Savoury Rice

Back in the 1980s I do remember seeing packs of yellow savoury rice, often branded Golden Vegetable or similar. I also remember never having it and never buying it.

Over the last few years (or is that decades) I have been cooking Spanish inspired rice dishes (which I have been known to call paella), and a range of risotto dishes. When cooking paella and risotto I always use a specialist rice to ensure that it cooks right.

Well there I was cooking dinner and we decided on a rice dish, however I had no paella or risotto rice in the cupboard. I did however have some long grain rice. So reviewing a few recipes I came up with the following recipe.

1 onion
1 small red pepper
3 or 4 mushrooms
Pack of diced smoked pancetta
200g long grain rice
600ml boiling water
Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
1 teaspoon of Morrisons Chicken Seasoning
Tomatoes
Fresh parsley

Dice the onion, red pepper and mushrooms.

In a large frying pan, heat some olive oil.

Cook off the pancetta.

Add the onions and pepper and cook until softened.

Add the diced mushrooms and cook for another minute.

Stir in the rice.

Stir the stock pot into the boiling water and add to the rice mixture. Add the chicken seasoning.

Simmer for fifteen minutes until the rice is cooked.

Garnish the rice with chopped fresh tomato and chopped parsley.

We had our rice dish with some fish and salad.

Chilli con carne

tomatoes and chilli
Image by Kai Reschke from Pixabay

This is not an authentic recipe for chilli con carne, but a dish I cook that has lots of flavour, is spicy, contains, beef, tomatoes, beans and chilli.

This dish serves 4-5

500g steak mince the 5% fat kind. You can use cheaper mince, but I find I often need to drain the excess fat after cooking off the mince.

Tin of tomatoes. We did for a while use cheap tins of tomatoes, but found that they lacked flavour so generally now use a quality brand. I use a blender to break down the tomatoes into a passata style base. If I had a carton or bottle of passata in the cupboard I may just use that instead of the tin.

Tin of kidney beans. For this dish I find the budget range fine.

Tomato puree. Like the tin of tomatoes, I have found budget brands of tomato puree okay for some dishes, but this I want that real hit of tomato, so got for a better quality version.

Two onions, diced. Sometimes I use brown onions, other times I use red onions, depends what’s in the fridge.

Red pepper, diced.

One carrot, diced. This is about “hiding” some more veg in the chilli, as well as adding texture and a little sweetness.

Cajun spicing (optional)

Chilli powder

Garlic powder, though you could use fresh.

A beef stock cube

A splash of Balsamic vinegar.

To cook the chilli I do the following steps.

Heat a large pot (or pan) and then add a little sunflower oil.

Cook off the mince in the pan, ensuring that it is evenly cooked through. If you have used a mince with 10% or higher fat content then drain off the excess fat.

Add the onions, pepper and carrot and stir into the mince.

Cook for five minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the Cajun spicing, chilli powder and garlic powder, stir into the mince. I generally use half a teaspoon of each. If you like your chilli spicier then add more Cajun spicing, if you like it hotter than add more chilli.

I might try using fresh chilli in a future version, this I would chop (and deseed) and add with the onions and pepper.

Cook for another minute.

Stir in the tomatoes and tomato puree. Sprinkle in the beef stock cube and the splash of Balsamic vinegar.

Stir, put on a lid and cook on a low heat for thirty minutes.

Add the tin of kidney beans and cook for five more minutes.

Serve.

I serve it either with rice or tortilla chips. Sometimes I use the chilli to fill soft (gluten free) corn tortillas, which I cover with cheese and then bake in the oven.

Tasty Tacos and Steak

I has driven to Ealing to get something to eat, I really didn’t know what I wanted, so walked around a fair bit. I did think about going to Cote or Bills. When I walked past Pizza Express I thought that looked familiar, then I remembered we had eaten there as a family in August 2018.

However in the end I went back to Pasta Remoli. I did ask if they had a table outside, the response was they needed to talk to the manager. It was very warm inside the restaurant, uncomfortably warm. Having waited a while and with a couple behind me (who had booked a table) I realised there probably wasn’t going to be a table free. So I left. I did think again about Bills, but realised I wasn’t hungry enough for two courses. I think a combination of the heat of the day, eating a few snacks when I got back and curbed my appetite somewhat. So, I headed back to my car and drove back to the apartment, and I had bread, cheese and salami.

The following day, after work I headed out to Ealing to get something to eat. This time I was hungry and had decided I would probably go to Bills. I did want to check out the tapas place I had seen on Google maps. La Rueda looked interesting and I liked the idea of the menu. However I think to have a good meal I would need to spend a fair amount of money, so decided no. Maybe the next time I was in Ealing.

I headed to Bills which had plenty of free tables outside, which I could choose from. I was a little concerned that there might be some rain (there was a 90% chance of rain according to my weather app) however it was still lovely and warm. I sat down and looked at the menus. I had pretty much made my choice earlier, however I did look again. They had a set menu and I did think the  chestnut mushroom, spinach and truFFle risotto, topped with a poached egg, pumpkin seeds and pea shoots sounded very nice. I guess my hesitation was that this wasn’t likely to be cooked to order, but maybe merely be a heated up prepared dish. Though I with the choice of calamari for a starter it was a possibility. 

In the end I went with the main menu. What had struck me from the list of starters were the tuna tacos. So decided to have those and the Dinner Special, an 8oz sirloin steak.

I placed my order and asked for some tap water along with the food.

The tuna tacos arrived very quickly and it was an interesting looking dish. 

It was seared raw tuna, avocado & spicy cherry tomatoes on crunchy blue corn tortillas, with crème fraîche, coriander & toasted sesame seeds.

I don’t know why, but I was expecting tacos, rather than the serving of tuna, avocado and tomatoes on crunchy blue corn tortillas. However I did like the presentation. The tuna was excellent, and liked the taste and texture. The avocado and tomato was nice as well. The tortilla were a little too crunchy for me, I think some soft blue corn tortillas might have been a better choice. The crème fraîche added some nice coolness and freshness to the dish, though I do think there was a little too much red chilli for me.

Having finished my starter and the table was cleared, I had to ask again for some tap water, which hadn’t arrived. I waited for my main course. I went for the dinner special, the 8oz sirloin steak served with rosemary salted fries, a green leaf & mixed seed salad and garlic butter.

This arrived promptly. This was an excellent steak, nice fries and the salad was a nice touch. This was so much a better dish than the steak I had at Cote a few weeks back. It had flavour, was well seasoned and cooked expertly.

I really enjoyed the steak and it was a really nice meal. I enjoyed sitting outside and the weather was perfect that reminded me of eating out in Greece and Spain, but this was Ealing in London in September.

As I was finishing up and paying my bill, the table next me were served with their order of calamari, I was quite pleased I hadn’t ordered it, and had gone with the tuna tacos, as it wasn’t what I had imagined. I thought it might be like the squid you get at Wagamama or Yo! Sushi, but they looked like breaded calamari rings. Something I won’t order next time I go to Bills.

The service was efficient, but I think it a little cold as a result. Having said that I did think overall, good service, excellent food and a nice atmosphere. I will go again, but thinking that the weather will change will mean I will be eating inside.

Time for some French food

I do quite like French food, probably an echo of eating out on French holidays back in the 1970s and 1980s. Over the years I have had some really nice meals, some excellent meals, and some not so good.

I was in London for a few days working. One evening, for dinner, I decided to head out to Ealing. I parked in the shopping centre and had a look around. I saw the Amazon Fresh shop, the one where you walk in pick things up and walk out and everything is charged to your Amazon account. I didn’t go in.

I had a look around for somewhere to eat. I did consider getting some cheese and bread from M&S. I saw they did a smaller version of the French cheese platter I have had in Weston. However there was no bread left. I did think about Wagamama, but it looked very busy. In the end after some procrastination and a bit more exploring and walking around, I went to Côte Brasserie, a chain of French style restaurants.

They had some tables free and I was given a choice of where I could sit, so I had a nice small table by the window. It was a decent environment, comfortable, inviting.

I had checked out the menu earlier online, so was pretty much convinced about what I was going to have. I went with the fixed price menu.

There was a nice choice of starters, but I decided that I would go for the Tomates ‘Breton’. Brittany heritage tomatoes topped with pistou on toasted pain de campagne.

Brittany heritage tomatoes topped with pistou on toasted pain de campagne.

It looked amazing, I was really impressed with the presentation of the dish.

I wasn’t sure what pistou was so checked up on Wikipedia later.

Pistou, or pistou sauce, is a Provençal cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil. It is somewhat similar to the Ligurian sauce pesto, although it lacks pine nuts.

It was a lovely plate of food, the bread was nice, the tomatoes were well seasoned and the pistou added a nice touch.

For my main course I had the steak frites – chargrilled steak with frites and garlic butter. I upgraded to the ribeye.

steak and frites

The dish came with some additional watercress, which was a nice touch.

The steak wasn’t fantastic, it lacked seasoning and wasn’t as tender as I thought it was going to be. Upon reflection I probably shouldn’t have upgraded.

Alongside I had a Meteor beer, which was fresh and smooth.

The service was excellent, warm, friendly and efficient.

This was my first experience of Côte Brasserie and I enjoyed the experience and the food.

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.

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 some breakfast

So there I was at an event in London and needing to book a hotel for the night. Going through the booking system we use at work, there was a cheap hotel almost next door to the venue, well that made a lot of sense, so I booked it.

Well it was a very tired hotel, it was dated and in the end quite noisy as well. I did though have breakfast included.

The breakfast was limited in choice, but it wasn’t half bad.

breakfast

Well the coffee was plain awful, I wish I had tea, those knowing me, will realise that’s saying something. It should be said I rarely find outstanding coffee when I have breakfast in a hotel, but this was on another level entirely.

The breakfast itself was all hot (and you can’t always say that about the breakfast buffet at some hotels), the eggs were cooked perfectly to my liking, I liked the tomato and the sausages. I wasn’t too enamoured with the bacon, but it was okay. As for beans, I don’t really like beans, so won’t comment on that.

I enjoyed the toast and there was a good choice of jams.

Overall the hotel was somewhere I wouldn’t want to stay again. The breakfast though, wasn’t too bad for a hotel breakfast.

So what did you have for breakfast?

Since our London office moved to Fetter Lane and I have been working in London significantly more, I have been intrigued by the breakfasts on offer at the local eateries around the office.

One thing that I see a lot of is poached egg pots, this kind of breakfast dish is starting to take off in Bristol too. These pots usually consist of a poached egg and then some stuff.

I have to say that by the time I get to London I am not usually looking for breakfast and generally just go with a coffee.

The other day though I was somewhat peckish. I was tempted to visit Yolk, but there was a bit of a queue, so decided to try the poached egg pots from Coco di Mama. I went with the mushrooms and power beans.

Breakfast pot

The pot contains a big portion of mixed beans in a smokey tomato sauce topped with spinach, cooked mushrooms, lightly roasted cherry tomatoes, a poached egg and some greens which could be micro herbs.

It was certainly an interesting experience, the beans were tasty and had a kick to them, so much nicer than regular baked beans. The egg was nicely cooked. I did think the mushrooms were overcooked and be careful as the tomatoes were very hot (and I nearly burnt my mouth on them).

For a hot breakfast dish, I thought it was really nice, I thought the portion size was ideal, though the proportions were slightly out for me, too many beans. I think next time I might add an extra egg for a pound.