Time for something different

Hastings East Hill Lift

So we were on holiday in Sussex and wanting somewhere to eat that a) accepted Tesco vouchers and b) had a decent gluten-free menu, we ended up in Eastbourne, with the choice of Pizza Express, Prezzo and Zizzi. Out of the three I personally prefer Zizzi, we had recently eaten at Prezzo we headed towards the Zizzi branch in Eastbourne. We had spent the day in Hastings so it was a thirty minute drive and the Apple navigation app took us as far as a roundabout close to the restaurant, but there was plenty of post 6pm free parking available.

I would say the outside of the restaurant was very uninviting, for a second or so I actually thought it might have closed down. We had a little trouble finding the door, but once we were in, it was a totally different experience. The inside was bright, fresh and welcoming and then the welcome from the member of staff (think he might have been the manager) was just as fresh and welcoming.

We were sat down and perused the menu. Lots of choices, the last time I went to Zizzi I had pizza, so really wanted something different. For a start I did consider the calamari, as It is a personal favourite, but as my son was going to have this, I decided to go with something different.

For my starter in the end I went with the Bruschetta. Speciality tomatoes, red onion and roasted garlic, in extra virgin olive oil, on toasted bread. With super green pesto, fresh basil & riserva cheese. I added some creamy bufala mozzarella as well.

Bruschetta. Speciality tomatoes, red onion and roasted garlic, in extra virgin olive oil, on toasted bread. With super green pesto, fresh basil & riserva cheese.

Apart from not getting the fresh basil, I really enjoyed this dish. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but that is something I quite like now and again.

For my main I had a new dish on the menu, the Pork Belly Arrosto. Oven-roasted pork belly with creamy riserva cheese mash, crispy crackling shards, garlic kale & broccoli & a Chianti & rosemary sauce.

Pork Belly Arrosto. Oven-roasted pork belly with creamy riserva cheese mash, crispy crackling shards, garlic kale & broccoli & a Chianti & rosemary sauce.

The pork was slow cooked and then finished off in their pizza oven. The mash was smooth and creamy, but not as cheesy as I was expecting. The shards could have been lighter and crispier, they were a little chewy. The kale and broccoli were really nice too. The sauce was tasty, I could have done with more though. Overall a really tasty dish and something very different to the pizza (or pasta) I usual have at Zizzi.

Using Tesco Vouchers meant that this was also a cheap meal and great value for money. If we were ever in Eastbourne again, I think we would visit again.

What we had for Christmas Lunch

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake. This post is a little later than I planned, but it’s here now.

This year we ordered two Christmas roasts from Tesco. I was a little concerned as the night before the day I was going to collect the order I got a phone call from my local Tesco saying that part of my order had not been delivered to the store and offered a replacement. I wasn’t too happy with this, as it was quite short notice. In the end they had a late night delivery so I got my order in the end.

The main one was a part-boned turkey with chestnut stuffing. This was really nice roasted the chestnut stuffing was really nice too, with who chestnuts within it.

The second was a three bird roast, comprising a duck stuffed with goose and turkey. I remember once spending a lot of money on a Marks and Spencer four bird roast, which though very nice was mainly a big turkey with some duck, goose and chicken. So was a little bit of a disappointment, I blogged about that here, which reminded me not to go down that road again.

Along with the roasts we had roast potatoes, these I cooked in my usual way, which is as follows. I used Maris Piper potatoes, the type of potatoes I find is critical for getting crispy roast potatoes and a fluffy centre. I peel the potatoes and then par-boil for about ten minutes. Whilst they are in the pan of boiling water, I place the roasting tray in a hot oven with some sunflower oil (and I also add a splash of olive oil for flavour). This means once the potatoes are drained they are added to the pan which is pre-heated and has hot oil in. This speeds up cooking time and ensures a crispy roast potato.

I also did my regular dish of brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts.

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I did roasted parsnips. Along with them I did some festive carrots, I followed a Jamie Oliver recipe for carrots. I took a frying pan, this I filled with evenly cut carrots, either whole or halved in the main. I then covered them with boiling water. To this I add a large knob of butter, a splash of white wine vinegar, the juice from two clementines (or similar citrus fruit, or one orange) and some dried mixed herbs. Then let the carrots bubble away on the stove top for about 40 minutes. Once the eater has evaporated, the carrots should caramelise in the remaining sweet and sour mix.

We had a selection of stuffings and pigs in blankets.

Overall we were very happy with the meal, it was very tasty.

Three plus Two Bird Roasts

I usually document what we had for our Christmas dinner in December, in the main so that I can recall what we had and when, what we liked and what we wouldn’t get again.

Our plan was to go with the Three Bird Roast from Tesco, however when we went to order it, they had sold out. So our second choice was the Three Bird Roast from Marks and Spencer. This was a combination of turkey stuffed with chicken, duck and a pork, plum and sloe gin stuffing,

It looked a little smaller than we expected, so I quickly picked up a Two Bird Roast from the shelves. This was some duck stuffed with guinea fowl, and a pork, pheasant, bacon and apple stuffing.

Different roasting times meant that I had to plan the cooking quite carefully. Along with the vegetables and all the trimmings

I have found that with these multiple bird roasts (as they are quite solid and son’t have bones) they can be easily over-cooked so care has to be taken.

We served our roasts with a selection of traditional accompaniments. We had roast potatoes, roast vegetables. Some steamed vegetables along with pan fried brussels sprouts cooked with chestnuts and pancetta.

The Three Bird Roast was very nice and tasty. There wasn’t a huge amount of duck (or chicken) in there, but yes it was a tasty festive roast.

Three Bird Roast Christmas

The Two Bird Roast was smaller, but just as tender and tasty. You could certainly taste the duck and guinea fowl in there.

Two Bird Roast Christmas

Overall we were pleased with the meal and it was enjoyed by all, probably enjoyed too much, as there wasn’t many leftovers for meals later in the festive period. So next year we may go for something larger.

Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings

Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings

I do like my slow cooker, but I certainly could use it more often, if I had the time! My most recent recipe was a beef and mushroom stew with dumplings.

To make this I took some shin of beef, which I cubed and then coated in seasoned flour. This was then browned in a pan before placing it in the slow cooker. The flour not only helps with the browning process but also helps thicken the stew during the stewing process. In the pan I used to brown the meat, I then added some carrots, leeks and onions. You could at this stage adding some other root vegetables such as parsnips or swede. These were cooked in the pan for a short time before also adding to the slow cooker. I then added some water from the kettle to the pan to deglaze it, before adding it to the slow cooker as well. I then topped up the slow cooker with water to not quite cover the ingredients.

I then added a Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot. I quite like these stock pots, not just for the flavouring, but how they thicken the stew as well. One of the challenges with a slow cooker meal is that the sauce doesn’t thicken in the same way that cooking in a oven does.

The stew was then cooked in the slow cooker on the medium setting for four hours. My slow cooker has two settings, low for eight hours or medium for four hours. Though you can change the time manually.

After four hours the stew was allowed to cool and was then left overnight. I do like leaving stews or casseroles to “stew” overnight as it seems to improve the flavour.

The next day I put the stew in the “normal” oven.

I then cooked some bacon lardons in a pan and once nearly cooked added a range of mushrooms. I used chestnut mushrooms, some chanterelles that I had alongside a range of woodland mushrooms. These were cooked lightly before the bacon and mushrooms were added to the stew and stirred in.

I have been using the woodland mushrooms from Morrisons for a while now. Now I know they are not from woodlands, but are farmed, but they make a nice difference to dishes that usually use common mushrooms. The woodland mushrooms include oyster, and some others that I haven’t identified! According to the Morrisons website the pack contains three of the following: oyster, shiitake, eryngi, maitake, shiro shimeji, enoki, and buna shimeji.

Woodland mushrooms

Tesco use to sell wild mushrooms in my local branch, however they haven’t for a while, but you may be luckier at your own branch.

Wild mushrooms

The chanterelles on the other hand were found amongst the range of exotic mushrooms mini packs that they do stock in my local Tesco. This range includes varieties such as oyster, shiitake amongst others.

Exotic mushrooms

On top of the stew I added some dumplings and the whole thing was cooked for about 25-30 minutes. The idea was that the dumplings would have a nice crust and the stew would be bubbling underneath.

Overall the stew was lovely, full of deep flavours. The beef was tender and melt in the mouth, whilst the vegetables still had texture. The bacon and mushrooms added a new dimension and by adding them later in the cooking stage they weren’t lost within the stew.

Yes I will be cooking this again.

I would like a croissant please

Croissants

Without looking where do you think it costs more to buy a single croissant, Tesco or Marks and Spencers?

You know that by asking that very question that the answer has to be Marks and Spencers don’t you.

The other morning I was on my way into work when I stopped off to buy some skimmed milk for my coffee at work. I popped into the local Tesco Express (or are they called Tesco Metro) and picked up a two pint bottle. I looked at the date, it looked familiar and realised that the date was that day’s date. A quick check across the shelf, and all the other bottles had the same short date on them. So leaving the milk I decided to go somewhere else, I had been considering buying a croissant at 80 pence but thought not as I was in a bit of a hurry.

I walked down to Marks and Spencers to get my milk and was pleasantly surprised to see that their loose croissants were only 69 pence. They also looked a lot nicer and fresher than the ones from Tesco.

I was surprised as I wasn’t expecting Marks and Spencers to be cheaper, but was pleased that they were. Oh and before you ask the milk was the same price.

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.

Persian Jewelled Rice

Persian Jewelled RiceI’ve had a jar of Tesco Persian Jewelled Rice Paste in my cupboard for a while. Having a little time today I decided to go ahead and use it.

I took some onion, pepper, courgette and mushrooms and sauted them off in a frying pan with a little butter and oil.

I then added the Jewelled Rice Paste and cooked it off for a couple of minutes. I then added 200g of basmati rice and 400ml of boiling water.

Placed a lid on the frying pan and let the rice simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rice had absorbed the liquid and was tender.

With spices and citrus flavours, it was really very nice. It was quite dry so you might need some sauce or chutney to go with it. According to the jar it recommended having chicken in the dish, I didn’t I went with vegetables instead.

It’s not “cheap” at £1.99, but the thing is with a dish like this, that you have basically cooked yourself, it does taste a lot fresher than reheating a chilled ready meal from the fridge. I think in the future I might have a go at making my own version of the paste using the ingredients as a guide.

Orange Juice From Concentrate (26%),Carrot (25%) ,Sultanas (10%) (Sultanas, Sunflower Oil) ,Lemon Juice From Concentrate (7%) ,Onion Purée ,Orange Zest (5%) ,Butter ,Vegetable Oil ,Sugar ,Cinnamon Powder ,Cornflour ,Sea Salt ,Roasted Cumin Seed ,Black Pepper ,Ground Cardamom ,Ground Saffron.

Overall I found it an easy dish to make and it was really nice to eat.

Another great offer from that Tesco

Another great offer from Tesco

Not sure that Tesco quite understand that these kinds of offers aren’t in fact offers.

If you are going to do two for £4 then ensure that everything within that offer is over £2 otherwise what is the point? I have even seen stuff included that was (if it was in this offer) less than £2 in a two for £4 deal.

Bargain, not!

Supermarket Bargain NOT

This is one of those bargains you find at Tesco and other supermarkets, £1.00 each or on special, two for £2.00… hmmm

When more is less

When more is less

Ten Chocolate Mini Rolls cost £2.00, whilst six cost 97p. So if I buy two packs of six I get twelve for £1.94 which means for 6p less I get two more chocolate rolls.

Notice it is not a special offer, this is the “normal” price.

Another amazing bargain from the supermarkets, this time Tesco.