Not as described

I was up in Manchester staying at the Copthorne Hotel on Salford Quay and went for dinner in the restaurant. I had a table overlooking the water, I settled in and looked over the menu.

For my starter I went with what was described as mini pan fried scallops with pea puree, pea shoots and bacon crumb.

Well this is what I got!

Okay, so there were some mini pan friend scallops, but it was dressed with peas and bacon. No puree, no pea shoots and no bacon crumb.

This was really disappointing. I did complain, but really I was just fobbed off with an excuse that the chef had over-elaborated the dish on the menu. My response was that, if the chef had described the dish, accurately and as it was, then I wouldn’t have been disappointed, I probably would have still ordered it. 

It’s this kind of thing that puts me off eating in hotel restaurants, which can be overpriced as well.

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.

Well, they could have been better!

I quite like scallops, so there I was in Sainsbury’s picking up some salmon for our supper when I saw Taste the Difference, Scallop Gratin. Described as Patagonian scallops in a white wine and Parmesan sauce topped with a Cheddar breadcrumb.

I was intrigued and tempted, so they got added to the trolley.

Cooked in a hot oven for twenty minutes they looked great when they came out of the oven.

I thought the sauce was delicious, and the scallops were nice too. However I wasn’t blown away by the dish. I think it needed more substance, actually it probably just needed more scallops, or more gratin. I kind of wished I had some bread to mop up the sauce, but alas I hadn’t bought any. 

Would I buy this dish again, probably not.

A little Mexican market eating

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment

Walking over the bridge to the South Bank there is Wahaca , one of a chain of Mexican street food eating places that to be honest I had not heard of before. There are branches across London and England, there is even a branch in Bristol!

The restaurant on the South Bank, is built from eight recycled shipping containers arranged across two overhanging levels. These brightly coloured containers make for an interesting eating environment. The team were friendly and welcoming.

The Wahaca Southbank Experiment

We started with some home cooked tortilla chips served with freshly made guacamole. The guacamole is made with lime juice, coriander and ripe Hass avocados. The guacamole was lovely and fresh and I really enjoyed the tasty tortilla chips.

There is a wide choice of dishes, the menu is split into nibbles, bigger food and street food. The street food menu is a range of smaller dishes. I went with two dishes, which was perfect for lunch, but if you were hungry you might want to go with three. There are many different choices, including vegetarian. The street food menu is split across market treats, tacos, tostados, taquitos, quesadillas and baja tacos.

My first choice was from the market treats, the scallop and shrimp ceviche at £6.95. A classic Yucatecan ceviche, with fresh orange and lime cured fish, diced cucumber and fresh summer herbs, served with crisp tostadas. This was a wonderful fresh tasting dish of delicious flavours. I could taste the scallop and shrimp in the dish. The crisp tostadas added texture to the dish.

the scallop and shrimp ceviche

For my second choice I went with the Ancho chicken baja tacos at £4.25. These are two corn and flour tortillas inspired by the beaches of baja filled with grilled chicken thighs marinated with sweet and smoky ancho chilli marinade, topped with habanero mayo and jalapeño-pickled carrots.

Ancho chicken baja tacos

As with my other dish this was beautifully presented and tasted delicious. The grilled chicken was moist and full of flavour, not too spicy. I really enjoyed eating this dish.

The dishes we ordered came in a somewhat haphazard order, but that didn’t distract too much from the overall experience.

There is a technological solution to paying the bill via an app, which I guess is great if it works, but it wasn’t working for us, so we paid in the traditional manner.

I really enjoyed the fresh delicious food from Wahaca and would really like to go again.

Seafood Platter

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.

scallops, prawns and 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.

Taste the Difference Whole Giant King Tiger Prawns

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.

Dressed Crab

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.

Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company

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.

Scallops with Noodles

Scallops with Noodles

One thing I like about cooking oriental (inspired) food is the speed. This dish took about ten minutes from getting into the kitchen to putting food on the table.

Now I did cheat a little by using a pack of prepared stir fry vegetables, you can (as I usually do) prepare the veg yourself.

Once in the kitchen I put some water onto boil for the noodles, that take two minutes to cook.

I got the scallops and cut them in half through the middle to “double” the number of scallops. This is a trick I picked up from Gordon Ramsay on making scallops go further.

I heated a large frying pan and added a splash of sunflower oil. I let the oil heat through I then added a dash of Chinese Five Spice before adding the prepared stir fry veg.

In another pan I cooked the scallops. They don’t take long and you don’t want to overcook them.

Once the vegetables are nearly cooked, in other words still crunchy I added the noodles and some oyster sauce.

I then placed the noodles and vegetables on a plate and topped with the pan fried scallops.

For a variation I would have added some cashew nuts for crunch and some squid and prawns to complement the scallops.

Northland Scallops

In December 2009 I went to a conference in Auckland in New Zealand. I had passed the Harbourside Ocean Bar Grill numerous times on my first few days and really liked the look of the menu. However too often I was eating with friends, or at the conference. I decided on what was my last night in Auckland that I would go and eat there.

For my starter I went with the Northland Scallops.

Grilled scallops with a pineapple salsa, skordalia and beurre blanc.

Beautifully cooked and presented scallops. Nice accompaniments. Delicious.

Fish Supper

One thing that I cook quite often and enjoy during the summer months (though not that we have had much of a summer) is a fish supper.

Fish Supper

This photo is from a recent version and included baked cod, griddled scallops, griddled squid and prawns cooked in olive oil.

The cod was drizzled with olive oil and baked in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes.

The scallops were scored with a checked pattern on one side and griddled on a hot pan.

The squid “pockets” were sliced on one side and opened out. On the inside I scored a checked pattern. These were then griddled inside face down. When cooked on one side, turn them over and cook the outside; at this point they will curl into rolls. Serve with the tentacles cooked as well.

The prawns were simply cooked with a little olive oil and black pepper.

Served with lemon wedges, salad and crusty bread.