Time for a Spanish inspired rice dish

paella

Well we call this paella, but I know it isn’t paella, but it was inspired by paella.

This is a regular dish in our household and this pan of paella was finished off at dinner time.

What goes into the pan, depends on what we have in the house and whether I have been shopping or not. If I am out of the shops knowing that I am going to cook paella, then I will probably buy some cooking chorizo, some squid, and maybe even other kinds of seafood such as langoustine or clams. This time was what we had in the house.

This serves about four people

In preparation I diced a red onion and a large pepper. Well actually I diced half a red pepper and half an orange pepper.

In a hot large frying pan, I put some olive oil and I cooked off some smoked pancetta bacon and a small amount of diced (dry) chorizo. I then added the diced onion and pepper. When this was softened, I added 250g of paella rice. I ensured that this was then coated with the peppers and onions in the pan. I let this cook for a minute or so before adding a splash of white wine (we had that in the fridge). Recently I have been using some Spanish sherry I got from Aldi for Christmas, but that was all finished off the last time I did paella, sorry Spanish inspired rice.

I then (cheated and) added a jar of paella paste from Waitrose. In the past I have used herbs, spices and saffron when making paella, however I do like the jar that Waitrose do as it does taste quite authentic and is quick and easy. Tesco use to do a sachet of paella herbs and spices, but they’ve stopped selling that now. I use to prefer that. 

After stirring in the paste I added some chicken stock. Last time I did paella I used a fish stock, but didn’t have any of that in the cupboard.

Stir once and then leave. 

I once got “told off” by a Spaniard for stirring my paella, so now I just as advised, leave it to cook.

In a separate pan I cooked off the remaining dried chorizo I had sliced, I also added some sliced linguiça sausage from Lidl I had picked in their Iberian week recently. In previous Spanish themed weeks Lidl have done some nice cooking chorizo which I have liked using in my paella dishes. This time though in their most recent week they didn’t do it, hence picking up the linguiça sausage. Not quite a replacement, but worked well with the paella.

We had some cooked prawns in the fridge, so I warmed them up in a pan with some olive oil and mixed herbs.

The prawns, chorizo and lemon slices were added to the top of the paella, with some chopped flat leaf parsley and served.

Overall, delicious.

Paella

paella

Though I have been told that what I cook and call paella is not paella, in our house we call it paella. Outside the house, this is a Spanish inspired rice dish!

First I cook off some diced bacon (usually pancetta) in a large frying pan, or if I am cooking a lot in my large paella pan. I then take some chopped mushroom, onions and pepper and add that to the pan. Once the onions have softened I add the paella rice and ensure it is coated with the cooking oil and liquid. I always use a specialist paella rice in my paella dishes these days. To this I added a dry paella mix from Tesco. I also like the jar from Waitrose that you can get. Occasionally these days I will use saffron and my own selection of herbs and spices.

I then add fish or chicken stock to the pan, to cover the rice and then leave to cook. As I was told by a Spanish friend, don’t stir it (unlike risotto which you do).

Add some sliced chunks of lemon. I usually cook the fish (in this case just prawns) and chorizo in separate pans and add to the paella just before serving.

Time for some Seafood Ramen

Cooked a ramen dish this time last year. I based my ramen on the ramen dishes I have had at Wagamama.

In a bowl I added some cooked rice noodles. On top of this I added some sliced shiitake mushrooms, spring onions, pak choi and sliced red pepper. I then added some homemade ramen broth.

On top of the ramen I added scallops, prawns, squid and a tea-stained hard boiled egg. I also added some gyoza dumplings as well.

Time for a Fish Supper

Sometimes for special occasions we have a fish supper. This one comprised over baked salmon with lemon, pan fried scallops, pan fried prawns and squid strips.

The fish supper was served with salad and chunks of lemon.

Time for (an old) paella

Back in December 2016 I made a paella. I cooked the dish with rice,  chorizo, langoustine, squid and prawns. The langoustine added an element of luxury to the dish, but it was all very tasty.

More Bao Buns Please

I really do enjoy a good bao bun and my first encounter with the Master Bao eatery at Westfield was back in December 2019 and  a return visit in January 2020. Restrictions have meant that January was my last visit to the Westfield shopping centre. However a recent return visit and needing lunch, meant I could revisit Master Bao once more.

I went with the meal deal of two bao buns and a side. I ordered the Prawn Bao and the Shiitake Mushroom Bao. The side I chose was fried chicken.

The Prawn Bao contained marinated king prawns, fried, pickled mooli, spiced spring onions.

Prawn Bao contained marinated king prawns, fried, pickled mooli, spiced spring onions

This was something I had not had before at Master Bao and it was rather good. The prawns tasted of prawn and the picked mooli added sharpness and bite to the softness of the bao bun and prawns. Really delicious.

Whilst the Shiitake Mushroom Bao had teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions, miso.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao had teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions, miso

I have had this a few times now, and it was nice, not as much mushroom as I have had on previous visits, but still delicious.

The fried chicken was nice.

fried chicken

Simple and served with some sliced spring onions.

I really enjoyed the food and it was nice to have it again.

We went out to eat

Our initial idea was to go to the cinema, though there was nothing at the cinema we could watch, so made the decision we would go out to eat at Bella Italia at the Mall. Virtually all the major chains in Weston have closed now, so wanting to ensure that the menu had gluten free options, we decided to head to the Mall. 

Well as we hit the M5 northbound it was chocked full and slow moving, we thought we made a mistake. But eventually it thinned out and we could go faster. We got to Bella Italia just in time.

We had a lovely warm welcome from the staff and they showed us to our table.

We had a good look over the menu. It looked like there was a lot more on there than when I last looked (which was probably last summer).

Though I like starters I usually don’t have a starter, but as others in the family were going for garlic bread, I looked over the possible choices. The calamari would have been an obvious choice for me. So I decided on the Calzonetti ‘Nduj, as I was thinking about pasta for my main course. However a last minute change of thought resulted in me actually ordering the Arancini al Granchio

There are crispy rice balls filled with crab, prawns and fennel with a side of lemon & cracked pepper mayonnaise.

They were very nice, not outstanding, but they were nice. You could taste the crab and the mayonnaise with the crunchy exterior.

For my main course I went with a pasta dish, Salsiccia Mezzaluna.

Fresh mezzaluna pasta filled with Luganica sausage & radiccio, cooked in a sage butter and finished with toasted hazelnuts and a beef dripping pangrattato crumb. 

This just sounded divine and to be honest it was totally delicious. The pasta was al dente, the filling had a nice flavour, I think it could have been stronger, but I loved the sage butter and the toasted hazelnuts and pangrattato crumb added real silkiness and crunch to the dish.

I loved it.

I wasn’t full, so went for a dessert, the raspberry and pistachio semifreddo with white chocolate and marshmallow sauce.

This was nice, but I felt it could do with more pistachio and more sauce. Having said that I really enjoyed it.

As for the rest of the family, my better half went with the  Funghi Crema made with chestnut mushrooms in a porcini, mascarpone & pecorino cheese sauce with fresh mafalde pasta ribbons.

She really enjoyed the dish and it looked great.

My youngest had a gluten free Marghaerita, whilst my son had the gluten free Pepperoni with tomato, mozzarella, salami piccante, red onion, garlic and rocket.

They both enjoyed their pizza.

My son also had the warm gluten free chocolate brownie with white chocolate chunks served with vegan vanilla gelato and a sprinkling of honeycomb.

He finished off the plate of food

This was probably one of the best meals I have ever had at Bella Italia, really enjoyed the experience, the food and the service.

Back in January…

So there I was going though some photographs from January when I saw some delicious looking dishes from Wahaca. I realised that I had this great meal and hadn’t written (well I had started but not finished) a blog post about it.

Well, so back in January I was in London for a morning meeting, so I had been up early and was feeling hungry so was looking somewhere for lunch. I know how much I had enjoyed the food at Wahaca I decided it was pretty much a no brainer to go there for lunch, especially as I had a special offer in my email inbox.

The nearest branch to me was the Covent Garden one. Each Wahaca branch has its own style and feel. The Covent Garde branch is downstairs in the basement, but does feel quite bright and open.

There was a lovely warm welcome from the staff and I sat at the table and viewed the menu.

I had a special offer which meant I could get a dish for a pound.

Pack your January with veg and treat yourself with our ultimate range of vegetarian street food dishes. From buttermilk cauliflower bites to our mushroom and grilled cheese tacos there’s plenty of delicious veggie dishes to add to your meal. Just show this email to your waiter to get your dish for £1 

For me that was an easy choice and I went with the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious crunchy florets with a soft melt in the mouth centre, accompanied with a tasty allioli. I really like these and enjoyed these.

I had another dish, the prawn cocktail tostada. 

prawn cocktail tostada

This was sustainably sourced prawns with red chilli mayo, crisp lettuce & avocado on crispy tostada. This was the Wahaca version of the prawn cocktail. It was not as good as I hoped, the prawns lacked flavour, as did the avocado, but it was still fresh and tasty.

My third dish was grilled mushroom & cheese tacos.

grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

These were sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and I really enjoyed that strong flavour of funghi and spicy ancho. I do find that Wahaca often add crispy grilled cheese to dishes, which I don’t always see that it adds anything to that dish.

I was feeling hungry, so I went with another dish and went with the steak and cheese tacos.

steak & cheese tacos

This was chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. Again more grilled cheese. This use to be an optional extra, but now was part of the dish. I’ve had this dish a fair few times, and this was not the best version I’ve had of this dish, but it was still quite tasty.

Overall I enjoyed my four dishes, the mushrooms and cauliflower were certainly the ones I enjoyed the most.

Cooking prawns

When eating prawns, either with salad, or on paella, I much prefer cooking them from raw, rather than heating up cooked prawns.

One thing I do which I learnt after eating prawns in a restaurant (which I don’t remember which one) is to reverse “butterfly” the prawns. I find this makes them quicker to cook, adds flavour and they look more attractive on the dish.

I take my raw prawns and then holding them down on the chopping board, slice through the back of the prawns, but not all the way through. As with the squid I discussed earlier, let the knife do the work and try not to press down otherwise you will find you are merely cutting the prawns in half.

I call this reverse butterfly, as I think you usually butterfly prawns from the front.

In a hot pan I add some olive oil and then quick flash fry the prawns. They can then be seasoned and served, though I also use this method when adding prawns to my paella dishes.

Time for Birthday Paella

Spanish inspired rice dish

When asked what was wanted for a birthday meal, the response was a seafood paella. Okay this is not paella, but is a dish inspired by paella. I have had authentic paella in Spain and from street food stalls in Bristol. I have been cooking this dish for a fair few years, but got told once by a Spanish person that what I was cooking wasn’t authentic paella, which is correct, so I normally describe this as a Spanish inspired rice dish.

In a large paella pan add a splash of olive oil. The add some pancetta (or chopped chorizo), a diced red onion, a diced onion, diced red pepper and diced yellow pepper. This is then cooked off slightly before I added some diced mushrooms and some sliced mushrooms.

Once the onions are softened I add the paella rice and stir it into the onions and peppers. I added a paella mix from Waitrose, but you could, of course, use your own spices, herbs and saffron. I then added some stock, I used a Knorr fish stock. I then added some tinned cannellini beans.

Spanish inspired rice dish

With hindsight I should have added the cannellini beans later in the cooking process as they got slightly overcooked and some fell apart.

I then gave everything a thorough stir. Then leave it to cook, don’t stir it again. As the stock reduces, add more stock to ensure that the rice cooks evenly.

I cooked the whole prawns on a griddle and did the same with the squid. I usually score the squid to make it look nice, but was out of time, so it went it as is. I also cooked some plain prawns and added them.

I usually cook the cooking chorizo separately as they seem to “leak” a lot of oil when cooking. I always try and using cooking chorizo rather than the dried ready to eat version you can buy. It’s softer and tastier I think in a dish like this.

I added the cooked fish, cooked chorizo and quartered lemons to the top of the dish and then served.