Friday, 16 June 2017

The Ultimate Greek Salad

Summer is here. Summer to me is synonymous with barbecues, picnics, Summer fruit, outdoor eating and long evenings. I'm not the biggest fan of salads, but during the Summer months, I love nothing more than having a hearty salad served either on it's own with crispy bread and olives, or served with meat and fish. I really enjoy all the flavours in a traditional Greek salad: salty feta, cooling cucumber and moreish olives. Most people who enjoy food would have several Greek salad recipes. This recipe comes from the queen of cooking, Nigella Lawson. Her recipe for Ultimate Greek Salad is from the very appropriately titled "Forever Summer". The recipe, although great, omits cucumber, but I had to add this as for me it's not really an ultimate Greek Salad without  cucumber.

Recipe for Ultimate Greek Salad
1 red onion
1 tablespoon dried oregano
black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 good tomatoes
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 bulb fennel
4 ounces pitted black olives
14 ounces feta cheese
juice of half a lemon
(I used 1/2 cucumber, sliced and quartered)

Peel and finely slice the red onion then sprinkle over the oregano and grind over  some pepper. Pour in the vinegar and oil and toss well, cover with plastic wrap and leave to steep for a good 2 hours; longer's fine. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, then cut each quarter into quarters (always lengthwise), again so that you have a collection of very fine segments. Sprinkle the sugar and pinch of salt over them and leave whiles you get on with the rest. Wash the lettuce, tear into big pieces and put into a large, wide salad bowl. Slice the fennel, and add that, then, the olives and the feta, cut or crumbled into rough chunks, and toss well. Now add the tomatoes, the red onion and cucumber.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Review of Wagamama's New Summer Menu

A few weeks back, I was invited to check out the new Summer menu at Wagamama, Bull Ring. I'll be honest, although Wagamama is a very popular chain restaurant, I have never visited. I had a rough idea about the sort of cuisine that is offered here: Far Eastern fusion cuisine. I visited with an open mind and was looking forward to trying new and exciting dishes. Centrally located at Birmingham's Bull Ring, opposite St Martin's Church, the restaurant is light and airy and there is an open plan chef kitchen where you can watch the hard working chefs prepare  delicious meals.  The restaurant seating has long tables instead of usual circular tables, which gives it more of a social feel.

There were quite a few bloggers who attended and sampled the new Summer menu.  There was an emphasis on pairing alcohol to the new Summer dishes, which I found exciting, as again this was something new to me.  All our dishes were shared between my fellow bloggers so we could sample all the new dishes but not be overly stuffed. One thing I really liked about Wagamama is that all the dishes have nutritional information, which is quite a rare thing for restaurants, so you can enjoy your meal, whether you are watching your waist line as you have the opportunity to make wise choices. First up was the Repair Juice, which consisted of Kale, Apple, Lime and Pear at 186 calories. The juice was fresh and to be honest, I didn't know that Kale could taste so good. The Repair Juice was a palette cleanser which set up my palette for a wonderful range of fusion dishes.

Next up was the Beef Tataki, which is described as "lightly seared, marinated steak, thinly sliced and served chilled. Dressed with citrus ponzu and Japanese mayonnaise and served with a side of pickled beetroot and coriander. This is the first time I've ever ate uncooked beef, I was a little unsure what it would taste like. As the beef was thinly sliced and marinated in citrus, this made the dish safe to eat. The beef was tender, melted in my mouth and the dressing complimented beef.

I also sampled the Seared Nuoc Cham Tuna, which alongside the Beef Tataki the tuna was rare. I normally like my meat and fish cooked medium, I asked how long this was cooked for. Our attentive chef advised me that the tuna was cooked on a high heat for 30 seconds and then left to cool so the heat can be evenly distributed inside the tuna. The seared nuoc cham tuna steak was served on a bed of quiona with stir-fried kale, sweet potato and edamame beans, red onion and peppers, garnished with coriander. I found the dish to be very light and refreshing.

The above two dishes were paired with the New Zealand Yealands Estate Land Made which was crisp and zingy and complimented the fish courses well.

The following dish that I sampled was the Grilled Beam Donburi, fillets of sea bream dressed in a spicy white rice and teriyaki sauce. This dish also had carrots, pea shoots, spring onion and coriander with a side of kimichi. Our chef advised us to add the kimichi to the Grilled Beam Donburi which added a tangy flavour to it.

In between the courses there was beers to  compliment the grilled beam donburi. I love fiery and flavoursome curries and the next dishes to sample were the Chicken Samlay curry and Yasai Samla Curry. The samla curry consisted of a fragrant, spicy lemongrass and coconut curry with chicken, peppers, shiitake mushrooms and baby plum tomatoes. This was served with white rice and garnished with spring onion, chilli and coriander.

Our last savoury offering was the Sticky Pork Belly. The sticky pork belly was glazed with citrus and teriyaki and served with grilled miso aubergine,  spring onions, ginger and chilli. I absolutely adored the pork belly, it had a sweet tang to it and the pork belly in this dish was moreish. In fact, this was my favourite dish of the whole meal. I really enjoyed the pairing with aubergine - a pairing which I've never considered before.

After the feast of the savoury dishes was a trio of desserts inspired by the Far East. The first dessert sampled was the Lemongrass and Lime sorbet. Sharp, sweet and a palette cleanser, this dessert was refreshing and ideal if you fancied a lighter dessert.

Following the sorbet was the Chocolate Layer Cake, which was gluten free. The chocolate layer cake reminded me of Ferrero Rocher. Surprisingly, I found the cake to be light and the vanilla ice-cream complimented the chocolate layer cake.

Our final dessert was the Yuzu and Lemon Tart which was served with a raspberry compote. In case you are not aware (which I wasn't) Yusu is a Japenesse citrus fruit. This dish reminded me of a lemon custard tart. The pastry was crisp, the filling well set and I enjoyed the combination of the yuzu with the raspberry compote.

Disclaimer: I was invited to Wagamama to sample the new Summer menu. All opinions are my own.



Wednesday, 7 June 2017

May 17 Monthly Eatings

It's been such a long time since I wrote about my Monthly Eatings. In fact the last time I wrote about the monthly escapades was November 2016. It's not as though I have not been eating out, of course I have, but I just haven't had chance to write about it here, but as always, I've been happily post this on my social media. Anyway, in May I ate at all new restaurants, some have been on my list to check out, others have been a bit more spontaneous. This month's monthly eatings is from Wolverhampton, Bath and Newport and includes everything from a gastropubs, to burger joints and afternoon tea.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen - Newport

Kaspas - Newport

The Crown Wolverhampton  

Tredegar House

Hilton Bath

All meals were paid for myself. I'm looking forward to this month's restaurant eatings.

Friday, 2 June 2017

A simple Italian salad with Prosciutto di San Daniele & Grana Padano

I'm always interest to learn about products that have been around for centuries,  including this wonderful Prosciutto di San Daniele and Grana Padano cheese which was sent to me. I love Italian ingredients and welcome any opportunity to in-coperate this into every day ingredients. I normally eat proscuitto, the seasoned cured Italian ham with figs, with creamy pasta and topped with a hearty soup. Italian cheese is normally shaved over a loaded bowl of pasta.

I sampled the Prosciutto di San Daniele, pretty to look at, I found it had a mild delicate and sweet flavour. There are lots of different brands of Prosciutto, but the Prosciutto di San Daniele is produced only in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in Italy. It's has protected status. The Prosciutto does not have any additives or preservatives.

The Grana Padano cheese is one of the oldest cheeses in the world having been around for 900 years.  There are 3 ageing process which helps it achieve it's distinctive flavour:

  • Grana Padano (9 to 16 months): texture still creamy, only slightly grainy.
  • Grana Padano (over 16 months): crumblier texture, more pronounced taste.
  • Grana Padano Riserva (over 20 months): grainy, crumbly and full flavoured.

The Grana Padano cheese was very similar to Parmesan cheese, creamy and rich. I in-coperated the procuitto and grana padano cheese into a light and refreshing summer salad with additional ingredients of salad leaves, tomatoes and dates. 

Disclaimer: I received the samples for review purposes.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Zoe's Ghana Kitchen Review and Recipe

West African food is on the up in the UK. Once a relatively unknown cuisine, African food is becoming more visible in our cities, at food markets and on the TV competition programmes. With food bloggers and chefs showcasing a range of African recipes, West African food is becoming more popular than ever. Zoe Adjonyoh of Zoe's Ghana Kitchen pop up restaurants has been showcasing modern Ghanaian recipes for a number of years, her first cookbook is a celebration of the food of her heritage. Zoe's Ghana Kitchen pop up restaurants have been running for a number of years now, she has her own permanent restaurant at Pop Brixton. Most people have heard of Jollof Rice as a popular West African meal, but what about the other dishes that is eaten in this region. Step forward this cookery book which showcases around 100 recipes diverse, vibrant and exotic recipes. There are a range of diverse recipes from hearty stews, light dishes, vegetarian and a few recipes which includes more exotic ingredients, there is something for every season and every occasion. Zoe's Ghana Kitchen rrp is £25, but is at the time of writing on sale on Amazon for £11.49 which is an absolute bargain. 

I found this cookery book to be quirky and informative, Zoe's mixed heritage, her Ghanaian and Irish story really came through. This cookery book informs the reader of the spices and herbs that are key features in this cookery book. Zoe states "This book is for anyone with an interest in food and an inquisitive palate, and there should be something for everyone". There really is something for everyone.

The chapters in this book is divided into the following:

  • Yam 5 Ways & Plantain 5 Ways - recipes to try include: Golden Mashed Yam,  Yam and Plantain Peanut Curry and Tatale (Plantain Pancakes). 
  • Salads -  stand out recipes include: Avocado, Papaya and Ginger Salad,  Mango and Pineapple Salad, Plantain Salad and Scotch Bonnet Coleslaw.
  • Fish and Seafood - recipes to try include Pan-roasted Cod seasoned with Grains of Paradise, Whole Grilled Tilapia, Fried Barracuda and Fante Fried Fish with Shaved Papaya. 
  • Veggie - Stand out recipes to try include: Spinach and Agushi Curry, Ghana Dhal and Red Red Stew.
  • Meat -  recipes to try include: Lamb Cutlets with Peanut Sauce, Pork Ribs in Sticky Plantain Sauce, Jollof Fried Chicken, Jollof and Palm Soup.
  • Sides -A wonderful selection of side dishes including Baked Cassava Fries and Coconut Rice.
  • Desserts- Sand out recipes include Cubeb Spiced Shortbread, Honey & Plantain Ginger Cake and Coconut & Cassava Chips. 
  • Drinks & Snacks  - standout recipes include Black-Eyed Bean Fritters, Spiced Cassava Patties  and Mango-Lime Smoothie
  • Dips, Sauces & Salsas - Recipes to try include: Shito Mayo and Pineapple and Ginger Chutney. 
So far I've made the Kyenam (Fante Fried Fish), but I made it without the papaya and did not substitute this for mango. Despite the lack of papaya, I found the fish to be light, flavoursome and refreshing. There was a gentle heat kick to the dish and was incredibly easy to make. The Kyenam could be served with a vibrant salad or rice.

Recipe for Kyenam (Fante Fried Fish with Shaved Papaya)
4 whole fresh red snapper, small grouper or trout, scaled, gutted and washed.
Juice of 2 lemons
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50-75ml rapeseed oil or vegetable oil

5cm (2-inch) piece fresh root ginger, grated (unpeeled if organic)
1 teaspoon ground hot pepper or substitute cayenne pepper
1 red onion, very finely diced
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil or vegetable oil (optional)

To Garnish
1 red onion, sliced
lemon wedges
1 green or medium ripe papaya, shaved.

Trim the tail of each fish so that they fit neatly into a medium sized frying pan. Using a sharp cook's knife, carefully cut 2 evenly spaced diagonal slashes into either side of the fish. Place the prepared fish in a dish.
Using a mortar and pestle, or traditional Ghanian asanka pot if you have one, grind all the marinade ingredients together to a paste. Alternatively use a blender, adding oil if necessary to achieve past consistency.
Use half the marinade to rub into the slashes and inside the cavity of each fish, and the other half to coat the fish. Squeeze over the lemon juice and sprinkle sea salt liberally all over, then season with black pepper. Cover the dish with cling film and leave the fish to marinate in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours, preferably overnight.
Heat 50ml oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the fish, in batches and adding the extra oil if necessary, and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side, trying not to move the fish around too much and only turning once, until you've got nice crispy skins.
Remove the fish from the pan and drain on kitchen paper before serving hot with sliced ken key and shito, garnished with the sliced red onion, lemon wedges and shaving of papaya. 

Disclaimer: Thank you to the publishers for my review copy. 
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