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.

Amarone

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.

Quick Roast Chicken

I do enjoy roast chicken, but sometimes I don’t have the time to roast a whole chicken.

ChickenWhen time is against me I will roast legs and thighs, which can be done in under half the time.

I do like to roast my chicken with “stuff”, usually onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and other things I can find in the fridge.

Why legs and thighs?

Well I find that the meat on these cuts of chicken are full of flavour compared to chicken breast.

After the chicken is cooked, I usually remove the chicken from the roasting pan, let it sit for a while. In the meantime I add cubes of bread to the roasting pan. These soak up the juices and crisp up, a great accompaniment to the chicken.

Alongside my roast chicken we had roast potatoes and steamed green vegetables.

Potatoes

The courgette was home grown and tasted great.

Greens

Selezione Classica

A quick lunch at Bella Italia was on the cards and not fancying pizza or pasta I went with a sharing platter all to myself…

Our selection of oven baked lemon & rosemary chicken wings, spiced meatballs, calamari, mini garlic filled calzoni and lightly battered courgettes served with flamed pepper and lemon herb dips.

I have talked before about platters, sometimes they consist of a bundle of stuff that was thrown into a deep fat fryer. This one from Bella Italia was more imaginative than most.

The chicken wings were, as I expected, reheated from cooked, but you could smell and taste the lemon and rosemary. The problem with reheating is that it changes the taste and texture of the chicken. Freshly cooked chicken wings are much more succulent and have more flavour and when you have had freshly cooked, you are always disappointed with the reheated versions. These, though reheated, were very nice, and it was also a nice change not have them covered in a sweet sticky sauce.

The meatballs were nice and spicy and were something I wasn’t expecting to find on the platter. They came in an earthenware tumbler and were covered in a pleasant tomato sauce.

The calamari were typical of the calamari at Bella Italia, covered in flour and deep fried. Slightly overcooked for my liking, but it was proper squid and not just rubbery rings as you find at some places. I do like calamari.

The mini garlic filled calzoni were simply small pizza bases, with garlic butter, folded and baked like a calzone pizza. Soft on the inside, but with crunchy edges, the garlic was subtle and complemented the bread.

The lightly battered courgettes, reminded me of a dish I had ordered on Kefalonia. Chunky strips of courgette, covered in a batter and deep fried. These were crispy on the outside and the courgette was lovely and tender, almost melt in the mouth on the inside. Really nice.

Overall I enjoyed my platter and would be happy to order it again.

Alba Ristorante Part Three

I was recently lucky enough to go to dinner at the Alba Ristorante in London with some friends., not just once, but enjoyed it enough the first time to go for a second meal. Unlike a lot of Italian restaurants I have been too, the menu here was not full of pasta and pizza, on the contrary it was very different and as a result much more interesting and refreshing.

Misto di Verdure alla Griglia Condite al Balsamico

On my second visit for my starter I had the Misto di Verdure alla Griglia Condite al Balsamico or in English, Mixed grilled Italian vegetables balsamic & extra virgin olive oil.

This was very nice, a simple dish which worked very well. There were courgettes, pepper, tomato and aubergine.

Out of the two starters I had, I think I preferred the duck.

Risotto

Risotto

In a large frying pan, place some olive oil and butter. Then add some finely chopped onion, red pepper, courgette and pancetta.

Soften the onions.

Bring up the heat.

Add the risotto rice and ensure that the rice is coated in the oil and butter.

Add a splash of white wine.

Now add some chicken stock.

Keep topping up with stock to ensure that the rice doesn’t dry out.

Once the rice is virtually cooked, add a large handful of grated parmesan, some chopped parsley and some freshly ground black pepper.

Serve, garnish with a few slices of lemon.

Rice Salad

I do like a nice rice salad.

rice salad

The problem I have with some you can buy is that they are either too salty or too wet! So where possible I try and make my own.

This is a very simple recipe and you can adjust quantities to taste, how much you want, how much you have in the fridge.

Cook some rice.

I use basmati rice, in the main as it is so simple to cook, and cooks in ten minutes.

While the rice is cooking, in a frying pan add some olive oil and then add pancetta, onions, red pepper and courgettes. After that has cooked for a while add some mushrooms.

Ensure that they are cooked through and turn off the heat.

Now you could add the pepper, mushrooms, even the courgette raw, but I prefer to have them cooked.

Once the rice is cooked, drain and then to stop it cooking further and to cool it down rinse well with cold water.

Put the cooked rice in a bowl, add some mayonnaise and some creme frache.

Then add the cooked mixture.

making rice salad

Stir with a spoon until the rice and cooked mixture is evenly coated. As with a lot of salads though you could serve this straight away, it will improve if you leave it in the fridge for a few hours.

Excellent.

Chicken with mushrooms, tomatoes and courgettes

This is a simple easy recipe for cooking chicken.

Chicken with mushrooms, tomatoes and courgettes

One of the key things about cooking chicken this way is that it stays really nice and moist with lots of flavour.

Firstly take four chicken thighs, now you could use a whole chicken, half chicken or other chicken pieces. I much prefer chicken thighs over the breast meat as it has a lot more flavour (in my opinion).

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