Time for something different

Hastings East Hill Lift

So we were on holiday in Sussex and wanting somewhere to eat that a) accepted Tesco vouchers and b) had a decent gluten-free menu, we ended up in Eastbourne, with the choice of Pizza Express, Prezzo and Zizzi. Out of the three I personally prefer Zizzi, we had recently eaten at Prezzo we headed towards the Zizzi branch in Eastbourne. We had spent the day in Hastings so it was a thirty minute drive and the Apple navigation app took us as far as a roundabout close to the restaurant, but there was plenty of post 6pm free parking available.

I would say the outside of the restaurant was very uninviting, for a second or so I actually thought it might have closed down. We had a little trouble finding the door, but once we were in, it was a totally different experience. The inside was bright, fresh and welcoming and then the welcome from the member of staff (think he might have been the manager) was just as fresh and welcoming.

We were sat down and perused the menu. Lots of choices, the last time I went to Zizzi I had pizza, so really wanted something different. For a start I did consider the calamari, as It is a personal favourite, but as my son was going to have this, I decided to go with something different.

For my starter in the end I went with the Bruschetta. Speciality tomatoes, red onion and roasted garlic, in extra virgin olive oil, on toasted bread. With super green pesto, fresh basil & riserva cheese. I added some creamy bufala mozzarella as well.

Bruschetta. Speciality tomatoes, red onion and roasted garlic, in extra virgin olive oil, on toasted bread. With super green pesto, fresh basil & riserva cheese.

Apart from not getting the fresh basil, I really enjoyed this dish. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but that is something I quite like now and again.

For my main I had a new dish on the menu, the Pork Belly Arrosto. Oven-roasted pork belly with creamy riserva cheese mash, crispy crackling shards, garlic kale & broccoli & a Chianti & rosemary sauce.

Pork Belly Arrosto. Oven-roasted pork belly with creamy riserva cheese mash, crispy crackling shards, garlic kale & broccoli & a Chianti & rosemary sauce.

The pork was slow cooked and then finished off in their pizza oven. The mash was smooth and creamy, but not as cheesy as I was expecting. The shards could have been lighter and crispier, they were a little chewy. The kale and broccoli were really nice too. The sauce was tasty, I could have done with more though. Overall a really tasty dish and something very different to the pizza (or pasta) I usual have at Zizzi.

Using Tesco Vouchers meant that this was also a cheap meal and great value for money. If we were ever in Eastbourne again, I think we would visit again.

Pie with all the trimmings

I mentioned in a previous post how much I had enjoyed pie and mash at Pie Minister. The Pie Minister in the Oxford Covered Market on a Tuesday has a special offer, basically any pie with all the trimming for just £5, the usual price is £7.95 so quite a good saving.

Normally I can’t get in on a Tuesday as, you might well expect, the queues are quite long. I generally don’t have a lot of time for lunch, but also I don’t like queueing! However on a recent Tuesday I was lucky to get in quite quickly. The place was busy though. 

I went with the traditional steak and kidney or as they call it Kate and Sidney. This was served with mash, gravy, a side order of mushy peas and topped with cheese and crispy onions.

Pie with all the trimmings

It certainly looked the part. I did enjoy the pie which was full of a rich delicious filling, big chunks of steak and kidney combined with a nice crunchy pastry shell. The mash was smooth and well seasoned, the mushy peas were also very nice. However I am not sure if the cheese added anything, there was something rather disconcerting about biting into a portion of hot pie with cold cheese, in some ways it was a little unpleasant. If I go again, though I will go with the mushy peas, I will avoid the cheese!

Pie and Mash

Pie and mash

In all this cold weather there is something very comforting about pie and mash. Very much a comfort food, it’s not something I actually eat very often.

A chance discovery in the Oxford Covered Market introduced me to the delights of the Pie Minister. I am sure that it is supposed to be pronounced MIN-IS-TER, for some reason I have in my head it should be pronounced MINS-TER as in York Minster. I just think Pie Minster sounds much better than Pie Minister. It’s a lovely little place in the market and despite the fact it is called a market, this is not a stall, it’s a small restaurant (well probably more like a cafe) in the heart of the market. The Oxford Covered Market is a lovely quirky place in the heart of Oxford with lots of lovely stalls, shops and places to eat. If you ever visit Oxford then do visit the market.

Pie Minster on first appearances, feels more like a wartime soup kitchen, than a restaurant, there is a counter where you place your order. You can take away or eat in. If you want to, you can buy the pies to take away. Within Pie Minister there are communal benches with tables, that have a variety of sauces on them, as well as bottles of tap water and glasses. There are also bar stools by the window with space to eat.

Pie Minister offers a range of pies with a wide variety of fillings. From the traditional steak and kidney or as they call it Kate and Sidney, through to vegetarian pies such the Wild Shroom, with wild mushrooms, asparagus, white wine & cream.

On my first visit I went with the Deerstalker Pie, with British venison and outdoor reared dry cured bacon with red wine and puy lentils. This I had served on a bed of mash with gravy. You can add more trimmings, but I decided to stick with just pie, mash and gravy. It was quite reasonable at £6.00.

This was served on a tin plate, which added to that atmosphere of a wartime soup kitchen. The pie was really really good. Often when you have pie, it is either a small stew with a puff pastry lid (that is often cooked separately), or it’s a huge pie which you cut into find it’s full of space and there is a small amount of filling at the bottom. No the pie at Pie Minister was full of delicious filling full of flavour, the pastry had a good crunch. The mash was smooth and well seasoned and the gravy was not too thick and not too thin. It added to the dish and did not overpower it, it tasted as gravy should and didn’t appear to be made from a gravy packet.

I really did enjoy the pie and would certainly recommend Pie Minister. There are a fair few branches across the south and they also have a market stall that visits those farmers’ markets that are now a regular feature of most high streets.

Sausages and Mash

I am always a little disappointed with sausages from most places you eat out at (well the cheap and cheerful places). Partly as they use cheap and poor quality sausages, but mainly as they cook them in the deep fat fryer! As a result I rarely eat sausages when eating out, but as one of the little people in the house loves sausages I do often see the type he orders. You experience something similar if you order breakfast at a supermarket cafe.

Grabbing lunch at Sainsburys the other day and the Sausages and Mash was on special, I thought I would save a little money and take a risk. As I was expecting to be disappointed, I was in the end very pleased with the food that I got.

What I was really pleased with was the fact that these were high quality sausages that had been cooked properly. I think they were more likely to have been cooked in the oven rather than grilled.

The mashed potato was nice and wasn’t lumpy or overly creamy. A little too salty for my tastes, but not over salted. The peas were typical peas, so nothing special.

Overall I was really pleased with the meal and for the cold wet day I had it on, it was a really nice dish of comfort food.

How do you cook mash?

So how do you cook mashed potatoes?

Any tips to make the best mash?

My way is very simple, boil potatoes until they fall off when pierced with a sharp knife (twenty to thirty minutes).

To this I add a splash of milk and a large knob of (unsalted) butter. Mash with a potato masher until nice and smooth.

Season with frehsly ground black pepper.

What’s your recipe?