Keralan Coconut Curry

This was a Keralan Coconut Vegetable Curry that I cooked. I cheated a little by using a curry kit from The Spice Tailor.

A delicately balanced, mellow coconut curry from Kerala. Its gentle spicing and layers of flavours makes this a go-to for those who love milder Indian flavours.

I have been using this curry kit for some time now.

I prepared the vegetables, for this curry I used onions, peppers, carrot, sweet potato, tenderstem broccoli, baby sweetcorn, sliced mushrooms and asparagus.

I add oil to a large frying pan and then add the spices from the curry kit. I used a new wok I had got for my birthday. I then added the prepared vegetables. This is cooked until softened. I then add the sauce mix from the curry kit and stir it into the vegetables. I cook it for five more minutes before stirring the curry a final time.

I served it with plain white rice.

Goan Seafood Curry

Goan Seafood Curry

I’ve only been to Giraffe a few times over the years. It has an interesting eclectic menu. As with any chain, sometimes the specials make for an interesting choice.

I had the Goan Seafood Curry a couple of years ago, sadly no longer on the menu as it was a summer special at Giraffe.

The Goan Seafood Curry, was made with king prawns, squid, sweet potato, roasted red pepper, snap peas, coriander, chilli and lime and served with brown rice.

I really enjoyed this curry and on a more recent visit to Giraffe was disappointed that it wasn’t on the menu.

Space

Leicester College Court

Now and again I have to attend conference dinners, most of the time they are like “just okay” mass produced meals that are served without care, then there are those meals which become a really nice memory. At a recent training programme in Leicester College Court I did have a really nice meal. As well as being really well cooked and presented it consisted of things I hadn’t eaten before.

For the starter we had ‘Life on Mars’ this was described on the menu as planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil.

planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil

The “surface” was a savoury sponge that I have seen before on cooking programmes, but not eaten. It was a nice texture to add to the flavoursome goat’s cheese. I wasn’t enamoured with the pickled mushrooms, but they did add a contrast in flavour. The porcini soil added a nice taste and another texture.

For the main course we had pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco.

pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco

The duck breast was perfectly cooked, but I felt lacked seasoning and my portion was a little on the small side. The first plate I was given had a decent duck portion but was missing the pastille, so I was given a different plate, but a smaller portion of the duck breast. The pastille was interesting, cooked duck leg in filo pastry, something that might be called a spring roll. Again lacked flavour. I do liked grilled Romanesco, but when grilling something like Romanesco or cauliflower it really needs to be served straight away. It had been left too long since cooking and as a result was a little soggy and lacked the crispness that grilling can impart, nice flavours though. I enjoyed the sweet potato done two ways, a nicely cooked disc and a puree. The salsify was interesting but didn’t add much to the dish.

Desert was described as a chocolate and honeycomb moon, though to be honest it looked more like that space station.

a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb.

It was a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb. I was worried it might be over sweet, but actually was just right, a clever desert full of interesting flavours and textures and great presentation. A really nice end to a nice meal.

Oxfordian French

I was recently invited for a meal out in, of all places, Oxford. The choice was Pierre Victoire, an independent family run French style restaurant. This is no way a regular haunt so was interested to see what the food was going to be like. What surprised me the most was how crowded the place was for a Wednesday evening. True there were a couple of big groups in, but it appeared to me that every table was taken. I don’t think I was the only one that was surprised, I got the feeling the staff were surprised too. They took our orders and then forty minutes later took them again as the original order had gone “missing”. Later on the desert choices went missing too! In the end we were in the restaurant for four hours, in reality I think it could have been much shorter. I did note though that other people weren’t getting forgotten as we were.

I really liked the atmosphere and the design of the place, it felt rustic French to me, no pretentions, this was going to be good solid French cooking, no messing. There were no fancy tablecloths for example. I don’t go to France much these days (okay the last time was nearly twenty years ago) but my memories of the restaurants I use to eat at, were family run affairs with great food. They weren’t chains with system cooking, these places cooked their food from fresh and used good local ingredients.

The house wine was a rough and ready red wine that wasn’t unpleasant, but did lack finesse, however that didn’t really matter as this was rustic restaurant and the wine suited this environment just fine.

The menu wasn’t too short, but also wasn’t excessively long either. I always worry about huge menus, how on earth do they manage to keep the ingredients fresh for such a range of choices. If you have a huge kitchen with lots of chefs and lots of covers then fine, I understand, but a small place with not too many covers you sometimes think how? Well actually I know how, the places use tins and jars. I remember going to an Italian restaurant in London and they had one of these huge menus, I distinctly recall the tomato sauce I had on my pasta was from a jar, it certainly wasn’t fresh. So looking over the menu at Pierre Victoire I wasn’t disappointed with the number of choices I was inspired and looking forward to ordering and eating.

For my starter my immediate reaction was to go with the pigeon breast, roasted pink and served with sweet potato, a red wine jus and parsnip chips. Upon reflection I did quite like the idea of the Moules or the Crab Salad. However in the end I went with my first choice of the pigeon.

pigeon breast, roasted pink and served with sweet potato, a red wine jus and parsnip chips

This was beautifully cooked, pink, tender and lots of flavour. The red win jus was just right and had the potential to be salty, but was seasoned perfectly. I did enjoy the parsnip chips and the sweet potato, but did think that there was slightly too much of the sweet potato. As a result for a starter it was quite a substantial dish. Having said that, it was beautifully cooked and I really enjoyed it.

For my main course I was torn between a range of dishes. I did like the sound of the chicken, Suprême de Volaille, a chicken breast roasted with a baby spinach & wild mushroom farce and served with gratin dauphinoise and a red wine reduction. However I always seem to be cooking chicken at home, so really wanted something other than chicken (but it did sound nice).

The steak and frites (chips) would have been the “boring” choice, so that was another item on the menu eliminated.

I really did quite like the idea of the roasted duck magret and confi’d duck leg served on a leek and potato rosti with a blackberry and ginger sauce, but as I had had the pigeon for a starter,I felt it would have been too similar a dish.

In the end I went with Moules~Frites, the fresh Cornish mussels served marinières à la crème.

Moules~Frites, the fresh Cornish mussels served marinières à la crème

The mussels were lovely and fresh, there was a good sized portion and they were delicious. Slight criticism was that the diced onion in the sauce was undercooked, but apart from that it was a dish full of flavour and very satisfying. I also really enjoyed the pommes frites that were the right size and texture.

I did like that the restaurant also served bread and unsalted President butter along with the meal, perfect as an appetiser and to mop up juices and sauce.

Desert for me was a no brainer, it was going to the cheese. Well so I thought, I did for a second or two consider the hazelnut desert however the thought of plate of cheese won out. Someone else did order the hazelnut dish and I didn’t think that much of it. I was expecting more of a pave, a slab of sweet terrine (or pate), but what they had was very different.

The cheese and accompaniments arrived on a wooden chopping board. Alongside the three portions of cheese consisting of Saint Albray, Roquefort and Camembert Artisan, was bread, biscuits, celery, grapes and chutney.

Saint Albray, Roquefort and Camembert Artisan

Didn’t eat the celery, don’t like celery, never liked it. Cheese was good, even the strong Roquefort was nice with the chutney.

Overall a delicious meal and some great company too. I finished my meal off with a single espresso which was perfect.

We chose from the “Party Menu” which was £21 for three courses.

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

I really do enjoy roasted vegetables either as a meal in itself or as an accompaniment to another dish.

On this platter I have roasted squash, red onions, red pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergine, parsnips and sweet potato.

The method I used for this was in the roasting pan I placed the squash, the parsnips, red onion and sweet potato with a good splash of olive oil. This was then roasted in the oven for about 15 minutes. I then added the mushrooms, tomatoes, aubergine, courgette, red pepper and another splash of the olive oil. This was then roasted for about 15-20 minutes.

Simple and delicious.

Chicken with Lentils and Vegetables

Here is a nice supper dish for these cold and wet March nights.

Chicken with Lentils and Vegetables

Roast some chicken thighs (or half a chicken or whatever cut you like) with some pancetta on top to baste and add flavour. I did roast the chicken on a bed of veg including carrot, onions, mushrooms and red pepper.

Roast some vegetables, I roasted sweet potato slices.

Serve with puy lentils, for these I softened in a frying pan, some finely chopped onion with pancetta. When the onion was nicely soft, I added some red wine and beef stock before simmering it down. Beef stock over chicken stock just because of the colour rather than flavour. I then reduced and reduced this.

When I was happy with the sauce I whisked in some butter (with a fork as it happens rather than a whisk) and then added a tin of Epicure Organic Puy Lentils. I needed to add a bit more stock at this point.

Roasting Sweet Potatoes

I like sweet potato and though I know a lot of people mash them, I much prefer to roast them.

sweet potato

My preference is simple to cut into slices and roast in the oven with a splash of olive oil. They then have a natural sweetness which really adds to a meal.

Sweet Potato

I have really got back into sweet potato.

sweet potato

I use to eat it a lot and as with anything you eat too much of, got kind of bored of it. Recently I have got back into it. My preference is simple to cut into slices and roast in the oven with a splash of olive oil. They then have a natural sweetness which really adds to a meal.

I do also quite like them mashed, but roasted slices will always be my first choice.

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