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.

Time for something different

Hastings East Hill Lift

So we were on holiday in Sussex and wanting somewhere to eat that a) accepted Tesco vouchers and b) had a decent gluten-free menu, we ended up in Eastbourne, with the choice of Pizza Express, Prezzo and Zizzi. Out of the three I personally prefer Zizzi, we had recently eaten at Prezzo we headed towards the Zizzi branch in Eastbourne. We had spent the day in Hastings so it was a thirty minute drive and the Apple navigation app took us as far as a roundabout close to the restaurant, but there was plenty of post 6pm free parking available.

I would say the outside of the restaurant was very uninviting, for a second or so I actually thought it might have closed down. We had a little trouble finding the door, but once we were in, it was a totally different experience. The inside was bright, fresh and welcoming and then the welcome from the member of staff (think he might have been the manager) was just as fresh and welcoming.

We were sat down and perused the menu. Lots of choices, the last time I went to Zizzi I had pizza, so really wanted something different. For a start I did consider the calamari, as It is a personal favourite, but as my son was going to have this, I decided to go with something different.

For my starter in the end I went with the Bruschetta. Speciality tomatoes, red onion and roasted garlic, in extra virgin olive oil, on toasted bread. With super green pesto, fresh basil & riserva cheese. I added some creamy bufala mozzarella as well.

Bruschetta. Speciality tomatoes, red onion and roasted garlic, in extra virgin olive oil, on toasted bread. With super green pesto, fresh basil & riserva cheese.

Apart from not getting the fresh basil, I really enjoyed this dish. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but that is something I quite like now and again.

For my main I had a new dish on the menu, the Pork Belly Arrosto. Oven-roasted pork belly with creamy riserva cheese mash, crispy crackling shards, garlic kale & broccoli & a Chianti & rosemary sauce.

Pork Belly Arrosto. Oven-roasted pork belly with creamy riserva cheese mash, crispy crackling shards, garlic kale & broccoli & a Chianti & rosemary sauce.

The pork was slow cooked and then finished off in their pizza oven. The mash was smooth and creamy, but not as cheesy as I was expecting. The shards could have been lighter and crispier, they were a little chewy. The kale and broccoli were really nice too. The sauce was tasty, I could have done with more though. Overall a really tasty dish and something very different to the pizza (or pasta) I usual have at Zizzi.

Using Tesco Vouchers meant that this was also a cheap meal and great value for money. If we were ever in Eastbourne again, I think we would visit again.

Another visit to Prezzo

It took five years from my first visit to Prezzo to visit it again. This time is was less than month since my previous visit to go there again.

Having had an enjoyable meal at their branch in Euston, this visit was a family celebration at the branch in Weston-super-Mare. This is quite a new branch, less than a year old. We arrived early evening on a Saturday, or you could have even described it as late afternoon. It’s a nice smart clean restaurant with a variety of seating options available. We were quite a large party so we just had some tables pushed together. We were given a warm welcome and we sat down perused the menu. Unlike a lot of places these days, their set menu is available all the time, seven days a week and it is quite a good set menu at that.

I started with the Caprese Salad, tomato and burrata cheese with basil pesto and balsamic glaze.

Caprese Salad

The tomato was ripe and the burrata cheese was fresh and tasty. A really nice starter.

I had the Fiorentina Pizza, a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and an egg.

Fiorentina Pizza, a classic pizza with spinach, olives, mozzarella and an egg.

This was a very tasty pizza, I really liked the toppings and the base was cooked well.

I wasn’t going to go with a desert, but I did fancy a coffee, looking over the dessert menu, I went with the Affogato. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream served with a double shot of espresso and a lemon cannoli. Wasn’t too enamoured with the cannoli, but did enjoy the espresso over ice cream.

Overall a tasty meal. The service did leave a little bit to be desired, initially it started off well and our food arrived in a timely manner. However we did get asked three times if we wanted dessert, seemed they were desperate to provide us with dessert. They also provided us with the wrong bill. Ah well, it was a tasty meal.

Grilling in Euston

So I was staying overnight on the Euston Road before heading off to France on the Eurostar the following morning.

Having been walking around earlier I had noticed the Cattle and Co and it looked both inviting and interesting.

Cattle and Co

Having looked at the online menu I had quite liked the idea of chargrilled squid, which regular readers of the blog will know I quite like.

However the online menu must be slightly out of date as there was no squid on the menu, however to compensate there was a selection of grills that I hadn’t seen online.

Of the starters I did think about the Buttermilk Wings, but the “Now we talkin’” spice rating of the Buffalo Sauce made me think again.

I was tempted by a couple of items on the main menu. If I was really hungry I probably would have gone for the The Cattle Platter.

The formidable showcase of what we’re about here at Cattle & Co. St Louis Rib, Beef Short Rib, Smoked Chicken Thigh, Honey & Beer onion rings, and in just in case you needed something else; Fries. A wheelbarrow taxi service home also available upon request. No judgement here, we’ve all been there.

As I wasn’t starving (and I was eating alone) then decided that at £35 it was a bit extravagant to go for something that sounded delicious.

I also quite liked the sound of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken as well as the Angus Short Rib.

Now we’re talking. Our imported smoker really showing off its potential with this dish. Hickory smoked on-site for at least 12 hours (Low and Slow), Pickles, Sauce, AND Your choice of Fries.

In the end decided to go down the “specials” route and have a grill. The grills covered a range of prices, but was tempted by either the hangar steak or the lamb rump. In the end I went with the lamb.

It was served with a confit tomato, mushrooms, a green salad and some melted garlic butter. I did order a side order of truffle and parmesan fries.

Grilled Lamb Rump

I had expected the fries to be served with a large helping of freshly grated parmesan and grated truffle. That expectation was based on seeing a similar dish at one of the Bristol Street Food markets. However I didn’t see any real evidence of either parmesan or truffle. The fries were nice and I did enjoy eating them.

So what of the lamb? The lamb was cooked how I asked, the cut was full of flavour and it was really tender. I really enjoyed the chargrill which imparted a great flavour and hadn’t been overdone. I couldn’t believe how tender it was, easy to cut with a regular knife.

I also enjoyed the other accompaniments on the board. The tomato was lovely and tender, yet still full of flavour, so much nicer than just either a chargrilled tomato half or even an uncooked one. The mushrooms were nice as was the salad.

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. I should say it took some time for my food to arrive, but I wasn’t in a hurry and good food does take some time to cook. I think there were quite a few people in the other side of the restaurant by the kitchen, it was much quieter on the side I was in by the bar.

Would I like to go again? Yes I would.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2017

This year I have written 37 blog posts. In 2016 I wrote 28 posts.

In the Birdcage

The tenth 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.

Ninth place, was a reminder from 2013, that if I ever go to Frankie and Benny’s again, don’t order the pasta! I have never had pasta again at F&Bs.

The post as number eight 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 number seven post was from ten years ago, Pasta in Tomato Sauce. A recipe for a very quick and easy dish with a lovely piquant tomato sauce.

Pasta in Tomato Sauce

Sixth post was about the Wagamama Pork Ribs I had in 2011.

Post number five for last twelve months was Basil & pine nut margherite, a simple pasta recip.

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

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

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 is Chilli Squid from Wagamama, climbing one place. This popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, however it is now quite old being from 2011 and the visit was the same one that I had the ribs.

So popularity appears to be dependent on older posts being found via Google searches. Hopefully 2018 will see more posts and more people seeing those posts.

Time for breakfast

breakfast at The Walton

I occasionally have to stay away as part of my job, and I find it surprising that I have become something of a breakfast snob when it comes to hotel breakfasts. I know that it is nice to have someone else make you breakfast.

A recent breakfast experience at the Holiday Inn Express was very disappointing, with minimal choice, not much different a previous experience a few years back. However recently I was able to repeat the breakfast experience at The Walton Hotel in Nottingham. I first stayed at The Walton back in 2016.

The Walton Hotel in Nottingham

This is a unique hotel experience and nothing like the bland chains that I usually find myself in. The quirky decor and furniture makes fort a very different hotel experience.

The Walton Hotel in Nottingham

Last time the breakfast was very quirky in its presentation.

breakfast at The Walton

This time I was expecting something different, as I had noticed that the dinner menu was radically different to what I had seen on my last visit. Last time I had a really nice pork done three ways. Looking back through the blog I realised I hadn’t blogged about that dish or the breakfast.

Pork done three ways

That pork dish was very clever and delicious, but as you can see it had quite a quirky presentation. I think I remember seeing a similar sounding lamb dish back then, so was looking forward to having that this time on my return visit. However looking over the menu it was apparent that they had changed chef and were going for “safe” options such as steak and chips, steak and ale pie, fish and chips, etc…

The new menu didn’t inspire mess so was expecting a more “traditional” breakfast. However this time the breakfast was similar, it was served on a plate, though the beans were still in a miniature saucepan.

breakfast at The Walton

The mushroom was full of flavour and well cooked, not broiled for ages as you find at a breakfast buffet. Likewise as it was cooked to order the bacon was very tasty and not dried out, the eggs were also similarly freshly cooked and still had runny yolks. I liked the beef tomato that came with the breakfast. The sausage was meaty and tasty. The breakfast came with some nice toasted bloomer bread and a cafetière of freshly brewed coffee.

These were high quality ingredients and were cooked well and tasted delicious.

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.