Celebrating a birthday we headed for Pizza Express at Cribbs Causeway. We had booked in advance, which was a good thing, as the place was busy, buzzing and full of people. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions we had to wear masks in the restaurant when we weren’t sitting at the table.
Virtually all the Pizza Express restaurants have their own character, this is certainly the case with the Cribbs Causeway branch. It has a Banksy feel with stencil graffiti on the walls in a Banksy style.
We had a nice warm welcome and were shown to our table. Though we could have looked at the menu online on our phones, we did ask for physical menus.
I ordered a Peroni Libera, Peroni’s non-alcoholic lager, as I was wanting something that wasn’t a soft drink, but as I was driving I didn’t want alcohol. I don’t mind non-alcoholic lagers, however I wasn’t a fan of this one. There was something that wasn’t quite right, and compared to other non-alcoholic lagers I have had it wasn’t as tasty.
For my starter I chose the calamari. These were breaded squid rings served with a Caesar dressing, lemon and parsley. I think I should have remembered my experience from last year.
I thought it was okay, but I was a little disappointed.
It was a similar experience this time.
Again I thought it was just okay, but I was a also a little disappointed. The squid was tender, the coating crunchy, but I am not sure it was what I wanted from a dish of calamari. The thing was looking at the other starters there wasn’t much I liked from the menu, so defaulting to the squid.
For my main course I was tempted by the Fiorentina pizza I have had before, but thinking I always have that, lets try something different I did like the sound of the Calzone Verdure. The menu describes this as roasted peppers and aubergine with spinach, smoky tomato harissa, hot chilli, tomato with garlic and topped with rosemary and served with salad and balsamic dressing.
So I decided to go with that.
I really quite liked the calzone. The dough was delicious and tasty. The filling was a lot spicer than I was anticipating, but I think that’s because I didn’t read the description properly and missed the mention of hot chilli. So probably a little too spicy for me, but the filling was very tasty and full of flavour.
What I didn’t realise was that this was a vegan dish, well not that was an issue, this was a very tasty calzone pizza and I really enjoyed it.
Having thought for many years that risotto was a complex dish to cook I now find it one of my go to recipes when we want something tastier than plain rice to go with a meal. Sometimes we just have the risotto.
One of the key ingredients for this is the rice, always use a proper risotto rice, it won’t work with other kinds of rice.
For this recipe I used:
250g of Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice
1 clove of garlic
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
1/4 of a butternut squash
4 chestnut mushrooms
20g of butter
Dried Italian herbs
Splash of olive oil
1 Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
50g parmesan cheese
Dice the onion, pepper and butternut squash.
Cut the chestnut mushrooms into chunks.
In a large hot frying pan add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has melted and is sizzling, add the garlic, diced onion, pepper and butternut squash.
When these are softened add the chestnut mushrooms.
The add the Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice and stir into the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture, until the rice is coated and well stirred in the pan.
Add the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and water to cover the rice. Stir well.
As the water and stock is absorbed, add more water and continue to stir.
Cook the rice for 16-18 minutes until the rice is soft tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm.
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.
We tried these today. Birds Eye Green Cuisine meat-free meatballs.
Our Meat-free meatballs are super tasty combined with a home-made tomato sauce and served with pasta. They’re loaded with our signature pea protein* combined with a unique mix of herbs and spices to create a delicious meat-free alternative.
We had them plain. Trying to recreate that IKEA type meal of meatballs.
I wasn’t too impressed with them. They were easy to cook, but I was expecting a stronger flavour.
I think they would work well in a tomato sauce on top of pasta.
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. It’s mainly squid, in a crispy batter.
It can be quite challenging to cook, as some of the pieces are stuck together, making them quite large chunks and these are difficult to cook as they are large. If you try and break them apart then the batter breaks which means the pieces also don’t cook properly.
Having said that, I quite like the taste and texture.
I have had a few attempts in the past at making gluten free dough balls. I have made a bread dough using gluten free bread flour, however these were rather heavy and heavy. Not quite the Italian dough ball experience I was looking for.
I had used this mix in the past to bake focaccia bread with some success. However I have found that it works well for dough balls as well.
I follow the instructions on the back of the pack, however I don’t use the dried garlic or rosemary. I added 7g of fast acting yeast to the dry mix and then add 300ml of warm water and 30ml of olive oil. Mix until smooth. Leave for two minutes and then mix again vigorously for a further minute.
The end result is a smooth batter.
Then onto baking trays lined with baking parchment add separate desert sized spoonfuls of batter onto the trays.
If possible leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise, but I’ve not always needed to do this (sometimes didn’t have the time).
I baked the dough balls in a hot oven, 220°C (200°C fan assisted) for about 15-20 minutes. They should be light, crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.
Remove from the baking tray and serve hot with garlic butter or olive oil or other dips.
I quite like cauliflower cheese and I have been enjoying eating this dish from Marks and Spencer’s with some recent Sunday lunches.
It’s described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with acheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb.
There is plenty of caulifower and just the right amount of sauce. I liked the addition of the truffle and though I did think it needed more topping this was a personal preference, and I did enjoy the topping which browned nicely in the oven..
My son found a recipe online for cookies which we tried, though we replaced the standard flours with gluten free variants. These were nice, but they were a little too crisp and a little too sweet. He then adjusted the recipe and the result was tasty chewy gluten free choc chip cookies. What I and my son liked about them was that they were very similar in taste and texture to the fresh (non-gluten) cookies you can buy at supermarkets that he use to enjoy before he went gluten free.
When I was buying cookies from places like Sainsburys I did quite enjoy the raspberry and white chocolate versions. So I was intrigued in Aldi in their store had a pack of raspberry and white chocolate for baking. It was in their specials area, which is a pity as we quite liked the cookies and it might be challenging to find a pack again, hopefully I can find an alternative from another supermarket.
The process is pretty much the same as the process I used on the other cookies.
225g of unsalted butter
125g gluten free bread flour
125g gluten free plain flour
1 egg yolk
100g caster sugar
120g light brown sugar
1 pack of raspberry and white chocolate
One teaspoon salt
One teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Two teaspoons of vanilla essence
Melt the butter in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. The aim is to boil off some of the water off the butter. The recipe said to go ensure the milk solids got a nutty brown. I was a little wary in case of burning the butter, so didn’t probably go far enough. Once the butter melted and had turned slightly brown this was removed from the heat and cooled to room temperature.
Cream the liquid butter with the sugar, vanilla essence. The idea is to mix it until it is light and fluffy. The recipe calls for an electric mixer, ours was broken, so we did it by hand, which was hard work. Beat in the eggs until they are incorporated into the mixture.
Combine the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
Stir in the dry ingredients a third of it at a time until it is incorporated.
Using a wooden spoon fold in the raspberry and white chocolate.
Place six small balls, about 2-3cm across, of dough on a baking tray and bake for 6-9 minutes.
This quantity of ingredients will make about eighteen cookies.
After cooking leave on the tray and then after three minutes move to a rack to cool further.