Monday, 30 December 2013

Elephant and Castle Hotel, Newtown, Powys.

I'm sure many of you have enjoyed the annual work Christmas meals out with colleagues over the festive season. I'm always intrigued to what restaurants will offer this time of the year, and whether they will offer the traditional turkey and Christmas pudding or will they completley take customers by surprise with an unusual twist or take on traditional dishes. When the Elephant and Castle Hotel in Newtown, Powys, was chosen as the venue for my works Christmas too, I was not expecting great food, as my previous experience of eating in hotel restaurants has been disastorous.
The Christmas menu was £25 for a three course meal and evening entertainement which I considered to be good value for money. The location of the hotel is situated on  the main high street in Newtown,  and is directly behind the Elephant and Castle pub and we had to approach the hotel via the pub.
Initally when I walked into the pub, I hoped that I wouldn't be eating my meal in there as it was a typical "pub" and as this was the first time I visited I was unsure where the hotel part would be located. Luckily, our group were quickly escorted into the hotel where groups of different people who were also  having their work Christmas meal were taking their seats.
The room where the meal was served was incredibly light; the walls were white and appropriately festivly decorated. Within 20 minutes of being seated, several fresh bread baskets were placed on each table. The smell of the fresh bread quickly filled the room, and I was impressed with the large chunks of bread and that the bread certainly looked "homemade". For my starter, I chose smoked salmon and prawns which was served with a slice of toasted bread and a wedge of lemon. There was plenty of salmon for the starter and I could tell that it was a premium quality of salmon due to the taste, texture and appearance. The prawns were quite small and was hidden underneath the salmon; I would have prefered king prawns to match the portion of salmon that was given. My colleague ordered the eggs benedict, which I thought looked far more superior and tantaslising compared to my starter, and my colleague reported that her starter was divine and decadent.

Elephant and Castle Hotel
The main event, or should I say the main course was turkey breast with stuffing, chipolotas and roast potatoes. Alternatives offered was roast beef, leg of lamb and a vegetarian option which was a spinach and feta cheese filo pie. My turkey was moist, succulent and tender and the roast potatoes were cooked through and crispy. All mains were served with a selection of seasonal vegetables, unfortunately the sprouts were not cooked properly and were unedible, but the broccoli and carrots were cooked properly and I gladly piled the cooked vegetables on my plate.


Elephant and castle.

The piece de resistance was the chocolate torte, which was (a shocker) too rich for me. The presentation of the torte was sublime and the torte was served with ice cream and a berry sauce.  I absolutely adore chocolate, chocolate cakes and bakes, but I found this to be chocolatey, if there is such as thing, too dense and too rich. I managed to eat half of this but had to hold up the white flag and left the remainder.

Having my Christmas meal here has changed my opinion on hotel restauarnats and would perhaps dine out at more hotel restaurants following my experience.

Positives - Good value for money, food was presented well, food was pleasant, the restaurant was light.
Negatives - The sprouts were not cooked properly.

I reviewed this restaurant because I love good food and am addicted to eating out.

xxx

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Thursday, 26 December 2013

Jamie's Italian Birmingham review.

Jamie's Italian, a restaurant chain named after the TV chef, Jamie Oliver, first opened his chain of Italian restaurants in 2008. Jamie Oliver's reason for opening a chain of Italian restaurants after stating that he wanted "to open a UK restaurant that reflected the passionate, humble and sociable attitude of Italians towards food". Opened in 2010, Jamie's Italian Birmingham, is still one of the trendiest places to dine out to in the West Midlands, and one of the more reasonable priced restaurants where a celebrity chef has attached his name to.
Jamie's Italian is situated in the Bull Ring, the heart of Birmingham shopping centre and is situated in a prime location after a hard days shopping. Inside this restaurant there are two floors for diners and if you would like to recreate the dishes served here, a selection of cookbooks and other food items for sale. There is also a very impressive open area where you can observe the chefs preparing the dishes. I was also impressed with how light the restaurant throughout. The staff were attentive throughout my dining experience and I am sure there must be a policy that to obtain employment at this restaurant that you must be young, attractive and slim, as all the waiters/ waitresses fitted this description.
Jamie's Italian Birmingham.


Jamie's Italian.

Jamie's Italian.

Menu.


Menu.

This review in cooperated my two dining experiences here, the first time I dined here I ordered the Italian bread selection, which includes homemade rosemary foccaccia, sourdough, crispy music bread, cibatta and tortano with olive oil and balsamic vinegar which costs £3.75. I found the bread selection to be quite small, I would have liked more pieces (as it was shared between 4). The foccacia and cibatta was moist, well-baked and the rosemary was in-cooperated well in the foccacia; I could taste the rosemary with each bite. The bread selections is one of the cheapest starter dishes as some starters, such as the planks retails £6.85, which I consider to be pricey.
Bread selection. 

Steak and posh chips.

The bread selection was followed by sirloin steak which was served with a tomato based sauce and watercress, this dish was around £16, and I had to purchase the posh chips at £3.75, separately. The steak was a generous portion size, seasoned well, tender (I asked for it to be medium), , moist, indulgent and tantalising.  The posh chips were out of this world, they were by far the best chips I had ever tasted and I think this to do with the fresh Parmesan and the truffle oil which gave the chips a slight, light, mushroom taste.  I vowed to return to Jamie's Italian based on me tasting the posh chips.

The second time I visited Jamie's Italian I informed the restaurant that it was my birthday and shared my gold member number, anyone can sign up to be. I ordered the "worlds best olives" at £3.75; this included large green olives, black olive tapenade and crispy music bread. I found the crispy music bread to thin for my liking. I found the green olives to be slightly sour for my taste buds and I was not alone in this opinion as my friends also agreed with me. I did however enjoy the tapenade which I found rich, flavoursome and the perfect accompaniment to the selection of breads that were ordered.
Olives and tapenade.

Bread selection
For my main meal, I ordered sirloin steak with chips and a salsa style sauce. I actually wanted to order the 30 day matured rib eye steak with wild mushrooms, peppery endives and funky chips for £19.50, but unfortunately this dish had sold out and there was no rib eye steak available, so this was the second choice. 
Steak and funky chips.
As it was my birthday and I am part of the gold club, my table was given a free bottle of Prosecco which was very kind of the staff. I was also pleased that the Prosecco was light and crisp.
Prosecco

The staff at Jamie's Italian must be feeling very generous on customers birthdays, as unbeknown to me, a group of staff gathered around and began to sing happy birthday and presented me with a candle lit chocolate brownie. The brownies were gooey, chocolatey and served with amaretto ice-cream and caramlised amaretto popcorn; the combination off all three was tantalising on my tastebuds and was delightful for a chocoholic like myself.
Chocolate brownies.

I would recommend visiting Jamie's Italian in Birmingham if you like flavoursome, fresh Italian food in the heart of Birmingham.

Positives: Good value for money, (especially if it is your birthday), brilliant location, generous portions, indulgent menu choices, attentive staff.

Negatives:  The 30 day rib steak was not available.

I reviewed this restaurant because I love good food and am addicted to eating out.

xxx Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon Square Meal
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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours xxx



xxx
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Monday, 23 December 2013

Panettone French toast

It's almost Christmas (yay) and i'm sure many of us are looking forward to the seasons festivities, spending quality time with the family and slightly indulging ourselves. Since starting my food blog in 2012, and sharing my culinary journey i've embraced Christmas traditions from other cultures. In my household we have a mixture of English and Caribbean foods, such as the traditional turkey with the classic rice and peas. I know many would probably tuck into a hearty trifle or a boozy Christmas pudding, but I usually have West Indian Fruit Cake. The weeks leading up to Christmas I like to now try different countries cuisine, Birmingham German's Christmas market is a great place to start: I recently purchased some German Lebuken, and this dish, Panettone French toast is a twist on an Italian classic. This recipe features from Nigellissima, and is a doddle to make or should I say assembly. I haven't made panettone before but for £2 from Morrisons, why bother when you can buy? All you do, to make this dish, is slice the pannettone and then dip into an eggy mixture, fry for a minute on each side and dust with icing sugar. What you are left with is gloriously sweet, crispy, delicious and slightly crunchy pudding that young and old will enjoy.
Here is how my panettone French toast:

Panettone French toast with icing sugar.


Panettone French toast.

The recipe from the panettone French toast can be found on this link.

xxx
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Saturday, 21 December 2013

Christmas Chutney

As it's the Christmas season, I'm in the full swing of eating the seasonal foods and cooking and baking festive delights. It's been a long time since I've made chutney, but thought I must make a Christmas chutney from my favourite and only Christmas book, Nigella's Christmas. The reason why I love chutney so much is that it is a delicious accompaniment to roast meats such as turkey, ham and even beef. I am looking forward to eating spoonfuls of this Christmas chutney on Boxing Day with a selection of cold meats, cheeses and perhaps some crusty bread to mop up the flavours. I would advise on making the chutney two months ahead, as this will allow the chutney to mature and flavour.
The the chutney is a doddle to cook and will leave your home with an aromatic flavour, the chutney also has a vibrant red flavour from the fresh cranberries. Once matured the flavours are sweet and earthy flavour which makes the chutney quite addictive.
Here is how my chutney turned out:
Christmas chutney.

I first started by placing all the ingredients in a pot and added the sugar to the ingredients.
Christmas chutney.

Christmas chutney.

I left the mixture to boil for 45 minutes and stirred occasionally to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan.
Christmas chutney.

Once the chutney is cooked ladle into sterile jars and leave to store for up to two months before serving with delicious cold meats.

The recipe can be found here.
xxx
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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Grand Imperial London Review.

I recently spent time in London which is not something that I do that often, due to a busy weekday schedule and my weekends being taken up with various other commitments. I definitely hope to spend more time in 2014 visiting London, taking pictures of all the famous landmarks and eating out at all the wonderful restaurants, perhaps even a Michelin star restaurant, or perhaps visit a gastropub or visit just one of the many food markets in the city: all would send me into food heaven. I'm quite an organised person so when visiting an unfamiliar city or town or even when I travel on holiday, I would usually have the restaurant that I want to visit in mind and pre-booked.  As I knew I was visiting London, I scoured Groupon for the best deals in London, and Grand Imperial London offered an irresistible deal that was quite difficult to pass up: lobster meal for two, with a side dish plus a glass of champagne all for £38. Although I'm not usually a fan of hotel food (as the portion sizes can be underwhelming), I thought I would take a chance of this barginous offer and wouldn't mind having to order additional side dishes. What also appealed to me is the easy access to the hotel as it's right next to Victoria station which is handy if you have just finished from seeing all the sights and want to find a restaurant quick and easy. The service overall was good, I had to remind one of the waiters that I ordered the Groupon with the champagne included as I thought he forgot but he promptly brought this out after I mentioned it. I think there were quite a few people who were also dining out on this deal as I saw several lobster platters going to different tables.


I have never had lobster Cantonese style before, as I usually eat lobster when I visit the Caribbean, due to lobster being very expensive within the UK. In my mind I remembered eating lobster in Jamaica where it was boiled with no additional sauce and the lobster meat was very tender and succulent. With my only experience of eating lobster being in the Caribbean I was surprised that the lobster was cooked in a mild ginger and spring onion sauce, which complimented the tender texture of the lobster meat: the ginger added a fiery kick to my taste buds which I could taste with every mouthful and the spring onion added a complimentary flavour. I chose a side dish of steamed rice and a braised glass noddle and vermicelli ( I paid for the second side dish separately) which helped not only to complete the meal but to also soak up the flavours, as the lobster was quite rich, and also because I love carbs.
Lobster.

Lobster.

Would I return here again? Yes, the service was good, the food was beautifully presented, tasted delicious and I experienced a new flavour combination. I would only, however, visit Grand Imperial London  on a Groupon or special deal, as the meal was half price, I wouldn't want to justify spending £76 (or £36 each) on this dish.

I reviewed this restaurant because I love good food and am addicted to eating out.



Grand Imperial on Urbanspoon Square Meal xxx
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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Birmingham German Christmas Market.

German Christmas markets have become a symbol of Christmas time at the major cities within the UK and a great place for food lovers to visit. The Birmingham Christmas market has been going for some time now and it is the nearest German market to where I live but for some reason I have not had the opportunity to visit before now. I visited recently and I definitely feel I have missed out by not going before. I warn you that there will be hundreds and hundreds of people there and it can get very crowded but it's worth it to see the numerous stalls offering delicious food goodies.
First up for tasting traditional German food, is the symbolic German Pretzel: these were retailing at £2 for a plain pretzel from Pretzel Bakery.
Pretzel Bakery.

Pretzels.
The bagels were crispy, moist and delicious. Next up for testing was gingerbread, they were beautifully decorated, hanged and colourful. The gingerbread were in a variety of shapes and decorated with many slogans in German and English. My chosen gingerbread stated "I love you" in German.
Gingerbread.

I had to visit the frankfurter stall and purchase some traditional frankfurters with all the sauce and trimmings, which was delicious and a real treat.
Frankfurters.

Frankfurters

Frankfurter stand.

To wash my delicious frankfurter with, nothing quite beats mulled wine.
Mulled wine.
What I was impressed the most about Birmingham's German Christmas market was the variety in the chocolate stalls. If chocolate is being sold, I'm a happy bunny.
Chocolate.
Chocolate.

Chocolate.
There were even a stand that sold cute snowmen.
Snowmen.

If chocolate are not to your fancy, then there were other alternatives such as a doughnut stall or the crepes stall, that sold a delicious nutella crepe, and my new favourite treat, baileys crepe.
Donuts.

Crepes

Crepes.
Nutella.
I really look forward to going next year, and if you live nearby to Birmingham, you should check it out, it certainly got me in the mood for Christmas.

xxx
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Monday, 9 December 2013

Xmas Brownies.

It's December so that can only mean one thing, Christmas recipes. This is the first year that I have shared my own recipes on my blog and thought it would only be right to share my recipe for Christmas brownies. I love brownies, they are gooey, moist and delicious and I have added two Christmas ingredients in this bake: glace cherries and Brazil nuts. With every bite, the glace cherries and Brazil nuts really come through and enhances this classic tray bake. I love the texture of the glace cherries in this bake and will probably stock up on some so I can make this bake in the new year. I like to add Christmas decorations (mainly green, red and white sprinkles which can be brought from Home Bargains) to make my Christmas brownies more colourful.  My only recommendation is that this should be eaten with mulled wine for a true experience.
Here is how my Christmas brownies turned out:
Christmas Brownies.


Christmas brownies.

This was super simple as I used the microwave to melt the chocolate, butter and also to make the ganache.
Melted chocolate.


Butter added to melted chocolate.

I then added the eggs, vanilla and sugar to the mixture and mixed everything together.
Eggs and sugar added.

I then added plain flour to the mixture, followed by glace cherries and Brazil nuts and mixed into the mixture.
Glace cherries and Brazil nuts.

Once everything was in-cooperated I placed the mixture into a brownie tin and baked for around 35 minutes.
Brownie mixture.

Brownie mixture pre-bake.

Once baked, I left to cool. Meanwhile I heated 100g dark chocolate and 50g butter in the microwave in 30 second blasts and left to cool.
Baked brownies.

Lazy girls ganache.

Recipe - makes 15 squares
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
115g butter, plus extra for greasing
3 eggs, beaten
5ml vanilla extract
300g caster sugar
200g glace cherries
50g Brazil nuts, chopped

For the chocolate topping
100g dark chocolate
50g butter

Method
1) Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas mark 5. Grease a square cake tin or brownie tin and line the base with baking parchment.
2) Break the dark and milk chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and heat in the microwave in 30 second blasts *4 and stir after each blast until the chocolate is melted.
3) Once the chocolate has melted stir in the beaten eggs. vanilla and sugar. Mix all the ingredients well together.
4) Sift the flour into the chocolate mixture. Add the glace cherries and chopped Brazil nuts until combined. Pour the mixture into the brownie tin.
5) Bake for around 30-35 minutes. The brownies are cooked when the mixture is set yet moist, leave to cool in the tin.
6) When the brownies are baking make the chocolate gancache topping. Place the dark chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and place in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir.  Leave to set and spread on top of the brownies once they are cool.

I am entering my Christmas brownies to a number of blogging challenges this month. First up is Calendar Cakes whose theme this months Jingle Bell Rocks, this is hosted by the lovely http://www.dollybakes.co.uk and http://lauralovescakes.blogspot.co.uk/.

Next up is Lets Cook Christmas Food hosted by Nayana from http://www.simplysensationalfood.com/. This theme focuses on vegetarian Christmas party food.

Next up is Alpha Bakes which is hosted by http://themorethanoccasionalbaker.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://www.carolinemakes.net/. This monthly theme asked followers to bake a recipe from a randomly selected letter, this month it is X.

I'm also entering my Xmas Brownies to Tea Time Treats which is hosted by http://www.whatkatebaked.com/ and http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/. This months theme is Festive Foods Gifts, I think my brownies would make a lovely Christmas gift.

I'm also entering into Treat Petite  which is hosted by http://www.cakeyboi.com/ and http://www.thebakingexplorer.com/, this months theme is Happy Holidays.

Another blogging challenge I'm entering my Xmas brownies to is to Four Seasons Food hosted by http://www.delicieux.eu/ and http://www.eatyourveg.co.uk/, this month's theme is Party Food.
The Biscuit Barrel Challenge is up next, this month's theme is Quick and Easy which is hosted by http://idmuchratherbakethan.blogspot.co.uk/. Although my brownies are not biscuits, this blogging criteria is as long as the bake fits in a cookie or biscuit container the entry will be accepted. My brownies are super quick to make especially when you melt all the ingredients in the microwave :-).

Finally, I'm also submitting my Xmas brownies to Family Foodies which is hosted by http://www.eatyourveg.co.uk and http://bangermashchat.wordpress.com/. This months theme is Kids Christmas. I'm sure all the kiddies will love making and eating my  Xmas brownies.

xxx
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