Christmas time at the Mud Dock Cafe

December is often the time for office Christmas meals. With the number of staff in our office, the main Christmas meal we have is often dictated by the availability of the venue and to be perfectly honest I have not been too impressed with the food at the last few I have been to. The fact you also need to order your choices weeks in advance is also a little annoying. What I fancy eating in November, may not be what I actually want on the day. Then again do you really go to an office Christmas meal for the food?

Having missed the main office Christmas dinner (intentionally) last December, I was looking forward to our team Christmas meal which was taking place the week after. There was only going to be a few of us so it wasn’t going to be that massive crazy kind of event. The plan was to have a meal at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol.

We had a meeting before heading off to the venue. What I did like about this meal was that we could choose from the menu. As I looked over the menu we were impressed with the salad that a neighbouring table was eating. However we couldn’t work out what it was and didn’t appear to be on the menu. I then cheekily asked the neighbouring table what they had ordered, they were very happy about the query and told us it was the Caesar Salad from the specials board up on the wall!

One of my colleagues was impressed enough that he ordered the salad for his meal.

It looked really impressvive and delicious. Though I was tempted by the salad, in the end I went with the Festive menu. For my starter I had the ballotine confit of turkey leg, cranberry compote and dressed leaves.

This was rather tasty, though as with these kinds of dishes, I could have done with more bread.

I wasn’t sure what kind of main course I wanted, but when I read truffled mushroom I went with the homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream.

This, though rather hot (as in temperature) was a rich comforting plate of food. It was tasty and I really enjoyed it.

I was persuaded to have a desert, so I went with the selection of West Country cheeses.

A rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

Overall it was one of the better Christmas meals I have had. It was nice to have a choice and choose on the day, rather than days or weeks in advance.

This year I don’t think we will be having any kind of festive office meal but if and when we can do that kind of thing, I hope to return to the Mud Dock Cafe.

A nautical theme

Before the pandemic I would travel a fair bit for work and stay overnight in cities across the UK. In August last year I had a meeting in Liverpool and was staying at The Liner Hotel. 

This hotel has a real nautical theme to it, complete with portholes in reception as well as extensive use of blue and white in the rooms.

Having arrived quite late into Liverpool I decided I really should get something to eat. I initially thought about eating at the hotel, then thought I would find somewhere cheaper in the heart of the city. As I looked around the place I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted and walked round for a bit. I didn’t really know what I wanted so never actually could decide what I wanted. In the end, as it was getting late I went back to the hotel and decided to have a late dinner there.

The welcome was warm and friendly. The place wasn’t very busy (well it was quite late) and I looked over the menu. I started off with some halloumi and felafel kebabs.

These were very nice and well presented.

For my main course I went with a favourite of mine lamb rump.

This was served with cabbage and some very nice, but brightly coloured, beetroot gnocchi. It was a little salty for my taste, but was cooked well and an interesting dish to look at and taste.

I ran out of time for pudding, but I was quite full as well. I did in fact really quite enjoy my meal.

Pan fried Gnocchi

I quite like gnocchi, but though I buy fresh gnocchi, my usual cooking method is to simmer it in boiling water for a few minutes. I have seen people fry gnocchi on the television in cooking shows, but not tried it myself. They always appeared to fry gnocchi they had made themselves. I wasn’t sure how using shop bought gnocchi if that would work out.

So doing some browsing recently I was interested to see they had the Rana pan fried gnocchi on sale. So I bought a pack to try out.

Pan-fried gnocchi are crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside,

It had been in the fridge for a while when I decided to cook them.

I cooked some pancetta, onion and mushrooms and then removed these from the pan. I then added some butter and pan fried the gnocchi for five minutes.  Once the gnocchi was cooked I added the cooked pancetta, onion and mushrooms.

I did enjoy the dish and hope to cook this again soon.

Steak and Mushrooms

Last night I cooked a very nice (and quick) meal.

I took some sirloin steak, I actually prefer ribeye but sometimes you have to have what is available and not what you want or prefer.

I heated the frying pan without oil, the steaks were oiled though and then placed in the hot pan.

In a separate pan I fried some pancetta and onions, once they were nearly cooked, I remove them, turned the heat up and added the mushrooms so they fried rather than steamed.

Once the steaks were cooked I removed them from the pan, and put them on a warm plate to rest (really important to let steaks rest for a few minutes before serving they will be a lot more tender).

I then added the onions, pancetta and mushrooms to the steak pan and a couple of large spoonfuls of creme frache.

Then in a pan of rolling boiling water I put some gnocchi.

In two minutes the sauce was ready, the gnocchi was ready, so serve.


Gnocchi with chicken and mushrooms

This is a very quick meal to cook and shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes, probably even less.

Take some chicken and cut into pieces the same size as gnocchi. You can use chicken breast, personally I use chicken thigh partly because it is cheaper, more so because it has a much better flavour.

In a large hot frying pan, add a splash of olive oil,  then add the chicken.

In another pan add some pancetta. You can use the cubed pancetta, though when I cooked this I used the sliced pancetta cut into small strips.

Ensure that the chicken is cooking and remove the cooked pancetta from the other pan to the chicken. Add some freshly chopped parsley and some freshly ground black pepper.

Keep the heat up in the pancetta pan and pan fry the mushrooms in the fat from the pancetta (you may need to add a little olive oil).

In a pan of rolling boiling water add the gnocchi. Cook for two minutes.

Add the cooked mushrooms to the chicken and mushrooms and then add a couple of spoonfuls of creme frache.

Drain the cooked gnocchi, spoon over the chicken, mushroom and creme frache mixture, toss lightly.

Spoon onto plates, add freshly grated parmesan and ground black pepper to taste.

Beef in Red Wine

Tonight I had a meal I had cooked and put in the freezer just for these kinds of nights when I come back late from work and really don’t feel like cooking. I had let it defrost and then heated it in the oven (rather than the microwave) and served it with some gnocchi. Gnocchi was decided upon because it only takes two minutes to cook (yes it was from a packet, I don’t have the patience (or the skill) to cook it from scratch, especially on a week day evening.

Originally it had taken a few hours to cook, time I had then, but on an evening tonight would have been impossible.

The art of cooking something like braising steak or stewing steak is long slow cooking, cook it too fast or not long enough, you will get something very tough and chewy and rather tastless.

The beef I cooked was tender, melt in the mouth tender, and a very rich sauce.


Chicken, Red Pepper and Mushrooms in a Cream and Saffron sauce with Gnocchi

This is a dish I made.

Chicken, Red Pepper and Mushrooms in a Cream and Saffron sauce with Gnocchi

Take some chicken thighs, add olive oil to a hot pan.

Brown the chicken in the pan, then remove.

Add chopped onion and red pepper to the pan.

Cook on a low heat until soft.

Add chopped mushrooms.

Meanwhile soak some saffron in a little hot water.

Once the mushrooms, onions and red pepper are cooked, add the chicken.

Add some freshly chopped parsley.

Add the saffron.

Add a couple of large spoonfuls of creme frache, you could use double cream, but I prefer creme frache.

Serve with some freshly cooked gnocchi.