Today I roasted some pancetta covered organic chicken thighs on a bed of onions, red pepper, mushrooms and courgettes. This was splashed with some olive oil and seasoned with black pepper.
Whilst this was in the oven, I softened in a frying pan, some finely chopped onion with pancetta. When the onion was nicely soft, I added some red wine and beef stock before simmering it down. Beef stock over chicken stock just because of the colour rather than flavour. I then reduced and reduced this.
When I was happy with the sauce I whisked in some butter (with a fork as it happens rather than a whisk) and then added a tin of Epicure Organic Puy Lentils. I needed to add a bit more stock at this point.
I was really impressed with the Epicure Organic Puy Lentils and will certainly be buying them again, I guess it would be potentially tastier to use dried lentils, but I personally was quite happy with the tin.
So I put the lentils on the plate, placed the chicken on top and surrounded it with the roasted vegetables. I served this along with carrots and green beans.
Last night I decided to cook a risotto to go with the shellfish I was cooking. I have done this in the past usually using white wine, lemon, rocket and parmesan to flavour the risotto. Alas I had no white wine, no lemon and no rocket, though I did have a block of parmesan to hand. Little piece of advice here, never buy pre-grated parmesan this is usually grated from dried out pieces of old parmesan or so an old Italian friend of mine once said. Though as it is usually cheaper than the solid stuff I am inclined to believe her! So there I was cooking this risotto and wondering how I should flavour it. Well I had mushrooms and they always work well in risotto, I had some red wine, and I had some chicken stock. There we go, good to go, or so I thought.
Basically it didn’t work quite as well as I hoped. Firstly it came out a grey lilac colour rather than the rich red brown I was expecting. Well that was down to the red wine, lack of dark stock and the mushrooms. Secondly it was rather bland, it had no bite. I think it could have done with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Most of it was eaten so either we were hungry or it wasn’t half as bad as it looked.
Having said that, the scallops wrapped in pancetta were delicious.
I quite like Bella Italia, yes I know it is a chain and they use a range of pre-made ingredients in their cooking and it’s all systems and less about flair and passion. Even having said that compared to other places I enjoy the food, the service, the atmosphere and the Italian’ess.
I was there on Monday for lunch and had an enjoyable meal. I started with the calamari and unlike other places which serve pre-cooked rubbery squid rings, at Bella Italia they do use the whole squid. However they do seem to overcook it, it would be much better if they cooked for half the time that they do. Still nice, but not how I like it. It arrived with lemon and mayonnaise.
I had pizza for my main course, a Quattro Stagioni, the four seasons; pepperoni, smoked ham, roasted mushrooms and artichokes. It was quite nice, I prefer the pizza from Pizza Express, but this is so much better than the pizzas you can get in other (so-called) pizza eateries. The smoked ham was too salty for me, so that went off, but the mushrooms and artichokes were done well. The pizza base was just right, thin and not too crispy or too soggy. The tomato sauce was slightly too salty, but did taste of tomates. I would have liked a little more cheese.
The pasta dish ordered by my other half was very nice as well, Penne Funghi Pancetta. which was pancetta bacon, mushrooms and penne pasta sauteed in a creamy cheese sauce.
We had soft drinks and left before we could have coffee as we were pushed for time.
The service was fine, though it did take a little time for our main courses to arrive, and it felt like they had been waiting for a while.
Overall it was a nice place for lunch and I would make a return visit.
Tonight I had a very nice spanish chicken dish (that was cooked for me). Containing tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, potatoes and chicken and cooked in a single pot, it was delicious. The main seasoning was freshly ground black pepper which to me gave it a very spanish feel, as did the potato.