NO NOT TURKEY

Listen my lovelies, the post that I did talking about reviewing Christmas menus has resulted in a lot of establishments taking it as a challenge to make me love turkey! NO NO NO! If I was going to do that the only contender so far is The Red House at Marsh Benham but I do not want to eat turkey. Please woo me with turkey alternatives. Turkey, sprouts and cauliflower are the devils food!

Christmas food reviews

I am wondering about doing a comparison of Christmas food menus. The only thing stopping me is that I seriously consider turkey a complete waste of a meal, followed closely by cauliflower and sprouts. There I have said it. Sooooo if you want me to review your Christmas offering please be prepared to wow me with your turkey or offer an alternative. That is all. Thank you x

Luckys, Indian Food of Quality

Well who knew?  As you may know I have been lucky enough to pair up with the luscious, vivacious Waheeda who also has a fantastic programme on Kennet Radio (Listen lovely readers, it is a cracking show).  I am starting a new thread on food from different cultures and Waheeda is going to accompany me on some of these visits.  This is great as we both know how to talk with enthusiasm and will bone up on the listening side later.  Newbury has a lot of different places to eat and, particularly, seems to have a wealth of Indian restaurants so I was pleased to be able to visit one that has been recommended to me several times but which I had never managed to get to before.  Lucky s is in Cheap Street and is run by ….. Lucky, what a fantastical coincidence!

 

In the dim and distant past I was a huge fan of curries, I was a convert to the Pat Chapman school of curry making so every few months I would make a huge batch (really I hear you saying, really, a huge batch, you don’t say, do you actually do anything in small amounts??  No I don’t, why would I?) of spice pastes, garlic, onion, ginger, chilli bases and all would be bottled and/or frozen.  Maybe this was part of the problem as more and more people would ask for jars and base portions and it all got a bit mad.

 

The curry eating came to a grinding halt when I married Tony.  I married a man who is allergic to chilli and this has seriously impeded my spicy fun :-).   I have tried sneakily adding chilli to dishes and feigning complete ignorance when he changes colour and his body swells (I just wanted to check that it was a real allergy) but unfortunately he appears to be telling the truth, his body doesnt lie.  I have also tried doing a separate chilli, ginger, garlic type mix to add to the food after it is cooked but it doesnt really work.  Therefore I have been spice deprived and it was a real treat to go to Lucky s for what promised to be a delicious lunch.

 

I arrived to a warm welcome and perused the menu while I waited for Waheeda because she was late, just saying.  She was well worth the wait though, this is a tiny but beautiful bundle of energy who flies about and does everything at high speed and with passion and good humour.  Even better we were lucky enough to have the kind attentions of Lucky who was very entertaining and we all ended up talking about absolutely everything from deep spiritual matters to rather wild and jokey things.  In fact we had such fun that I completely forgot to ask for the detail of what we were eating.  This was partly because we didn’t order, Lucy sorted the whole thing out for us (and paid, thank you so much Sir) and chose a fantastic succession of courses.  I enjoyed every single thing that was unlucky (see what I did there) enough to pass my fork.

 

I knew I had arrived at an Indian restaurant when we received the traditional poppadum and dippy things to nibble while Lucky chose the rest of the menu for us.  It was so good to have the crunchy poppadums to dip in the cooling yoghurt, the fruity chutney and the crunchy shredded onion mix.  For the first time I think Waheeda realised what it was going to be like having me as a dining partner.  She ate with decorum and passed me tasty morsels, I accepted the tasty morsels and then hoovered everything else up!  A selection of starters arrived which were so good and included stuffed jalepenos, chicken tikka (oh so moist), bhajis and two dips, one made with fresh tomatoes and one with tamarind, tasty.

 

Then came two of the nicest things I have eaten at an Indian restaurant, times have changed since I used to go, these were a prawn dish made with prawns so big I think that they may have been mutants but they tasted delicious, they were perfectly cooked in a sauce which was fresh, coriander and other herbs and spices working together so well.  The other dish that was so lovely was the lamb which was meltingly tender and, oh joy, had enough of a kick for me to be pulled back through time 15 years as my tastebuds prompted my memory of long forgotten spiciness.

 

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Pre Starter – yes we are now in an Indian restaurant

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Lucky, the delightful owner

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Waheeda my bouncy dining companion, not a great picture but it was really hard to get her to ever stay still for long enough!

 

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 Particularly outstanding dips with the starter, tamarind and fresh tomato

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 On the right are the very well cooked prawns, I think Waheeda managed to get one mwahahaha

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Naan and rice

 

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 Oh so mouthwateringly tender, full of flavour, a nice little kick and a definite must have again dish.

Back, Bouncing and Ready to Review

How exciting!  Not only am I back and catching up on postponed promises of reviews but I am taking a slightly different path.  My next theme is going to be food of different cultures.  Wonderfully this can be as wide as any of my previous themes (in fact the last themes were so wide that I don’t think that they were themes at all).  Hey, I am an ex politician, I know how to tie myself into a theme without actually doing so but the new path will be helped at first by the wonderful Waheeda from Kennet Radio.  Waheeda of the smoky and sultry eyes and enigmatic voice.  I am going to stand close to her and soak up her gorgeousness and pretend it is my own. 

 

On a completely different tack Tony, my OH, has lost nearly two stone and reversed his diabetes.  Well done to him I hear you say.  Absolutely, he has worked hard at eating well and walking hard.  However ….. I am going to take some of the credit here because, whilst Tony does an awful lot of work, domestic and otherwise, the one thing he never does is cook.  Therefore it is me that has been creative in the kitchen producing tasty meals that are low in calories and high in healthiness.  I have been asked so many times for recipes that I have decided to bore you all and put them onto my blog.  The first will be coming soon.

 

So I am indeed back and raring to go.  Any restaurants that have asked for a review that haven’t heard from me please tweet me or call me to remind me to get in touch and huge apologies.  I am particularly looking forward to hearing from my favourites who have had a menu change as Autumn zooms in.

Ben ‘off to uni’ Ferguson, a recipe for risotto :-)

 

Ok Benjamino!  You are off to uni in September and are, very wisely, asking about cooking.  We have done the mass stew and spag bol learnathon and you know to get meat that works hard as it is cheaper and tastier slow cooked.  It releases all those lovely juices that make the food so tasty and even tastier left a day.  Perfect for a busy student!

 

Today we are doing chicken risotto.  There are loads of steps you can leave out.  I will tell you as I go.

 

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 These are shallots which are milder than onions but you can just use any old onion.  Chop up a clove of garlic as well.  Chuck them in a pan with a tiny bit of oil and fry them slowly, you dont want the garlic to burn, until they start to go see through.

 

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A load of mushrooms, there a about five varieties there but you can use a job lot from the market of whatever mushrooms they have, just make sure they aren’t slimy and old.

 

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OH Ben, this is your worst nightmare.  This is the 100 year old stock.  Ok not quite but it is pretty old, it has a mother of antiquity but always boil it and freeze it.  Keep all your chicken bones if they are free range and lovely, then you chuck it in a pot with veg and simmer for a good while.  Or use a stock cube.

 

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Fry some smoked bacon chopped into little bits.  You can use pancetta if you are flush although I suspect you never will be.  The longer bits in there are the bacon rinds that I have cut off to make little scratchings as a snack.  You don’t have to do that.  Add the risotto rice and gently fry it for a couple of minutes, let the grains all get covered in a tiny bit of oil.

 

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You chuck in the boiling stock a bit at a time and stir it.  There are lots of lessons here, some people say that you have to stir continuously but you don’t although you do have to keep checking and stirring.  When it is nearly done throw some cooked chicken in, leftovers from a roast will be perfect.  When it was cooked, the rice was mostly soft with just a bit of a bite and there was some oojy sauce surrounding the rice then I chucked in some spinach.  You don’t have to do this, don’t be alarmed about how much spinach there seems to be as it shrinks to nothing if you cover the pan and let the spinach steam.

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At the very end I chucked some cheese on top, a bit of mascarpone and some cheddar I had knocking about in the fridge.  You don’t have to add either or you could put on some Parmesan if you have it.  Word of advice.  Never buy ready grated Parmesan as it smells of old feet (or your feet!).  Buy it in chunks and grate it when you need it.

 

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Finally, it is nice with a bit of salad, I know you don’t like green stuff so note that this is mostly red.  Also note that I am using the tomberries we bought last week.  Fresh herbs and a bit of chopped red onion are nice on top along with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar just before you eat it.

 

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AS you know presentation isn’t my forte but above is the finished dish.  Enjoy,   You can do this with any left over meat or sausages or no meat at all.

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 Our new dishwasher accessory.

 

 

An Old Friend revisited – White Hart

I was released temporarily last week and was trying to go past The White Hart in Hampstead Norreys but was unable to.  A weird magnetic force of remembered tastiness propelled me in to the delish food pub for an early lunch.  Because this visit was a bit sudden and impulsive I forgot to pick up a menu to prompt my memory so you will sadly have to rely on my impoverished brain cells for this review.

 

It was lovely to be back and to see people there that I had recommended, this blog apparently has some following which is lovely, hello everyone, *friendly wave*.  In fact the last 3 places I have visited I have met people who are there because of my recommendations,  Wahoo.

 

Sadly Darren, the talented and innovative chef, wasnt there but he had obviously left the place in able hands because the food was all excellent.  Tony had mushrooms which tasted lovely (thanks my very patient dining partner) and I had smoked salmon which was beautifully presented but needed bread to accompany it (in my humble opinion).  I asked for bread and when it eventually came it was delicious, warm and crusty and almost a course in iteself, but it did take a while to appear.

 

For a main course Tony had fresh mackerel, fresh fish is something this pub excels in and I am desperate to try a Tuesday Shells night, it looks amazing.  I had haddock and chips with homemade yummy tartare sauce.

 

Tony had a variety of icecreams for pudding which he loved.

 

My only gripe would be that we were put so close to the kitchen door that I ended up holding it open for the servers, not by choice but by instinct.  We had a huge table placed next to us, who were delightful, I am not complaining about them, but we were shuffled even closer to the kitchen door which wasnt a great place to be.  The staff were lovely and not too intrusive and I would definitely return, hopefully for the Shells night, but would ask for better seating.

 

 

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 Tony’s mushrooms, tasted great and wish I could remember more details!

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Beautiful smoked salmon, what a treat for the eyes and palate, just needed some bread

 

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 Tony s mackerel, perfectly cooked with a choice of butters

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  Fish and chips with scallops and garlic prawns (bought later)

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 Ziggy, the dog we rescued from the Dogs Trust, with abnormally large ears and an ….

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 abnormally large tongue!!

Just a quickie ooh err Missus

 

Bladebone Chapel Row – I was taken there on lunch release by my lovely sister Beth and her New Zealand hubby Murray (I only mention his nationality because they had a lush cider made in New Zealand which was a refreshing drink at lunchtime).

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My first serious incident of plate envy.  Lobster, wild rice and lovage salad.  It was delicious but sadly not mine, it was Beths.

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Not on the menu but I asked Kiren to make me something with salmon and I got this little delight, hot salmon and beetroots and horseradish.  Scrummy.

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Murrays salt and pepper squid with chilli jam and coriander.  Really well cooked, tender with a kick.

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Beth’s crab, on my recommendation because although I don’t really like crab Tony had it here and it was the best crab he had ever had!

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I am having to rely on my memory now which is probably going to be a disaster as my brain is not the most effective part of my body.  Cod with cockles and potatoes and oyster leaves, a great combination.

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My lamb, no plate envy here, mine was tender and juicy and full of lambiness.

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Puddings, pannacotta, eton mess and some brownie affair. Very pretty.

IMG_2061 Beth strangling Murray in a loving manner.