Thursday, 29 November 2012

Creamy Mustard Chicken One-Pot

Cold wintry nights call for hearty, warming dishes, and mid-week, after a cold and often wet commute, sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to call on the classic one-pot style of cooking. One-pot cooking means you can prepare everything you need, bung it into the oven, or leave it cooking on the hob, and then go for a steaming hot bath or shower or get on with household chores, Christmas gift-wrapping or just relax with a book or your favourite TV show.

This is a dish I cook for solace when I’m rushing around doing 101 things, Creamy Mustard Chicken.

I use chicken thighs or drumsticks which are also a cheap choice, so great for towards the end of the month when purses are light, whole grain mustard for some much-needed heat and flavour and double cream for a decadent, naughty feel – although you could substitute this for crème fraiche, which is equally good if you want to feel virtuous. Chopped leeks give a good onion flavour and are a lot easier, and most importantly, quicker to prepare than an onion.

This dish is a bit of a chameleon for me, as it changes each time I make it according to what vegetables I have in the fridge – peas work well, as do chopped parsnips, carrots and squash and mushrooms add a delicious woody taste. If you wanted to add a meatier dimension you could even fry some pancetta or smoked bacon and chop up and scatter into your baking dish.

When I prepared it this week, I was going for speed and solace combined, and forgot the vegetables – I cooked some green beans separately towards the end and that worked a treat too. I made enough for two plus a portion for lunch the next day.

Here’s How:

4-6 chicken thighs or drumsticks
250ml double cream
2-3 cloves of garlic, no need to peel
2-3 leeks
2 tablespoon’s Wholegrain mustard
50-60ml chicken stock
New potatoes
Vegetables of your choice
A few sprigs of thyme

Firstly half and par-boil your potatoes – use boiled water from the kettle and cook at a high heat for ten minutes to really start them off.

Trim and slice your leeks and place into an ovenproof dish and scatter over the garlic cloves.

Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces and arrange into the dish. Season to taste.

In a jug pop the cream, mustard and chicken stock and stir thoroughly.

Once the potatoes have been on long enough, and you can just push a fork through, take off the heat and drain and place in the ‘holes’ around the chicken in the dish.

Cover completely with the sauce mixture and season again. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and place into the oven. 

Cook for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is bubbling. Take out of the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes before dishing up your one-pot wonder.

It’s particularly good with some crusty bread dipped in too.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Second Floor Restaurant, Harvey Nichols, Bristol

Whilst in Bristol over the past few days I enjoyed a business lunch with a colleague at Second Floor Restaurant in the Harvey Nichols in the Cabot Circus centre.

A late lunch, we arrived around 2:30pm and were one of only two tables, which made for a very quiet setting. The restaurant is very much geared up to be “fine dining” and the luxurious gold seating around the place made for a very opulent atmosphere.

We made the most of the set lunch menu and shared our food throughout so as to try as much as possible.

To start we had a pheasant terrine with a prune and red onion marmalade with toasted focaccia and a smoked kipper terrine, which came with the same bread, a little green salad and a wedge of lemon. Both were excellent, the pheasant was rich, chunky and gamey, seasoned well and beautifully complemented by the caramelised red onion and prune accompaniment. The kipper too was fantastic, much smoother in texture and with a light and delicate flavour, enhanced with a squeeze of lemon and the green salad that was generously populated with fresh sprigs of dill – always a good partner to any fish dish.

For the mains we had a fillet of South coast gurnard that came with a Jerusalem artichoke risotto and lemon veloute that looked simply stunning when it arrived. The fish was pan fried to perfection, fleshy white fish, full of flavour and with a delicious and expertly seasoned crispy skin. The risotto was very light with just the merest hint at creaminess, and again flavoured with delicate dill – divine.

Alongside the gurnard we selected the belly pork dish, cooked in ginger, chilli and coconut and accompanied by some gloriously creamy, sweet potato mash. Once again the dish looked gorgeous and the flavour certainly matched up. The pork belly had been slow cooked to the point where it absolutely fell apart and melted in the mouth, and the sauce the meat had been cooked in was a sweet yet sour, sticky glaze, Asian inspired on a classic British dish – genius. Once again, this is a dish I will be attempting to emulate in my own kitchen.

We completed the meal with a vanilla pannacotta that was ridiculously light with a poached quince compote that completely lifted the delicious vanilla cream jelly to a whole new dimension – superb. 

We also had a Valrhona chocolate brownie with a twist – it also comprised of pumpkin, something I found quite strange when perusing the menu, but that my dining companion, a chef and restaurateur, said would work well and that squash and sweet potato do work well in baking. So we gave it a shot and I wasn’t disappointed. It came with a scoop of black pepper ice cream and when it arrived it reminded me of a mini Guinness. The chocolate brownie was rich and whilst dark chocolate can be quite bitter, the pumpkin inside meant the flavour was instantly transferred to sweet. The ice cream was lovely, and subtle and worked well with this sweet chocolate dessert.

The set menu at £17 for two courses and £20 for three courses is incredibly reasonable given the high standard of food on offer, we literally couldn’t find a single flaw with the meal, which given I was with a professional chef speaks volumes. We both had a glass of house white wine with our meal and a large bottle of sparkling water and the entire bill, including service amounted to

I’ll definitely return again next time I come to Bristol, especially as the menu is seasonal and changes each month. The service was impeccable, the food flawless and the bill affordable, not to mention the view overlooking the city and watching the world go by from the second floor – a fabulous retreat.

Second Floor Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Burger Joint, Bristol

I’ve been in Bristol for a few days, firstly for work, and secondly to visit my brother Dan and when I travelled up from London on Wednesday evening after work, the severe weather across the West ensured I had a less than idyllic journey.

My brother picked me up from the station and suggested The Burger Joint for dinner – knowing it to be good and equally important given the time – fast.

A small, informal venue, there were several full tables when we arrived at around 9:30pm and the diners appeared to be a mixture of students and couples.

We were welcomed by a very friendly waitress and she quickly explained how the menu worked. So you choose which burger you want, from a selection including wild boar, venison and Welsh lamb and mint along with the obvious chicken, and prime beef (which we both opted for) and a few different vegetarian options. All under £8.00 each, the burgers come in ciabatta with gherkins, lettuce and tomato and an option of a glazed brioche bun is also available, although sadly they had run out on Wednesday evening.

The toppings are all either 80p each of 3 for £1.95 and I chose blue cheese, bacon and pineapple, Dan chose Cheddar, a pineapple and some sautéed onions – both fairly safe choices, but as I said it was late and we were both tired and hungry.

Next part is choosing your two free sauces for inside your burger – I went for a predictable BBQ and mayo, however there are more exciting choices such as tarragon & lemon mayo and apple salsa if you’re so inclined.

A free side comes with each and we both opted for some French fries. We ordered as an extra to share some beer battered onion rings, as Dan had highly recommended them from his last visit to The Burger Joint. They were absolutely exceptional – the best I’ve tasted by far. Chunky rings of white onion, in the tastiest, crisp batter – if the burger hadn’t been good it would be worth returning just to have these again.

I wasn’t asked how well done I’d like my burger cooked, but was delighted when it arrived to find it juicy and pink in the middle – the best way (in my opinion) to enjoy a burger.
The blue cheese, pineapple and bacon combination worked beautifully against the prime beef burger – it was incredibly flavoursome, succulent and satisfying burger. The fries were great too although the portion size was huge, so you could have easily shared a portion.

I washed down my meal with a couple of Peroni’s and Dan, the designated driver, had some elderflower presse with his and the entire bill came to a ridiculously reasonable £26 – worth every single penny.

London is awash with burger bars and restaurants – it’s the trend that hasn’t gone away for the past few years really, and I would say that The Burger Joint could easily stand up to most that I’ve tried in flavour, substance and variety.

I would thoroughly recommend The Burger Joint to anybody looking for a good, honest and affordable burger restaurant in the Bristol area. The food was great and the staff friendly,  what else could you ask for?

The Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

Thomasina Mier's Fruity Chilli

I’m constantly tearing out recipes from magazines, saving or pinning online recipes and taking notes during TV shows of dishes I want to try and this weekend I finally made one I’ve had earmarked for a while.

Being a big fan of Wahaca, when Thomasina Miers’ Mexican Food Made Simple aired, I was avidly viewing week by week and one of the recipes she prepared that I really liked the look of was for a fruity chilli. After a bit of online digging and having to re-watch the episode via  Channel 5 Online yesterday afternoon, I took note of all of the ingredients, decided to omit from using banana and pear and popped out to get the remainder of the ingredients I didn’t already have in my brother’s stock cupboard, where I’ve been staying for a few nights.

I made a large batch, to freeze half for a pre-prepared mid-week meal, and the rest fed four of us comfortably. Combining both lean steak and pork mince, and with a sauce flavoured with charred vegetables and chipotle the end result was rich, smoky and delicious – a perfect warming, winter meal. I served it with rice, homemade salsa and guacamole, sour cream and some tortilla chips.

Here’s How:

500g each of lean steak and lean pork mince
2 large onions
6 large tomatoes
2 bell peppers
2 cloves of garlic
1 large red chilli
2 apples, peeled and chopped into cubes
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons of raisins or dried fruit
Heaped tsp of each of the following: ground cinnamon, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper
2 cloves
2 tablespoons of oregano (I used dried as couldn’t get hold of any fresh and it was fine)
75 chipotle paste
50 ml chicken stock
1 tin of red kidney beans

First off, whack the oven up to a high heat, and place on a baking sheet the tomatoes, peppers and the onions roughly chopped. Place them into the oven until the skin is blackened, then leave to one side to cool.

Brown off the mince and whilst it’s cooking, place the charred vegetables into a blender and blitz until liquidised – the blackened vegetables will give this basis of your sauce a great, smoked flavour. Now you need to add the flavours – add all of your herbs and spices, garlic and chilli along with the chipotle paste and blitz once more.

Once browned, transfer the mince to a saucepan, then cover with your sauce and stir through thoroughly. Next add your apples and raisins (and if you wish to stick to Thomasina’s recipe your pear and banana) and the chicken stock and kidney beans and stir again. Now place on a moderate heat for 45 minutes-an hour.

In the meantime prepare your salsa by finely chopping 2 tomatoes, 1 red onion and 1 chilli and a tsp of sun-dried tomato paste in a small bowl or ramekin. Pour in some garlic infused olive oil and then leave to intensify as the chilli is cooking.

For the guacamole, in a mortar, place a finely chopped red onion, chopped red chilli and 1 clove of garlic with 2 chopped avocadoes and some fresh coriander and grind with the pestle till you’re left with a fairly chunky texture. Next add the juice of 1 lime and add a pinch of salt and pepper then grind again. Just before serving, mix in some freshly chopped coriander.

Finally cook your rice to the packet instructions, or if you prefer jacket potatoes, and once cooked, plate up with a spoonful each of the salsa, guacamole and sour cream with a bowl of moreish tortillas in the middle of the table, and some grated cheddar cheese for a seriously satisfying, fiery, yet smoky meal.  It might not look very glam, but when it’s cold outside, this kind of a meal is balm, to whoever you’re feeding.

Saturday, 24 November 2012


I recently visited Kyoto, on Romilly Street in Soho with my Dad and brother after we got fed up of the queues outside of Koya where we had intended on eating for a mid-week, after work meal. Quite a different offering from the popular noodle bar, we opted to try a few different things on the menu and found it to be a great find, in an area where we would usually head to Gerrard St for Cantonese food.

The place is quite small and the tables are all very close together, but in a charming way, rather than just looking cramped, and the staff were incredibly welcoming when we arrived and we were soon seated on a table that ended up being a bit small for the amount we ordered.

We shared seven dishes and found most of them to be superb in quality and flavour – starting with vegetable tempura. Spears of asparagus and long, thin strips of butternut squash were coated in a very light, flavoursome batter, which had a crisp crunch and perfectly cooked vegetables inside – a very good start.

Next came the pork gyoza which were the best I’ve tasted. The delicate dumplings had a really tasty pork filling, and the pastry was quite thick, but was cooked through so avoided that doughy taste that sometimes occurs and they were gorgeously crisp on the outside too. We practically inhaled these, they were gone in moments. 

We ordered a crab sushi dish which the waitress had recommended for us, and this was good, although to be honest, I didn’t really feel it was any better than what you can pick up in any branch of Itsu, but I love their sushi so not a problem at all.

Next up came yakitori chicken which was another stand out dish – the chicken was moist and tender and the rich, sticky sweet yakitori sauce was utterly addictive. We had ordered some green vegetables to go alongside this and they were in a very salty dressing so these two dishes complemented each other well.

We also had a seafood noodle dish, which was frankly bland and a real disappointment considering the standard of the rest of the dishes, the seafood was all cooked well and comprised prawns, scallops and some squid, the noodles just had hardly any flavour at all, which was a shame.

Now I simply find it impossible to enter a Japanese restaurant that has a chicken katsu curry on the menu and not indulge – I love this dish and so does my Dad so naturally we went for this too and were delighted with the curry. The panko-coated chicken was perfectly cooked and the mild, but creamy curry was delicious – a great dish all round, if a little predictable of us to order it, but it’s just such a warming and comforting dish it’s too hard to resist.

The service was impeccable, and the bill was around the £100 mark which included several Asahi’s each, so quite reasonable. Kyoto is a place I’d been past lots of times and never thought about trying it – but now we’ve found it, I’m certain we will go back again and again.

Kyoto on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Fish Finger Sandwich

Sometimes, there is nothing more satisfying than eating something that brings you right back to your childhood. One food-stuff that I remember fondly from the late 80’s and early 90’s is fish fingers. We didn’t have these very often at my family home, but they always went down well when we did.

These days fish finger sandwiches seem to occupy most pub menus, but I’m generally reluctant to try for fear of being faces with processed, tasteless and less than satisfying fish inside – thus killing a childhood memory right there. However every so often I get an craving for a fish finger – whether in a sandwich or on a seriously childish plate also occupied with chips and beans, and this week I had that urge.

The only option is to make my own, that way I know exactly how fresh the fish inside is, and I also know that it is only fish inside and no nasties. They are so simple to make, taste great and what’s more they are fun, and food should definitely be fun.

For this I used a large cod fillet, but you could use any white fish really. Haddock is a good option too, but you could equally use pollack, coley or even river cobbler that seems to be more and more readily available, and extremely economical. I also used the ‘flour, egg, breadcrumb’ method to coat, but if you preferred you could of course coat in a light batter and deep fry.

I served my sandwiches with some potato wedges that were par boiled, tossed in olive oil and then some Cajun spices, before baked in the oven for twenty minutes, and some garden peas – but the sandwich alone is enough for a Saturday, hung over lunch. The recipe below makes enough for three sandwiches.

Here’s how:

1 large cod fillet
100g plain white flour
3 slices of bread, white or brown is fine
2 eggs, whisked
1 large ciabatta loaf
3 tablespoons of tartare sauce
Salt and pepper
½ lemon cut into 3 wedges to serve alongside

Firstly get the oven on to about 150 and place the ciabatta in there to warm up for about ten minutes.

Place the flour in a bowl and add a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and mix well to ensure the seasoning is present throughout.

In a separate bowl crack the two eggs and whisk.

In a third bowl place the breadcrumbs. I tend to use whatever bread is in the house and just blitz in my food processor but it’s fine to use shop bought breadcrumbs or even panko if you prefer the taste or texture, or if you’re looking to save time.

Get about a level tablespoon of olive oil and place into a non-stick pan on a low heat so the pan heats up gently while you prepare the fingers.

Take out the ciabatta, portion up and cut in half to cool a little.

Cut the fish fillet into rectangle shaped pieces, trying to keep them as equally sized as possible. Then take each finger and coat first in the flour, then place into the egg, making sure the whole finger is covered and wet with egg wash. Finally place into the breadcrumbs and press down gently, then turn over and do the same to the over side.

Once all fingers are coated, cook them in two batches in your now-hot pan for about 2-3 minutes on each side. You want a crispy, golden brown exterior, and if the pan is nice and hot then this should be enough time to achieve that. When the first batch has turned golden brown place into an ovenproof dish and cook the others. Add them to the ovenproof dish. When the second batch is also golden brown, add to the ovenproof dish and place in the oven. I popped mine in for about three minutes as I had quite a fairly thin fillet, but if you are using a thicker piece of fish, then adjust the oven time accordingly, as this is just to ensure the fish is cooked through.

Whilst the fingers are in the oven, butter the ciabatta, and to each sandwich add a spoonful of the tartare sauce. Remove fingers from the oven and complete your sandwich. Serve with a wedge of lemon and whatever else you fancy, sit back and enjoy a seriously retro sarnie. Be warned, these are a little bit addictive, are great if you have kids and even better if you're a big kid yourself.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Can I get a bun with that burger?

Indian Spiced Bean Burger with Skinny Slaw and Sweet Potato Chips

So in a bid to shed a pound or ten pre-Christmas, I’ve decided a bit of healthy eating is in order, and to kick start this I’m doing a full week completely meat-free.

As I’m the person that does 99% of the cooking at home, the boy is also being subjected to this, so I thought I’d need to be slightly creative to avoid accusations of serving up ‘rabbit food’ so the first evening was a vegetable curry, which went down well on Sunday evening as both of us had what can only be described as a ‘skin-full’ on Saturday night and last night I made an alternative to burger ‘n’ chips.

I made my first ever bean burger, which I flavoured with some Indian herbs and spices and served with a home made spicy coleslaw and some sweet potato chips. This was also well received by the pair of us – and although we enjoyed it, I did think whilst eating it, that next time I’ll improve it with some chopped chorizo – but then I’m always thinking about ‘next time’ and new ways with everything I cook. The sweet potato chips and coleslaw were great accompaniments, and both a lower calorie version of the usual suspects, they really complemented the spices from the burger too.

Also please note from my picture the ridiculously thick size of the patties, again, a learning, and next time I will try to make these more compact, but overall it was a good dish and one I’d eat again with or without the addition of meat.

Here’s how:

Sweet Potato Chips:

  • 300g sweet potatoes

  • Half a red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Peel and cut into chip or wedge shapes, then rinse thoroughly. Add to a pan of boiling water and cook for fifteen minutes. In the meantime add some olive oil into an ovenproof dish and place into a pre-heated oven. Drain the sweet potatoes and shake in the colander then add to the dish and move around to make sure all have an oil coating. Scatter the chopped chilli, and pop in the unpeeled garlic cloves (feel free to add more or omit if you’re not a garlic fan or if you have a hot date later!) Season well and cook for twenty minutes or until they start to crisp.

    Skinny Slaw

    • 2 carrots coarsely grated

  • ½ white cabbage coarsely grated
  • 1 red onion coarsely grated
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 tablespoons of low fat natural yoghurt
  • Salt & pepper to taste

  • Simply combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Makes a large bowl full, perfect for 4-6 people or if you’re only two, then great for keeping in the fridge to perk up salads or sandwiches for lunch the next day.

    The Burger (makes 4 large patties or 6 smaller ones):

    • 200g butter beans, cooked and cooled

  • 200g chickpeas, cooked and cooled
  • 200g kidney beans, cooked and cooled
  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • About two tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves and stalks
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 2 cloves, finely ground

  • To make the burger pop all of the cooked beans into a large mixing bowl and crush up with a potato masher, leaving the mixture quite coarse (don’t put through a potato ricer). Add the coriander and all of the herbs, onion and garlic and stir through with the egg. Gently add in a tablespoon at a time of the breadcrumbs until you have a texture that would hold well in a burger. Then shape into patties with your hands and top each side with some additional breadcrumbs.

    Heat a tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil in a non-stick pan and once hot add the patties and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. When you turn over to cook the other side, add a slice of Emental cheese so it melts nicely into the burger.

    The Extras
    • Burger buns of your choice 

  • 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt with a tablespoon of fresh, chopped mint
  • 1 tub of salsa
  • Leaves and/or sliced tomato
  • Sliced red onion

  • Once your chips are almost done and your skinny slaw is ready – add in your burger patties to the pan to cook. To assemble I added some shop-bought (Sainsbury's) salsa to the bottom bun, then a slice of juicy beef tomato, the cooked burger with melted cheese next and then to finish a spoonful of the cooling minty yoghurt dressing.

    Plate up and serve - good for veggies and meat lovers too.