and sunny and I am working in London, I usually prefer to have a salad for lunch rather than a hot lunch. Near the office there are plenty of places for lunch and lots have a wide choice of salads. I have enjoyed those from the Natural Kitchen where you choose from a selection. Another place I have had salad a few times is the branch of Coco di Mama which is close to the office. They have a wide choice of pasta dishes as well as salads.

I decided to have the Sun-Sational Speck & Bufala Salad. This has crispy speck, bufala mozzarella, mixed Italian beans & quinoa, mango, avocado, pepper pearls, capers, pesto-harissa and pea shoots. It was quick and easy to pay and the service was warm and welcoming.

Sun-Sational Speck & Bufala Salad

It was a really tasty salad, it didn’t overdo the mixed leaves unlike some pre-packed salads I have had from other places. I like the use of mixed Italian beans in the salad which was something I do have at home, but not often seen before. The mango added colour an sweetness, as did the pepper pearls (with a hint of heat).I like pea shoots and these were really nice and added a distinctive flavour to the salad. I wasn’t enamoured with the buffalo mozzarella, and I didn’t think the crispy speck added anything to the salad, I would have preferred to have fresh speck. Having said that, these are minor criticisms, of what was a really tasty salad. Something I would certainly have again. As well as tasty food, they have great service, so a return visit is very likely.

Time for a salad box

Olive Grove

One place in St Nicholas Market I have not been to for ages is the Olive Grove salad bar. They do a lovely salad and tapas box which you can have either just as, or with lamb kofte, grilled chicken or halloumi.

I really like the choice of salads and tapas they have. Pulse power comprises a mix of pulses. They usually have a pasta salad and a potato salad. Should say that the potato salad is not your usual mayonnaise covered potatoes, this has none of that! They are very tasty as a result. I like the Greek salad they have too.They have a choice of different kinds of olives, stuffed vine leaves.

Overall if you are looking for salad I think Olive Grove is a great place to go for.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

This year I have written 36 blog posts.

Tenth post was over ten years old, Chorizo Frito al Vino which was my thoughts on cooking Chorizo sausage in wine.

Chorizo

Ninth place was also about Chorizo, this 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 eighth 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.

The number seven post was Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings. The post had a lot of thoughts about mushrooms.

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

My fifth post was about retro chocolate. How many of these can you remember? Which were your favourites?

Retro Chocolate

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

Climbing two places, the third most popular post was Basil & pine nut margherite, a simple pasta recipe.

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 Chilli Squid from Wagamama, maintaining it’s top position as the most popular post on the blog.. This post was one of the many on the blog about squid, however it is now quite old being from 2011.

So popularity appears to be dependent on older posts being found via Google searches.