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.
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.
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.
I am not a great fan of airport food, usually over priced, badly cooked and service can leave e a lot to be desired. I don’t know about you, but I try and avoid eating there if I can.
Having said all that I knew that for a variety of reasons that I would be eating at Glasgow Airport, so as you can imagine I had quite low expectations.
After waiting ages at one place and not getting served, I left and went to the Caledonia.
Not really wanting a sandwich and actually not really hungry decided to go with a couple of small plates and a side salad.
My first choice was the crab mayonnaise with flatbread soldiers. This was described as crab & chive mayonnaise with a stack of atbread soldiers & a lemon wedge.
The crab mayonnaise was nice, but only just about tasted of crab. The flat bread was toasted, but for some reason was covered in dry oregano.
My second choice was garlic prawns with flatbread. The menu describes this as king prawns roasted in garlic & herb sauce, olive oil & fresh lemon, served with flatbread.
The prawns which I thought would be roasted came swimming in garlic butter, literally swimming, there was more melted butter than prawns. It came with flatbread too, and it was also covered in dry oregano.
The salad was small, consisting of salad leaves and tomatoes with a lemon and basil dressing.
Overall it was something of a disappointment, and for the cost of each dish in excess of five pounds, I thought it was overpriced.
Those who read this on a regular basis will know that I have a fondness for the Wahaca restaurants after an introduction to their style of food on the South Bank in London.
Since discovering this delight of Mexican street food and realising they had a branch in Clifton in Bristol, I have been itching to try the food there.
Using a gift voucher I went there for a quick lunch. One of the quirks (or is just a nice feature) of the Wahaca chain is that every restaurant has their own unique style. I think what surprised me most about the Bristol branch was the TARDIS style dimension, it is very much bigger on the inside then it appears on the exterior.
It was quiet early and I think I was the only person the restaurant, which surprised me, I was expecting it to be busier. Certainly I have queued for the South Bank restaurant and down in the heart of Bristol the food places are very busy (even from mid day).
As is my usual lunch, I went for three items from the street food menu. These are small dishes and three is more than ample for lunch (in some cases with the larger ones you could get away with just eating two).
The menu had changed since my last visit with new market treats and of course the regularly changing specials menu.
I was tempted by the new hibiscus glazed wings, alas they must have been popular and were off the menu. Still there were two other things from the new market treats menu that sounded rather nice.
My first choice was the Huitlacoche empanadas. Crispy pastry parcels stuffed with mushrooms, truffley Mexican corn & melted cheese.
These were delicious. The filling though was, as might be expected when using mushrooms was a rather unappetising grey mush. Despite that, I did enjoy the parcels and really liked the presentation. One thing that I have started doing myself which was on this dish was adding thinly sliced radish as a garnish, for crunch and flavour.
My second choice were the crispy prawn tacos. Corn tortillas stuffed with chopped prawn, chillies, spring onion & coriander, cooked until crispy, served with guacamole, tomato salsa & chipotle mayo.
The tacos had been filled and rolled and deep fried giving them a nice crunch. You could taste the prawn filling and it was still fresh and tasty. The accompaniments of salsa and guacamole worked, but I did feel I had slightly too much chipotle mayo.
For my third choice I went with one of the specials, Beef mole taco, this was unctuous, slow cooked beef shin, cooked in a rich Oaxacan mole. It was served in warm corn tortillas with sweet plantain puree and fiery chile de arbor salsa.
You got two beautifully presented open tacos, the beef was rich in flavour, tender and tasty.
So how often do you get a chance to sample some authentic looking and tasting Peruvian food?
One of my favourite features of Bristol is the weekly street food market that takes place every Thursday at the square in the newly redeveloped Temple Quay. It is open between 12 and 2, but I suggest you get there early, as there are large queues and many times dishes sell out (especially the vegetarian ones).
There are a range of regular and guest stalls, and when I went there was a real choice. I did like the idea of Greek, the halloumi pitta sounded and looked delicious. There was also a pulled lamb sub, that also looked very nice. After looking around, I went with Uchu Perú, as stall selling Peruvian food, my choice dictated slightly by the shortness of the queue and the interesting sounding menu.
In the end looking over the menu I decided that I would go with the sample menu, so I could have a bit of everything. The sample plate has smaller portions of all the dishes from the menu.
If you stay at the market the stall provides a nice plate, but as it was starting to rain I got my meal to go and they split it between two boxes for me to take away.
Ceviche, which was sea bass cooked in lime with prawns, chilli, coriander, red onion, sweet potato and Peruvian corn. This was fresh and sharp and really tasty. I wasn’t so enamoured with the Peruvian corn, but it was something that I can see other people liking.
The Quinoa Salad was made from black and white quinoa with carrot, radish, coriander, broad beans, feta cheese and Peruvian yellow chilli sauce. I really liked how the team put this together, and was like the Ceviche was delicious. The ingredients were fresh, tasty and worked really well together.
The final dish in my trio was Causa, which was freshly piped potato puree with Peruvian yellow chilli paste, served cold with tomato, avocado puree, purple corn mayonnaise, sweet potato crisp, pulled chicken, topped with togaroshi mayonnaise. As I was eating I did wonder what the pink stuff was, but re-reading the menu, I realised this was the purple corn mayonnaise. Delicious components that worked really well together.
I really liked how the dishes were constructed to order and they looked beautiful. I’ve not eaten Peruvian dishes before, these were delicious and I would certainly go back to Uchu Perú.
The original plan was to go somewhere else for lunch, but in the end we somehow found ourselves at Frankie and Benny’s. So despite many reservations about the place (and some pretty poor experiences) I was once more sitting down and looking at the menu in Frankie and Benny’s.
As it was a Saturday, there were no special menus or “cheap” lunch choices, so I had the whole menu to look over.
Fancying a starter to share, I chose the Bruschetta, a home made mix of fresh tomato, red onion, basil, olive oil and cracked black pepper served over toasted garlic ciabatta bread, finished with a balsamic glaze.
We also got some Warm Dough Sticks with Garlic Butter. I didn’t get a look in with the dough sticks, but they looked a little overdone to my eyes, but without eating it I couldn’t be totally sure.
I had had the Bruschetta before and back then I said
“I was not that impressed with this, I found the red onion very harsh and astringent.”
This dish was much better than when I had it back then. The tomato and onion was much sweeter and contrasted well with the balsamic glaze. The bread was nice, not over toasted, and overall the dish was rather nice.
Though I like to think I try new things, too often when eating out I will go with what I like and am familiar with. I have decided this year to make a noticeable effort to try out new things when eating out. So looking over the menu I decided to go with a lighter option, I went with the Marinara Pizza, which had large prawns, anchovies and clams on a tomato base topped with fresh rocket.
There was minimal cheese on the pizza (which is kind of what you expect with a lighter option), but there were generous toppings of prawns and clams, and for me just the right amount of anchovies. The scattering of rocket added some nice greenery and more spice.
I really did enjoy the pizza, there was a lot of flavour. Overall I was quite pleased with the meal, it was certainly one of the better meals I have had at Frankie and Benny’s and how it should be all the time. The service was excellent, not in your face, or so minimal that you are constantly looking around for waiting staff.
For New Year’s Eve we decided to have a fish and seafood platter. It was an opportunity to cook and eat some great food. However one problem, as you may recall New Year’s Eve is not only part of Christmas, it’s also a Monday. As a result it was virtually impossible to find any fresh fish or seafood. Generally the fishing fleets don’t go out at weekends and I suspect that they certainly wouldn’t go out over a weekend during the festive season. As a result we went with frozen seafood, not my first choice, but with what we wanted it was better than nothing.
We got some frozen king prawns, scallops and squid from Sainsbury’s as part of their Taste the Difference range. One of the key things to do when using frozen seafood is to defrost and defrost safely. If you cook frozen seafood from frozen, generally what happens is that you overcook it and it becomes very rubbery. You need to take care when defrosting to avoid food poisoning. The best way to defost is in the fridge, but this takes time. If you do defrost at room temperature, make sure you move the seafood to the fridge once it has defrosted.
The prawns I cooked on my griddle, whilst the scallops were cooked very quickly on a hot flat frying pan, as were the squid rings.
The scallops were perfect and I was really pleased with how I cooked them. They were browned on each side, but were only just done on the inside. As a result they were melt in the mouth tender, and full of flavour. The prawns were very good, and served with some lemon were delicious. I was less impressed with the squid rings. In the past when I have cooked squid, I have bought frozen whole squid from Tesco and cut it into pieces of squid. I much prefer using this way of preparing squid, usually scoring one side to ensure even cooking and browing of the edges. The squid from Sainsbury’s comes ready sliced into rings. It cooked fine, but it lacked the depth of flavour I have had in the past with squid from Tesco. Why didn’t I get my squid from Tesco, well they’ve seemed to have stopped selling it.
Alongside this plate of seafood I also grilled some giant tiger prawns in their shells. These were placed under a really hot grill, after they were fully defrosted and brushed with some olive oil. The main reason for these prawns is twofold, one is the visual impact, secondly was flavour. They were delicious, though of course were quite messy to peel.
We also had some dressed crab, these were small crab shells filled with a crab pate and white crab meat. They looked really nice, but lacked the depth of flavour I would liked to have. This was served with some fresh crusty bread.
Another successful dish was some clams. I got a pack of frozen Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company which I mananged to buy at Waitrose.
Again the key was to ensue they were properly defrosted before cooking, well they’re cooked already, all they really needed was heating up. I did this in a pan with some freshly chopped garlic and parsley. I thought they were delicious and very good value at £3.29. I think they would also work with linguine if wanted pasta and seafood.
We also cooked some salmon, this was roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.
Overall this was a delicious meal, we served it with some fresh salad and I also made a paella.
Every Monday at Yo! Sushi is Blue Plate Monday. What this offer does, is they take fifty of their dishes, put them on blue plates and charge just £2.40 per plate. As a result you can have a nice meal and not spend too much money. There is a really wide and good choice of dishes, including traditional sushi, sashimi as well as salads and hot dishes.
My only criticism is that the conveyor belt appears to be full of sweet dishes and fruit. There was quite a limited choice of cold sushi dishes. So rather than take dishes from the conveyor belt, I decided to order some hot dishes. You can of course order cold dishes too.
I went with one of my favourite dishes the Spicy Pepper Squid. Hot coils of spicy pepper squid topped with red chilli.
I would warn you that the chilli was quite hot and if you aren’t use to that kind of heat avoid it. I do like this dish, the crunch of the coating, the softness and smoothness of the squid, combined with the heat of pepper and chilli. I did very nearly another dish of the squid.
I also had Chicken Katsu this is chicken breast covered in Japanese breadcrumbs and served with a spicy fruity katsu curry sauce.
Sometimes I should read my own blog as I previously wrote.
The best way I can describe it is as a breaded chicken burger, fried, sliced, placed on rice and then covered in curry gravy! It wasn’t a horrible dish, but certainly wasn’t one I would order again or would recommend.
I will say this time I was in the mood for some crunchy spicy chicken, so that’s why I ordered it!
The third dish was Hairy Prawns. You get two prawns wrapped in kadaifi pastry with wasabi mayonnaise.
This was something I hadn’t seen or tried before, also these were really quite messy to eat There was an incredible crunchy sensation as bit into the prawns, finished off with the soft prawn itself. The prawns tasted of prawns (which is not always the case) and the wasabi mayonnaise complemented the dish perfectly.
My final and fourth dish was Chicken Firecracker Rice.
This was a nice dish of stir fried chicken and sushi rice, sticky, savoury, slightly spicy and delicious.
To drink I went with the Green Tea, which is hot and refreshing. You can also have unlimited refills.
Overall for £11.10 I thought this was very good value for money.
Tonight I took the time to make a paella using a slightly different recipe to the one I normally do.
This time I took some chicken thighs (for flavour, they generally have more flavour then chicken breasts). These I tossed in olive oil and an Italian spicy herb mix. These were browned in a hot frying pan and then removed.
To the hot pan I then added diced onion, red and green pepper and courgette. When these were softened I added the paella rice. Do use paella rice or rice suitable for paella and not the rice at the back of the cupboard. The rice needs to both take on the flavours in the pan, but also soak up the stock and cook. Using other types of rice usually results in a wet paella with undercooked rice.
Having coated the rice in the oil, pepper and onion mix, I added a large splash of white wine and some chicken stock. As the rice cooks I stir the paella and add more stock as required.
After ten minutes of cooking I added the previously browned chicken. Ten minutes after that I added a handful of frozen peas.
Meanwhile in a separate pan I cook off some thick slices of cooking chorizo sausage. If you are using dried chorizo then just add them as they are to the pan when you add the peas. On my griddle I also cooked some large prawns.
Ten minutes after adding the peas, I added the cooked chorizo sausage, the grilled prawns and some slices of lemon.