Crispy Duck Leg Cassoulet

Staying at the Drayton Court Hotel having had a great starter for my evening meal, it was then onto the main course.

I had ordered the Crispy Gressingham duck leg, which was served with a bacon, sausage and bean cassoulet.

It was supposed to come with a parsley crumb I think, but there was crispy kale instead.

I had had a really nice duck cassoulet at Côte Brasserie at the end of last year, so it wasn’t too surprising that I compared the two dishes as I tucked into the cassoulet from the Drayton Court Hotel. The duck was tender, but I do think the skin onto could have been crispier. The cassoulet though was rather good, filled with bacon, sausages and beans. I also enjoyed the crispy kale that garnished the dish. 

Overall I think both dishes were great, I preferred the duck at Côte, and it was difficult to choose between the cassoulets, but Drayton Court had the edge.

What we had for Christmas Lunch

I like to record what we had for Christmas lunch, so next time I can improve on what we had.

This time we ordered from M&S and had three roasts.

For the third year running we had a Three-Bird Roast.This year was turkey, stuffed with chicken, duck and (gluten free) pork, orange and panettone stuffing).

This was rather good, not enough duck, but still very good. I felt I cooked it well and leaving it to rest meant it was easy to carve and the slices stayed together.

I also cooked a Dry-Aged Rib of Beef. This I sealed in a hot frying pan before moving to the oven. After cooking I let it rest and carved. The beef was beautifully tender, though not as much flavour as I thought it was going to have.

The final of our trio of roasts was the Stuffed Pair of Partridges. These were smaller than I thought they would be, almost quail sized. I think I overcooked these, so they were a little dry.

We had a range of stuffing and trimmings. Though I forgot to cook the Yorkshire Puddings.

Overall I was pleased with the meal (I was catering for ten) though I was disappointed with my roast potatoes. I think I didn’t par-boil them for long enough, and the oven was a little too crowded as well. Something to think about for next year.

We now have a tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We’ve done this for ten years now. We do this for a few reasons. On Christmas Day itself, the children are often too excited to sit down for a long meal, so don’t eat or enjoy the meal or the occasion. It also usually means I spend a fair few hours in the kitchen, which means I miss them opening and playing with their presents. I also find it quite demanding to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, whilst creating a wonderful dining experience.

Having the meal on Christmas Eve means that we can both spend a bit more time preparing the meal (less stressful in itself) and enjoy eating the meal (as do the children). As a result for them it helps pass the time on one of the more exciting days of the year as they anticipate the arrival of a sleigh full of presents being pulled by eight tiny reindeer!

As to what we eat on Christmas day itself, well we have lots of lovely leftovers, cheeses, pickles, hot bread, etc…. quick and easy to prepare and delicious.

Waiting for Wagamama

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 evening we had decided to visit Wagamama but the queue was horrendous so we then ended up at the Italian restaurant, Amarone. On our second evening, as it was late we ate in the hotel, what a mistake that was!

On our final night we decided we would go for Wagamama, though there was a queue it was shorter. We had to wait for a while, but once we were in, we were in. We were shown to a table and we looked over the menu.

I liked the idea of a rice dish so I went with the grilled duck donburi. This was tender, shredded duck in a spicy teriyaki sauce. mixed with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky white rice and topped with a crispy fried egg, cucumber and spring onions. served with a side of kimchee.

I have had this dish before (I think) and I really enjoyed it. The combination of sauce, duck, vegetables with rice and egg was delicious. The kimchee adds some nice spice and heat to the dish.

Also served to the table was a  chicken katsu curry. This is chicken coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs, covered in an aromatic curry sauce served with sticky rice and a side salad. 

I have to say I never like the look of this dish, but I was informed that it was delicious and the plate of food was polished off.

Another dish served to the table was a glass noodle salmon salad which was really enjoyed.

Overall we had a nice meal, the place was busy, but the service was attentive. It was noticeable though how the number of takeaway and delivery orders were impacting on the service to the customers who were actually sitting down in the restaurant. We know that there has been a huge growth in the demand for these services during the pandemic, but I am not so sure that restaurants have worked out how to manage the whole process, especially now that there are more people going out to eat in the actual restaurant.

Two Three Bird Roasts

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake.

We now have a tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We’ve done this for ten years now. We do this for a few reasons. On Christmas Day itself, the children are often too excited to sit down for a long meal, so don’t eat or enjoy the meal or the occasion. It also usually means I spend a fair few hours in the kitchen, which means I miss them opening and playing with their presents. I also find it quite demanding to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, whilst creating a wonderful dining experience.

Having the meal on Christmas Eve means that we can both spend a bit more time preparing the meal (less stressful in itself) and enjoy eating the meal (as do the children). As a result for them it helps pass the time on one of the more exciting days of the year as they anticipate the arrival of a sleigh full of presents being pulled by eight tiny reindeer!

As to what we eat on Christmas day itself, well we have lots of lovely leftovers, cheeses, pickles, hot bread, etc…. quick and easy to prepare and delicious.

I had originally planned to cook three roasts for our Christmas lunch. With limited space in the oven and thinking we might have too much food, in the end I decided to cook only the two three bird roasts and leave the beef joint for Boxing Day, which was an excellent piece of beef and I will blog about at later date.

The main roast was a turkey stuffed with chicken and duck, along with a pork, plum and sloe gin stuffing.

This was an excellent roast full of flavour.

We also had a three game roast, which was a pheasant, stuffed with partridge , pigeon and a pork, apple, calvados stuffing.

We were less impressed with this roast, it lacked flavour.

Overall it was a nice meal and enjoyed by all.

Time to choose the squash

I wanted those crispy cauliflower bites again, however in the end it wasn’t to be. It was time for a another visit to Wahaca, this time the branch in Fitzrovia which I have been to before and had a lovely meal.

It was early evening and I hadn’t expected the place to be so busy, but it was basically full. The manager though was wonderfully welcoming and made a real effort to find me a table. This level of customer service was excellent and made me feel welcome. The place was really busy and noisy, but that really added to the atmosphere. As with other branches of Wahaca, this one had its own style and decor. It was quite dark in the restaurant, but I am not sure if that was intentional, or that on the occasions I have visited the place it has been in the evenings!

Since that previous visit the menu had changed, as it does quite often. I had intended to have one of the specials that I missed out on my most recent visit to Wahaca which were the grilled fish tacos. Alas that wasn’t meant to be, as they had changed their specials to the Christmas ones, and I didn’t fancy the turkey dinner taquito! I did think about getting those crispy cauliflower bites again, however in the end I decided I should choose something new.

I was quite hungry, so I did order some nachos and guacamole. 

nachos and guacamole

There was a decent portion of guacamole and the nachos were crunchy and not too salty.

So what of my street food choices? Well I went with three dishes and my first choice was the duck croquetas, these are crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa.

duck croquetas, these are crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa

They were a delight, crispy outside and smooth tender inside. Great flavours and the smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa was delicious and really complemented the croquetas.

On my last visit to this branch I had really enjoyed the butternut squash.

I really enjoyed this dish, was full of flavour and very tasty. I think it could have been improved if the squash had been peeled, but the flesh of the squash did come away from the skin despite this. I really liked the chargrilled aspect of the dish and you could taste that in the squash. This dish is advertised as vegan, and I suspect people might avoid it, but if it comes back onto the menu, go for it, it was delicious.

So when I saw the roasted butternut squash tacos, with a creamy cashew nut and herb mole, citrusy tomatillo salsa and pumpkin seeds, of course I had to choose it.

roasted butternut squash tacos, with a creamy cashew nut and herb mole, citrusy tomatillo salsa and pumpkin seeds

It was a very different dish to what I had before. As you can see it was a couple of tacos filled with chunks of roasted butternut squash. The dish before had been very different.

Chargrilled Crown Prince squash grown by Riverford Organic, served with kale & cashew nut mole

It had consisted of large chunks of chargrilled butternut squash.

However though it wasn’t the same dish, I really enjoyed the new tacos version, it was full of flavour and very tasty.

My third choice was hard, I did consider the mushroom tacos, but in the end I went with something I had ordered before which was buttermilk chicken flour tacos served crispy fried with pink pickled onions & spiced mayo.

buttermilk chicken flour tacos served crispy fried with pink pickled onions & spiced mayo

They were delicious, great textures and flavours.

The table services was excellent, friendly and efficient. Despite how busy the place was, the food arrived in good time. You can tell how popular this place was, as I left there was a huge queue of people waiting for tables. Will I go again, well I will, if I can get in next time.

That was an unexpected delight

It was a Thursday and I was in Bristol and it was the week that the Temple Quay Market was on in Temple Quay. Sometimes in the winter, inclement weather conditions can mean that the market doesn’t run. On this Thursday though I was lucky, the market was running.

I hadn’t thought much about what I might have, they usually have a really good spread of stalls and food choices. As I walked around I considered what to have, and then in an unexpected twist I nearly bumped into the SheSellsSushi stall. Well that was that I decided I would have something from Lisa’s stall.

I have had quite a few meals from her stall from the Finzel Reach Market on a Friday in Bristol, but as I wasn’t expecting her to be there, it was an unexpected delight that her stall was at Temple Quay. It was a double delight, as the last time I went to her stall at the Finzel Reach Market, it was rather late and she had sold out of virtually everything. This time I was early and there was all those wonderful choices.

I went once more with the Bento Box, and had the delicious Beef Donburi. This is succulent short rib slow cooked in a teriyaki style marinade of soy, fresh ginger and garlic. It was served on a bed of rice  with beni shoga, mayu and spring onion.

Beef Donburi, succulent short rib slow cooked in a teriyaki style marinade of soy, fresh ginger and garlic. It was served on a bed of rice  with beni shoga, mayu and spring onion.

As usual it was delicious and full of flavour. The beef was meltingly tender and the garnishes added to the dish. I always love the care and attention that Lisa pays to each and every dish. This isn’t just thrown together, this is food artistry made with love and passion. The result is amazing cooking and delicious food.

I once more went again with the tempura chicken hirata bun. The steamed bun is made with activated charcoal and inside I had the tempura chicken, known as the Finzel Flapper, complete with spring onions and Japanese mayo.

he steamed bun is made with activated charcoal and inside is chicken thigh deep fried in a crispy tempura batter and served with a range of sauces and garnishes.

I do like the combination of flavours and textures in the bun. She also does a pork belly hirata bun, which is just as tasty, but I like the textures you get with the tempura chicken.

So though I went with my normal order, of the bento box, I also added a side order of Takoyaki in octopus and duck varieties. These are freshly cooked on the stall and always look really nice.

dumplings with tonkatsu sauce, japanese mayo, toasted seaweed and bonito flakes

They are covered in a range of sauces and garnishes, and I couldn’t tell you what they were, but thankfully Lisa on her website describes them as dumplings with tonkatsu sauce, Japanese mayo, toasted seaweed and bonito flakes.  I did enjoy these and I was quite full, as might be expected.

Now though as the summer weather has gone, I might just try out the ramen next time. Oh and one day must try the sushi.

What we had for Christmas Lunch

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake. This post is a little later than I planned, but it’s here now.

This year we ordered two Christmas roasts from Tesco. I was a little concerned as the night before the day I was going to collect the order I got a phone call from my local Tesco saying that part of my order had not been delivered to the store and offered a replacement. I wasn’t too happy with this, as it was quite short notice. In the end they had a late night delivery so I got my order in the end.

The main one was a part-boned turkey with chestnut stuffing. This was really nice roasted the chestnut stuffing was really nice too, with who chestnuts within it.

The second was a three bird roast, comprising a duck stuffed with goose and turkey. I remember once spending a lot of money on a Marks and Spencer four bird roast, which though very nice was mainly a big turkey with some duck, goose and chicken. So was a little bit of a disappointment, I blogged about that here, which reminded me not to go down that road again.

Along with the roasts we had roast potatoes, these I cooked in my usual way, which is as follows. I used Maris Piper potatoes, the type of potatoes I find is critical for getting crispy roast potatoes and a fluffy centre. I peel the potatoes and then par-boil for about ten minutes. Whilst they are in the pan of boiling water, I place the roasting tray in a hot oven with some sunflower oil (and I also add a splash of olive oil for flavour). This means once the potatoes are drained they are added to the pan which is pre-heated and has hot oil in. This speeds up cooking time and ensures a crispy roast potato.

I also did my regular dish of brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts.

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I did roasted parsnips. Along with them I did some festive carrots, I followed a Jamie Oliver recipe for carrots. I took a frying pan, this I filled with evenly cut carrots, either whole or halved in the main. I then covered them with boiling water. To this I add a large knob of butter, a splash of white wine vinegar, the juice from two clementines (or similar citrus fruit, or one orange) and some dried mixed herbs. Then let the carrots bubble away on the stove top for about 40 minutes. Once the water has evaporated, the carrots should caramelise in the remaining sweet and sour mix.

We had a selection of stuffings and pigs in blankets.

Overall we were very happy with the meal, it was very tasty.

Not that different, just a little different

I know in my last blog post about SheSellsSushi I said that I would go for something the next time I went to Lisa’s stall. Well I did and I didn’t.

I once more had the delicious Beef Donburi. This is succulent short rib slow cooked in a teriyaki style marinade of soy, fresh ginger and garlic. It was served on a bed of rice  with beni shoga, mayu and spring onion. Do I know what they are? Well I know what spring onions are, as for the others I would need to Google them.

Beef Donburi, succulent short rib slow cooked in a teriyaki style marinade of soy, fresh ginger and garlic. It was served on a bed of rice  with beni shoga, mayu and spring onion.Beef Donburi, succulent short rib slow cooked in a teriyaki style marinade of soy, fresh ginger and garlic. It was served on a bed of rice  with beni shoga, mayu and spring onion.

As usual it was delicious and full of flavour. The beef was meltingly tender and the garnishes added to the dish. I always love the care and attention that Lisa pays to each and every dish. This isn’t just thrown togther, this is food artistry made with love and passion. The result is amazing cooking and delicious food.

I once more went again with the tempura chicken hirata bun. The steamed bun is made with activated charcoal and inside is a couple pieces of crispy tempura chicken.

The steamed bun is made with activated charcoal and inside is chicken thigh deep fried in a crispy tempura batter and served with a range of sauces and garnishes.

I do like the combination of flavours and textures in the bun.

So though I went with my normal order, I also added a side order of Takoyaki in octopus and duck varieties. These are freshly cooked on the stall and always look really nice.

dumplings with tonkatsu sauce, japanese mayo, toasted seaweed and bonito flakes

They are covered in a range of sauces and garnishes, and I couldn’t tell you what they were, but thankfully Lisa on her website describes them as dumplings with tonkatsu sauce, japanese mayo, toasted seaweed and bonito flakes. Again some googling required for some of those ingredients. I did enjoy these, however having had them from SheSellsSushi (and Yo! Sushi) I don’t think they are my favourite dish, so next time it will probably be the just the donburi and the hirata bun. However if the summer weather has gone, I might just try out the ramen. Oh and one day must try the sushi.

Space

Leicester College Court

Now and again I have to attend conference dinners, most of the time they are like “just okay” mass produced meals that are served without care, then there are those meals which become a really nice memory. At a recent training programme in Leicester College Court I did have a really nice meal. As well as being really well cooked and presented it consisted of things I hadn’t eaten before.

For the starter we had ‘Life on Mars’ this was described on the menu as planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil.

planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil

The “surface” was a savoury sponge that I have seen before on cooking programmes, but not eaten. It was a nice texture to add to the flavoursome goat’s cheese. I wasn’t enamoured with the pickled mushrooms, but they did add a contrast in flavour. The porcini soil added a nice taste and another texture.

For the main course we had pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco.

pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco

The duck breast was perfectly cooked, but I felt lacked seasoning and my portion was a little on the small side. The first plate I was given had a decent duck portion but was missing the pastille, so I was given a different plate, but a smaller portion of the duck breast. The pastille was interesting, cooked duck leg in filo pastry, something that might be called a spring roll. Again lacked flavour. I do liked grilled Romanesco, but when grilling something like Romanesco or cauliflower it really needs to be served straight away. It had been left too long since cooking and as a result was a little soggy and lacked the crispness that grilling can impart, nice flavours though. I enjoyed the sweet potato done two ways, a nicely cooked disc and a puree. The salsify was interesting but didn’t add much to the dish.

Desert was described as a chocolate and honeycomb moon, though to be honest it looked more like that space station.

a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb.

It was a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb. I was worried it might be over sweet, but actually was just right, a clever desert full of interesting flavours and textures and great presentation. A really nice end to a nice meal.

Three plus Two Bird Roasts

I usually document what we had for our Christmas dinner in December, in the main so that I can recall what we had and when, what we liked and what we wouldn’t get again.

Our plan was to go with the Three Bird Roast from Tesco, however when we went to order it, they had sold out. So our second choice was the Three Bird Roast from Marks and Spencer. This was a combination of turkey stuffed with chicken, duck and a pork, plum and sloe gin stuffing,

It looked a little smaller than we expected, so I quickly picked up a Two Bird Roast from the shelves. This was some duck stuffed with guinea fowl, and a pork, pheasant, bacon and apple stuffing.

Different roasting times meant that I had to plan the cooking quite carefully. Along with the vegetables and all the trimmings

I have found that with these multiple bird roasts (as they are quite solid and son’t have bones) they can be easily over-cooked so care has to be taken.

We served our roasts with a selection of traditional accompaniments. We had roast potatoes, roast vegetables. Some steamed vegetables along with pan fried brussels sprouts cooked with chestnuts and pancetta.

The Three Bird Roast was very nice and tasty. There wasn’t a huge amount of duck (or chicken) in there, but yes it was a tasty festive roast.

Two Bird Roast Christmas

The Two Bird Roast was smaller, but just as tender and tasty. You could certainly taste the duck and guinea fowl in there.

Three Bird Roast Christmas

Overall we were pleased with the meal and it was enjoyed by all, probably enjoyed too much, as there wasn’t many leftovers for meals later in the festive period. So next year we may go for something larger.