Risotto disaster…

Last night I decided to cook a risotto to go with the shellfish I was cooking. I have done this in the past usually using white wine, lemon, rocket and parmesan to flavour the risotto. Alas I had no white wine, no lemon and no rocket, though I did have a block of parmesan to hand. Little piece of advice here, never buy pre-grated parmesan this is usually  grated from dried out pieces of old parmesan or so an old Italian friend of mine once said. Though as it is usually cheaper than the solid stuff I am inclined to believe her! So there I was cooking this risotto and wondering how I should flavour it. Well I had mushrooms and they always work well in risotto, I had some red wine, and I had some chicken stock. There we go, good to go, or so I thought.

Basically it didn’t work quite as well as I hoped. Firstly it came out a grey lilac colour rather than the rich red brown I was expecting. Well that was down to the red wine, lack of dark stock and the mushrooms. Secondly it was rather bland, it had no bite. I think it could have done with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Most of it was eaten so either we were hungry or it wasn’t half as bad as it looked.

Having said that, the scallops wrapped in pancetta were delicious.

Tea on the Pier

I had a cup of tea at the end of Clevedon Pier this morning. At the end of the pier is a tea place which sells hot drinks, cakes and ice cream.

Clevedon Pier

Unfortunately it was a typical “here’s a cardboard cup with some hot water and a teabag, help yourself to milk” type of tea rather than anything fancy or posh! It would have been nice to have had a china cup, maybe it’s just me getting old, but tea in a disposable cup is something I want to take away and drink, not what I want to drink out of when I sit down in a cafe for a drink. It was only a £1, but you needed to spend £1.50 to get on the pier so it was quite expensive really!

Ah well, maybe I should have gone for the ice cream.

It was hot and refreshing and I suspect on a cooler windier day, a nice cup of tea would be just the ticket.


I like crab, especially fresh crab.


Recently I had a very nice fresh crab salad at the Shoreline Bistro on Paignton beach.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to find fresh crab at your local supermarket. I have noticed that Marks & Spencers have started selling whole cooked crab, don’t know how fresh it would be.

The crabs in the picture above were taken at a fantastic fish market in Gloucester.

Awful tea, just like British Rail use to make…

I had a terrible cup of tea. It was on a train and was reminiscent of the tea that British Rail use to make!

It was on the buffet car on a South Devon Railway train from Buckfastleigh to Totnes.

South Devon Railway

I always think preserved railways have a real opportunity for on-board catering, however I am virtually always usually very disappointed.

The tea was foul and served in a depressing polystyrene cup. The milk was that awful long life milk in spring loaded containers; what’s wrong with serving fresh milk?

I was so disappointed that I decided I wouldn’t eat in the station tea rooms as I expected it to be just as bad, but on reflection that may have been a bit premature, as I was told the menu looked interesting and the food looked really nice.

Stuffed Chicken

Last night I cooked a very nice stuffed chicken dish.

Take four chicken thigh joints, take out the bone, you can take the skin off, but I usually leave it on.

Take four slices of pancetta bacon (normal streaky bacon can be used, but I prefer the thinness and flavour of pancetta). Lie them flat slightly overlapping. Place the chicken thigh flat out on the pancetta.

You can use a lot of different things for the stuffing, I used some Doux De Montagne that I had left over, a strip of red pepper and some strips of courgette (zucchini). But you could use any other cheese or other vegetables.

I then rolled and wrapped the stuffed chicken thigh with the pancetta bacon. I placed these in a roasting tin and roasted for about thirty minutes.

I served this with some roasted vegtables and some homemade salad consisting of coleslaw and a green bean salad.

Bella Italia

I quite like Bella Italia, yes I know it is a chain and they use a range of pre-made ingredients in their cooking and it’s all systems and less about flair and passion. Even having said that compared to other places I enjoy the food, the service, the atmosphere and the Italian’ess.

I was there on Monday for lunch and had an enjoyable meal. I started with the calamari and unlike other places which serve pre-cooked rubbery squid rings, at Bella Italia they do use the whole squid. However they do seem to overcook it, it would  be much better if they cooked for half the time that they do. Still nice, but not how I like it. It arrived with lemon and mayonnaise.

I had pizza for my main course, a Quattro Stagioni, the four seasons; pepperoni, smoked ham, roasted mushrooms and artichokes. It was quite nice, I prefer the pizza from Pizza Express, but this is so much better than the pizzas you can get in other (so-called) pizza eateries. The smoked ham was too salty for me, so that went off, but the mushrooms and artichokes were done well. The pizza base was just right, thin and not too crispy or too soggy. The tomato sauce was slightly too salty, but did taste of tomates. I would have liked a little more cheese.

The pasta dish ordered by my other half was very nice as well, Penne Funghi Pancetta. which was pancetta bacon, mushrooms and penne pasta sauteed in a creamy cheese sauce.

We had soft drinks and left before we could have coffee as we were pushed for time.

The service was fine, though it did take a little time for our main courses to arrive, and it felt like they had been waiting for a while.

Overall it was a nice place for lunch and I would make a return visit.

Doux De Montagne

Today I bought some from Tesco, it is described as:

A semi hard cheese with a mild, fruity flavour and a firm yet creamy texture, from the Monts de Velay Mountains, in the Auvergne region of France.

To be honest I didn’t think that much of it. The flavour was too mild for me, though I did like the texture. If you like Edam or Port Salut then you will probably enjoy this cheese, though expect the flavour to be quite mild in comparison.

Making coleslaw



I use cabbage, usually organic pointed cabbage or white cabbage. I shred this, ensuring I cut the core out first.

I then skin an onion, cut it in half and then cut very fine slices, before adding them to the coleslaw mix.

I grate my carrots.

For the dressing, I add a small spoon of wholegrain mustard, a couple of spoons of creme frache, a couple spoons of mayonnaise and a few grinds from my pepper mill.

Using two spoons I mix the lot together.

More black pepper and a splash of olive oil.



Café Rouge – too salty even it was by the sea…

Cardiff Bay

I really like Café Rouge, I have had nice meals there in Brighton and Bath, so when I was in Cardiff recently I stopped to get a coffee and a snack.

I ordered a baguette with fries and a coffee.

Well I was disappointed, the baguette sandwich was fine and what I was expecting, however the fries were so very salty. I have never understood why some places insist on salting their fries (or chips) before serving them to the customer. Are people getting so lazy now that even if they want salt on their fries they couldn’t be bothered to do it themselves and let the restaurant or café do it for them. Even so in this instance there seemed to be a about three days of your recommended daily allowance on a pathetically small portion of fries in Café Rouge. I had to send them back, and though the waitress seemed to indicate that was how they came, I did manage to get unsalted fries. I got the impression that the fries I had before *may* have been secondhand or from the bottom of a badly salted batch.

I don’t like a lot of salt on my food (I never add it myself to my food or my cooking) so when I get something which is heavily salted in a restaurant I can’t eat it. Sometimes I remember to ask, but usually I forget.

So apart from the very very salty fries, what else did I not like about Café Rouge in Cardiff, well, the sausage in my baguette was overcooked and slightly burnt in places, I am guess they meant chargrilled, but it was more charred than grilled.

Another thing, the service was very very intrusive. I really wanted to be left alone to enjoy my meal, but the waitress kept coming up to me to see if I wanted this, or wanted that, or was it okay, etc… I had only just put my fork down on my empty plate and she was there ready to take it away.

Please give me a little time…

Also it took ages for my order to arrive in the first place (so I did get my time then, but she was always there…). It wasn’t as though the place was really busy, six of us all together I think, and the others were either about to leave or had their food on their table. There were about six waiting staff, there may have been more, but I think they needed more staff in the kitchens.

Overall I was disappointed with the food and the service, I know Café Rouge is a chain, but in this case the Cardiff branch was a real disappointment. I will probably go to the one in Bath again, but Cardiff, well there are plenty of other places to eat in the vicinity and the tapas place looked interesting.

Spanish Chicken

Tonight I had a very nice spanish chicken dish (that was cooked for me). Containing tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, potatoes and chicken and cooked in a single pot, it was delicious. The main seasoning was freshly ground black pepper which to me gave it a very spanish feel, as did the potato.