Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Spicy Chettinad Indian Wraps

Spicy Chettinad Indian wraps
Here’s another in my series of “cheats dinners”, again, this goes to prove that meal kits don’t have to be tasteless and bland, far from it with this street food kit from the lovely Anjum Anand – The Spice Taylor.

The kit pretty much contains most of what you need to make your wraps, 6 soft paratha wraps, curry leaf and tomato stir fry sauce, a spice blend and coconut chutney.  All you need to add to this is your protein of choice, meat, chicken, fish, prawns or paneer and 2 tbs of plain yoghurt.

The meal kit will feed two, my protein of choice was chicken so I therefore used two chicken breasts which I butterflied and cut each half into 3 slices therefore giving 2 nice pieces of chicken per wrap.  Add some vegetable oil to a frying pan, heat and then add your chicken and cook until browned.  Add the stir fry sauce and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and sizzling.  Whilst the chicken is simmering, stir 2 tbsp of plain yoghurt into the coconut chutney.  I got up to this point but I then put amouthfulofmark twist to the dish, which hopefully you will agree adds a bit more to the recipe.

I knocked up a cucumber raita using the remainder of the yoghurt to which I added a tablespoon of chopped mint, pinch of salt, squeeze of lemon and a few slices of cucumber, cut into small pieces and mixed together.  I then quartered a tomato, deseeded it and cut into small pieces  and thinly sliced up a spring onion.

Back to the packet instructions, after heating through the parathas I spread some of the coconut chutney over each one, topped with chicken, sprinkled over some of spice blend then added a good dollop of cucumber raita, some chopped tomato and spring onion and a little chopped coriander then all we had to do was roll up and eat.

I have to say I am a bit of a fan of Anjum Anand, she makes some really delicious products and this just adds to the list of tasty dishes that you can make using them.  We both really enjoyed this and will be making again for sure, maybe next time some fresh chilli will give it a kick, as you know, we do love that kick!  The street food kits are available from most supermarkets so go on, give them a go, you wont be disappointed.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Mexicow Pie with Mexican Style Corn on the Cob

Mexicow Pie with Mexican Style Corn on the Cob
  • 2 Mexicow pies from the lovely people at Pieminister
  • 2 corn on the cob
  • Handful of grated parmesan
  • Handful of finely chopped coriander
  • 2 lime quarters
  • Sprinkling of paprika
  • 2 large knobs of butter


Method:
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the corn and cook for 15 minutes.  At the same time put the pies in the oven and cook according to instructions.  Drain the corn and leave to steam dry in the pan.  In a large bowl place the butter and put the corn on top, turning it in order that the butter melts evenly over all of the corn.  Heat a griddle pan and transfer the corn to the pan and cook on high, you want to get some colour to the sweetcorn, this should take about 10 minutes.  Return the corn to the bowl and sprinkle over the parmesan, coriander and paprika, again turning the corn as you go so it is all covered, then transfer to a plate along with the pies.  We served a good portion of chips with this, would be rude not to!

This is another one from my range of cheats dinners as I didn’t make the pie!  The  pie is made by Pieminister and is one of the extensive range which they produce, which includes gluten free pies.  These are available from Borough Market, Boxpark Shoreditch, online, in store at one of their restaurants and cafes and in a number of pubs dotted around the country, so there is no excuse for you not to have either heard of them or be able to get your hands on one of these delish pies (just to clarify, you can buy more than one at a time!). 

The Mexicow is a British beef, kidney bean, cheddar & chilli pie, hence my choice of corn to go with it.  Well, the pie is packed to bursting, there are no half measures and you can actually see the oozy cheese in the pie!  To say this was tasty is an understatement, the pastry is crisp and the filling was spot on!  My only suggestion would be that they come out with a hotter version of this pie as I do like a good bit of heat, especially with my Mexican dishes, perhaps the Mexicow Extreme!

Pieminister have pies to suit all tastes and they all have funky names, Kate & Sidney, Chicken of Aragon, Feta Attraction, SAAG Pie-Neer just to name a few, I dare you not to find something you don’t like!  In the world of pies, it certainly seems like they are taking over, I was staggered to learn that they have their own cafes and restaurants, there was me thinking they sold them off the back of a truck down at the market, they even cater for weddings!  Is there nothing these people cant do?  Oh, and if you are not a fan of pastry, you can get a Pie Pot, this basically is the pie filling topped with potato, they really have thought of everything. 

I had been aware of this brand but it was only after spotting them and following them on Instagram did I then realise what a range they produced.  Having seen the Mexicow I kept pestering Scott to pay them a visit at Borough Market to get us a couple to try, eventually he dragged himself down there and boy was he glad he did (as was I), I’ve never seen anyone happier eating a pie lol. 

I would definitely recommend you make a purchase so you an see how good they are for yourself, also check out the website it makes for interesting reading, these award winning pies are award winning for a reason and these guys do lots for charity as well, buy a pie and support a good cause.  They can be found online at www.pieminister.co.uk


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Cheats Beef Massaman Curry

Cheats Beef Massaman Curry
  • 1 jar of store bought massaman curry paste
  • 500g cubed stewing/braising steak
  • 1 400g tin of coconut milk
  • 1 large potato peeled and cut into medium sized cubes
  • 60g unsalted peanuts
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • Small sprinkle of chopped coriander
  • White rice
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil


Method:
In a casserole dish heat the vegetable oil, add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened then add the beef and brown all over.  Add the jar of curry paste, coconut milk and peanuts, stir together and  then put into a preheated oven (160 degrees) and cook for 3 hours until the meat is tender.  Check on the curry after each hour and stir, you don’t want the sauce to dry up completely, if needed add some water but you probably won't need to do that until nearing the end of cooking. 

After the curry has been cooking for 2 hours, bring a pan of water to the boil, add some salt and boil the potatoes for around 7 minutes, it needs to be on the verge of having cooked but not too soft that they fall apart, drain and set aside.  After 2.5 hours add the potatoes to the curry, stir through and cook for the remaining 30 minutes.  Serve with white rice (cooked according to packet instructions) and a garnish of chopped coriander.

Not everything has to be cooked from scratch to be delicious, and this is a prime example. If you find a good sauce packed with flavour then why not use it?  That said, there is something satisfying about making a curry from scratch!  We both really enjoyed this, the peanuts gave a nice bit of flavour and texture to the dish, very hearty and definitely hit the spot.  Have to say on the jar it suggested 20g of peanuts but that isn’t a lot hence I used 60g!

Do you have a tried and tested sauce that you use, then let me know?

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Kankun Cochinita Pibil

Kankun Cochinita Pibil 
  • 1 jar Kankun Pibil sauce
  • 500g pork shoulder cut into bite size chunks
  • Small amount of crumbled feta cheese
  • Teaspoon of diced jalapeno
  • 2 radishes thinly sliced
  • Couple of dollops of sour cream
  • Teaspoon of finely diced coriander
  • ½ cup of orange juice
  • Lime slice to garnish
  • White rice

 Method:
The day before you are going to cook the recipe, place the pork into a container, add the pibil sauce and mix thoroughly until the pork is fully coated then pace into the fridge to marinade until the next day.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.  Place the marinated pork into a small casserole dish with a lid and cook for 1 hour.  After an hour check the consistency of the pork, it might start to dry out at this stage, if it has, add a few splashes of the orange juice to loosen up the mix, give it a good stir and return to the oven for a further hour by which time the pork should be fully cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.

Cook the rice according to packet instructions and then top with the pork (which should be falling apart, if not shred it slightly with two forks).  Serve with the sliced radishes, jalapeno, feta and coriander and garnish with the lime.

Unlike the tinga sauce that I previously used which has a bit of bite to it, the pibil sauce has quite a sweet and earthy flavour, one of the reasons I added some jalapenos as I do like a kick with my Mexican dishes!  A great dish as we head into autumn as it’s getting chilly, this is a good Mexican comfort food to warm your cockles! Pibil sauce from Kankun Sauce

Friday, 22 September 2017

Pork Steaks with Gin & Coriander Sauce

Pork Steaks with Gin & Coriander Sauce

  • 2 juniper berries
  • 4 tbsp Blackdown Sussex Dry Gin, warmed
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 x 175g/6oz thick, boneless pork steaks
  • 150ml cloudy apple juice
  • 4 tbsp crème fraiche

Method:
Crush the juniper berries coarsely using a pestle and mortar (if you don’t have one, cover them in a tea towel and give a good whacking with a rolling pin!).  Warm the gin in a small pan, add the berries and leave to soak for 20 minutes.  Trim the pork, leave on a little fat for flavour and to keep the steak moist.  Drain the berries, reserving the gin for later.

In a mini blender or using a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic, rosemary and coriander seeds with the juniper berries and 2 tbsp olive oil.  Spread the mixture over the pork, cover and marinate for as long as possibly (preferably overnight if you can).

Heat the remaining oil in a small non-stick frying pan until very hot.  Add the pork and cook quickly on both sides until golden.  Pour in the gin – boil fast until it disappears or set light to it (carefully) and let the flames burn down – this cooks off the alcohol so you are not left with the alcoholic taste.  Pour in the apple juice.  Scrape the pan to loosen any sticky bits and bring to the boil.

Half cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes until the pork is cooked and the sauce is reduced but not too thick.  Remove the pork to a warm plate.  Swirl through the crème fraiche into the sauce.  Bring back to the boil and boil rapidly for 1-2 minutes until it’s syrupy, then season to taste.  I served the steaks with a good helping of mustard mash, carrots and savoy cabbage.

As we are heading into Autumn this recipe is perfect for this time of year, especially for a Sunday lunch with family and friends.  As one of the key ingredients in this recipe are juniper berries, I chose Blackdown Sussex Dry Gin which contains 11 botanicals, one of which is also juniper, this really brings the sauce to life, as you can imagine, with that amount of botanicals, the sauce is packed full of flavour, trust me, you wont be disappointed! 

Blackdown Artisan Spirits can be found nestled within the foothills of the Blackdown Hills, West Sussex, where they are surrounded by the beautiful South Downs National Park.  They produce a number of spirits which are each produced in small batches using selected ingredients sourced from local and English producers.  They combine age old traditions with a unique modern taste of the English countryside.  As well as gin, they also produce a silver birch vermouth (which I hope to be cooking with soon!), silver birch vodka and a blackcherry liqueur.  All of these products can be purchased via www.blackdowncellar.co.uk

This recipe is courtesy of Good Food Magazine.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Festival of Sussex Gins

Earlier in the month we went down to Hotel du vin in Brighton where the Festival of Sussex Gins was being held.  The event was put together by Jo and Jason from the Brighton Gin Club and sponsored by Fentimans.  As the title suggests, the event was to showcase Sussex gins.

Jo and Jason from the Brighton Gin Club
Having been to a couple of gin festivals in the past, this was on a smaller scale; obviously the reason being is there are only so many Sussex gins!  Great little venue, I did wonder if there would be enough to do in our allotted 3 hour visit, however I needn’t have worried.

Upon arrival we were given our gin glass and taster card and then let loose to sample the gintastic delights that awaited us.   Basically you visited each stand to sample their particular gin, marked it off on your taster card and at the end of the event you handed in your completed card and received your goody bag which contained several taster bottles of gin, recipe cards, discount vouchers and flyers with information about all the distillers. We also picked up sticks of rock along the way from the lovely lady at Brighton Gin! 

Jane Keating from Brighton Gin

  As with any good event there was a bar from which you could purchase bottles of the gins that were being showcased and also drink tokens.  Once you purchased your tokens you then visited your stand of choice to receive a full measure of gin along with ice and the appropriate garnish which you then took to lovely Nicola (she of the flame hair and amazing Vivienne Westwood shoes!) at the Fentimans stand who then provide you with your mixer of choice.

Nicola Bourne from Fentimans
As mentioned above, for the afternoon session we had 3 hours to make our way around and sample the 12 gins being showcased, all I can say is where did the time go!  Everyone manning the stands was so friendly and we had long chats with all of them (that’s probably where the time went, I do like to talk!) and each and every one of them was so passionate about their gin, it really did make for a great afternoon.  As a recent convert to gin it still astounds me that there is such a variety of flavours, you would think gin is gin, but hell no, once those botanicals get into the mix this is where the fun begins! 

Thomas Martin-Wells from Slake Gin

A number of gins that I tried had a very strong flavour when tried neat however add a mixer and wow they become something completely different.  I had always said I could probably only drink one or two g&t’s in a sitting and that was mainly due to the tonic, there is only so much quinine my mouth can take!  That said, tonics and mixers have come a long way over the years and Fentimans certainly seem to be leading the way that’s for sure, so much choice.  Every gin has it’s perfect partner be it a tonic, mixer or garnish, so many combinations that you can experiment with, bring on the gin I say!

Gail Woolston from Brilliant Gim
 The day itself was split up into two sessions, afternoon and evening, each session holding 100 people which for me was perfect. At previous events I have been to, there were far too many people, you had to queue for ages to get a sample or a drink at the bar, and you didn’t really get the time to talk to the distillers. However there was none of that here, a great event put on by the Brighton Gin Club, great choice of gins not to mention the mixers and tonics, all in all top marks Jo and Jason and certainly great value for money -  I have never been given gin to take away before in a goody bag!

Sarah Thompson from Blackdown Gin
 On the day we got to sample the following luscious gins (and I would recommend each and every one of them):-
  • Blackdown Gin (they also do vodka, vermouth and a blackcherry liqueur)
  • Brighton Gin
  • Brilliant Gin
  • Cabin Pressure
  • Foxhole Gin
  • Mayfield Sussex Hop Gin (this made what little hair I have left curl!)
  • Old Hove Gin
  • One Sage Gin
  • Simpsons Old Tom Gin
  • Slake Sussex Dry Gin (I am lucky enough to be paying them a visit this very weekend)
  • Tom Cat Dry Sussex Gin
Old Hove Gin
Over the coming months I will be featuring recipes on my blog using some of the gins showcased at the festival and will provide a bit more info about the distiller used when I do.  I have to say, having asked the distillers about cooking with gin, the recurring answer was to make gravlax, well, trust me, I shall be coming up with a few tasty recipes a tad different so watch this space!



The Brighton Gin Club put on a number of events in and around Brighton throughout the year so visit their website for details of up and coming events:- www.brightonginclub.com

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Kankun Chicken Tinga Tacos

Kankun Chicken Tinga Tacos

  • 1 jar Kankun tinga cooking sauce
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 8 small flour tortillas
  • Handful of crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 radishes thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander 

Method:
In a medium sized pot heat a small amount of vegetable oil, add the chicken breasts and brown off 5-10 minutes, turn the chicken a few times otherwise it may stick to the pan!  Add the jar of sauce and cook for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken to a chopping board and shred using two forks.  Return the shredded chicken to the pan of sauce and mix so the chicken is evenly coated in the sauce.  

Plate up your tortillas, add a good helping of the chicken to each one, top with some crumbled feta, add a dollop of sour cream and then the spring onions and radish slices and finally a sprinkle of the coriander.

This is my take on the chicken tinga taco and even if I do say so myself, God, that was good.  My good friends at Kankun Sauce provided the tinga sauce so I can't take all the credit.  These are from a new range of cooking sauces that they have brought out and this is the first one I have tried, all I can say is if the other two are as tasty as this then they are onto a sure-fire winner here.  The tinga sauce is packed full of flavour and has a nice heat behind it, so much so I had no use for chopped jalapeño peppers as the sauce was plenty hot enough without being uncomfortable!  Having looked at a few tinga taco recipes they mainly seemed to consist of the meat, some onion and coriander, so I thought I would add a few more ingredients to the mix which I'm glad I did, this was so good I want it again tomorrow but I don't have any more sauce!  

Keep up the good work Kankun, you had me with your chilli sauces and mole and now you have me yet again with these cooking sauces! Love love love them! Please give them a try, if you love Mexican food you will love these, you don't need to go out to get your Mexican fix you can now do it for yourself at home.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium onion cut into 12 wedges
  • 2 different coloured peppers, deseeded and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 225g can of water chestnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 25g chunk of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Sauce
  • 425g can of pineapple chunks in natural juice
  • 2 tbsp cornflower
  • 150ml water
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes

Method:
To make the sauce, drain the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and keep all the juice, you should have about 150ml.  Put the cornflower in a large bowl and stir in 3 tablespoons of the pineapple juice to make a smooth paste.  Add the remaining juice and the water, then stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

Cut each chicken breast into 8 or 9 pieces.  Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok and stir-fry the onions and peppers for 2 minutes over a high heat.  Drain the water chestnuts and cut them in half horizontally.

Add the remaining oil and the chicken to the pan and stir-fry for 2 minutes until coloured on all sides.  Add the garlic, ginger, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30-60 seconds.

Give the cornflour and pineapple mixture a good stir and add it to the pan with the chicken and vegetables.  Stir well, season with some ground black pepper and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 4-6 minutes until the sauce is thickened and glossy and the chicken is tender and cooked throughout, turning the chicken and vegetables a few times.  I served this with some egg fried rice.

This recipe is taken from The Hairy Dieters “How to love food and loose weight” – Each portion has 288 calories and should provide 4 portions.

I had my doubts that this would be as good as my local takeaway, especially when I put all the liquid mix into the dish it just didn’t look right but as you can see from the photo, it all came together and looks just like the takeaway version, but I have to say this had more flavour and for a lot less calories so you don’t have to feel guilty anymore about having the takeaway feeling at home!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Dark and Stormy - Adults only ice lollies!

Dark and Stormy - Adults only ice lollies!

  • 50ml sugar syrup (this appears to be readily available in most supermarkets)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Zest of half a lime
  • Slice the remaining half of the lime into very thin slices
  • 50ml dark rum
  • 200ml Pepsi Ginger or ginger beer


Method:
Keeping the lime slices to one side, mix together all the ingredients and pour into your lolly mould, add a lime slice to each mould and pop into the freezer.  These are best left overnight, however they are still somewhat soft, I assume this is due to the alcohol, so make sure you have a handy piece of kitchen towel to hand!

Following the success of my gin & tonic ice lollies I thought I would give another of my favourite alcoholic tipples a go, rum! In the previous recipe I made sugar syrup by heating sugar in water until it dissolved, this time I tried ready made sugar syrup that I stumbled upon in the supermarket, this way saves a bit of time as you don't have to wait for the sugar water to cool down.  



Well, what can I say, another success, so glad the weather has picked up again as these went down a treat today, Mmm, now what to try next, any suggestions?

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Flash Stuffed Chicken Pockets with Red Pesto and Ricotta

Flash Stuffed Chicken Pockets with Red Pesto and Ricotta
  • 2 skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
  • 6 basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red pesto
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices of prosciutto, pancetta or streaky bacon
  • 2 sprigs or rosemary or thyme
  • Olive oil
For the dressing
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180° C  (fan 160°C)/350°F gas mark 4.
Place the chicken breasts on a chopping board. Place your non-cutting hand flt over the breast and using a small sharp knife, cut a small pocket in the side of each breast for your stuffing, taking care not to cut right through.
To make stuffing, mix the ricotta, basil, and 1 tablespoon of the pesto together, adding a good grinding of black pepper.
Carefully stuff each breast with a spoonful of the stuffing. Season the chicken breast with a little salt and pepper, and wrap it in a slice of prosciutto, pancetta or bacon to seal the pocket. If you have them, tuck the rosemary or thyme under the wrapping, then tuck the ends underneath the breast and place on a baking tray.
Glaze each breast with the remaining pesto mixed with a little oil to dilute it to brushing consistency and bake in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until each chicken breast is cooked right through.
Make the dressing by whisking the oil and vinegar together with some seasoning to taste. Drizzle this over the chicken to serve. Credit to Laura Santtini

If you are stuck for recipe ideas with chicken then look no further. This flash stuffed chicken with red pesto and ricotta will tickle your taste buds. This dish is perfect with a variety of accompaniments but for tonight we are going with crushed new baby potatoes, green beans, tender stem broccoli and asparagus tips, drizzled with a mix of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Prawn, mango, avocado salad with an orange and coriander dressing


Prawn, mango, avocado salad with an orange and coriander dressing

  • Pack of cooked king prawns
  • 1 mango, peeled and sliced
  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
  • Bag of watercress
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Large handful of chopped coriander 
  • Cayenne pepper

Method:
Mix together the orange juice, olive oil, coriander and salt and pepper (to taste).  The mix should emulsify and thicken when you combine it, you will know when you see it.

Plate up with the a large handful of watercress on each plate and top with the prawns (having rinsed them first), avocado and mango then drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle some cayenne pepper over the top to give it that little kick.

Seriously, this recipe is so quick and easy to make its unreal but it has such a great taste you would think it takes longer to get something that good!  Great for this time of year sitting out with a cold one, what more could you want?

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Chicken with Hash Browns

Chicken with Hash Browns

  • 1 large potato
  • ½ tbsp. Coconut oil
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
  • 3 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 chicken breast fillet, sliced into strips
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp Turkish chilli flakes
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • White wine vinegar

Method:
Put a saucepan of water on to boil, add a couple tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Grate the unpeeled potato and squeeze out any excess liquid.



Melt half of the coconut oil in a small non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat. 



Add a large handful of the grated potato and use a spatula to flatten it out across the base of the pan, naturally add more potato if required. 



Fry the potato for around 5 minutes and then carefully turn it over in the pan and fry for a further 5 minutes until the potato is cooked through and has a nice crisp to it.



Melt the remaining coconut oil in a second frying pan, chuck in the spring onions, chilli, tomatoes and chicken, stir fry for around 5 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.



Crack the eggs into individual ramekin dishes and once the water is boiling tip them straight in and cook on a rolling boil for 3 minutes, this should give you lovely runny yolks. Once cooked lift out with a slotted spoon and set aside.



When the chicken has cooked add the Turkish chilli flakes and the spinach to the pan and toss together with the other ingredients until the spinach is fully wilted.



Slide the hash brown onto a piece of kitchen roll in order to soak up any excess oil then plate it up. Top with the chicken and spinach mix and finish with the poached eggs and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

This recipe is taken from Joe Wicks, "Lean in 15" cook book, the original recipe uses rose harissa, however I`m not a fan of harissa so I substituted this with the Turkish chilli flakes. This is a light yet filling meal, ideal for lunch or dinner and its one of those dishes you can mix up with a variety of ingredients that you may have in the fridge or store cupboard, mushrooms, bell pepper, spiralised courgette/butternut squash in place of the spinach, make it your own!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

SAGARDI – The Summer Menu Review

Last year I was invited along to one of the launch parties for the SAGARDI restaurant in Shoreditch (please check out my review), the food was amazing -  so imagine how excited I was when my partner won a competition on the SAGARDI facebook page to go and sample the new summer menu!

On arrival we were greeted by the marketing and sales executive for the restaurant, Jon who explained that the Chef would be coming out with each dish that he had prepared and would talk us through it. 

Pan-fried txistorra

 We were served drinks and a plate of traditional pan fried txistorra (that’s chorizo to you and I) was brought out to us along with some sourdough bread and olive oil in which to dip it. The txistorra was meaty goodness and then some, it had a great smokey flavour to it which went down well with the bread and olive oil. The bread we were told was made fresh each day and purchased from a local bakery, the bakery itself is only able to make just over 200 hundred loaves a day and once they are sold, that’s it, it was therefore a good job for us that SAGARDI seem to have a standing order with them, otherwise we would have missed out on this wonderful bread.

Tomato salad using meta de cabra, cor de bou and cherry tomatoes

Having polished off the txistorra the Chef brought out the next dish, a simple farmhouse tomato salad using meta de cabra, cor de bou and cherry tomatoes from the SAGARDI garden which are flown in each week. The tomatoes were dressed in olive oil and finely sliced Ibarra chilli with a sprinkling of salt, which really brought out the flavours. When I say simple, I mean that in as much that it was an easy dish to prepare, however there was nothing simple about the flavour of the dish, you seriously cannot beat the flavour from a home grown tomato which coupled with the olive oil and chilli made for such a tasty course and one that I will be making myself when my own tomatoes ripen!

To be frank, I would have been more than happy to have just devoured a plate of the tomato salad, however there was more foody goodness to come and we were soon brought out a plate of grilled hake “kokotxas” from Hondarribia. 

Grilled hake Kokotxas from Hondarribia

On first look I thought they were fat anchovies but it turns out the are hake chins, who knew they had chins! Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t really eat fish so you can therefore imagine what was going through my mind, the first thing being I hope Scott likes them because he is going to have to clear the plate! Well obviously it would be rude not to try them, you can’t really comment on something unless you have at least tasted it. Well what do you know, I like hake chins! I was seriously surprised by the texture and also the flavour - kind of salty and somewhat gelatinous. We were told that this is a real delicacy and very difficult to find outside of the Basque Country. The kokotxas come from hake that are at least 4kg in weight and are cooked in a charcoal grill with pretty much nothing else done to them in order that they retain the natural flavours and texture.

Pagos de Araiz Rosado Navarra

With each of the dishes that we were served, the sommelier paired them with an appropriate wine, I have to say the rose that we tried, Pagos de Araiz Rosado Navarra, was by far my favourite, the aroma alone was so intense and fruity.

White tuna from the port of Bermeo

Following the kokotxas the Chef then brought out white tuna from the port of Bermeo which was served with a fresh tomato sauce and green Ibarra chilli peppers. Again, fish! Was someone out to get me? Well, what can I say other than I loved it, the tuna was so meaty, I almost forgot I was eating fish! The sauce that accompanied the tuna along with the chilli peppers really enhanced the flavour, luckily we had more bread as well too mop up the sauce, waste not want not as they say!

There was me thinking that was it, hell no! Chef comes out with yet another plate, this time beef sweetbreads with roasted tomatoes and yes, I was thinking exactly the same as you are now, however as it turns out these were not those type of sweetbreads, these were from the neck, phew!

Beef sweetbreads with roasted tomatoes
I really couldn’t actually give you a description of what these tasted of, they were nice, especially the edges which had crisped up, they were soft in the middle and the roasted tomatoes complimented them nicely but again, its difficult for me to liken them to anything, I guess you will have to give them a try yourself and if you do, let me know what you think.

Peach in txakoli syrup with vanilla ice cream

Just when you think you couldn’t eat another thing, Chef brings out dessert (time for me to loosen my belt!), peach in txakoli syrup with vanilla ice cream. Just incase you are unsure, txkoli is a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine produced in the Basque Country. This was very nice, however at the time I was slightly disappointed as I was expecting to be wowed after having had such a wonderful meal with so many different flavours and taste sensations, that said and in hindsight, it was actually the perfect end to the meal, simple and light, there was no need for anything heavy or intense.

We rounded the meal off with a cappuccino along with dark truffles with a hint of Sagardoz apple liqueur. I have to say whoever makes the truffles deserves a Knighthood for services to the country, oh my days, these just melted in your mouth, I think they should box them up and sell them! Mmm now there’s an idea I might take up with them!


What can I say, it was a very welcome return to SAGARDI, we were once again knocked out by the amazing food and the great service, I couldn’t fault a thing and hey, I ate fish! There is plenty of choice on the menu so certainly something for everyone, we got to sample some of the highlights from the menu which I am sure is going to be a big hit. Thank you SAGARDI for a great evening and for looking after us so well.   

Cider Pouring at Sagardi



Had lovely feedback from Sagardi for my review! It's great when restaurants appreciate my reviews!


Sunday, 9 July 2017

London Paella School - Cooking Classes

Following the launch of the London Paella School I was lucky enough to be invited back to attend one of the actual classes.  My partner and I popped along to the Open Kitchen in Hoxton to learn how to cook "Paella de Marisco", or to you and I, that's seafood paella!  

There was a small group of 6 of us which was actually quite nice as you got to have a good chat with everyone and the kitchen wasn't cramped with too many people!  That said there was plenty of room in the kitchen with around 12 individual workstations which were fully equipped with everything needed for the class.


Before the class commenced, our teacher, Xavi served us some tapa, chorizo, manchego cheese and olives which we washed down with cava and an orange liquor called "Carmeleta - Licor de Naranja", which I have to say was so refreshing and much needed on a hot day!  


The liquor isn't available in the UK as yet but Xavi will soon be importing this and once he does our names are down for a couple of bottles!  I highly recommend it and can't wait to try it with some gin which I think will be a perfect combination.

All the ingredients were laid out, ready for us to chop
As there were 6 of us we paired off and then Xavi ran through the ingredients with us and talked us through the cooking process, thankfully we also had the recipe typed up for us as there was a fair bit to take in and my memory isn't what it used to be!



Whilst the ingredients were all measured out for us we none the less had to do plenty of chopping and dicing, which those who know me will realise I was in heaven, I do like a uniform dice lol.  Whilst we cracked on Xavi and his assistant moved between the groups lending a hand if required, answering our questions and ensuring we had everything we needed.  As well as making the paella we were also going to make a traditional "Ensaladilla Rusa, which is a  tuna and potato salad, so it was handy there were two of us as there was a fair bit to do and remember!  

Making the fish stock 
Once all the prep is done, chopping the veg and squid, cleaning the prawns and making the stock, everything else just falls into place as you go and whilst I was a bit daunted before we started it all began to make sense thank god lol.  

Adding the oil and salt to the traditional paella pan
Frying the squid and tomatoes
Hands-on advice from Chef Xavi
Adding the paella rice
 Having never made paella before, this was a real eye opener as it seemed a lot simpler than I had first thought and unlike making a risotto, there was no endless stirring, once you measured out the paella rice in the traditional way (making a cross of rice half a finger deep above the top of the stock and ingredients) you then pretty much left it to cook away, which was handy as we had the salad to finish!

Making Mayo from scratch

The Ensaladilla Rusa pretty much comprised of boiled potatoes, peas, pickles, carrots, boiled eggs and tuna which was all mixed together with homemade Mayo (yes, we made Mayo and who knew how easy it was!)



This was then plated up in a sort of Christmas pudding shape and coated with mayo and topped with peppers and olives and grated egg, and if I do say so, it tasted good.



By the time the salad had been made everything else had come together and we were ready to sit down and sample our creations over a bottle of beer.  I have to say I was really pleased that when serving up our paella we had managed to create a crispy bottom, or the technical term being socarrat, a golden caramelised crust, which is so intense in flavour.



Whilst we had all made the same recipe it was interesting to see that all of our efforts looked different to each others, I suppose this comes down to individual artistic licence however everyone loved what they had made and it was nice to sit back and relax with our lunch after all our hard work.



All in all the class, including having lunch, lasted around 3 hours and costs £55 per person, which given that you are learning a new skill and having lunch and drinks on top I think is darn good value for money and a great way to spend a few hours. Would I recommend a class at the London Paella School? What do you think? YES!  This is a great way to meet new people, and one lady had come on her own and was visiting from Dubai!  



Please visit The London Paella School for details of their future classes, they even do a singles night!  What a way to meet the future love of your life, they do say the way to a mans heart is through his stomach!

Big thanks to Xavi and his team for looking after us and more importantly for teaching us a new skill in a fun, friendly and relaxed way.