Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

I do quite like having the meatballs when I visit IKEA, so now and again I buy them from my local supermarket and we have them for tea. I simply heat them in a frying pan with a little oil.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2021

This year I have written 107 blog posts, slightly less than in 2020 when it was 120. In 2019 it was 58 blog posts, 2018 just 36. 

With the continued lockdown I went out to eat a lot less than I have in previous years, however not going out, meant I had a little more time to play catch up finishing off reviews of meals and street food I had eaten before.

Having been the most popular blog post for both 2018 and 2017, second in 2019, and  dropping seven places in 2020, dropping another place was a post asking the question could you use 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. 

My post from September 2000 on Lidl French Week was the ninth most popular blog post. I do quite enjoy the way that Lidl does themed flavour weeks, and I often visit just to see what they have and get a few things. This post was on their French themed week and what I bought.

Eight was my review of Lidl Fritto Misto. Though I have bought the Lidl Fritto Misto from their Italy week quite a few times, the reality is that it’s okay, but not good. 

The top post from 2020 dropped six places to number seven, it was my review of some Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes

Reporting in April 2021 on the news that the Old Frankie & Benny’s site to become a Burger King Drive-Thru was the sixth most popular blog post.

The most at number five was from August 2020 when I reported that Frankie and Benny’s in Weston-super-Mare may close in the end it did and is being converted into a burger joint with a drive through. :Last year this was seventh most popular.

The fourth most popular blog post from January 2021 was about Truffled Cauliflower Cheese is no more… at M&S. It has disappeared again, as I did want to get some for our Christmas lunch.

The third most viewed post was on the Truffled Cauliflower Cheese itself from October 2020. It’s described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with a  cheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb. This post climbed five places from last year.

The post at number two, climbing one place, was a review of Lidl Coffee Ice Cream.

Lidl Coffee Ice Cream

They are not huge tubs, but what you get is a tasty creamy coffee ice cream, with a little chocolate in there as well.

So the most popular blog post on Time for a Coffee in 2021 was about the news that Prezzo to close in Weston-super-Mare published in March 2021.

Quite refreshing to see posts from 2021 being in the top ten.

Now this looks interesting

Saw this at my local Sainsburys supermarket.

It is a gluten free Katsu curry cooking kit.

I have been looking for such a kit or a while, so will be trying it out at some point.

It is nice to see such a greater range of gluten free foods in supermarkets these days. Though I do find that I still need to go to different supermarkets quite often as the ranges differ so much in each supermarket. For example I have to go to Waitrose for the Davina Steel pizza and focaccia bread mixes we like. The focaccia is great for making dough balls. I find the pasta range at Sainsbury’s really good. Asda sell some gluten free flour for 45p which is significantly cheaper than other brands which are around the £1.70 range. They don’t do the Schär Curvies (Pringle style crisps) which I get from Morrisons or Tesco.

A shadow of its former self

So our Bristol offices reopened on Monday 17th May following the third lockdown. Since the cover crisis started in March 2020 I have managed to get to Bristol twice last summer to work, but otherwise I have been working from home.

Today I went to the office, made me realise how much I hadn’t missing commuting, and it was nice to have a change of scenery from working from home. It was also nice to have those office conversations that are almost impossible to recreate online or using Yammer!

I went out for a walk at lunchtime, something I would generally always do when I was working in Bristol, and something I try and do when working from home. It was nice as it had been sometime since I had done a walk like that. The sun was shining and it was nice to get out and see the centre of Bristol.

I had bought a packed lunch with me, but did think if I see something nice, I might buy something to go with it. I was also interested to see how much impact the pandemic had had on the street food market and other food places in the centre.

As I got closer to the St Nicholas Market I could see that Matina, the Kurdish kebab place was still open, but as you might imagine the queue was nowhere as long as it was pre-pandemic. Their neighbour, Chilli Daddy was absent and all the doors were short tight.

Walking into St Nicholas’ Market it was very much a shadow of its former self. I am not sure if places have closed and disappeared, or were just shut. I am pretty sure that most places have shutdown, though Caribbean Wrap had a sign on their door saying open Wednesday to Saturday.

What was open was the cake place (whose name I can never remember), though their magnificent display of cakes didn’t quite look the same now hidden behind plastic screens. Eat a Pitta was open, but no free samples… I was slightly disappointed about that.

The juice and smoothie place was open, as was Low and Slow with their excellent barbecued and smoked meats. Pie Minister was there selling their delicious pies, and I was pleased to see that Taste, the Portuguese stall was there selling some tasty sounding dishes. The Wokyko Korean Fried Chicken noodle place was also selling their wares. Missing or closed was the Taco Barra, the Italian place, the Olive Grove salad bar,  and the North African stall.

Though I am usually supportive of the market and enjoy buying lunch there, today I wasn’t that hungry and I had a packed lunch back in the office. Though as I expect to be in Bristol more often now, I will be returning to the St Nicholas Market for lunch.

There were also quite a few changes across the centre of Bristol, some places had closed, others had changed hands, but it was nice to see that some familiar faces were still around.

Old Frankie & Benny’s site to become a Burger King Drive-Thru

Now that the Frankie and Benny restaurant has closed on Flowerdown Retail Park. It would appear that the site will become a  Burger King with a drive-thru. Planning applications posted to the council show how the site will be converted into a drive-thru and local businesses have been consulted on the change.

I am not a great fan of fast food burger joints, so I think the chances of ever eating out there is very slim. If I am going out to eat I like the whole dining experience, queuing for a brown paper bag full of fast food, is not really my thing.

Combine this news with the new KFC opening up at the old Homebase in Queensway, Worle, the closure of Prezzo and Pizza Express, the eating out scene in Weston is slowly turning into one of fast food and drive-thru eating.

With all the exciting stuff that happens in Bristol on the food scene, it’s a pity that Weston is going down this fast food road.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2020

This year I have written 120 blog posts, last year I did 58 blog posts and the year before just 36.

With the lockdown I went out to eat a lot less than I have in previous years, however not going out, meant I had a little more time to play catch up finishing off reviews of meals I had eaten in 2019.

So at number ten was a blog post on the Rum Aero.

Rum Aero anyone?

Looking over old sweet wrappers (online and for a charity quiz as it happens) I realised how much I missed out in the 1970s and 1980s on various flavours of Aero.

In ninth place, having been top for both 2018 and 2017, dropped down a place in 2019, now dropping seven places 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. was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was my version of the classic Beef Wellington.

The eighth most popular post was from August 2020, about the closure of Frankie and Benny’s in Weston-super-Mare.

Well after blogging about the closure of Pizza Express in Weston-super-Mare, it is now rumoured, but not confirmed, that the branch of Frankie and Benny’s in Weston-super-Mare will not be reopening after closed for lockdown.

Seventh most popular blog post was Truffled Cauliflower Cheese from Marks and Spencers which was a review of some very nice cauliflower. It’s described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with a  cheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb.

My top post from 2019 dropped five places to sixth, Chilli Squid from Wagamama was a post reviewing some squid I had in Leeds back in 2011. This looked fantastic, was beautifully cooked and tasted delicious. I really liked the squid and the dipping sauce added to the dish without overpowering it.

Ten years ago I tried some pasta from Sainsbury’s, Basil & pine nut margherite. Was the fifth most popular blog post dropping two places since 2019.

Climbing two places into fourth place, was Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions which was written back in 2009. I had cooked and enjoyed Marks and Spencers’ Pork Medallions with a cider and shallot sauce.

Lidl Coffee Ice Cream

In third place was Lidl Coffee Ice Cream which was a short review of the coffee flavoured tub of ice cream. They are not huge tubs, but what you get is a tasty creamy coffee ice cream, with a little chocolate in there as well.

The second most popular blog post was from February 2020 and was a recipe for a Gluten Free Chocolate Loaf Cake. This is a tasty rich chocolate loaf cake.

So the most popular blog post on Time for a Coffee in 2020 was Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes which was posted in June 2020 about some fish croquettes I had picked up from Lidl.

Lidl Sol Mar Cod Croquettes

I really quite enjoyed them.

Quite refreshing to see posts from 2020 being half the top posts in 2020.

Weston Food Festival

Went shopping at the weekend in Weston-super-Mare, which to be honest, is now quite a depressing experience with all the shops that have closed down, and many of these closed down even before the covid-19 lockdown.

We went into the Sovereign Centre to go to Waterstones, this is a shopping centre that has a food hall with no food places from which you can buy food! They converted the Druckers Café into this food hall, no one took up the other kiosks or stands, Druckers closed and so we were left with a food hall where you can’t buy food! Well not entirely accurate, there is a Parsons’ pasty shop in the centre, but you’re not allowed to eat in the food hall as it has been roped off!

So as we walked outside the Sovereign Centre it was a nice surprise to bump into the Weston-super-Mare food fair.

We looked around the stalls, in the end we bought some gluten free scotch eggs, which were very nice. As with the recent Portishead food fair I was slightly disappointed with the stalls, but even so it was nice to see such a busy market in Weston.

I think I may have found a new supplier…

In a recent blog post I lamented about my difficult in finding packs of Santa Maria Colombian Crunchy Chicken Bites Seasoned Corn Coating.

However I am now having real trouble finding it in my local supermarkets, Morrisons no longer sell it, my local Waitrose had it on special for a while, but now it’s no longer on the shelves. In theory it’s available at Asda, but I have never seen it at my nearest branch.

Since I wrote that, I have found it on Ocado, so have added a few packs to my basket for my next delivery.

Self-catering at La Croix Du Vieux Pont

One of the reasons I blog, it’s more for me than other people. It’s a useful reminder for me about what I have eaten, what I have cooked, and as in this post challenges when cooking on holiday.

At the end of July we went on an Eurocamp holiday in France. Having visited Brittany last year and stayed at a Eurocamp site I had anticipated blogging about my  self-catering experience and what worked and what didn’t, but for some reason never got around to it. I wish I had as it would have made this trip a little easier. 

I did post my challenges with self-catering when we went to Calpe in 2016 and 2017.

This year we went with another Eurocamp to La Croix Du Vieux Pont in Picardy or Hauts-de-France in Northern France. So I have decided to quickly write up some of those experiences in preparing for self-catering.

My previous experience of self-catering apartments was from the Greek Ionian islands and Cyprus. This was before children, so it was me and my other half. We rarely used the self-catering facilities for cooking, as we would eat out a bit, but it was useful to have a hob, a fridge and a few utensils and crockery. The “kitchen” in the apartments I experience were very minimal and not really sufficient for anything more than snacks and hot drinks. Also the local shopping environment wasn’t exactly great for self-catering, with very small supermarkets.

When we booked our Calpe holiday in 2016, due to dietary requirements (gluten free) we wanted to ensure we had not only a self-catering kitchen, but a decent enough kitchen for actual real cooking. We found the kitchens in caravans in the UK great for self-catering, if a little cramped. However I would usually take a range of ingredients and kitchen utensils to make my life easier when cooking. So I did something similar when we went to France this year.

At La Croix Du Vieux Pont, we had a three bedroom caravan which came with a well-equipped kitchen including a proper gas hob, an oven and an outside gas barbecue as well.

This was in many ways better than the equipment I have had at UK holiday parks, for example there was a washing up bowl and a draining rack! This made clearing up after a meal so much easier than just having the sink and draining board.

I took the following items with me to make cooking and catering easier.

Chopping board – for some reason the only chopping board I find in caravans are glass ones! So I always take a plastic chopping board with me.

Knives – I have found the knives on holiday either blunt or broken, so I have a large kitchen knife and a bread knife that I use on self-catering holidays.

I took a sieve with me, but in the end didn’t use it, as the caravan was equipped with a colander.

I took a spare baking tray, as usually there is only one in the caravans I have been in, in addition I took a pair of tongs which is useful for turning items on the grill. There was a long-handled barbecue tongs were provided which worked well for the outdoor barbecue.

Though I wanted to take my Tassimo coffee machine, I was overruled so we took a cafetière that worked well.

I took a potato peeler and I also took a pair of scissors, but there was one in the caravan.

The other things I take with me our sandwich bags, cling film and foil. This is easier to store uneaten food but also for packed lunches.

To help with washing up and cleaning, I took some steel scourers, washing up spongs, j cloths, washing up liquid and tea towels. In addition I take spare bin  liners as well.

I also took the following ingredients, though I know I could get some of these in French supermarkets, I wanted to avoid spending extra money on basics that I already had in the kitchen.

      • Pasta
      • Rice
      • Tomato pasta sauce
      • Pesto
      • Sunflower oil
      • Olive oil
      • Salt
      • Pepper
      • Parmesan
      • Various seasonings
      • Onions
      • Pepper
      • Butter

As two of our household are gluten free I also took a range of gluten free items as well.

I pack the fresh food in a cool box, which if we get a small fridge I use during the week as supplementary fresh food storage. The fridge though we got was pretty big and I didn’t use the cool box.

Overall I don’t think I missed anything, apart from some mustard and white wine vinegar to make a French dressing, so in the end we bought some dressing from the supermarket.

Giving cider another go

I am not really a fan of cider, I think it boils down to drinking stupid amounts of Merrydown Cider when I was student in York and not drinking it for a really long time.

I remember in 2006 accidentally ordering and drinking a Magners cider in Edinburgh, I don’t think I finished it.

Now living down in the South West (where everyone seems to drink cider) I have recently decided to give cider another go and looking over the supermarket shelves decided to try out a bottle of Henry Weston Vintage Cider.

Henry Weston Vintage Cider

I really quite enjoyed it, which surprised even me. I enjoyed the dryness of the drink and found it rather refreshing.