Fritto Misto

I was staying in Wimbledon at the Hotel du Vin and had dinner a couple of times in their Italian themed restaurant. The restaurant was in the Orangery, and to be honest the air conditioning was turned up a little too much for me, as it felt quite chilly.

On another evening I looked over the menu and went with the Fritto Misto for my starter, which was also available as a main course.

The dish comprised deep fried squid, tiger prawns, mullet and anchovies, set on a bed of ailiol and served with lemon.

The dish was garnished with some chilli and herbs. I am not sure how authentic the chilli is, something I see at Wagamama on their chilli, squid. I picked off the chill and squeezed some lemon juice onto the dish.

The batter was thin and crispy. You could taste the fish in the dish. The aioli was a little rough, but was okay.

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.

Time for a Raisukare

We went out to eat at Wagamama at the Mall at Cribbs Causeway, which is one of our regular haunts for meals out

The restaurant environment is so different to other branches of Wagamama as it sits on a mezzanine at one of end of The Mall. Those with long memories will recall that the location was the home of the deli style eating establishment, Café Giardino.

When we arrived the Wagamama, the place was busy and there was a queue. We didn’t mind so much, so we waited patiently for our turn to get a table and eat some food.

This time we had to wait a while as they were understaffed, but it didn’t feel too long before we were shown to a table.

I looked over the menu, I was tempted by dishes I had before but in the end I decided to have the Tofu Raisukare. This was a vegan curry of tofu, mild and citrus coconut sauce, mangetout, peppers, red and spring onion, sesame seeds, chilli, coriander, served with fresh lime and white rice.

This was a nice fresh mild curry, though the red chilli added a bit of heat. The tofu had an interesting texture and wasn’t quite what I expected. I had thought the tofu would have a little more bite. The sauce was nice, the vegetables were very crisp.

Overall I enjoyed the dish and something I would order again.

Remembering the squid and langoustine

Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market, image by 139904 from Pixabay

Back in January and staying overnight in London, and having had a really nice fish supper at Loch Fyne in Cambridge, I decided that I would take advantage of their January 50% off mains offer and have dinner at their Leadenhall Market site.

Leadenhall Market is an interesting place to visit, reminds me very much of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter films. It has lots of painted and polished wood, beautiful windows and is covered with a glass roof. I think I remember reading once that this was the place that inspired J K Rowling when she was writing about Diagon Alley for the Harry Potter books.

I initially had a little trouble finding the branch of Loch Fyne, but after a little search I found it. It was a lot less crowded than the Cambridge branch and there was a lot of space to choose where to sit. I was given a warm welcome and shown to my table. Though the outside of the place has that quaint look of olden tymes that you get with Leadenhall Market the inside was quite fresh and modern.

Having looked at the menu online, I had decided that I would probably go with the turbot. I have seen it cooked on shows like Masterchef Professional and The Great British Menu, but have never bought it cooked it myself, neither have I eaten it at a restaurant either. So I was quite looking forward to it. You can imagine my disappointment when I was told that it was off the menu as they had run out!

In the end I decided I would got for a starter and ordered the sea salt and pepper squid.

Squid

The menu described this being served with sesame seeds and tomato & chilli jam. Of course once you have ordered the menu is removed so I couldn’t check until I got back to the hotel I was staying at to see that there was no jam, I had been served the dish with sliced chilli instead. It isn’t the same and would have ruined the dish if I had eaten that amount of chilli!

This dish was probably described as okay. The coating was crispy, but the squid was a little too chewy. Way too much chilli!

For my main course I chose the grilled scottish langoustines with romesco sauce – sun-dried tomatoes, roast peppers, garlic and almonds.

This was on the Leadenhall menu, but wasn’t on the menu when I was at the Cambridge branch. I’ve always liked langoustine, even though this was a special, I think if the turbot had been on the menu, I would have still chosen the turbot.

I was intrigued how this would be served and this is how it looked, it was a large pile of grilled langoustine.

GRILLED SCOTTISH LANGOUSTINES (N) 29.95 with romesco sauce – sun-dried tomatoes, roast peppers, garlic, almonds

I was quite surprised by the way if was presented. The langoustine had been halved, grilled and then the romesco sauce added on top.

The langoustine was not as tasty as I thought they would be, but I did enjoy the romesco sauce. If anything the langoustine were rather dry and they didn’t have a huge amount of flavour. Though quite a large dish, it wasn’t that filling, well once you eat the langoustine flesh there is still quite a bit of langoustine left. I think I should have ordered some sides, but at the time of ordering I wasn’t that hungry.

The service was excllent, warm and friendly. I enjoyed the meal and think with the 50% off offer it was value for money. I would like to go again, but in the current landscape that may be some time away.

Cod and Curry

We went to Wagamama for lunch. We had been shopping at the Mall in Bristol and were all feeling a little hungry.

The Wagamama at the Mall at Cribbs Causeway is in a weird open location at one end next to Marks and Spencers on a mezzanine overlooking the entrance. There are the regular benches and long tables, but there are also booths as well. We were given a nice friendly welcome and sat down at our table.

I was wondering what to have and decided to go for something different.

I quite liked the sound of the cod dish, which was cod mokutan soba, black charcoal soba noodles in a soy sauce with two fillets of miso-glazed cod, stir-fried bok choi, mangetout, red peppers and spring onions. drizzled with a sweet miso dressing and garnished with fresh ginger and coriander.

Unfortunately my fish was overcooked on the point of being burnt, so I had to send it back. When it came back it looked a lot better.

I really liked the black charcoal soba noodles, and the miso-glazed cod had a lot of flavour.

It was the kind of dish I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t have it again on another visit.

My other half went for a curry.

Chicken nikko curry, a fragrant coconut, lemongrass and turmeric soup with chicken, roasted butternut squash, turmeric cauliflower, tenderstem broccoli, mangetout, bok choi and beansprouts. garnished with chilli, coriander, fresh ginger, lime and chilli oil. served with a side of rice with sesame seeds.

I think she made the better choice.

Service was warm and friendly and overall we enjoyed the lunch.

Overpowering

I’ve had the sushi quite a few times from Wasabi at Paddington and have enjoyed it. I liked the look of their hot dishes, but respecting my fellow travellers I avoid eating hot food on the train.

Needing lunch, and having enjoyed the sushi I decided to try one of their hot dishes. I went with their sweet chilli chicken.

As I was hungry and had been some time since breakfast I went for a large portion, which was of a decent size and proportions of rice to chicken.

sweet chilli chicken

I quite like sweet chilli chicken, but in this case the sauce was overpoweringly with sweetness and stickiness, even with the heat of the chilli.

After eating I felt that I really needed some green vegetables or some salad.

I really don’t think I would be buying hot dishes from Wasabi again.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2017

This year I have written 41 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.

Spicy!

If you live in Bristol you’ve probably heard of Chilli Daddy and you may have even eaten there. They have relatively recently taken on a stall in the St Nicholas Market and as that is a regular haunt of mine for lunch, I have been thinking about eating there for a while. When they first arrived in St Nicks I did find the menu somewhat confusing, since then they have appeared to simplify it.

winter1_1_orig

winter2_1_orig

winter3_orig

On my most recent visit to St Nick’s the staff from Chilli Daddy were offering free samples of fried spicy chicken, pepper chicken and mini spring rolls. All very nice and tasty. Though what I didn’t see was where they were on the menu!

Looking over the menu, I decided that noodles would be a messy affair so went with a rice dish, the Paojiao Chicken Rice Box.

So the dish didn’t look like the picture, well it was a square box.

Paojiao Chicken Rice Box.

The dish was mainly rice with ground chicken with some vegetables and some peanuts. The pajiao was Sichuan pickled chili pepper. This was a very interesting dish and I did find it both tasty and spicy. Even though I went for the level 2 spiciness it was still quite a hot spicy dish, I don’t really want to imagine how hot a level 5 dish would be.

Thai style stir fry

Thai style stir fry

I do like Thai food, one of my favourite places to eat in Oxford was Sai’s Thai in the covered market. As I have never actually been to Thailand I couldn’t say whether what they cooked was authentic, or typical of the cuisine. What I can say, is I really liked their food and what they served. I have tried quite a few times to recreate the experience at home, sometimes with an element of success and sometimes it was just okay.

For this recipe I took some chicken thighs and cut them into strips, I prefer using chicken thighs over chicken breast, as the flavour is much better and it cooks better in a stir fry, staying moist and tender, whilst breast can dry out.

The chicken is mixed with soy sauce and I used some rice flour (one of the family is on a wheat-free diet). I mixed the chicken until it was all evenly coated.

This was then cooked in a some sunflower oil in my trusty wok. The chicken is stir fried until just cooked and removed from the wok. What happens next depends very much what is in the house and in the fridge.


First goes some garlic and usually a combination of onions, pak choi, green beans (or mange tout), sliced mushrooms, baby sweetcorn, broccolli, basil and spinach. I had fish sauce and more soy sauce. You can add some chopped red chilli for heat if you want. I do like to get Thai Basil if I can, but I have found normal Basil an okay replacement. This is all stir fried, and when this is nearly cooked, the spinach has wilted, I add back the chicken and some cashew nuts. A little more stir frying before serving on a dish (and sometimes topping with more cashew nuts).

I find this quite a simple, yet very tasty dish, serve with plain steamed rice or noodles.

A taste of Peru

Temple Quay Market

So how often do you get a chance to sample some authentic looking and tasting Peruvian food?

One of my favourite features of Bristol is the weekly street food market that takes place every Thursday at the square in the newly redeveloped Temple Quay. It is open between 12 and 2, but I suggest you get there early, as there are large queues and many times dishes sell out (especially the vegetarian ones).

There are a range of regular and guest stalls, and when I went there was a real choice. I did like the idea of Greek, the halloumi pitta sounded and looked delicious. There was also a pulled lamb sub, that also looked very nice. After looking around, I went with Uchu Perú, as stall selling Peruvian food, my choice dictated slightly by the shortness of the queue and the interesting sounding menu.

Uchu Perú Menu

In the end looking over the menu I decided that I would go with the sample menu, so I could have a bit of everything. The sample plate has smaller portions of all the dishes from the menu.

If you stay at the market the stall provides a nice plate, but as it was starting to rain I got my meal to go and they split it between two boxes for me to take away.

Ceviche, which was sea bass cooked in lime with prawns, chilli, coriander, red onion, sweet potato and Peruvian corn. This was fresh and sharp and really tasty. I wasn’t so enamoured with the Peruvian corn, but it was something that I can see other people liking.

The Quinoa Salad was made from black and white quinoa with carrot, radish, coriander, broad beans, feta cheese and Peruvian yellow chilli sauce. I really liked how the team put this together, and was like the Ceviche was delicious. The ingredients were fresh, tasty and worked really well together.

The final dish in my trio was Causa, which was freshly piped potato puree with Peruvian yellow chilli paste, served cold with tomato, avocado puree, purple corn mayonnaise, sweet potato crisp, pulled chicken, topped with togaroshi mayonnaise. As I was eating I did wonder what the pink stuff was, but re-reading the menu, I realised this was the purple corn mayonnaise. Delicious components that worked really well together.

I really liked how the dishes were constructed to order and they looked beautiful. I’ve not eaten Peruvian dishes before, these were delicious and I would certainly go back to Uchu Perú.