Risotto a la Milanesa

I recently picked up a box of Gallo’s Risotto a la Milanesa, which is risotto with parmesan & saffron.

This is prepared risotto rice to which you only need add water, though you can add butter and parmesan at the end of cooking to add a little bit of luxury and more cheese flavour to the dish.

I usually cook risotto from scratch and I hadn’t really read the box when I picked it up, so thought I was buying plain risotto rice with some saffron included.

What you actually get is a bag of saffron coloured rice which you cook in water for 12 minutes before adding butter and extra cheese.

It’s a really bright yellow, which might put people off, but it was rather tasty. If I can find it again I think I will get another pack. A quick and easy rice dish.

Well that was a really nice pizza

On a recent visit to Cabot Circus we looked at where to eat, slightly constrained as were using some Tesco vouchers. We were restricted to Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge or Strada.

Strada was out of the running as it was up in Clifton Village. After our last experience at Bella Italia in Cabot, we made the decision to go to Cafe Rouge. However a quick look over the menu, meant though fine for most of us, there wasn’t anything that appealed to the two youngest members of our party. They were dead set on having pizza and spaghetti bolognese. No new tastes for them today, so a little downhearted we went to Bella Italia.

On our last visit to this branch, writing about it I said

Overall it wasn’t a bad experience, but on reflection I don’t think we will go again to that branch, I do expect that we will probably go to the Cribbs branch though.

We did venture to the Cribbs branch after that meal and had a much better experience. I suspect that did influence how we felt about going to the Cabot Circus branch.

It was just after noon on a Saturday and the place was already buzzing. Nando’s next door was already full! As we ate our meal the place to busier and fuller, even the outside tables were full (despite it been quite cold and windy, even for May). I noticed as we left too how busy everywhere was.

What I have noticed more and more is how few places seem to be able to cope with five people. Plenty of tables for twos and fours, but very little for five. I think in the future we will probably need to be more planned and book tables in advance otherwise I think we could be disappointed, especially as how busy it eventually came.

Though the place was buzzing, it wasn’t that busy, but it took ages for the menus to appear, in the end I actually needed to ask for them. We took our time and when asked what drinks we wanted we were ready to order the food.

So what of the meal?

Well I was pleased to see that they had a special chalked on their blackboard and I went with that. This was Pizza Argosta that was topped with lobster, saffron, harrisa, red peppers, courgettes, parsley and rosemary. I also thought very reasonably priced at £8.95.

This was a thin crust pizza (as they usually are at Bella Italia) that was well cooked and very well presented.

Pizza Argosta that was topped with lobster, saffron, harrisa, red peppers, courgettes, parsley and rosemary.

There was a good potion of toppings and you didn’t feel anything was missing (well apart from the rosemary). The lobster tasted of lobster, the saffron was certainly apparent, both in taste and colour. I liked the thinly sliced courgette which was just cooked and was delicious. Overall a really nice different pizza and very tasty.

My wife went with the Formaggio di Capra. This was a salad made with melting goat’s cheese and red pepper tapenade on giant ciabatta croutons. Along with baby spinach, rocket, green beans, caramelised onions, roasted red peppers, olives and fresh basil in a rosemary balsamic dressing.

Formaggio di Capra

She initially thought it was a little on the large side, but she enjoyed it and polished it off. I thought it was really good value for £8.95.

My son at his last visit to Bella Italia had gone with the Gamberoni at £9.95, that is described on the menu as eight succulent king prawns sautéed with spaghetti, garlic and chilli in a spicy pomodoro sauce. He decided to go down the route again and ordered it.

Gamberoni

I did think it was better presented the last time he had it. My son really enjoyed the dish again though, and finished it all off.

As for the pizza for the youngest, well that was in my opinion on the small side, but was enjoyed. I think if your child is older then eight or nine they would find that pizza too small. My youngest is four so was just right for lunch.

Pizza

The spaghetti bolognese was also enjoyed by my middle one especially as he got a nice generous portion of parmesan on top.

I don’t usually eat puddings, but sometimes it’s nice to share and we went with the Godfather. According to the online menu, this contains nutty fudge brownies, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, fresh cream, chocolate popping candy, dark chocolate sprinkles and a wafer curl. According to the menu we actually read in the restaurant it said honeycomb ice cream. We did get vanilla, but no chocolate popping candy. At this point the staff were very busy and it was only a minor thing, so couldn’t be bothered to make a fuss. I am not even sure I like the popping candy, so probably a better dish for it.

The only challenge was to pay the bill, and I was left standing for ages before I could pay the bill. That was disappointing.

Overall the food was very good and enjoyed by all, really well presented and cooked. Service was adequate, yes they were busy and apart from some minor glitches, was okay. However nothing to write home about, we have had much better service at other places. Would we go again? Yes I think we would.

Paella Time

Paella

One of the reasons I write this blog is to remind me of places I have eaten and dishes I have cooked. One thing I have noted is how much I cook paella, so much so that I took a break from cooking it. I have made it recently, to go with a seafood platter, we liked it so much that I cooked almost the same meal again!

The key I have found with a decent paella is good rice and a decent stock. I have found though that the paella seasoning from Tesco is a good compromise if you don’t have any saffron.

In a large frying pan, heat some olive oil. I really keep thinking I should really invest in a proper large paella pan. It’s okay using my current frying pan, but I think it ‘s a little too deep. Using a larger shallower paella pan would make for a more authentic paella and get it cooked just right. Into the hot pan I added some cubed pancetta to which after it cooked, I added some vegetables. This time I did extra vegetables, so I took some diced onion, pepper, courgette, mushrooms and aubergine. This I cooked in the pan until it had softened. I then added the paella rice. I also added the paella seasoning mix to the pan, this contains saffron, as well as some dried tomato, onion and spices. It adds a depth of flavour and that authentic yellow colour. If you want a deeper yellow you need to add more saffron. This was all mixed with the oil, pancetta and vegetables.

I boosted the heat up and added a large splash of white wine. I then added stock to the pan so it covered the rice. As the dish cooked I added more stock.

I did stir now and again, but not too much. With a risotto you want to stir a lot to break down the rice a bit and create a creamy sauce. With paella you want to avoid that, but also get the paella to stick slightly to the bottom of the pan.

Just before serving I added some lemon segments and some griddled seafood. I am sure that some would say I should cook the squid and prawns in the paella, however I have found that they can overcook, becoming tasteless and rubbery. I now cook the squid and prawns separately, using a griddle normally and then place on top of the paella. If I am using chorizo I will do something similar.

I was very pleased with the end result and it was liked by everyone at the table.

The difference saffron makes…

Tonight I made paella, something I seem to do on a regular basis. Tonight though was different and the reason was I had no saffron.

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus and it imparts not just a rich golden hue to the paella, but also importantly adds flavour too.

So don’t get me wrong, the paella was very nice, what with onions, pepper and peas, but the lack of saffron was very telling and I think next time I want a rice dish, and I don’t have saffron in the house, I will be making risotto instead.

How my paella should have looked, a rich yellow colour….

Paella

Tonight I cooked (my version of) paella.

In a large frying pan, add some olive oil and butter.

Soften some onion (I used a normal and a red onion) and some red pepper. I also added some lemon zest.

Arborio Risotto RiceAdd some arborio risotto rice.

Ensure that the rice is coated in the oil, butter, onion and peppers.

At this point add some white wine, however I didn’t do this as I had no white wine.

Add some saffron, this will add colour and flavour.

Now add some chicken stock to cover the rice.

Stir.

As the rice cooks, add more chicken stock to ensure that it doesn’t dry out. The rice will take about fifteen to twenty minutes to cook.

A few minutes before serving, add the raw prawns and squid. They will cook quite quickly in the hot pan.

Before serving add the cooked lobster and wedges of lemon.

Obviously you could use alternative ingredients, such as chicken or mussels. I used lobster as I had got one from a local supermarket for just £2.99, it’s normally a lot more expensive!

Chicken, Red Pepper and Mushrooms in a Cream and Saffron sauce with Gnocchi

This is a dish I made.

Chicken, Red Pepper and Mushrooms in a Cream and Saffron sauce with Gnocchi

Take some chicken thighs, add olive oil to a hot pan.

Brown the chicken in the pan, then remove.

Add chopped onion and red pepper to the pan.

Cook on a low heat until soft.

Add chopped mushrooms.

Meanwhile soak some saffron in a little hot water.

Once the mushrooms, onions and red pepper are cooked, add the chicken.

Add some freshly chopped parsley.

Add the saffron.

Add a couple of large spoonfuls of creme frache, you could use double cream, but I prefer creme frache.

Serve with some freshly cooked gnocchi.

Done.

Linguine with mushrooms, cream and saffron

In an pan of boiling water add the linguine. This will take 11 minutes to cook, but check the packaging to be sure. No need to add salt or oil to the boiling water.

In a pan, heat some olive oil.

Add some cubed pancetta and a finely chopped onion,

Cook until the onion has softened.

Add some sliced mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms are cooked (how long this takes depends on the size of the pan, how hot it is and the quantity of ingredients) add creme frache and a few strands of saffron.

Stir on a low heat until the saffron has imparted a golden tinge to the cream mixture.

You could use cream instead of creme frache, I use creme frache as I like the flavour. You don’t need to use saffron, but it adds a wonderful flavour as well as colour to the dish.

Once the linguine is cooked, drain, add the cream mixture, a handful of grated parmesan, a good twist or two of ground black pepper.

Stir well and serve.