African Spiced Lamb Rump

I was up in Manchester staying at the Copthorne Hotel on Salford Quay and went for dinner in the restaurant. I had a table overlooking the water, I settled in and looked over the menu and ordered.

Well after a somewhat disappointing starter, I did have quite low expectations about my main course. I had ordered the African spiced lamb rump with roasted Mediterranean cous cous.

Unlike my starter I got what was described on the menu.

The lamb was nice, tender, but lacked flavour. There wasn’t s lot of African spice there. The cous cous was nice and there were some nice roasted Mediterranean vegetables hidden in there. The dish was dressed with a yoghurt dressing.

I have to say, I did enjoy the dish, it wasn’t that impressive, but it was okay. If I was at the Copthorne again, would I order it again, probably yes.

Keralan Coconut Curry

This was a Keralan Coconut Vegetable Curry that I cooked. I cheated a little by using a curry kit from The Spice Tailor.

A delicately balanced, mellow coconut curry from Kerala. Its gentle spicing and layers of flavours makes this a go-to for those who love milder Indian flavours.

I have been using this curry kit for some time now.

I prepared the vegetables, for this curry I used onions, peppers, carrot, sweet potato, tenderstem broccoli, baby sweetcorn, sliced mushrooms and asparagus.

I add oil to a large frying pan and then add the spices from the curry kit. I used a new wok I had got for my birthday. I then added the prepared vegetables. This is cooked until softened. I then add the sauce mix from the curry kit and stir it into the vegetables. I cook it for five more minutes before stirring the curry a final time.

I served it with plain white rice.

Good food, not so good service

We visit Wagamama quite a bit compared to other places, however we have never been to the branch at Cabot Circus. It was a bank holiday and the place was busy and we had to queue (as you can’t book tables at Wagamama).

We were kept informed about the wait, I think partly to put people off, but we continued to wait. Eventually we were shown to a table and we looked over the menu.

I did consider having the shu’s ‘shiok’ chicken which when I went to Wagamama in Manchester was off the menu. I also thought about the spicy miso mackerel kokoro bowl. In the end I decided I would have a katsu curry. I chose the vegan yasai katsu curry. This was aromatic katsu curry sauce, vegetables in crispy panko breadcrumbs, sticky white rice, side salad, japanese pickles.

The vegetables were aubergine, sweet potato and butternut squash. I did think that usually I would have gone with the chicken katsu, but I what I wanted from the dish was the curry sauce, the rice and the texture of the crispy panko. The chicken wasn’t necessary and I liked the idea of different vegetables.

I did enjoy the dish, though I wasn’t enamoured with the curry sauce, maybe I should have gone with the hot spicy version. The panko vegetables were very nice, I liked the crunch and you could taste the vegetables.

To accompany the curry I had a Singha beer, which was nice and fresh. I would have preferred the beer to be colder though.

As for the service, I was less than impressed. I know at Wagamama the food arrives when it is ready, so dishes won’t be served together. Normally I am alright with this, but this time the first two dishes arrived quite quickly, the other two took much longer to be served. By the time the final dish arrived, we had nearly finished our food. We ordered some more drinks, and they spent a lot of time on the bar, before they were brought to the table. There appeared to be a fair few staff. I think part of the issue was they were being inundated with online takeaway orders which was swamping the kitchen.

So good food, not so good service.

Time for a Keralan Coconut Curry

This was a Keralan Coconut Vegetable Curry that I cooked this week. I cheated by using a curry kit from The Spice Tailor.

A delicately balanced, mellow coconut curry from Kerala. Its gentle spicing and layers of flavours makes this a go-to for those who love milder Indian flavours.

I have been using this curry kit for some time now. The Keralan Coconut Curry from The Spice Tailor is quick and easy.

I prepared the vegetables, for this curry I used onions, peppers and butternut squash. I also had some sliced mushrooms and spinach.

I add oil to a large frying pan and then add the spices from the curry kit. I then added the onions, peppers and butternut squash. This is cooked until softened. I then add the mushrooms and coo for a few more minutes. I then add the sauce mix from the curry kit and stir it into the vegetables. On top I then add some fresh spinach. This is then covered with some (crumpled) grease proof paper. I cook it for five more minutes before stirring the curry.

I served it with plain white rice dressed with black sesame seeds.

Roasting Chantenay Carrots

For our Christmas lunch I roasted some Chantenay carrots. This was a pack of different coloured carrots from Waitrose, I cleaned and peeled them before coating them in herbs and olive oil and roasting in the oven.

They were tender and full of flavour, certainly would do these again.

Roasting Vegetables

When I do a Sunday roast I do like adding some roasted vegetables on the side. One time I did this I did butternut squash and heritage carrots. This was seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh herbs.

Another thing I do with roasting vegetables is put them at he bottom of the roasting pan. Here for roast belly of pork I have pepper, butternut squash, onions, mushrooms, fresh herbs and as it was pork, some apple.

This helps keep the roast moist and tender, whilst also adding flavour. When you leave the meat to rest, you can finish the vegetables off in the oven, or use it as the base for some gravy.

I really like roasting candy and yellow beetroot, but have had trouble finding them recently. Another favourite are parsnips, which are easier to find.

Time for a Christmas Meal

Generally this time of year would be the time for Christmas meals, whether that be friends or family. I have been planning our traditional Christmas meal (for Christmas Eve) but in the past I have been to various Christmas meals for various things. 

My work would do a regular Christmas event with a meal, we didn’t have one last year (2020) due to the lockdown. I also didn’t go to the meal in 2019, as the one before in 2018 had been terrible. Rubbish food and awful service, didn’t want a repeat of that experience. I did  though have an excellent meal with the team I was in, in 2019 at the Mud Dock Cafe. Then I had a tasty homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream followed by a rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

I am not attending an office Christmas meal this year, my (newish) team is rather geographically dispersed, but I did recently attend a festive gathering of our Scout Leadership team (I am a trustee). We went to the Fork ‘n’ Ale Taproom & Kitchen in Weston-super-Mare.

I drove down to the seafront, parked my car and walked to the taproom, it was blowing a gale and it was bitterly cold. I was reminded of Bill Bryson, who in Notes from a Small Island said of Weston-super-Mare.

First, you were born. This in itself is a remarkable achievement. Being born was easily the most remarkable achievement of your whole life. And think: you could just as easily have been a flatworm.

Second, you are alive. For the tiniest moment in the span of eternity you have the miraculous privilege to exist. For endless eons you were not. Soon you will cease to be once more. That you are able to sit here right now in this one never-to-be-repeated moment, reading this book, eating bon-bons, speculatively sniffing your armpits, doing whatever you are doing – just existing – is really wondrous beyond belief.

Third, you have plenty to eat, you live in a time of peace and ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ will never be number one again.

If you bear these things in mind, you will never be truly unhappy – though in fairness I must point out that if you find yourself alone in Weston-super-Mare on a rainy Tuesday evening you may come close.

It wasn’t Tuesday! Well at least it wasn’t raining, though I wish I had worn a hat. I opened the door to the Fork ‘n’ Ale and the wash of heat was welcome and needed.

First things first after finding everyone, was to buy some drinks. They had a really interesting selection of beers. As it was festive I went with the Christmas Nectar, a light beer which was delicious.

The service was excellent, friendly, warm and efficient.

For my starter I had the pulled chicken and maple bacon terrine. It was supposed to come with toasted chunky bread, but we had chunky bread (untoasted).

It was certainly an interesting concept and though I enjoyed the dish, I think it was something I wouldn’t have again. The bread was excellent though.

The turkey choice on the menu was a breaded turkey escalope with ham, and though it was turkey, the dish didn’t sound very festive, so I went with the lamb.

This was a lamb shank with a red currant and port gravy. It came with roasted potatoes carrot and parsnips. I don’t think it came with the butternut squash mentioned on the menu! Served alongside were the Forks collard greens, which was peas, beans, courgette and cabbage. 

The lamb was kind of what I was expecting, slow cooked lamb in a delicious gravy. The lamb was very tender and I enjoyed it. I expected it was brought into the pub and then heated as required and served, nothing special, but still tasty.

I did think though that the accompaniments were excellent, the roasted parsnip and carrots were delicious and I really enjoyed the collard greens. I could have done with a few more potatoes, but they were nice and crisp.

I would have preferred cheese and biscuits to finish, but that wasn’t on the menu, so I went with the brownie and ice cream. They had run out of coffee ice cream, so we were given a choice of a range of flavours. I went with vanilla.

The brownie was moist and had a rich chocolate flavour. That was a great end to the meal.

I have in the past had some terrible festive meals, this one was rather good. Some interesting choices made about the menu, but I did think there was some really tasty food on offer.

I had never been to the Fork ‘n’ Ale pub before to eat, actually not been there to drink either. They have a great choice of beers and the food was interesting, I think I would visit again.

Cooking the Turkey

Well the Christmas dinner was a real success this year, really pleased with the end result. I like to write about it so next year I can remember what we had, what we liked and what I should avoid.

We had a fair few extra people around so I cooked two roasts, one was the four bird roast from Aldi (which costs just £10) and a more expensive roast from Morrisons, comprising turkey breast wrapped around a smoked pork tenderloin and then covered in pork crackling.

Both roasts were simple to cook and were both full of flavour. Turkey can often be dry, but I managed to avoid that, but that was probably much more down to the style of the roast, it wasn’t a whole bird.

The Aldi four bird roast was a little skimpy on the goose and duck, but I did expect that for a £10 roast. The stuffing was okay, but was slightly overpowering and could probably have down with less herbs.

Alongside the main dish I served a range of vegetables, including a brussel sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta. Timing I find is quite critical with this kind of meal, so I had done a fair bit of preparation in advance, so things went smoothly. For example I had made and prepared my stuffing the night before, I had already trayed up the pigs in blankets and cocktail sausages.

Overall the meal was a success and enjoyed by all.

Peas

I quite like peas. Cooked very simply, perfect. I do prefer petis pois over the bigger garden peas.