Time for a rustica pizza

I was out in Bristol thinking about something for lunch. I had a voucher for free main course at Zizzi, so I headed over to their branch in Cabot Circus to get something for lunch. I  haven’t been to Zizzi for a while, so it was nice to look over the menu. There were some nice choices, but in the end I went with the  Rustica Pizza with Black Truffle Salami & Mushroom.

This was a white base with truffle salami, mushrooms, crispy prosciutto, Bufala mozzarella, riserva cheese, truffle-infused oil and crispy sage.

I do like a white base pizza, and this was a nice pizza, with generous toppings, but not over the top toppings. The fresh mozzarella was a nice touch. I liked the rustica base which was crisp. This was a nice pizza and I am glad I chose it from the menu.

Alongside I had the Courgetti Fritti which were crispy courgette chips.

These were interesting and I enjoyed them.

Came to pay the bill and there was an issue with the staff saying I could only have used the offer with the purchase of two main courses, it didn’t say that in the T&Cs, so in the end they did accept the voucher. 

Apart from the voucher issue, the service was excellent.

Bleeding Heart

Street cafe

I was in London for a meeting and the plan was that we would go out for dinner. The place had been chosen, the Bleeding Heart Bistro. The Bleeding Heart Bistro, is situated in the Bleeding Heart Yard just off Greville St in the heart of the City of London. It is a French style bistro with pavement cafe seating. There is no traffic in the yard and the enclosed space is free from traffic. We sat outside and it really felt like we were somewhere in France. The tables, the canopy over the tables; along with the red and white theme, really set the scene for a French dining experience.

The service was excellent, efficient, friendly, and we never felt rushed or hurried.

Originally, when the dinner was planned, we had been provided with a fixed set menu, which was rather limited and to be honest disappointing. So I was quite pleased when the decision was made to go with the full a la carte menu. Lots more choice of lovely sounding food.

For my starter I went with the stuffed courgette flower filled with lemon ricotta.

I have never had a stuffed courgette flower before, though I have seen them on cooking programmes many times. In many ways this was a no-brainer for me to try this dish. However there were lots of other dishes in the menu that sounded delicious. It was hard to make a choice.

It was a really nice plate of food. The stuffing was light and fresh, the flower in the light batter was nice and crisp. I was pleased I had tried it. Would I have it again, I would probably choose something else from the menu. It was nice, but I wasn’t blown away by the dish.

For my main course, I went with the lobster and fries.  I have cooked lobster myself and I did wonder how it would be if it was cooked in a top restaurant like the Bleeding Heart. I got half a lobster, a portion of fries, and some herb butter.

The lobster was delicious, full of flavour. Though I enjoyed the dish, I think though if I was to repeat the experience I would have chosen something else. It wasn’t as special as I thought it was going to be.

We didn’t have dessert, though I wasn’t tempted by the cheese board on offer.

Would I go again, yes I would, it was a lovely place to eat and we had a fantastic meal.

Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken

I was in London and staying at the Fox and Goose close to Hangar Lane. This is a Fullers Hotel and is part of the same chain at Drayton Court, which I have also stayed at.  The restaurant is in the older part of the hotel, as the hotel part is now a new build at the back. Despite being part of the same chain, they do have different menus. Their version of chicken was different to Drayton Court. So after having had my prawn cocktail starter I had the lemon and thyme roast chicken.

This was lemon and thyme roast chicken served on chorizo, courgettes, red onion and cannellini beans.

lemon and thyme roast chicken served on chorizo, courgettes, red onion and cannellini beans

The chicken was really good, full of flavour, moist and tender. You could taste the chicken, and the lemon and thyme enhanced the flavour.

The chicken was served on a bed of chorizo, courgettes, red onion and cannellini beans. The beans were a little overcooked, but the chorizo was excellent, large chunks of soft spicy chorizo.

Overall I really enjoyed this dish and would certainly order it again.

Now that was different

I was at a conference in London at the Shaw Theatre. In the afternoon break we had something I have never had before at an afternoon tea break.

Usually at this time, in virtually all conferences I have been to, you can get tea, coffee, and usually a cake, or biscuits. Sometimes it is merely a packet of biscuits, other times it can be a proper slice of cake. 

At this event, yes there was cake, but they also had deep fried battered slices of courgette with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

deep fried battered slices of courgette with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Now that was different!

What was it like, to be honest no idea, as I just had some coffee.

Porchetta Bianca Pizza

I was staying in Wimbledon at the Hotel du Vin and had dinner a couple of times in their Italian themed restaurant. I had a nice starter of Ministrone Soup. I even surprised myself and went for a pizza for my main course, the Porchetta Bianca Pizza.

This was a white pizza topped with slow roasted pork belly with rosemary, mozzarella, mascarpone, white truffle oil and pecorino.

The base was really nice, as this was a white pizza there was no tomato on the base. There was ample toppings, and I did like the flavour of the pork belly, which contrasted well with the mascarpone cheese.

This was an excellent pizza, I would have liked more truffle oil though.

Alongside my Pizza I went with the Zucchini Fritti, which was thin strips (or shoestrings) of courgette deep fried. They were rather moreish.

Fritto Misto

I have always enjoyed the calamari from the King Fin. My introduction to King Fin was back in the summer of 2019 on a visit to the Finzel Reach Market. King Fin have recently revamped their menu. They have lost their calamari, but you can now have a softshell crab burger, a cod goujon wrap or fritto misto.

Since I found out about the new menu I was tempted by both the softshell crab and the fritto misto.

So when I was in Bristol one Thursday, this meant that for lunch I could visit the Temple Quay Market. It was nice to have the opportunity to get some tasty street food and I was pleased to see King Fin at the market.

 A few weeks back when I was in Bristol, I had intended to pay a visit to King Fin at the Finzel Reach Market to try out their new menu. However upon visiting the market they weren’t there, so went to La Lola at the St Nicholas market.

So I joined the queue and ordered the fritto misto. There was a bit of a wait as they had a bit of backlog, a sign the stall was popular. They had already sold out of the cod goujons and their kedgeree scotch egg.

Whereas the calamari came with rosemary chips and salad, the fritto misto was just fritto misto. I could have ordered chips for another £3 but I wasn’t that hungry.

The dish contained calamari, prawns, whitebait, small pieces of cod, and some courgette slices. It was served with a slice of lemon and some bright yellow garlic aioli.

Overall, if I am honest, though I enjoyed the dish, I was a little disappointed. The calamari was great, but the rest of the fish was a little soggy, despite having just being deep fried. There were two prawns in the dish, one peeled prawn and one whole prawn. The courgette was floppy and was quite greasy.

I really loved the calamari special I’ve had in the past from King Fin and would be happy to order that again. Would I order the fritto misto again, probably not.

In the end we ended up at Amarone

Edinburgh Castle

I have been to Edinburgh many times for work and have eaten out there when staying overnight. I had an excellent French meal back in November 2019. However though I have been there for work I have never been there for a personal visit. So when planning a short holiday for the summer we decide we would visit Edinburgh in August for a short city break.

On our first night we decided that we would go to Bella Italia, but they were full, so we then decided we would visit Wagamama which was just around the corner from the hotel. You can’t book a table for Wagamama, you just have to turn up and hope for the best. Alas there was a long queue for Wagamama so we needed so go somewhere else, and of course we hadn’t booked anywhere else either.

I was looking at booking a place on my phone when we checked across the road from Wagamama and there was an Italian restaurant called Amarone which was open and had free tables.


So in we went and were shown to a comfortable booth. The decor was nice if a little over the top really, however as the place had once been a bank you realised that explained the high ceilings. It reminded my of Harrods with the lights and pillars and use of brass.

There was quite a good menu, however it was a limited menu due to Covid restrictions in the kitchen.

I chose a pasta dish, the rest of the table, one had a vegan pizza, the other two had gluten free pizza.

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare, this was mixed seasonal fish and shellfish with olive oil, garlic & parsley. I was given a choice of rich tomato or bianco sauce, I had the bianco sauce.

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare

This wasn’t a huge dish of food, but there was a generous serving of fish and shellfish. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce was delicious. I really enjoyed this plate of food.

The vegan pizza was interesting and tasty. The Ortolana Vegana was a hand-stretched & stone-baked sourdough pizza base, vegan mozzarella, marinated and grilled courgettes, aubergine, mixed peppers, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.

Ortolana Vegana

I had a slice and it was interesting and tasty, not so sure about the vegan mozzarella.

The gluten free pizza were simplistic but tasty.

gluten free pizza

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. We had a lovely welcome and given time to both order and eat despite the busyness of the place. Certainly somewhere I would go again if I was back in Edinburgh.

Homecooked Thai style stir fry

Thai Stir Fry

This is a recipe I cook quite often, it was inspired by visits to Sais’ Thai in the Oxford Covered Market. Though it has similarities to the dish I had at Sais’ Thai, it’s not quite the same, actually it’s quite different, but I don’t usually use the ingredients they do.

I cook some cubed pork belly in the oven, for about twenty minutes I then remove from the oven and stir fry in a wok with some soy sauce and fish sauce, along with finely chopped garlic and ginger. You could add chilli as well, if you like a bit of heat in your stir fry. I then take a range of vegetables, including but not always limited to: ribbons of carrot, pak choi, red cabbage, courgette, mushrooms (shitake and brown), baby corn, and onions. These are added to the wok. And cooked for a couple of minutes. I then add spinach and basil. I would prefer to use Thai Basil, but I have had trouble either finding it locally or growing it in the garden.

The dish is then served with a sprinkling of cashew nuts. It works well with rice, but I have also served it with noodles as well.

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

I really do enjoy roasted vegetables either as a meal in itself or as an accompaniment to another dish.

On this platter I have roasted squash, red onions, red pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergine, parsnips and sweet potato.

The method I used for this was in the roasting pan I placed the squash, the parsnips, red onion and sweet potato with a good splash of olive oil. This was then roasted in the oven for about 15 minutes. I then added the mushrooms, tomatoes, aubergine, courgette, red pepper and another splash of the olive oil. This was then roasted for about 15-20 minutes.

Simple and delicious.

Poached Chicken

Most Sundays we have a traditional roast dinner. This week I only had skinless chicken breasts in the fridge and I have always found roasting chicken breasts usually results in dry tough chicken. If using chicken portions, my preference is to use chicken thighs and legs.

So, in the end I sliced into the chicken, added a stuffing consisting of onion, mushrooms and basil. This I then wrapped in foil before poaching for twenty minutes. After cooking, I let them rest for at least five minutes before opening the foil parcels and slicing them.

PotatoesWith them I did some roast potatoes. Firstly you need to use the right kind of potatoes. It’s not as simple as buying any kind, the cheapest or whatever. This time I went with King Edward (as that was all that was available in the shop, well there were other varieties, but no Maris Piper.

After peeling and cutting into chunks the potatoes are blanched in boiling water for about 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the chunks. Now the size if dependent on how you like your roast poatoes and how long you have to cook them. Obviously smaller chunks means a shorter cooking time, whilst larger chunks though take longer are preferred by some people.

While the potatoes are blanched, place the roasting tray into the oven, with a good splash of olive oil and one of sunflower oil. The key here is to heat the pan and the oil. I put the pan into the hot oven (with the oil added) for at least five minutes, not too long though.

After blanching the potatoes, drain and the key here is to let the heat dry the potatoes. If they go into the pan “wet” they won’t crisp up well. The next stage is to slightly “bash” the potatoes by shaking the colander or sieve, this will aid the crisping process too. Then remove the roasting pan from the oven and add the potatoes, turning them and maybe a little more “bashing”.

You should also ensure that the potatoes are not too crowded, in other words they need air to be crisp.

Cooked for thirty to forty minutes (larger potatoes take longer). It is a good idea to turn the potatoes half way through to ensure a more even crispness. The end result should be tasty, crisp potatoes with a fluffy centre.

I also roasted some parsnips, carrots and onions. These I just cut into chunks. Place in a bowl, add some olive oil, mix to ensure the vegetables are well coated before placing in a hot oven for about twenty to thirty minutes.

Ready for roastingIn addition in another roasting pan, I took some diced onion, sliced courgette, mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes, these I roasted with a good dash of olive oil for ten minutes before adding some cubes of bread that soak up the juices and crisp up. Usually I will add these ingredients to the roasting tray I have roasted the meat in. However as I was poaching I just used a plain tray.

For gravy I made my own with a roux of butter, oil and flour to which I add stock and some red wine. Cook for at least five minutes.

To add colour and freshness I steamed some carrots, green beans and broccoli to serve with the meal.