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.

Time for a Thai blast from the past

When I was working in Oxford, five years ago, one of my favourite places for lunch was Sais’s Thai in the wonderful covered market. Back in 2014 I wrote about one of my lunches there. Since I left Oxford, I’ve not really had the chance to go back, or certainly no time for lunch. So it was with a little trepidation and anticipation that with time for lunch I found myself venturing into the covered market to see, if firstly Sais’s Thai was still there and if there was room for me for lunch.

Sais’s Thai

It was still there and though just before midday, it was quite crowded, but there was room for me. I could see it was still a popular place.

The menu was as interesting and tempting as I remembered, and I was particularly pleased to see two of my favourite dishes were available that day. So I went with the two dishes and rice. You queue up at the counter, expect to be shouted at a little, and you place your order, which is then plated in front of you. There are some extras, and you can also get a range of drinks. There are also bottles of chilled water (probably tap water) and glasses to have if you don’t want to buy a drink. It’s then a matter of finding a free place to sit, prepare to share your table with others.

The crispy belly pork takes deep fried pork and combines with a range of stir fried vegetables in quite a spicy sauce and Thai Basil. This is quite a hot and spicy dish, but was just as good as I remembered it.

Crispy Pork Belly

I really like this dish, so much so that I often try and recreate it at home. The combination of crispy flavoured pork, a variety of vegetables and a nice spicy sauce is delicious.

I was also pleased to see that they had a squid dish, this was a special and it was stir fried squid with vegetables in a spicy sauce.

Spicy Squid

I was really impressed with the squid, it was so tender, almost melt in the mouth. Squid in a lot of places is overcooked, so is tough and rubbery, this squid though was really soft and tasty. Full of flavour as well.

I really enjoyed my lunch, it was a real blast from the pasta and it was nice to see they had maintained their quality and range of dishes. It was a little more expensive than I remember, but okay I can live with that.

It’s so tempting and it’s my favourite

I am not in Bristol on many Friday’s so I often miss the Finzel’s Reach Market. At their first birthday though I was lucky enough to be in Bristol and went to the market. There is usually a wide choice of stalls to choose from.

In the end I splurged at Lisa’s SheSellsSushi stall. I know I could have chosen something new or different, but SheSellsSushi is really delicious, very tempting and certainly a favourite of mine. So though I try not to have what I have had before, this time I went with what I had before.

I took a bento box with the Beef Donburi, which is slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce with a hirata bun.

This time there was a choice of two hirata buns, pork belly with kimchi and a chicken tempura. Both served in a charcoal steamed bun.

It was hard making a choice, so in the end I went greedy and had both.

The Donburi beef was as usual delicious, the flavour is great, it was well balanced and so tasty. Served with rice and spring onions, great rice with some really tasty savoury tender beef.

slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce donburi

I really enjoyed the tempura chicken hirata bun, the chicken was flavoursome, as well as being nice and crispy. I did enjoy the charcoal steamed bun it came in.

hirata bun with tempura chicken

The pork belly one was nice too, but it wasn’t as good as the ones I have had previously.

hirata bun with pork belly and kimchi

Overall it was really nice, delicious food and I will probably have it again.

Finzel Friday

So there I was in Bristol on a Friday, well that means I can visit the Finzel Reach Market down at, well you guessed it, Finzel Reach! The market has grown slightly since I last went. It use to be just one row of stalls, now there are stalls facing each other. This is good news, it shows that the market is working and is popular with punters. As usual there was a wide choice of street food stalls including some of my favourites. I was tempted by the Crispy Squid from the South Kitchen, likewise the barbecued meats from Low N Slow was also looking very tasty. In the end I went with SheSellsSushi and a bento box with Teriyaki Beef Donburi and a Hirata Bun.

I have had these before, slightly breaking my own rule of trying new and different things, but last time I really enjoyed the Donburi and the Hirata Bun, so this time decided to repeat the experience.

Donburi Beef

The Doburi was slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce, served on rice with garnishes. The beef was tender, tasty and scrummy.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, sorting onions and tasty sauce.

The Hirata Bun was a black charcoal bun with delicious tender pork belly, spring onions and tasty sauce.The bun was light and fluffy, the pork tender and delicious.

Again a lovely eating experience.

She doesn’t just sell sushi!

One of the regular stalls at the St Nicks market in Bristol on Friday is SheSellsSushi and it is one of my favourite, even if I have never actually had the sushi from there…. yet!

My usual lunch order with the stall is the bento box containing a choice of two dishes from the menu. I usually go for the Donburi, which is slow cooked beef rib in a teriyaki sauce combined with some octopus (or duck) balls (takoyaki).

Donburi Beef

However Lisa, on the stall has been recently selling steamed Hirata bun, so in my bento box this time, I once more had the Donburi, but this time I went with the Hirata bun.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, sorting onions and tasty sauce.

This was a charcoal bun (not what I initially thought was a squid ink bun) with delicious tender pork belly, spring onions and tasty sauce.

The bun was light and fluffy, the pork tender, all in all great flavour. I really wanted another one. I do like the takoyaki I usually go for, but now, I will always go with the Hirata bun.

The Donburi beef was as usual delicious, the flavour is perfect, you can sometimes overdo the teriyaki, but this was well balanced and so tasty. Served with rice and spring onions.

I have spoken to others who really recommend the sushi, so I think I will have to try that next time (with a Hirata bun).

Asian inspired

It’s being a while since I did any stir frying so last night I was inspired to get the wok out and cook some Asian inspired dishes. My first was Thai style stir fried pork with pal choi and cashew nuts.

Thai style stir fry

This dish was my take on a meal I use to eat a lot when I worked in Oxford. In the covered market in Oxford there was a lovely little eatery called Sais’s Thai that cooked and served delicious Thai dishes. One of my favourite was the stir fried pork with pak choi, Thai basil, vegetables and cashew nuts. I have tried many times to recreate it and have got a reasonable facsimile of the dish now.

I took some pork belly and cut it into chunks before roasting it off in a hot oven. A long slow cooking might be better, but even with just twenty odd minutes in a hot oven, it still managed to render the fatty pieces of pork belly down into tasty chunks. This is set aside. I don’t mind preparing my own vegetables, however I did have a pack of rainbow stir fried vegetables from M&S that I had bought, which had been reduced, and included carrots ribbons, red cabbage, spring onions, baby sweetcorn and pak choi. I added some red pepper and mushrooms to the mix. I started by heating up a little oil in the wok on a high heat. To this I added the vegetables and tossed them around. I then added some soy sauce, fish sauce and a little vinegar. Turning the vegetables once more I then added the cooked pork. The dish was done, once the pak choi was limp. In the past I would add some spinach leaves and basis leaves, alas I had none in the fridge. I have tried to grow Thai Basil in the garden, but have not had much joy there. It’s quite challenging to find it in my local stores.

Alongside the pork stir fry I also made sweet and sour pork balls. For this I first cooked chunks of pork belly in the oven. These were done in a covered roasting pan, they were covered with foil. What I was trying to so was actually slow cook them, but this was challenging as I was short on time, but also the oven was quite hot, as at the same time I was roasting the other chunks of pork belly for the stir fry dish. This was cooked for about twenty minutes, the pork should look cooked, but not caramelised as if it had been roasted. The result is soft tender pork. This was cooled. I meant to coat the pork in flour, but didn’t, so they went straight into a batter mix of self-raising flour (I actually used gluten-free flour), egg and milk. The key is less about the quantities but getting the consistency right. It should coat the back of a spoon, if the batter is too thin then the pork doesn’t get coated enough, too thick and you get thick stodgy battered balls of pork. The pork was deep fried in small batches in hot sunflower oil. I was really pleased with the results, the batter was crunchy and crisp, with the pork tender and full of flavour. The pork balls were served with a homemade sweet and sour sauce which included baby sweetcorn and red pepper.

With those two dishes (and as I did have hot oil on the go) I served some crispy rice noodles, deep frying dried rice noodles, along with regular cooked rice noodles.

Overall the meal went down well and everything was eaten.

Time for some dumplings

Time for some dumplings

I did think that I might miss the Temple Quay market this week because of the rain, however it stopped so off I went.

There were fewer stalls this week, and fewer regulars, but even so there was a great choice of food. I thought the rain might have put people off, but the queues were already really long. The queue for the Thai stall was already across the square!

I did start queing at the Scoff and Relish stall as the salad and grilled chicken sounded great and looked fantastic too, being chargrilled on they tiny portable barbecues. I also liked the idea of the accompaning scoff balls, savoury scones. Alas they were struggling with the demand and the queue wasn’t moving and the food wasn’t quite ready. Maybe next time…

In the end I went with Ah Ma’s Dumplings. There was a slow moving queue here too. The stall has these huge towers of bamboo steamers laden with freshly steamed dumplings containing a choice of fillings. There was no tiger prawn, scallop and leek (probably sold out) today, so the choice was pork and ginger, beef and spinach, chicken and coriander or vegetarian.

ah-mas-dumplings

I went with the veggie shitake and cashew pan fried dumplings along with the pork belly with hoisin bao.

I was impressed and tempted with the dumpling pots complete with vegetables, noodles and broth, likewise the sides of Asian salads sounded very interesting. That day they had carrot & courgette ribbons with a tahini, honey, lemon dressing; the other choice was sweet chilli pickled cucumber with toasted black sesame seeds.

The dumplings were really impressive, beautiful steamed dough that because of the pan frying. Inside was a filling that was deep, tasty and even a little meaty, but they were vegetarian (well ‘ish they are pan fried in the same pan as the pork and chicken ones, so if you are vegetarian you might want to have them steamed instead).

The bao was delicious, the slow roasted pork belly was both sour and sweet, full of interesting deep flavours and very tender. The steamed dough made is substantive. I have seen neater and tidier bao buns before, but the flavour of the filling made up for this.

Ah Ma has a growing reputation, having been mentioned as one of the top sixteen street food stalls in the UK in both the Metro and Olive magazine. In my mind that is a well deserved reputation, delicious food, beautifully made and presented and lots of interesting choices of flavours and textures. I hope to visit them again.

Roast Pork Belly with Roasted Vegetables

Crispy crackling, tender pork and tasty roasted veg; yes it was a great lunch and delicious.

Crackling

The pork was slow roasted in the oven, this I have found is always the best way to cook pork belly, it also renders out a lot of the fat, so ensuring that the final outcome is tender pork with minimal extra fat. The flavour is intense and compared to something like pork fillet, which can be cooked quickly, it does not compare to the flavour of roasted pork belly.

About 30-40 minutes before the end of cooking time, I added some onions, carrots and parsnips to the roasting tray. Twenty minutes later I added apple and mushrooms. These cook wonderfully with the pork and have a really intense flavour.

Roasted Veg

I served the pork alongside the roasted veg, roasted King Edward potatoes (they worked well) and some carrots and steamed broccoli.

Is this self-catering?

Generally when we go on holiday we go self-catering, mainly as it gives us the option to eat when and where we want to. The problem with self-catering is that you don’t always get a decent kitchen and nearly always the equipment leaves a lot to be desired. I want to cook a nice meal, what usually happens is that I get so frustrated with the lack of space, lack of decent pans, blunt knives and rubbish cookers that I get all annoyed.

On a recent holiday after struggling to cook a simple pasta dish in the kitchen in our self-catering accommodation I was so fed up that when I was in the local Sainsburys I decided to purchase a processed meal and heat it up in the oven. To be honest I was quite surprised by how nice it was. Yes if you got all the ingredients yourself and cooked from fresh, yes it would be much nicer, but in the assumption that you have useless cooking facilities, this was certainly much easier.

We had the Roasted Pork Belly with slow cooked roast potatoes and red onions, served with a tangy apple and cider sauce.

If you are regular reader of this blog, then you will know I have a fondness for pork belly so as a result I know what it can be like and what it should be like. The dish is quite simple to “cook” place in a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. No slicing, no dicing and no preparation.

So what was it like?

It was rather quite nice. The combination of pork belly and potatoes worked well, the pork was quite tender and tasty, though I could tell it had been cooked and then heated up. It could have done with some more onions, whilst the potatoes were a little too salty for my tastes. The cider sauce was really nice, this did need to be heated up separately, but easily done in the provided microwave. Both myself and my wife enjoyed eating it and she said it was the best meal we had on that holiday, though to be honest it didn’t have a lot of competition!

A little secret, we had it again a few weeks later when we were back home, and then I did have some decent cooking facilities…

Pork Belly

You don’t always have to use expensive cuts of meat to make a wonderful meal, sometimes the cheapest cuts cooked really slowly can have fantastic flavour and texture.

Turn on your oven to its highest temperature.

Place the pork belly in a roasting oven, season, and roast on the high temperature for about ten minutes, then turn the oven down to about 160℃ and cook for at least another hour depending on size and thickness. Cooking for longer results in a more tender piece of pork. However what I have been doing recently is cutting the belly into squares and coating in a spicy marinade before finshing off in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.