Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Recipe - Rhubarb & Ginger Cheesecake

I posted earlier in the month about using seasonal produce when it is plentiful and at its tastiest. Following on from my Rhubarb Tarte Tatin recipe, this simple cheesecake recipe takes about 20 minutes to prepare and is a guaranteed winner every time.

  • 4 stalks rhubarb
  • 2 inch root ginger, grated
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 120g soft cheese, Philadelphia works well
  • 4 ginger nut biscuits
  • 10g butter, melted
  1. Crush the biscuit to a fine crumb mix in the melted butter. Split the base mixture between two metal cooks rings. Place in the fridge to set.
  2. Cut the rhubarb into inch size chunks, put in a hot saucepan with the sugar, the grated ginger and a little splash of water. The rhubarb will only take a few minutes to cook through. Remove two of the chunks plus a little of the syrup and set aside, this will be used for decoration when serving. Cook the remaining rhubarb for a few more minutes, taking care not to burn the mixture. Once the rhubarb is soft remove the pan from the heat.
  3. One the rhubarb mixture has cooled a little, beat together with the soft cheese before generously spooning over the biscuit base then put back in the fridge to set.
The cheesecakes should set in the fridge for at least one hour but remove from the chill about five minutes before serving. To serve, place one of the rhubarb pieces, from earlier, on top then drizzle with a little of the syrup.

Rhubarb is at its best for about another three weeks, try this cheesecake recipe now and you'll be counting the weeks until next February.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Annoying Thing About Peppers?

Capsicums, or peppers to you and me. I love them! There is always a supply of green, red and sometimes orange peppers in my fridge. They make a great addition to stir-fries and salads, stuffed with flavoured rice before being baked in the oven or even as a handy snack with some chunky houmous!

Despite the fact that I use peppers at least a couple of times a week, I still get annoyed at the fact that the pepper is packed full of little bitter seeds that need to cut away before use (and still manage to find their way into the meal). As a result I think that sometimes there is too much wastage on the noble pepper.

Now, thanks to a natural breeding process ,so no trace of GM, the world's first seedless pepper on the market.

The award winning Angello Pepper has been developed by Syngenta, one of the world's leading developers of seeds and pesticides. The crops will be grown in Southern Spain, Israel and the Netherlands and has been cultivated to be extra sweet and extra crunchy.
Look out for these baby peppers next time you're in your local M&S, the peppers are in stock now, priced at £1.79 per 100g pack.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Farmers Markets

Over the last few years we have seen a rise in the number of Farmers Markets that are setting up in our communities. These touring markets are a great way of local producers getting their products into the public domain, as well as a fantastic opportunity for us all to try things that we may never get the chance to buy in the supermarkets.

With a wide selection of fresh fruit and veg, eggs and poultry , fresh meat, fresh fish and other seafood, fresh cheeses, and fresh baked goods, it's well worth checking to see if there are any markets near where you live.

In the Glasgow area there are a few organised markets that operate regularly across the city. Check out the links below to see if there are any in your area.
Glasgow Farmers Market
Lanarkshire Farmers Market
Scottish Association of Farmers Markets

Farmers Markets give an alternative to the supermarkets, and contrary to popular belief, are not overly expensive. I have a number of favourite vendors I will go looking for when the markets are in town.
For fresh fish, Fencebay provide a wide range of locally caught fish and shellfish, as well as a fantastic range of their own produced pâtés. Another delicacy that is definitely worth trying is the smoked duck breasts and smoked chicken breasts that are created in Fencebay's own smokery.
Sunnyside Farm, have become a firm favourite in my kitchen, mainly down the outdoor reared veal that Sunnyside produce. Rose Veal is a delicious and light meat and a great alternative to beef, but due a lot of bad press in the past, lots of people are still wary of trying it. In actual fact there are still a large percentage of butchers who will not stock veal! Dominic Smith and his family also slow rear and produce a fantastic range of pork, lamb & beef products. Yesterday I bought a pack of the Gloucestershire Old Spot pork sausages to add to my homemade steak pie, 90% pork sausages that taste exactly as you would expect sausages to taste. Delicious!
Puddledub are a Fife based producer of all things pork. Tom Mitchell and his team do a great job from the breeding of home grown pigs, through to butchery and preparation of a huge range of pork products. If you get the chance, try their excellent range of sausages. From the straightforward 'Breakfast Sausage' to their own version of the ever popular Spanish Chorizo. Puddledub's home produced bacon is a popular choice at with celebrity chef Nick Nairn, who uses Puddledub's pork at his cook school at Lake of Menteith. The company slogan is 'Perfection in Pork', you know what - they may be right!
These three are just a few of the vendors that I eagerly look out for when the markets comes to town, however I am sure that over time there will be a few others who make my favourites list.
I urge you to use these Farmers Markets when you can, support local farmers and producer and try new things. You never know, you may find something that you never knew existed that becomes a firm favourite in your own kitchen.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Review - Clark & Sons, Clarkston

About 15 months ago, myself and Nicola attended Clark & Sons in Clarkston to help do a restaurant review with Tam Cowan from The Daily Record, since then we have been back on a number of occasions to eat and have always been impressed with the service and quality.
Today, we popped in for a spot of lunch, mainly on the back of knowing that Clark & Sons offer a number of different promotional food offers. It was just after midday when we walked into a fairly empty bar so had our choice of table. After picking a cosy table in the back corner, the bar tender on duty was quick to make sure we had menus and informed us of the specials before taking our drinks order.

The lunch menu offers an excellent choice of both healthy and hearty meals, and after much deliberation I decided to go for the soup and sandwich special, whilst Nicola ordered one of her favourite lunchtime treats, omelette and skinny fries.

When my soup and sandwich arrived, I was sure that I had made the right choice. The carrot and parsnip soup, silky smooth and flavoured with just the right balance of cumin and ground coriander, was delicious. This was accompanied with a huge doorstop sandwich of honey roast mustard chicken. The chicken was actually a whole chicken breast served on soft fresh whole wheat bread with a sweet yet tangy onion & wholegrain mustard relish. Outstanding value when you consider that all of this is just £5.75, no wonder that this is a popular choice at lunchtime!

When it comes to omelettes, Nicola is somewhat a connoisseur with an omelette eating past that started in the cafes of Paris. The test of a good chef is his ability to cook simple things. In the case of the Three Egg Omelette with Ham and Cheddar, Nicola was very impressed with the chef's credentials. Served with a dressed salad of green leaves, the omelette was perfectly balanced, slightly crispy on the outside, slightly moist on the inside and with just the right amount of filling so as to remain light and airy. Fortunately for me, the omelette was just a little too big for Nicola so I had to help her finish.
The cost for lunch including our drinks was just £20, overall excellent value for money. If you are ever in the southside of Glasgow and looking for comfortable surroundings and tasty food, then Clark & Sons is well worth a visit.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Recipe - Linguine with Crayfish, chili and garlic

Reg from The People's Front of Judea once asked, "All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

It's an interesting question that could have been answered simply with one word......Pasta.
I love the fact that pasta, in all it's shapes and sizes, can be combined with so many flavours to create simple yet tasty meals.
This recipe is one that I bring to the table every few weeks. It's a great fail safe dish that can be prepared in under twenty minutes.
  • 200g crayfish tails, or squat lobster tails
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 red chili, seeded and chopped
  • 100 ml white wine
  • Small handful flat leaf parsley, shredded
  • 150g dry linguine, I always use DeCecco
  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan, add the shallot, chili and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Season well before adding the wine. Bring back to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. There is an old Italian cooking adage about how pasta water should be as salty as the sea. Try it, the pasta tastes great done this way!
  3. Once the wine has reduce by half, add the crayfish tails. Keep reducing until the majority of the wine has gone, leaving you with a slightly thickened sauce.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat then stir in half of the parsley. By now the pasta should be cooked, drain the pasta, pour on a good glug of extra virgin olive oil then stir in the crayfish.
To serve, spoon generously into heated bowls and sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top. To finish, grate a little Grana Padano or Parmagiano Regiano over the top.

Just be careful when buying your crayfish. Some people call them baby lobster, make sure to check the box before you leave the shop!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Review - Bodega Restaurant, Puerto del Carmen

When me and my then girlfriend, now wife, first went to Lanzarote, Nicola took me to a restaurant that she and a friend had enjoyed on a previous holiday. That restaurant was La Cascada in Puerto del Carmen. I was hugely impressed with the quality of food and the level of service offered by all of the staff involved in the front of house process. What impressed me more was the fact that every night when we passed the restaurant, there was a queue of hungry diners out in the street, eagerly awaiting their turn to be seated. This was the first that I had seen a restaurant literally queued out of the door! Sadly, the island doesn't seem to be as busy as it was six years ago, so the street queues have disappeared, gladly the service and quality is still there every night of the week.
Since then, we have been returning on a regular basis anytime we are in Lanzarote. Whilst La Cascada is set up like a typical restaurant, serving fresh fish and flame cooked fillet steaks and other meats, next door in an attached building that hosts Bodega Restaurant, a much more traditional eating experience.
What you notice when you walk into Bodega is that the look and feel is very different to next door. The main seating area is in a high roofed room with a long wooden bar running the full length of one wall, whilst your eyes are drawn to the circular table in the middle of the room which is built round a little water well. There are also two little rooms off to the side which again have a very rustic feel about them.

Bodega offers up the same a la carte menu as next door, and a varied tapas menu. One of the main reasons that we keep coming back to Bodega is the quality of the tapas they serve. To whet your appetite; Iberian ham (the restaurant speciality, plenty of which can be seen hanging over the bar), Spanish tortilla, salmon and advocado, a twist on sushi, parmesan fondue with langoustines, black pudding rolled in almonds with a tomato relish, grilled local cheese with mojo sauce, Iberian pork in a papaya sauce, sweet and sour whitebait and chicken croquetas on and on and on…Everything tastes delicious, and every dish comes to the table looking like a little work of art.
With tapas priced individually from €4-€9, a couple can easily enjoy a tasty meal with a bottle of wine and coffee for under €50.
To round up, Bodega provide a huge and varied menu of well priced and beautifully presented tapas, in a comfortable and traditional setting. This is all topped off by the excellent service provided by Cristobal Sanchez Ferrer and all his staff makes you feel welcome and appreciated. Yet despite the fact that we can have a gap of upto a year between holiday visits, when we walk through the door next time, we are always greeted like old friends by the staff that have served us over the years.

We will be back in Lanzarote in September and look forward to returning to Bodega, also I hope that my review encourages you to give Bodega a try in the future.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Recipe - Thai Green Curry

When people talk about Thai food there are two dishes that come to mind, Pad Thai and Thai Green Curry. Of course there is much more to Thai cuisine than the two dishes mentioned above, however the western world has taken these two into their heart.
To make a Thai curry you need to start with a good curry paste. There are plenty of options on the supermarket shelves from brands like Bart, Blue Dragon, even supermarket own brands, however if you have an Asian market or grocery shop nearby then you will get a much more authentic paste. (be careful as the imported pastes can often be crazy hot)
If you are feeling adventurous, why not have a go at making your own paste from scratch? If you do make your own paste, it will keep in the fridge for about 6 weeks.
Thai Green Curry Paste (courtesy of Nigel Slater)
    • 4 lemongrass stalks, tougher outer leaves discarded, thinly sliced
    • 6 medium-hot green chillies, seeded and chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    • 5cm/2in piece of galangal or ginger, peeled and chopped
    • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
    • 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp chopped lime zest
    • 1 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce
      ½ tsp ground black peppercorns
To make the paste, place all of the ingredients into a blender and blitz. If the paste looks too thick, add a little water. Once blitzed transfer into an airtight jar, cover the paste with a little olive oil before storing in the fridge until you need it.

  • 4 tbs curry paste
  • 1 large chicken breast, diced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 100g butternut squash, diced
  • Large handful of fresh coriander leaves, shredded
  • 165ml coconut milk
  • 165ml milk
  1. Pour the coconut milk into a heated pan, add half the curry paste and stir through. Once the paste is mixed in, add the chicken into the sauce. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  2. Add the milk, the rest of the curry paste, shallot and squash. Bring the sauce back to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer again.
  3. Cook the sauce for 20 minutes, ensuring that the chicken is cooked through.
  4. During this time, cook some rice according to the packet instructions. When the rice is ready, stir half of the coriander through the rice.
  5. Stir most of the remaining coriander through the sauce, keeping a little back for garnish.

To serve, spoon generous amounts of rice and curry into a deep bowl before garnishing with the remaining coriander. If you want a little extra heat, sprinkle with some finely sliced red chilies.


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Pancake Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day) is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is observed mainly in English speaking countries, especially Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, but is also observed in the Phillipines and Germany. Shrove Tuesday is linked to Easter so its date changes on an annual basis.
In most traditions the day is known for the eating of pancakes before the start of Lent. Pancakes are eaten as they are made out of the main foods available, sugar, fat, flour and eggs, whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with Lent.
In our house, we love pancakes! Ok, let me put it another way, I like pancakes a normal amount, but Nicola loves pancakes? The secret to a good pancake is to keep the batter mix simple. This recipe has been borrowed from Delia Smith, it's easy to follow and makes deliciously light pancakes.
For the pancake mixture
  • 110g/4oz plain flour, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml/7fl oz milkmixed with 75ml/3fl oz water
  • 50g/2oz butter
To serve
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges

Preparation method

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets an airing. Now make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs - any sort of whisk or even a fork will do - incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you do so.
    Next gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking (don't worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk). When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any elusive bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream. Now melt the 50g/2oz of butter in a pan. Spoon 2 tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it in, then pour the rest into a bowl and use it to lubricate the pan, using a wodge of kitchen paper to smear it round before you make each pancake.

  2. Now get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and, to start with, do a test pancake to see if you're using the correct amount of batter. I find 2 tbsp is about right for an 18cm/7in pan. It's also helpful if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it's tinged gold as it should be. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife - the other side will need a few seconds only - then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
  3. Stack the pancakes as you make them between sheets of greaseproof paper on a plate fitted over simmering water, to keep them warm while you make the rest.
  4. To serve, sprinkle each pancake with freshly squeezed lemon juice and caster sugar, fold in half, then in half again to form triangles, or else simply roll them up. Serve sprinkled with a little more sugar and lemon juice and extra sections of lemon.


Monday, 20 February 2012

Marco Pierre White - Little Black Book

For as long as I can remember, there have been TV chefs. My early memories are of Delia Smith working out of her Norfolk conservatory, and a slightly inebriated Keith Floyd recreating rustic French dishes without any proper recipe. These days there are so many chefs who have created a career for themselves in front of the TV camera rather than in their own kitchen. In fact, I sometimes wonder if some of these celebrity chefs could 'hack it' in the hustle and bustle of a professional kitchen.
Don't get me wrong, I think the increasing number of tv chefs, as well as related cookery books and tv shows, has helped home cooks understand fresh produce and flavour combinations more than ever before. One of my favourite celebrity chefs is the three Michelin star chef, Marco Pierre White. Over the years Marco has proven his credentials at a host of top restaurants, and at the age of 33 became the youngest chef to achieve three Michelin stars. Over the years, Marco Pierre White has gained a reputation for being hard working in his quest for excellence, whilst not being afraid to eject patrons of his restaurants if they passed comment that wasn't to the liking of the head chef! After 17 years at the top, Marco retired from the pass and handed back his Michelin stars.
These days, Marco is the public face for Knorr stock cubes and stockpots. In answer to criticisms that he'd 'sold himself out as a chef' by acting as a brand ambassador for such products he said, "by working with companies like Knorr it allows me to stand onto a bigger stage and enrich people's lives... Michelin stars, they're my past."
In my opinion, Marco Pierre White knows his stuff! If you're going to take the advice from any top chef, then Marco is a great place to start. Knorr and Marco have put together Marco Pierre White's Little Black Book, a great collective website full of recipes, Video recipes, cooking tips and techniques from the man himself. The purpose of the site is all about giving you the confidence to experiment, to try new things and to really enjoy cooking.
Add the Little Black Book into your library, it's a book you'll keep going back to read again and again!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sunday Roast Dinner

The origins of the Sunday Roast are believed to go back to Industrial Revolution times. Apparently, Yorkshire families would put a joint of meat in the oven, (usually beef) before they went to Sunday church service. The meat would cook slowly, and by the time the family arrived home at lunchtime, the meat would be ready for serving.
These days, the traditional Sunday Roast dinner is eaten predominantly in the UK, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
There is no limit the choices available, however the most popular are topside of beef, shoulder of pork, leg of lamb and roast chicken. All of this would traditionally be served with roast potatoes and a selection of seasonal vegetables. If fact, the Sunday roast could be seen as slightly less grand version of a traditional Christmas dinner.
It takes a considerable amount of domestic cooking skill, flair and experience to have all the elements, with their separate cooking and preparation methods and timings, ready together to serve at their best, especially to a large gathering.

As I write this post, there is a long standing question running through my head. It's something that I've thought about for many years, and maybe now someone can help answer it for me.
Why do British tourist go looking for a Sunday Roast dinner when on their holiday abroad?
Why would someone want to eat this type of meal, delicious or not, in 30 degree heat? Why would someone not want to try the fresh flavours of the locality that they have chosen to live for the holiday period?
Did you know that 50% of British tourists will shy away from local cuisine in favour of fish'n'chips English breakfasts and Sunday Roast dinner? If someone is so keen to eat British food at any opportunity, they could save themselves the hassle of a long and expensive flight, then head down to their local pub or carvery where they will happily re-create their favourite roast.
I love cooking and serving Sunday Roast dinner, but remember that there is a time and a place for everything!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Recipe - Baked Sea Bass with Coriander Salsa

This recipe is a twist on the classic fish'n'chips with mushy peas, but done in a way that you can impress your guests.
  • 2 sea bass fillets, halved
  • 150g sugar snap peas
  • 6 baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • Large handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 4 large potatoes, cubed (King Edwards work well)
  1. Parboil the potatoes, drain before placing on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil then season well. Place in a preheated oven 170C for approx 45 mins.
  2. After 30 minutes add the shallot ,garlic and tomato into a heated pan with a little olive oil. Be careful that the tomato doesn't break down too much.
  3. Heat an ovenproof pan, add a little olive oil before placing the sea bass fillets skin side up. Season the skin side and cook in the pan for 4 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped coriander (leave a little for garnishing) to the pan with the tomatoes and garlic, stirring through before adding a splash of balsamic vinegar, and a splash of sherry vinegar.
  5. Turn the fish in the other pan then spoon the salsa mixture over the 4 half fillets. Place the pan in the oven alongside the potatoes. Cook the fish for about 8 minutes.
  6. Cook the sugar snap peas in heavily salted water for 4 minutes, drain and put back in the pan. Add a knob of butter and set aside.
To serve, spoon the roasted potato cubes onto a plate. Layer 2 pieces of fish over the potato, be careful not to spill the salsa from the top of the fish. Spoon the buttered sugar snaps onto the side of place. Scatter with the remaining coriander.

The salsa compliments the sweet flavour of the sea bass, while the crunchy potatoes contrast the soft flaky fish. This dish can also be prepared using basil instead of coriander. Either way, fancy fish'n'chips that your dinner guests will love!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Recipe - Pork Stroganoff

 The history of stroganoff lies back in the 19th century. The original Russian classic was traditionally just sautéed beef cooked with soured cream and a little mustard. Onced cooked, the stroganoff was served with thinly fried potato sticks. Over time, chefs have added their own twists on the classic dish, this is my version.
  • 250g pork loin, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
  • 100ml white wine or dry sherry
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (I always used Spanish)
  • 1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 150ml soured cream
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped roughly
  1. Marinate the pork with the paprika and some olive oil, sit to the side until needed.
  2. Pour a little olive oil to a hot pan, once heated add the shallot, garlic and mushroom. Cook the veg for a few minutes before adding the wine to the pan.
  3. Reduce the liquid down then add the pork strips. Keep stirring the pork in the pan, making sure that it cooked though.
  4. Once the pork is cooked, stir in the mustard and cook for a minute then add the soured cream.
  5. Heat through thoroughly, once bubbling remove from the heat. Stir in most of the parsley, keeping a little for garnishing.
  6. Serve with fluffy boiled rice.

I have been making this for years now and it has become a firm favourite of family and friends. Try making it with red wine instead of white, it will add a lovely richness to the finished sauce.
Let me know how you get on with the stroganoff, or any of your own twists that you like to add.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Review - Papatapa Vinos + Tapas Bar

 One of the things that i love about city breaks and holidays to Spain, or it's associated islands, is the wonderful flavours and colours of the local foods.
Myself and my beautiful wife Nicola have been travelling to Lanzarote for a number of years now and have a few restaurants that we will always revisit based on the high quality of food and service that we have received in the past. Of course, it is always great to find somewhere new that very quickly establishes itself as a challenger for the favourite list!

Papatapa Vinos + Tapas Bar is situated in the harbour area of Puerto Del Carmen. It occupies the building that was once Rumm Nightclub, a place that gives my wife flashbacks to a horrible night of too many margaritas! for those that don't remember Rumm, Papatapa sits next door to the famous Casa Roja restaurant. I have a feeling that Casa Roja could have something to do with the ownership of the new tapas bar based on the the fact that the staff kept wandering back and forth between the two.
Nicola and myself were walking back to our villa when we noticed that there was a new eatery on the waterfront. Outside there was a chalkboard advertising an offer on a tray of pintxos for €8. The waitress came to the door to chat with us and before you could say "una mesa para dos personas", we were sitting with a bottle of Vina Sol and two glasses!
We ordered the mixed tray of pintxos and a half racion of ensalada rusa, a typical potato salad. The salad was a delicious mix of vegetables, boiled potatoes ,hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise. Papatapa served their version with roasted red peppers and grated boiled egg on top. Grated egg was a new one on me, but the change in texture added a new dimension to the salad. 
Moving onto the pintxos, the tray consisted of six different toppings served on top of delicately flavoured bread.

 Clockwise from top left,
  • Pulpo Galicia - octopus
  • Queso de cabra y albahaca - goats cheese & basil
  • Gambas con ajo - prawns with garlic
  • Salmon ahumado - smoked salmon
  • Embutidos mixtos - selection of cured meats
  • Champinon y pimientos de padron - mushroom & green pepper
As you can see from the above photo, the presentation was stunning. More importantly, each pintxo was loaded with just the right amount of topping, and were  packed with plenty of indiviual flavour.  As the sea breaze worked its way in from the harbour, we worked our way through our lunch. The waitress popped over and explained to us that the bar had only opened towards the end of the summer but had seen a steady increase in lunchtime trade. I am sure that as word spreads about the tasty tapas and pintxos on offer, coupled with the varying lunchtime chalkboard offers, Papatapa should become a regular lunchtime retreat. 
With the right balance of quality food, well priced wine and typically Spanish surroundings, make sure that you pay a visit to Papatapa next time you're in the old town of Puerto Del Carmen.
I know that we are already looking forward to returning when we come back to Lanzarote in September.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Food for Lovers

 George Bernard Shaw once quoted "there is no sincerer love than the love of food"

As someone who enjoys cooking, I have to agree with the literary genius. There is nothing more enjoyable that preparing a delicious three course meal then sitting down to share a chilled bottle of Torres Vina Sol with my beautiful wife.

Valentine's Day is a time when the restaurant trade pull out all the stops in an effort to get couples, old and new, to head out for a "Lovers Menu for 2". 

Anyone who knows me will know my feelings on special occasion set meal offerings. Regardless of the time of year, whether it be Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, and of course Valentine's Day, I genuinely feel that the majority of restaurants take the customer for granted! 

Think about the set menu that are put in front of us? Normally there is a limited number of options for starter, main and dessert, where sometimes it's difficult to pick three course that you would genuinely order at any ther time of the year. That said, there may actually be something on the set menu that you would like to order but that item or items comes with surcharge! 

On top of this limited menu, the price has been inflated whilst the service and is often below the standards that you would expect. In actual fact, you could argue that these special day set menus are simply overpriced pre-theatre menus that have been wrapped up in a pretty bow with a loading on the normal pre-theatre rates!

The other thing that gets me is the fact that these menus often feature dishes that carry higher profit margins, don't get me wrong, I'm all for restaurants turning a profit providing they serve up fresh, quality food with service levels that make you feel appreciated, but just don't take me for granted!

I don't want to get all down on the restaurant trade. I know that there are a number of restaurants out there that have put together well priced and well structured menus. A local restaurant to myself have a fantastic three course set meal for two with a glass of wine each, and coffee or tea, all for £30. This represents great value and is exactly the type of deal is much more likely to get us eating out more.

I'll wrap this up by revisiting the words of Mr Shaw, 'there is no sincerer love than the love of food', but dont pay over the odds for mediocre food and dodgy service, simply because society says you should be celebrating the love you have for your other half.



Monday, 13 February 2012

Recipe - Chicken & Leek Pie

 At this time of year when the weather isn't too good, I like to make hearty dishes that make you feel glad to be home. This recipe for Chicken & Leek pie is easy to follow (mostly), and should feed four hungry people for under a fiver.

For the filling
  • 150g cubed pancetta
  • 3 chicken breasts, chopped
  • 2 medium leeks, chopped and rinsed
  • 30g plain flour
  • 50g butter
  • 500ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 3tbs double cream
  • 2tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 chicken stock cube, I use Knorr stock 
Heat a little olive oil in a pan until it begins to smoke, add the pancetta and leeks and cook until the pancetta starts to crisp up. Add the chicken breast and continue cooking until the chicken begins to brown. 
Once the chicken has browned, remove from the heat and transfer the pancetta, leeks and chicken to an ovenproof dish. Set aside to cool.
In a separate pan, melt the butter then add the flour and stir together to form a roux. Cook for about five minutes, before removing from the heat. Add the milk, beating with a balloon whisk to remove any lumps.
Return the pan to the heat, stirring continuously to stop the contents catching on the bottom. Bring to the boil, keep stirring as the mixture thickens. Reduce heat and cook for a further five minutes.
Remove from the heat, then mix in the double cream and mustard, finally crumble in the stock cube.
Pour the thick creamy sauce over the chicken and leek mixture, again leaving to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180C. Roll out 200g of puff pastry and spread over the cooled pie filling, make sure to seal the edges of pie dish.
Place in the centre of the heated oven and bake for 40 minutes, the pastry should be golden brown and well risen.

Serve with creamy buttery mashed potatoes and your favourite green vegetables. This is a definite feel good meal that you'll be making time and again. Tuck in and enjoy!


Sunday, 12 February 2012

Recipe - Rhubarb Tarte Tatin

 Research shows that the Tarte Tatin was first created by accident at the Hotel Tatin, South of Paris, in the 1880sThe hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline TatinThere are conflicting stories concerning the tart's origin, but the predominant one is that Stéphanie Tatin, who did most of the cooking, was overworked one day. She started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. In an alternative version of the tart's origin, Stéphanie baked a caramelized apple tart upside-down by mistake. Regardless she served her guests the unusual dish hot from the oven and a classic was born.
Let's be thankful that Stephanie decided to continue despite the fact that it was looking like a disaster in the making, because she managed to create one of my favourite desserts. In all fairness, anything that comprises sugar, butter, cooked apples and pastry is always going to tick my boxes. This picture is a previous attempt at recreating the French classic.

  Although this dish is traditionally made with apples, rhubarb works incredibly well with this technique. Oven baking rhubarb with sugar and butter creates a rich toffee flavoured topping which when served with good quality vanilla ice-cream, tasted delicious.

  • 4 stalks rhubarb, cut into 3" strips
  • 100g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 200g puff pastry - ready roll is fine, top chefs don't always make their own pastry so why should you?
Evenly spread the butter oven the base of a cake tin. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the butter, then layer the rhubarb over the sugar. Try to pack the rhubarb as close together as possible.
Bake the rhubarb for two hours in an oven preheated to 180C. Once the rhubarb has been in the oven for just short of two hours, roll out out the pastry to the required size of your cake tin. Remove the hot tin from the oven, cover the rhubarb with the pastry making sure to tuck the edges in at the side of the cake tin.
Place back in the oven until the pastry has cooked through, 20 minutes or so should be enough. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes, the cooked rhubarb will be very hot!
After 10 minutes, carefully turn out onto a plate before serving.
Best served with vanilla ice-cream, although double cream or custard will also work well.If you're looking for a dessert to impress for Valentine's Dinner, this easy to prepare dish is a sure fire winner.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


 If you're looking for some ideas on an easy to prepare, delicious lunch, then give this recipe a try.

 Take a large portobello mushroom, drizzle with olive oil and season well. Generously spoon over some garlic and herb soft cheese, then layer with a few slices of Serrano ham.
Place in a preheated oven (150C) and bake for 25 minutes.
Serve with a little side salad and a toasted muffin.

 This dish is a great example of how putting a few simple ingredients together can create a delicious end result. Go on, give it a go this weekend!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Changing the World, One Cook at a Time!

 I've been writing this blog for almost two weeks simply as a way of expressing myself through the food that I enjoy eating and love cooking. I suppose one of the things that will keep me going is the possibility that others may share my opinions or be influenced by the reviews that I post, or even better, decide to give the recipes a try.
So whether you are simply passing by for a quick read or a regular visitor, please feel free to leave feedback on my posts or suggestions on topics for the future.
As it turns out, I seem to be having an impact already. I recently received a picture text from my Mum today, showing off her cooking skills! Actually, the fact that she managed to send a picture by text was hugely impressive! Let alone the fact that Mum was able to put together a dish that was visually stunning, and a classic dish from my childhood.

More importantly it reminded me that you can't eat nouvelle cuisine every night!  
 Remember that Valentine's Day is on Tuesday, I wonder if this would work as a romantic dinner?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Recipe - Leek Risotto with Pan-Fried Peppered Chicken

I have been asked if I can post up a recipe for an easy to cook risotto. During the winter months, this dish is something that I serve up every couple of weeks. Most recipes would have you trying to cook your rice in one pot whilst keeping another pot of hot stock bubbling away, my recipe doesn't! This handy tip was picked up from Marco Pierre White who believes that using stock at room temperature allows the rice to absorb more of flavour as it cooks.
Remember that the key to a good risotto is to keep the contents in the pan moving. 
  • 90g arborio rice
  • 30g pearl barley
  • 1 shallot, diced 
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped 
  • 2 small leeks, chopped
  • 125ml white wine or dry sherry
  • 400ml chicken stock at room temperature - I use Knorr stock pots
  • 2 chicken breasts 
  • 25g grated Parmegianno or Grana Padano
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Heat a wide bottomed pan, add a good glug of olive oil and heat until smoking then add the garlic and shallot. Reduce the heat and keep stirring, making sure that they don't burn.
Once the shallot is almost translucent, add the arborio rice and pearl barley and stir. Keep stirring and make sure that the rice and barley are coated with oil. 
After a few minutes the rice will start to crack and you should notice a slightly nutty aroma, at this point pour in the wine, and keep stirring.

Once the wine has been absorbed, you can start to add the stock in small amounts, always making sure that the all of the liquid has been absorbed before adding more, however be careful not to boil the liquid. This will result in the stock evaporating too quickly and the rice not cooking through properly. 
At this stage add the chopped leeks to the pan along with your first addition of stock. 

As the rice is cooking you will have time to cook the chicken breasts. Butterfly the chicken, season well making sure to give a good grinding of black pepper.
Heat a frying pan, add a little olive oil and when hot place the chicken in the pan. Cook for 5-6 mins before turning, cook for a further 4-5 mins until the chicken is cooked through. 
Once cooked , remove from the pan and leave to rest.

During this time you should have added the last of the stock and now have a creamy risotto. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the grated Parmegianno or Grana Padano. Add a couple of knobs of butter to the risotto, place a lid on the pan and leave to sit for 5 minutes.

Just before serving, squeeze in a little lemon juice and stir in some more ground black pepper.
Serve in a bowl with the sliced chicken layered across the top before adding a final grating of your favourite Italian cheese.

You will be surprised at how easy this dish is to prepare. I hope you enjoy making and eating this risotto, and look forward to hearing your feedback.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Nescafé Frappelatte

 Just a little reminder for the lovely Nicola.


High Street Love Affair With The Coffee Shops

 No matter where you are in the UK, it is becoming increasingly difficult to walk down the high street of any big town or city without passing any of the major coffee shop brands. Whether it be Starbucks, Costa, Caffe Nero or Coffee Republic, there are plenty of options available to choose from.

What surprises me is that whilst the country seems to be going through a grey period just now, the coffee shop industry is apparently booming! It would seem that there is an endless amount of us who will not bat an eyelid at paying £3 every day for a cup of freshly brewed coffee. This got me thinking about why this industry has grown so quickly.

In the UK there are currently over 14000 coffee shops, and recently both Starbucks and Costa have announced plans to grow their own numbers aggressively over the coming years. Believe it or not, in the 18th and 19th centuries there were over five times the number of coffee houses!

It would seem that the main reason for such huge levels of growth could be down to the fact for many years, the quality of coffee that has been served in the majority of cafes was very poor quality. Once we got tasted the fresh brews on offer, we were hooked!

I was thinking about how the UK compares with some of our European counterparts, have they become overrun with the familiar logos of the international big guys? The short answer is......No. 

The population of Spain is approximately 20% less than the UK. Despite this, Starbucks has just over 50 stores. The main reason for this must be down to the fact that Europe has been drinking great coffee for years. Anyone who has ever been to Spain, or Italy or France, will be blissfully aware that you can get a cup of delicious, fresh, strong java from almost any cafe or bar. Cafe con leche, cappuccino, or latte is the order of the day before lunch. Yet after lunch, most Europeans would not dream of ordering anything more than espresso, in fact you will give yourself away as a tourist the moment you order a hot milky coffee after midday.

Our coffee drink practices are so far removed from European trends. In Italy, 95% of all coffee sold is an espresso or similar style drinks like macchiato or ristretto. However in the UK, only 5% of coffee sold is espresso. 

There is a drink that I have been enjoying for many years in both Spain and France, the Cortado condensada or Cafe BonBon depending on which side of the Pyrenees you're on. Yet despite the huge number of outlets on the high street, I am unable to get the coffee that I desire!

The cortado condensada makes a perfect start to the day. A double shot of espresso with a measure of sweetened condensed milk, normally served in a little straight sided glass. Caffeine and sugar in perfect harmony. 

Next time abroad, give it a go! It's a favourite with the local elderly gents, it could soon become your favourite too!






Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Memories of an Island

 Ok, that's the villa booked for our September Holiday and once again heading back to the beautiful island of Lanzarote. For anyone who hasn't been to Lanzarote before, it is a must see destination. 

 Nicola and myself have been visiting Lanzarote for the last six years, one of the things that keeps bringing me back is huge range of food and wine that is on offer. 

When we return later this year I will be uploading lots of handy and hopefully useful information, reviews and photos, to give some idea of places to visit that we have enjoyed. 

In the meantime, the following places are definitely worth trying out!

Brown Deli in Costa Teguise is owned Tracy and Derek. Like all good deli's they offer a huge range of delicious home cooked favourites. Sandwiches, salads, pies, cakes, and lots more. They also sell a good selection of grocery items too!

Valery Delicatessen in Arrecife has only been open for about six months but has already created a name for itself. It's a great place to sit in for lunch with a fantastic and varied menu. Choose from bocadillos packed with delicious meats, cheeses and salads or why not pick from a selection of traditional pintxos? If you have a sweet tooth, you can indulge in the mouthwatering speciality cakes and biscuits.

Bogeda Stratus in La Geria has created a wonderful tourist attraction in the middle of the wine growing region. Only in their first couple of years of production, there is a well stocked deli shop offering everything from their own award winning wines to locally produced cheeses and hams. There is also a little bar where you can enjoy a little wine tasting session. If you have more time on your hands, why not take a tour of the vineyard or even stay for lunch in their beautiful outdoor restaurant.

I look forward to sharing more of our favourite places on Lanzarote. If you have your own favourite eatery on the island, I would love to hear from you.









Monday, 6 February 2012

Pasta Sauce Jars

For many years I have been a fan of the Lloyd Grossman range of pasta sauces. I always make sure that I have a jar or two in the cupboard as a backup plans should I run out of cooking time. I have tried Dolmio, Ragu, even the likes of Bertolli pasta sauce mixes and never been that impressed with the flavours. More often than not the tomato flavour is too sharp and the balance of herbs is often too overpowering!
Who would have thought that the former would-be housebreaker , Lloyd Grossman, could turn his hand to making richly flavoured and well balanced pasta sauces?

In the winter months I like making hearty dishes packed with flavour. One of my favourites is Fusilli with Meatballs in Tomato & Chili sauce. 
This is actually a very easy meal to put together;

Lloyd Grossman Tomato & Chili Sauce
1 Pack Swedish meatballs
1 Onion,chopped
1 Chili, chopped
Handful of Rocket, or Spinach
Buffalo Mozzarella 

Put the onion and chili in a heated pan with a good glug of olive oil, add the meatballs before pouring over the sauce.
Bring the sauce to the boil, reducing to a simmer until the meatballs are heated through.
To serve, place cooked fusilli in a bowl and place the fresh rocket or spinach on top.
Spoon the meatballs and sauce over the top then add some torn mozzarella.

An easy to prepare dish that's ready in just twenty minutes. Absolutely delicious!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Seasonal Produce - Leeks

When certain vegetables come into season I like to make sure that I get the absolute most from the short time that they are at their best.
Of all the months, I think February may be my favourite because two vegetables that I love arrive in plentiful supply. You will probably see Savoy Cabbage and Leeks featuring on lots of menus at this time of year.
In recent times, the might Leek has definitely become a firm favourite of mine. This versatile relative of the onion has more often been used as an ingredient for soups, which isn't a bad thing, I just think that the leek deserves more chance to be at the dinner table.

As I write this post I am already thinking about the Chicken & Leek Pie that I am planning on preparing for later in the week. (keep an eye out for the recipe and be sure to give it a try)
Try making a leek risotto using half the chopped leek in the early part of the cooking process, adding the rest halfway through. This will create a well flavoured risotto with a little bite.
You could try adding some chopped and boiled leeks to mashed potato with a knob of butter and plenty of ground black pepper. 
Looking for some comfort food, wrap parboiled whole leek stalks in Serrano ham then cover with white sauce and breadcrumbs before baking in the oven. Serve this with some crusty bread and a glass of chilled white wine. Delicious

The leek is also packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins, which can help stave off winter colds so when a recipe mentions onions or shallots, try replacing with a leek instead - the leek has a more robust flavour and adds a little 'je ne sais quoi'.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Review - CC's Wood Fired Pizza Company

So my beautiful wife Nicola is on a girls day/night out. One of her friends has recently turned half a century so the girls have been out drinking champagne & cocktails before heading to Browns Bar & Restaurant in Glasgow. I have to be honest and say that I'm slightly jealous.
I shouldn't complain too much because I get to eat things that I don't normally have, tonight I thought I'd have pizza. I love pizza, I always have! Nicola enjoys one slice, but after that all she can see is more of the same thing. To me, that's the great thing about pizza!

I was originally going to get a pizza from Stefano's on Cathcart Road, however as I wanted to go somewhere closer to home, I popped down to CC's Pizza at Netherlee.

CC's opened about 6 month ago with little fan-fare. In fact the first I knew about them was when I seen their little sign written Ford Ka driving about Clarkston. I have now had a few pizzas from CC's over the last couple of months and have enjoyed them all.
A couple of months ago I managed to have a conversation with the owner who explained that he had been trained in Italy by experienced pizza chefs and that CC's was the first wood fired pizza oven in Glasgow.
Carefully selected logs are burned in the traditional oven, giving each pizza a unique flavour. This process also allows CC's to be a carbon neutral operator. 

The pizza dough is made fresh on the premises each day, and hand stretched only when you place your order. Tonight I opted for my favourite pizza topping - Parma Ham & Mozzarella. 
Once ordered, the base is covered in a rich tomato sauce which is well seasoned with fresh herbs and a few pieces of torn buffalo mozzarella before being placed towards the back of the traditional oven. As the pizza cooks, the chef keeps a careful eye on the heat of the oven, adding a few logs to the fire to maintain the optimum cooking temperature.
Five minutes later, my pizza is removed from the oven and a few slices of fresh Parma ham are draped across the top. The residual heat is enough to heat the ham through, extracting the salty flavours from the cured ham.

As I drove home with the wonderful aroma filling my car, I was glad that Nicola was out with the girls. After all, I didn't want to share my delicious smelling pizza!
Not only did it smell delicious, it tasted great. The wood fire oven gives the base a lovely crispy finish,with a slightly smoky taste. The combination of herby tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella and salty Parma ham is a perfect trilogy of Italian flavours.

Next time the kids scream that they want pizza, give CC's a call. You'll be glad that you did!

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