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Friday, 27 December 2013

This Is The 'Ale' Of The Train

Over the last couple of years, in the name of research, I have been sampling a huge volume of craft beer. The growth of craft beers has been huge as beer drinkers become more sophisticated in their tastes. Whilst glancing through Virgin Train's Facebook pages earlier this year I read a post about the launch of 'Tilting Ale', a British real ale that has been brewed especially for Virgin Trains by Macclesfield brewers RedWillow Brewery.
The collaboration between Virgin Trains and RedWillow is aimed at improving the choice and quality to the passengers who travel up and down the UK on Virgin's high speed services. At the time I had no plans to be travelling anywhere by train in the near future but still keen to try out the new pale ale, I typed up a quick email to Virgin Customer Service in the hope that they could further my research.
After a lengthy wait for a reply, I received an email apologising for the tardiness in getting back to me, but also informing me that they had arranged for the brewery to send a couple of bottles out to me in order for me to sample and review.
What I kindly received was a presentation box which included two bottles of Tilting Ale and a branded pint glass carrying the same designs as the bottle label.
After a few hours chilling, (the beer - not me), I was ready to sample the goods. Virgin and the guys at RedWillow claim that the specially formulated pale ale evokes the spirit and speed of our tilting trains. A high-speed whoosh of flavour tilts smoothly into a light, hoppy taste and arrives, right on time, at a clean finish of bitter. Perfect for sipping at 125mph!
I have to agree! The Tilting Ale is definitely my kind of beer - golden in colour with fresh citrusy aromas with a light touch of hops. My first bottle went down very easily, maybe too easily - at 4.1% ABV, Tilting Ale would make a very good session beer but unfortunately as it is only available for sale on board Virgin Trains, your sessions could be limited to trips up and down the East or West Coast Mainline.
I think it's great that a company like Virgin have tried to offer something unique to their travellers and fantastic that they allowed an independent brewery to become involved with their innovative project.
Oddly enough, as I write this post, I am sitting in a Virgin Trains first class carriage on my way to London. It's still early but I think it's only a matter of time before I get my laughing gear around my next Tilting Ale. After as they say.....'When in Rome.......'
Keep up to date with RedWillow Brewery on Facebook or Twitter.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Recipe - Chickpea & Chorizo Casserole

The subject matter of my last post was the head chef and owner of Barstro, Paul Campbell. Paul was previously head chef at Cas Roja in Puerto del Carmen before setting up his own business with friends Viktor and Mercédesz Domahidy. Since Barstro opened its doors six months ago, the team at Barstro have been wowing both locals and visitors to the island with high quality food in their new home in the tranquil village of Nazaret.
This month, the marketing machine at Barstro have launched a monthly newsletter which will be used to keep everyone up to date with what's going on at the restaurant as well as giving a little insight to the staff who work tirelessly to make every diner have a meal to remember when they walk through the door.
The monthly newsletter will also feature one of Paul's recipes for you to recreate at home. I was delighted to see that the first recipe to be shared was the Chickpea & Chorizo Casserole dishes that we had when we visited in October. We both loved the dish and I couldn't wait to give it a go in Gerry's Kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 500g cooking chorizo, cut into bit size chunks
  • 400g chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped roughly
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 500ml single cream
Method
  1. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan then add the leek and garlic, cooking for a few minutes before adding the chorizo.
  2. Once the chorizo has been browned, add the chickpeas, paprika and coriander and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the cream to the pan and bring the contents to a simmer cook for a further 4-5 minutes then remove from the heat and season to taste.
To serve, generously spoon into a couple of large bowls and accompany with some warmed garlic bread. This dish is so easy to prepare and can be adapted to include some of your own favourite flavours. I added an extra leek and some cherry tomatoes to the original recipe, because I love leeks and thought that the tomatoes would work with the other flavours in the pan. Despite the fact that I tweaked the recipe slightly, the end result tasted every bit as good as the dish that was served up by Paul when we visited Barsto, and will definitely be a meal that I'll be bring to the table more than a few times through the winter months.
You can find out more about the Barstro newsletter on their Facebook page.


Saturday, 30 November 2013

5 Questions & Review - Barstro, Nazaret, Lanzarote

Last year we were treated to one of the best meals that we have ever eaten when we dined at Casa Roja in the Lanzarote resort of Puerto del Carmen. The food served up by head chef Paul Campbell was outstanding and when coupled with the service that restaurant manager, Viktor Domahidy delivered front of house, meant that we had a memorable evening. After the busy dinner service, we were lucky enough to grab a quick chat with Paul and learnt a little about his background in the industry and get a feel for his love of using fresh local produce as much a possible.
When we returned to Lanzarote this year we were staying in the resort of Playa Blanca but had been planning on a trip to Puerto Del Carmen in order to return to Casa Roja, however shortly before our return we learned that both Paul and Viktor had left Casa Roja. It didn't take too long to find out that the pair had left in order to set up their own venture - Barstro, a bistro with a twist. In the sleepy town of Nazaret, Paul and Viktor have very quickly put a new pin on the Lanzarote food map with a restaurant that is wowing both locals and tourists alike, not just as a place to enjoy delicious food with family or friends but as an exhibition venue for local artists and photographers.
Since his decision to move with his family to the Canary Islands back in 2003, Paul has enjoyed taking on new projects such as Casa Tegoyo, which quickly became one of the finest restaurants in Lanzarote. Paul is now doing what he loves to do, where the key ingredient is simplicity. The aim is for Barstro diners to feel relaxed, and enjoy simple but good food... Always with a twist!
Here's Paul's Story;
How did you get started?
Westminster college is where it all began and then through my early years working in London at Claridges and with Gary Rhodes. High profile, high pressure, but great fun, and I feel very privileged.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Don’t rush into anything, take time to think about your ideas and listen to the good advice around you, BUT always follow your gut instincts too, it can be difficult to juggle these!
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
We have a achieved far more than we could ever have hoped to achieve in the four months since we opened the doors at Barstro. The sky is the limit, but for now we are enjoying the here and now. The plan is for the business to still be making us happy, and also ensuring that every guest who steps across the Barstro threshold feels the same.
If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?
As much as I would love to think about my favourite product, its actually impossible. So much of what I do is about team work, and the same rule applies to the products I use..If forced to choose a product I rely heavily on, it would have to be good fresh local herbs and vegetable produce.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Georges Auguste Escoffier, one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine
I would invite him to try my take on suprêmes de volailles Jeannette (jellied chicken breasts with foie gras). This would be followed by my own version of a pêche Melba. Both of these dishes are his creations, but I would throw in a Paul Campbell twist!
Having read so many good things about Barstro in its first couple of months, and knowing that Paul had wowed us before with his skill in the kitchen, we knew that we would be making time to drive through to Nazaret before our holiday ended.
Our last day was a busy one, I had been invited onto a radio talks how on the radio station PowerFM where Gerry's Kitchen had the opportunity to help spread the word about the fantastic food and wine on the island, promote some of the places that we love to eat, as well as a little self publicity.
Barstro is very easy to find, just 100 yards off of the main road through Nazaret, and when we arrived we were welcomed by Viktor as if we were long lost friends. After a bit of a catch up, We were seated and left to look through the menu whilst Viktor arranged our drinks.
Since Barstro opened its doors, Paul has been making changes to the menu on a regular basis. This allows him to make best use of season products as well as keeping thing fresh for the regular visitors to the restaurant.
With a good choice of appetising tapas, savoury starters and hearty main dishes, there were plenty of options on the menu. We ordered four tapas plates to start with, knowing that we could order more if we need.
In true tapas tradition, our dishes were brought out as soon as each one was ready. The first being the Goats Cheese & Sweet Pepper Tart which was an explosion of colour and taste. The buttery pastry base topped with sharp goats cheese and wonderfully sweet roasted pepper, and peppery rocket leaves. This was such a simple idea but executed perfectly. We both loved the tart and agreed that it would be a great starter dish in its own right, and as a shared tapas dish it worked a treat.
Next to arrive was the Crispy Aromatic Duck. The duck was a great example of Paul putting his Barstro twist on a Chinese classic. The presentation was fantastic, with two crispy duck legs stacked over roasted leek and courgette, drizzled with hoisin sauce. The slow cooked duck was so tender, practically falling from the bone, the skin was crispy and full of flavour. The authentic flavour in the duck were every bit as good as I would expect from a quality
The third tapas dish to arrive was both myself and Nicola's favourite. We both love chorizo and chickpeas so this casserole was always likely to satisfy us both, which it certainly did. Chunks of spicy, smoky chorizo in a rich creamy sauce with perfectly cook chickpeas topped with a couple of chunks of warm bread for dipping. The sauce was packed with paprika, thyme and garlic and tasted just wonderful. I could easily have spent all day with just a bowl of sauce and a warm baguette for company.

The last dish to arrive was a bowl of marinated fresh Lanzarote cheese which was accompanied by cornichons, roasted peppers and loads of fresh herbs in olive oil. Once again, the dish was full of flavour, with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves helping add subtle flavour to the creamy island cheese. This dish was a great balance to the three warm tapas that we had ordered and as we forked the last few pieces of cheese from the bowl, we were both glad to have made the journey through to Barstro.
Every plate that came to the table was presented beautifully and tasted exactly as I would have expected. The four tapas that we ordered were of a good size and we were both feeling a a little stuffed by the end. In fact, were so that we had to turn down the dessert menu. (This may have been partly down to the fact that earlier in the day, we had scoffed a lovely carrot cake that had been give to us by the wonderful Sarah from English Cakes Lanzarote).
I'm glad that we took time to get through to Barstro as the service was excellent and the food that came out of Paul's kitchen was delicious. Barsto is one of the reason that I encourage holiday makers to island to hire a car and get out of the resorts. There are plenty of fantastic restaurants around the Islands and Barstro has very quickly become one of my new favourites. Lanzarote should be proud to have a chef of Paul Campbell's level pouring his heart and soul into turning local produce into wonderful food.
Anyone who has visited Barstro already will have met Viktor & Mercédesz Domahidy. Along with Paul Campbell they are co-owners of the restaurant, and partners in crime running the floor. They´ve been working together for many years, since meeting during their careers on board the Royale Caribbean Cruise Liners. Viktor has worked as a highly professional fine dining maître d', but prefers to run the Barstro floor in a less formal way, creating a relaxed vibe. With Viktor's keen eye for service coupled with Paul working to the philosophy of 'La bonne cuisine est la base du véritable bonheur' - Which means, Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness, you can be sure that Barstro will continue to pleasure diners for years to come!


Keep up to date with what's going at Barstro on Facebook




Friday, 15 November 2013

Recipe - Ropa Vieja

Having recently returned from Lanzarote where myself and my gorgeous wife were able to enjoy plenty of the wonderful food that the island had to offer. From travelling around the island to visit some of our favourite restaurants, to sampling the best of the rest at the Festival De Tapa, our taste buds were buzzing for the whole two weeks.
One evening, whilst eating at La Cantina, Nicola ordered the Canarian Stew. On the menu the dish was called Ropa Vieja, but what I didn't realise until we got home was that the name translates as Old Clothes. The odd name of the hearty stew of pork, chorizo & chick peas had me puzzled but after a little Google-ing, I was able to get to the bottom of what turns out to be an interesting story, part history/part folklore.
Ropa vieja originated in the Canary Islands, which was the last place ships from Spain would stop on the way to the Americas. It wasn't unusual for the returning Spanish ships coming back from the Americas to stop on the way home. As a result, The Canarian culture is very similar to the Caribbean as well as Spain. The original version of ropa vieja contained leftovers, but later became a shredded meat dish with chickpeas and potatoes in the Canary Islands. It is believed that the Canarian immigrants introduced Ropa Vieja to the Spanish colonies and the dish spread across the Caribbean, as well as parts of South America.
There are many theories as to how the dish was named. One of the more popular ones is a story about a man whose family was coming to his home for dinner. Being very poor, the man could not buy them enough food when they came. To remedy his situation, he went to his closet, gathered some old clothes (ropa vieja) and permeated them with his love. When he cooked the clothes, his love for his family turned the clothes into a wonderful beef stew.
Some versions in the Canary Islands contain beef, chicken or pork, or a combination of any of the three, often bulked up with potatoes and/or chick peas. So with this information under my belt, plus with a little input from Zoe (part owner of La Cantina), I decided to make my very own attempt Ropa Vieja.
Ingredients
  • 200g pork shoulder, diced
  • 200g braising beef, diced (I used beef shin)
  • 100g chorizo, diced
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 2 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 100g butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp umami paste
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 200ml beef stock
  • 400g tin chick peas
Method
  1. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan before adding the pork and beef. Brown the meat before adding the chorizo.
  2. After a few minutes the chorizo will start to release it's spicy oil. At this point, add the garlic, leek, squash, celery, red pepper, and chick peas. Cook on a medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften then stir in the umami paste, tomato purée and the paprika.
  3. Add the stock and bring everything to the boil before reducing to a simmer. Add the potatoes to the pan then cover with a lid or piece of tin foil. Cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure that the contents don't stick to the bottom of the pan. If the stew looks to be drying out, feel free to add a little more water.
To serve, spoon a generous amount of the stew into bowls with thick slices of chunky bread on the side. This is a proper hearty dish, full of big flavours & tender meat that would be perfect for a cold winter evening. My own version of Ropa Vieja tasted pretty close to the flavours that Nicola had experienced at La Cantina and defiantly something that I will be making again.
Remember that Ropa Vieja is traditionally a dish prepared from leftovers, so if you're struggling to thing what to do with the leftover meat from your Sunday roast this weekend, have a rummage around the vegetable drawer and spice rack to see if you've got the basis for your very own 'old clothes'.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Review - Restaurante Isla De Lobos, Princesa Yaiza hotel, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote


As the cold winter evening draw in, our recent holiday to Lanzarote seems such a long time ago. Since we've come back I have managed to post up a couple of food stories so far and hope to get a couple more written up in the coming weeks.
The resort of Playa Blanca is peppered with a large number of 4* hotels, as well as a few 5* hotels, all of which blend in with the luxury villas spread across this growing resort. Within a short walk from our own villa, stood the Princesa Yaiza, a hotel that is often regarded as the most attractive of all of the islands places to stay. (often the destination of the rich and famous)
We had enjoyed drinks at one of the hotels bars during our first week and as we sat in the luxurious surroundings we decided that we wanted to try out one of the restaurants within the hotel before our holiday was over. After a quick chat with Elisa on reception it was decided that the gourmet restaurant, Isla De Lobos, was the best place to experience 5* dining, so with that advice taken on board we booked a table for the following week.
Restaurante Isla de Lobos is located deep within the Princesa Yaiza Hotel complex, overlooking the sea and the cluster of Islands that the restaurant takes its name from. We were seated promptly by the Maître d' and left to get comfortable as we looked over the menu. Whilst we waited, our waiter arrived with some warm breads, flavours butters and wonderful homemade grissini before taking our wine order.
I've written before about the rising popularity, and our own love of Lanzarote wines which meant that we had no difficulty in choosing wine to accompany our dinner and before long we were savouring the fantastic rosé produced by Bodega Stratvs from just up the road in La Geria.

As we cast our eyes over the a la carte menu, there were so many starters and mains that sounded great so we were delighted to see that there was a well priced 5 course tasting menu that just happened include some of the dishes that had caught our attention.
The restaurant uses organic and locally produced product where and when it can, and also works along the Slow Food philosophy, ensuring that it's diners have the time to enjoy and appreciate the skill of both the kitchen and the hardworking producers across the island. So without further ado, we ordered and sat back in anticipation of what hopefully would be a meal to remember.
The menu boasted five courses plus an appetiser and sorbet. It wasn't long before the appetiser arrived. Any this point I'd like to apologise for some of the poor photography. Out table was halfway in, halfway out of the dining area and a sush, my camera was struggling to work out whether to use or not use it's flash.
The appetiser was a little glass with chilled chunks of poached chicken with pineapple in a sour cream and horseradish sauce, which seemed like an odd combination of flavours but was very nice and helped cleanse our palette before the first of the five courses arrived.
The first actual course was a starter of goats cheese salad with caramelised pistachios, palm honey and mustard vinaigrette. What a way to start a meal! The sharp goats cheese was balanced by the sweetness from the pistachios and palm honey and an almost perfect mix of textures made this possibly my favourite course.
After a short gap, the next course arrived. A huge succulent slightly sweet scallop was cooked to perfection, in a cream of white asparagus, topped with a grilled spears of both green and white asparagus and lime crystals. We both love scallops and asparagus so it's fair to say that we were both happy with the second course. A simplistic dish that didn't lack flavour - I just wish that there had been another giant scallop on my plate!
After two delicious starters, it was time for our fish course, and time for the presentation to be stepped up a notch. We were served Canary Island Stone Bass served on creamed potatoes with confit tomato and almond vinaigrette. There is a lot of debate about the local island fish in Lanzarote, the locally named stone bass, cherne or wreckfish is often attributed to both sea bream and sea bass. The grilled fish that we were served was a well seasoned fillet of what was most likely grouper. Regardless, the giant flaked fillet of grilled fish on our plate was great. Again, the varying textures and flavours made this a plate of food to remember.
So far so good. We were just over halfway through our tasting menu and our taste buds had been thoroughly tested. At this point we were served a palate cleansing Mojito sorbet, packed with plenty of lime and mint flavour. I love the idea of serving a sorbet between courses, especially when moving from a fish course and onto a meat course. We had to make quick work of the sorbet before nature took its course and it melted away. It may have been the start of October but the outside temperature was still in the low twenties at 9pm!
Refreshed after our sorbet palate cleanser, the fourth dish to arrive took our breath away. The roasted Canarian suckling pig with lemon gel and honey glaze was delightful. The suckling pig, or piglet to you and I, was slow cooked at a low temperature for over 8 hours, resulting in the most tender piece of pork that I've eaten. The sweet flavours from the honey glaze, as well as the sweetness from the pumpkin purée was countered by the sharp lemon jelly. The only criticism I could pass here is that I would have liked there to have been more pumpkin or potato to accompany the decent chunk of tasty pork.
So with starters and mains done, we expected our dessert course to make an appearance, however this was interrupted by the arrival of the sommelier and a couple of chilled glasses of dessert wine. When we booked our table the previous week, I 'might' have mentioned to the receptionist that I write a food blog and was looking forward to some fine dining - Id like to take this time to mention that that the Bodega Stratvs Moscatel that was served to us on the night was deducted from the bill , and say a big thank you to the staff at Princesa Yaiza.
Until recently, I hadn't really tasted dessert wine much but always had the impression that it would be sickly sweet and unpalatable but the Stratvs Moscatel was great, with aromas of dates and apricots and a rich taste which lingered on the tongue. I could definitely get used to enjoying this after a meal.
As we nursed our Moscatel, the chef wowed us again with his adaptation of a sailboat. The dessert was a warm pumpkin coulant filled with melted white chocolate, accompanied by a sharp mango sorbet, raspberry coulis and a white chocolate sail. The word coulant means 'flowing, of a spring or river. In cooking terms it is more often seen in the classic dessert - Coulant au Chocolate, or melting middle chocolate fondants. Tonight we had a deliciously light pumpkin sponge with a lush white chocolate gooey middle. Super sweet with sharp mango and raspberry helping to balance things out.
The last two and a bit hours had been wonderful. We had been served five beautifully presented plates of food, in addition to this we had our appetiser, a zingy sorbet plus the moscatel, and our evening was coming to an end. Of course, after such a wonderful meal, it would be wrong to end our meal without a coffee. We both ordered a cortado, the Spanish staple, which were served with some petit fours. The coffee was rich and bold, the frozen cheesecake and ganache filled dark chocolate cups were just enough to leave us feeling properly stuffed.
In recent times we have eaten a couple of very nice meals, and this tasting menu was right up there with the best. The cost for the 5 course tasting menu was €48, about £40, which represents fantastic value - especially when you think of the quality of food that was served up. What made the night even more enjoyable for me was that my gorgeous wife decided to treat me and paid the bill herself! What a result!
If you enjoy good food and like to be treated well, then spending the evening at the Princesa Yaiza is a great way to spend the evening . If you happen to be staying in Playa Blanca, in fact anywhere on the island, take time to visit Restaurante Isla de Lobos - you'll be glad that you did!







Friday, 18 October 2013

Review - La Cantina, Calle León y Castillo, La Vila de Teguise, Lanzarote

For the last four year, our main holiday has been on the beautiful Canarian island of Lanzarote, where we have enjoyed the home comforts of a villa holiday. Most of our days are spent lazing by the swimming pool before I get busy preparing dinner at the barbecue. Of course, whilst on holiday, we still want to try out some of the restaurants on the island so we always put aside a few evening that we can get out and about.
Having settled into our villa in Playa Blanca on the Thursday, our first planned meal was set to coincide with a live music performance at a restaurant owned by friends of ours, Benn & Zoe.
The sun was just beginning to set as we made our way to the old capital, Teguise, where La Cantina is located. The drive took 45minutes from Playa Blanca, and by the time we had worked our way across the wine region, La Geria, it was dark by the time we reached our destination. The sunset views over La Geria made the long drive worthwhile.
Manto - Malvasia Volcanica Seco
I had previously made a reservation and upon arrival we were shown quickly to our table in the secret garden. In recent years the wine from Lanzarote has been receiving rave reviews from those in the know. The fact that grapes can grow in the volcanic ground is a mystery, so to be able to produce award winning wines is truly a great achievement. We ordered a bottle of my favourite island wine Manto - a crisp, dry Malvasia, then sat back to climatize as we cast our eyes over the menu.
The menu at La Cantina is a mix of tapas dishes and plated dishes, and whilst the range of choice is not huge, there is a running theme through the food on offer - Flavour, Flavour, Flavour.
We decided to order a couple of the tapas dishes to share as a starter. The bruschetta con tomate was wonderful. Two giant squares of lightly toasted bread, topped with the sweetest marinaded fresh tomatoes and some grated cheese for good measure. This is a dish that is served the world over, however I honestly can't remember tomatoes tasting so good!
To accompany our bruschetta, we had a platter of Lazarote cheeses with warm bread. We both love the local cheeses, and the selection we had was a great balance of soft and mild to hard and strong flavoured cheese. There are lots of cheeses produced on the island using goats, sheep and cows milk, or combinations of. Most of the islands cheese is consumed either by the hundreds of restaurants or the locals, however there are specially packed cheeses that you can bring home with you.
Both tapas were good sized portionsand great value at €4.95 each, and with hindsight I think the bruschetta would have been ample starter before our mains.
After a short break when we were able to grab quick chat with Benn as he wandered the floor making sure that the evening diners were being looked after. Zoe had the evening off but was expected to be in later in the evening.
For her main, Nicola had ordered Ropa Vieja, which translates as "Old Clothes". Ropa Vieja is a dish that is common across the Caribbean but that originated in The Canary Islands. The islands were often the last stop for Spanish ships before they set sail to the Americas, continued migration between the Canary Islands and the carries meant that the dish crossed the ocean sand became a staple on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ropa Vieja was originally a stew like dish made using leftovers, usually chicken, beef or pork in a tomato sauce. In the Canary Islands, chick peas and potatoes are usually in the mix.
Nicola isn't normally a big stew fan she easily worked her way through the Ropa Vieja with a big grin on her face. With loads of chicken, chorizo, lardons, pork, celery, carrot, tomatoes, potato, chickpeas, theis slow cooked bowl of flavour was a winner with Nicola and since we returned from our holidays, she has urged me to get the recipe from Benn & Zoe so that I can recreate this dish at home.
The exact history of how the dish got its name is unknown but one of the more popular ones is a story about a man whose family was coming to his home for dinner. Being very poor, the man could not buy them enough food when they came. To remedy his situation, he went to his closet, gathered some old clothes (ropa vieja) and imbued them with his love. When he cooked the clothes, his love for his family turned the clothes into a wonderful beef stew. Who knows. All I know is that I'll be making my own version soon!
Uruguayan Prime Beef
As for myself, I don't normally order a steak when I'm out but the sound of the Uruguayan prime steak with various sides, sounded lovely.
The chargrilled steak that arrived was cooked medium rare, maybe a little rarer that I would normally go for, but even so it was delicious. The huge steak was juicy and tender with nice caramelisation and a great smoky flavour from being cooked on the grill. The steak, topped with a slice of sun-dried tomato & basil butter, was accompanied by chunky sautéed potatoes, mashed potatoes, pickled cabbage, a fresh dressed salad, and a little jug of mustard.
The various textures and tastes on the plate were almost perfectly balanced, although I wouldn't have missed the mashed potato. Nothing against the mash, it's just not something that I would normally have with my steak.
The steak was only €18.95 which was great value for such a well cooked piece of beef. You would struggle to get a similar size and quality steak in the UK for under £25.
Talulah Ruby & Jake Brown
Two big starter tapas followed by a hearty stew and a slab of prime beef meant that we were both too full to try some of Zoe's famous home made brownies, so instead we sat back with a coffee and enjoyed the rest of our wine.
Shortly after our table was cleared, Zoe made her appearance alongside the main event. Zoe & Benn's daughter Talulah Ruby was performing her farewell gig with her singing partner Jake Brown. Talulah Ruby, a Lanzarote born singer/songwriter has been performing around the island since she was 14. The gig at La Cantina was a farewell performance before she left the the island to start a music music course at the prestigious Brighton institute of Modern Music. If what I heard was anything to go by, don't be surprised to see the name Talulah Ruby in the coming years.
With fantastic food at great value, followed by live music from an up and coming star, our evening at La Cantina was worthy of the long drive from Playa Blanca. If you get the chance, get yourself through to Teguise and pay a visit to La Cantina. Whether it be lunch or dinner, you won't be disappointed.
La Cantina serve food daily as well as hosting wine tasting evenings and exhibitions. More recently, Cantina Pantry has opened next door. This wonderful delicatessen is testament to the passion that Benn and Zoe have to local produce and quality food. The shelves are stacked high with a mouthwatering selection of wines, olive oils, meats, cheeses, sauces and spices. In addition, you also have the opportunity to buy some of the ingredients that are used on the La Cantina menu.
Keep up to date with La Cantina on Facebook.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Lanzarote Round Up - Bodega @ La Cascada, Puerto Del Carmen

Where does the time go? I can't believe that our two weeks in Lanzarote has come and gone. Both myself and Nicola had a great time eating and drinking our way around the island, whilst catching up with friends who live and work in Lanzarote. This year we were staying in the resort of Playa Blanca, something new to us, which meant that we were able to try out new places to eat and we enjoyed a few great meals and I hope to get the reviews posted up as quickly as possible.
Of course, the downside of staying in Playa Blanca was missing out on some of our previous haunts in Puerto Del Carmen. I've written before about Bodega @ La Cascada in Puerto del Carmen, and as one of our favourite places, we made an effort to get through to Puerto Del Carmen and pay them a visit. In fact, we actually managed to get to Bodega twice - once for lunch & once for dinner.
After one of Nicola's many shopping excursions, we popped into Bogeda for some tapas that would hopefully see us through until dinner. The restaurant was practically empty when we arrived but it was still early, and after being greeted like old friends we made ourselves comfortable at our usual table. With chilled vino & ice cold cerveza helping to cool us down, we worked our way through a few tapas that were as tasty as we remembered.
An amuse bouche of deep fried morcilla (Spanish black pudding)rolled in chopped hazelnuts, helped awaken the taste buds. I love black pudding generally , and the slightly sweet yet spicy morcilla dulce which is native to the Canary Islands is wonderful.
Our lunchtime tapas continued with Queso de Lanzarote. There are many cheeses produced on the island using goats, sheep & cows milk, or a combination thereof. The cheese we had today was medium soft with mild and creamy flavour - perfect for a lunchtime snack.
We had ordered a slice of tortilla de patatas, a Spanish staple and one of my favourite things to eat when on holiday. The big slice of tortilla at Bodega is about two inches in height with a great balance of eggs, potato and onion, well seasoned and cooked to perfection.

Our last lunchtime tapa was the croquetas de pollo, wonderful deep fried chicken croquettes. Every tapas bar across Spain boast that there croquetas are the best but on all my years of sampling, the crispy well seasoned croquetas de pollo at Bodega are still my favourite.
Tapas are deceivingly filling and these three plates were enough to keep us going until dinner later that night. Fed and watered, we settled the bill and started the long journey back to Playa Blanca, knowing that this wouldn't be the last time we would be at Bodega.
I had read on the brilliant Lanzarote Information website that there was to be a "Festival De la Tapa" in Puerto Del Carmen on the second Saturday of our holiday so we decided that we wanted to get through if we could. There is a reliable bus service on the island and a semi-regular service running from Playa Blanca to Puerto Del Carmen so that was our transport sorted for the outbound journey. Unfortunately, the Saturday service back to Playa Blanca doesn't run after 11pm so getting home could be a bind but we really wanted to get to the festival and decided that we would take a taxi home.
The "Festival De La Tapa" is an organised event that hives restaurants, tapas bars, and the islands many bodegas the chance to get their products in front of a hungry and thirsty group of tourists and locals. I'm planning on writing about the festival in a separate post but the simple mechanics of the event went like this;
  1. Buy a strip of tickets - (tickets priced at €1 each)
  2. Wander around the many exhibitor
  3. Buy tapas, pintxos, or wine for €1 a piece
  4. Wander some more
  5. Repeat as necessary
We had a great time trying tapas from restaurants we already knew, as well as a few that we didn't. As on of the leading restaurants on the island, it didn't surprise me to see that Bogeda @La Cascada had a stall set up. Nicola sampled the bocadito de cabra (that's the one on the left). Cabra means goat, which in this case had been slowly roasted and served on a miniature ciabatta style bun. We had never eaten goat before but if you think pulled pork but with a stronger flavour, you wouldn't be far wrong.
As the sun began to set in Puerto Del Carmen, we departed the Festival and made our way to Skyy Chillout bar for a cheeky wee cocktail before making our way back to Bodega for a spot of dinner.
Bodega offers both a varied tapas menu and an a la carte menu, but as we had already been snacking at the festival there was no way that we could have managed a full plated meal, so a few tapas would see us right tonight.
The first of those tapas was carpaccio de buey which is possibly my favourite thing on the menu. Delicious thinly sliced fillet of beef, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar before shavings of Parmegiano Reggiano are scattered over the top, & accompanied by slices of Melba toast.
The next tapa is maybe Nicola's favourite, gambas al ajillo - sizzling garlic prawns. Over a dozen fresh prawns cooked in oil with plenty of sliced garlic with a coupe of dried birds-eye chillies for good measure. Always packed with plenty of prawns and enough garlic to keep Dracula away.
We rounded of our selection of tapas with the croquetas de pollo again because they're that good!
The thing I love about eating tapas is that I never feel stuffed once we're finished, there's always room to squeeze a few more drinks. With that said, Nicola finished off dinner with a Baileys coffee whilst I had an after dinner corajillo. Traditionally, a corajillo is a shot of espresso with a shot of brandy, although I replaced the brandy with Amaretto for a sweet hit.
For those that don't know, the road from Puerto Del Carmen to Playa Blanca goes though a picturesque little village called called Femes, that has a fantastic viewpoint (or Mirador) that overlooks the resort of Playa Blanca from a good height. The road out of Femes is a very steep and winding road that is perilous to drive in daylight and I had a feeling that the taxi driver on our ride home would likely drive this road at breakneck speed with nothing to guide him except the moonlight and a strong faith in The Lord above. With this in mind, we made our way to the bar for one last drink before saying adios to our waiter (and amigo) of many years Alfonso and making our way into the darkness.
In all the years that we have been visiting Lanzarote, and eating at Bodega @ La Cascada, we have never been disappointed with the food or service, and this year was no different.
We have already booked up our holiday for next year and will be back staying in Puerto Del Carmen again which means that we will be much closer to our friends at Bodega, but more importantly we will be able to walk home after dinner.
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