Crispy Squid

Crispy Squid

The South Kitchen run a regular crispy squid stall, though the menu had the odd special dish, the usual offer is either salt and pepper crispy squid or sweet chilli crispy squid. Both dishes are served with pickled vegetables, new potatoes and chorizo.

Each serving is freshly cooked to order in front of you. The squid and the potatoes are taken and cooked in the deep fat fryer, before being tossed in the appropriate seasoning then dressed with the picked vegetables and garnished with sesame seeds.

The squid is tender, the batter is crisp with a real crunch. The potatoes add substance to the dish and the vegetables enhance it. Overall a great dish of food.

For me this is what street food is a really about. This is proper fresh food, it isn’t been hanging around under a hot plate, drying out! It’s not something that has been cooked in advance and then heated up in a microwave.

One “problem” with enjoying street food like this, is when you go to another eatery, which doesn’t cook the food this way, then you really don’t enjoy the experience.

Moorish Calamari

Over in St Nick’s Market in Bristol are many stalls including a really nice looking Moorish place. As well as serving food to take away, they also have a few tables and seats for table service. I’ve always meant to give them a try, but either didn’t fancy the food that day, or there was no space!

The other week they had a specials board out and on there along with a grilled halloumi special was a Calamari Salad. Regular readers of the blog will know I have a fondness for calamari or squid and see it as a benchmark about a restaurant or place.

Sitting down I ordered the calamari and the service was excellent, the order was taken quickly and the food arrived just as quickly.

Moorish Calamari

The dish comprised freshly cooked squid rings in batter with a selection of salads, dips and potatoes.

The calamari was delicious, the batter had a nice light crunch and the squid was very tender.

The salads and dips were greta, very fresh and full of flavour.

I enjoyed the dish.

Sitting on the dock of the bay…

Sitting on the dock of the bay…

There is something really nice about having a wide choice of places to get your lunch and then sitting on the riverside in the sun, watching the world go by.

There is something extra special when that happens during what most people would call a winter month, when the norm is to run indoors and turn the central heating up.

There is something extra extra special when the food you are eating is perfection on a plate (well perfection in a box).

It was one of those days.

The Thursday market at Temple Quay is one of my favourite places for lunch. There is always an exciting and tempting range of places to get some delicious food. After the nightmare that was Doris (the storm) and the cancellation of the market the previous Thursday I was pleased to be able to go this week. As usual there was a wide choice, I did quite fancy the idea of the barbecue box from Low N Slow and the Jerk Chicken Wrap from Biblos looked very tempting. However I do make the point of checking out every stall to see what there is before making my final choice (okay virtually every time).

As I walked around and turned the corner there was the squid place, the one where I had the really nice squid a few months back. This was Audacious Squid who do a lovely dish of crispy squid. Well I enjoyed it last time, so guess who ordered the squid?

There were three dishes on the menu, the Sweet Chilli Squid (which I had last time), Smokey Chilli Squid (which was new) and a Squid Ink Bun with Crispy Squid.

I always try and have something new, so though I enjoyed the Sweet Chilli squid last time, I went with the Smokey Chilli Squid. This is cooked for you in front of you with care and passion. You can see the intensity of the chefs as they bring your dish together. They were cooking to order and dish after dish of freshly cooked squid was being served, then it was my turn and I got my box of squid.

Smokey Chilli Squid

The dish comprises freshly cooked crisp squid with ‘slaw, baby corn and picked vegetables. It looked fantastic, fresh salad, crispy squid, chorizo and the tantalising pickled vegetables.

Rather than take it back to the office, which is the norm for me, and as it was actually sunny and rather nice, I sat “on the dock of the bay” and ate my squid. Well is was in Harratz Place next to Temple Quay.

The sun was shining and it was really nice eating outside in March!

As for the squid, well this was delicious. The batter was crispy, the squid was tender, almost melt in the mouth. The slaw was crunchy and fresh. I really liked the pickled vegetables. I am not sure how smokey the smokey chilli was, but it was quite nice.

Overall it was a delicious dish of squid, it was perfection on a plate (well perfection in a box).

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.

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.

Did not meet expectations

paella

One of the regular stalls at the weekly Temple Quay meeting, but also the Wednesday street food market on Wine Street usually has a really large queue, so I often avoid it, due to time constraints. It usually serves beef chilli, stroganoff and paella. I have no idea of the stall name, as there isn’t one on the stall.

Having a little more time and quite liking the idea of the paella, I decided to join the queue. It did move quite quickly as the staff were quick and efficient at serving.

The paella was cooked on a large paella dish and contained chorizo, chicken, mussels, prawns and squid and was £6.00 a serving. The portion was provide in a plastic takeaway container and was given a garnish of fresh coriander and lemon.

I had quite high expectations about this dish, but alas I was to be somewhat disappointed.

The yellow of the dish came from turmeric, rather than the much more expensive saffron. I wasn’t too surprised by this, as this happens quite often. Even so I did like the flavour of the dish and felt it was very tasty. The dish though, I felt lacked enough of the core ingredients. It had one piece of chicken, two small prawns, a few pieces of squid, but plenty of mussels!

My main disappointment as a result is about value for money, was the dish worth the money I paid for it. I didn’t think it was worth the price and I don’t think I would try the dish or the stall again.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2015

Illy Coffee

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

At number ten is an article entitled, Alba Ristorante Part Two. Back in 2008 when attending Handheld Learning, one evening we went to a local Italian next to the Barbican in London. I do remember the meal, it was delicious. This was a really nice upmarket Italian restaurant but with quite reasonable prices, especially for London.

The ninth most popular post was a Classic Heineken Advert from 1976.

Classic Heineken Advert from 1976

The eighth post was about cooking Chorizo, Cooking Chorizo. as was the seventh post Chorizo Frito al Vino.

The post at number six was about Basil & pine nut marguerite and a simple pasta recipe was at number five, Pasta in Tomato Sauce.

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

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

The second most popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, this one was about the Chilli Squid from Wagamama.

The most popular post this year 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.

Well here’s raising a cup of coffee and wishing you all the best for 2016.


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.

Crispy Chilli Squid

Over the last few years I have written various reviews of crispy squid from various restaurants. I find that how places cook and treat squid gives a comparative indication of the quality of the cooking.

I do cook squid myself, but most of the time I either stir fry or griddle the squid. This time though I decided to cook crispy chilli squid.

I took the squid and cut it up into what I can only describe as one inch squares and included the tentacles. These were then tossed in seasoned flour. The flour had black pepper and dried chilli flakes added. This is then left for about thirty minutes. The combination of flour and the wet squid results in a kind of tempura batter, without needing to add anything else to the flour.

Crispy Chilli Squid in flour

The squid was then quickly deep fried in hot oil. The squid was drained on kitchen paper.

Crispy Chilli Squid

It was served with a sweet chilli dip. For added heat add some freshly sliced red chilli to garnish.

Bella Bella

Bella Italia

My last experience with Bella Italia was rather a disappointment, so with a little trepidation we went there for dinner, though this time it was a much better experience.

When we had arrived the place was quite empty, well it was after 4pm and you wouldn’t expect it to be that busy. What I didn’t realise when we left just before 6pm the place was buzzing and pretty much full. It certainly didn’t feel like that sitting down, I suspect the main reason is that this branch of Bella Italia is very much zoned into different areas, with clever use of walls and bannisters (or railings) though the place is quite big, you actually feel you are in a much smaller cosier venue. Compare this with the Bella Italia at Cabot Circus which is smaller, but feels much bigger and more open, and as a result less cosy.

There was a different menu to the time we last went and I would say that I was certainly less inspired. It felt a little more bland and corporate than previous visits, but that doesn’t mean it is, it just felt that way.

As a last minute choice I went with a starter and chose, despite my plan to be choosing different things, I went with the calamari at £5.95. Lightly breaded and deep fried tender squid, with lemon and caper mayonnaise. The squid was tender, but I have had much nicer squid at Bella Italia. It was apparent they had changed the recipe (well probably supplier). The last time I had the squid it included the tentacles as well as pieces of squid, and they were covered in a parmesan batter. This time they were rings and were breaded rather than battered. The only criticism I would make back then was that sometimes they overcooked the squid, this time though with the new recipe they didn’t.

So what about the main courses?

My son decided to go with the Gamberoni at £9.95, that is described on the menu as eight succulent king prawns sautéed with spaghetti, garlic and chilli in a spicy pomodoro sauce. As with a previous experience the waiting staff did ask if he wanted the chilli to which he replied yes. I find it amusing that they say eight prawns, obviously a combination of marketing the dish, and making sure that people don’t complain about the number of prawns! My son really enjoyed the dish and finished it all off.

After a lot of thought I went with the Formaggio Double Burger at £12.95, described in the menu as a double Americano with melted mozzarella, parmesan and gorgonzola cheese. It was served in a soft ciabatta bun with fries and smoked tomato and onion relish.

Firstly if they are chips, they are not fries! Fries are thin and skinny and the chips are chunky. These were chunky! The best way to describe them was as okay, they weren’t awful, but they were certainly not the best chips I had. Reflecting on this I think the problem was they were quite tasteless.

The burger though on the other hand was delicious. I was very impressed with the flavour and the texture. It was just how I like it. When I compare this one, the last time I had a burger at the Holiday Inn Express. When I ordered it, I was a little concerned that the three cheeses would overpower the dish, but that wasn’t the case, they complemented the burgers really well.

My wife went with the Portobello Mushroom Burger, which was a portobello mushroom, with goat’s cheese, roasted red pepper and onion, baby gem leaves, tomato and mayonnaise, served in a soft ciabatta bun. What I found funny was that she thought this was just the topping on a regular burger, she didn’t realise that the mushroom was the burger. Despite that “mistake” she really enjoyed it, she said it was delicious and the really liked the goat’s cheese.

My two younger children went with the pizza and spaghetti bolognese and both of them really enjoyed their food and ate a lot of it.

As for service, well I would say that the place got it just right. We had really good service throughout the meal.