Lunch deals please

I have long known that the way to enjoy a great meal at a bargain price is to look for a lunch deal, it is how I survive.  I am now approaching my birthday and instead of something to unwrap I have asked my lovely man for something I can eat instead.  I am therefore trying to work out how many lunches at different wonderful establishments I can fit in.  Please let me know if you have a good lunch deal for me to try, happy to blog it if it is good.  My lovely eateries please get in touch, you know who you are xx

Studio Thai, like being on holiday!

What a treat, visiting Studio Thai in Newbury with the gorgeous Waheeda as my dining companion.  Now, dear reader, you may know my love of things Thai, I go there for my annual holiday and love every minute.  I do try other places but invariably I end up sitting there grumpily wondering why on earth I didnt go back to Koh Samui for a fantastic relaxing holiday.  The food is a major reason that we keep returning to the lovely Thailand so it was a joy to visit Studio Thai and have all my holiday taste buds revitalised.  Wow.  So good.  Sue comes from the Bangkok area and has been cooking Thai food in Newbury for a number of years and Sachin is her business partner, both thoroughly good eggs and delightful hosts.

 

The restaurant is lovely, lots of wood and carvings, it really did look like an authentic Thai restaurant, in fact with the aromas of food being prepared it smelt like an authentic Thai restaurant too, in a very good way.

 

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Guess who, if I say luscious then you say Waheeda!!

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I have been utterly noble by posting this picture of the lovely Waheeda with what looks like a ropey washed out old bag.  Note to self…. only sit next to even more hideous creatures in future.  Sigh.

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Wonderful little home made spring rolls.  Normally wherever you go the spring rolls are uniform, these are made on the premises and have that wonderful home made charm which adds to the fantastic flavour.  They came with a home made chilli sauce that packed a punch but didnt knock you to the ground and punch your lights out.

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I have to admit that although my daugher, Rachel, could eat satay for every meal it has never been a favourite of mine, I have always thought it a bit ‘meh’.  However this dish has changed my mind, the chicken was moist and the satay sauce was unlike any I have had before, it was fresh, you could see the chopped nuts and taste the crunchiness, in fact it was all I could do to stop taking a spoon to the sauce and eating it like a soup.

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 This was my pork stir fry Kao Pad Sab Pa Rod which was really tasty, there were different levels of flavour and a low level of heat and they all tied together beautifully.  The vegetables had a bit of crunch and the meat wasn’t dried out, all in all very well cooked.

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This was Waheeda’s Pad Gra Prao which was a street dish of prawns stir fried with chopped chilli, garlic and holy basil.  Hotter than my pork but just as tasty.

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This is Sue who comes from Bangkok and has been cooking Thai food for ever.  She also does fruit carving (photo below) and offers both cookery lessons and fruit carving lessons for individuals or groups.  What a great present that would make!  She can be contacted on 07733303355.

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Sachin, Sues enthusiastic and industrious business partner, charming and attentive.  While I was chatting to Sachin I heard a couple of voice around the corner.  It was a couple of very loyal customers from my neck of the woods who had followed Studio Thai on its journey through Newbury.  They were vegetarian and loved the fact that you could choose virtually any dish on the menu and ask for a substitution of tofu or indeed any other meat or fish to make the dish your own.  How cool is that?

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 An example of the fruit carving that you could do if you had a lesson with Sue!

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Finally, is this Elton John’s typewriter?  Please pass this on to Sir Elton and we will find out!!

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.