Recently I’ve been trying out a different coffee blend – and some different chocolate. My current coffee selection is Percol Guatemala (fairtrade and organic). Its very different from the Union Hand-Roasted I was drinking (see my earlier post) and at first I wasn’t so keen. It seems to be a weaker brew even though they are both graded as 3 so I’ve been having to use a bit more of the grounds in each pot. Its quite smokey in flavour and when I paired it with Green & Blacks Cherry chocolate it just didn’t quite work. Now I’ve switched chocolate (well actually I’ve eaten all the Cherry bar) to Green & Blacks Dark 85%. This chocolate is smooth and intense and balances the smokiness of the coffee well. It’s a really nice chocolate bar at a not too mad price for this level of flavour.
Coffee wise, for my money the Union Hand-Roasted has the edge in the taste stakes, its just that bit more interesting.
Last week I saw Pizza Express were running a 2 for 1 offer again (available until the end of February I think) and as I was meeting a friend for a quick lunch thought that in these credit crunched times we should give it a whirl. To get the voucher I had to register my email address (so that will be unending email traffic from Pizza Express for ever more I guess) and print off the voucher – all pretty easy. Then off to Pizza Express to enjoy the main course of my choosing (with friend in tow – I don’t think the offer was eat 2 main courses yourself and have one free but that might work for the very hungry).
Pizza Express is somewhere I go fairly regularly even at
full price so this is not a tale of complete madness (ooooo look its on offer I’ll have one even though I don’t need, want or like the product…hey admit it, its happened to us all at some time or another).
We settle in, we peruse the menu, they no longer do my friends favourite main course salad, this could get difficult. The offer is ONLY for two main courses and she wants the salad (and I don’t blame her it used to be pretty good) so we negotiate with the waitress. She’s a little stern at first insisting that it’s only an offer on two main courses and even having a double portion of one of the starter salads won’t count. We wheedle a bit – she looks like she might relent and she disappears (presumably to check with the manager but maybe just to get away from us trying it on).
She returns and YES we can have a double portion of starter salad and use the offer. HURRAH.
The food comes, its good in the way that Pizza Express is always good, it does exactly what it says, and service was prompt – they allowed us off piste with the offer. Which, considering how busy it gets when these offers are on (be there at 12.30 or think again where you are lunching), was very fair of them, they could have said no and if we had gone then they would easily have filled our table.
It was pretty noisy because it was so busy; add to that the half terms crowds (big mistake by us picking half term week) and if it’s a peaceful lunch you are after then this isn’t for you. If you are looking for value though this is a pretty good offer; there are plenty around at the moment and signing up to Money Saving Expert or Money Supermarket will point you to them – just remember where ever the offer is for it will get VERY busy and they might not be as flexible as Pizza Express were on this occasion.
For the record we ate at Pizza Express, New Fetter Lane, London and had a La Reine pizza on a romano base with extra egg (soft cooked) and a double portion of mozzarella and tomato salad with a side of dough balls.
I’ve always had a bit of an on-off thing with porridge. I certainly wasn’t a ‘Ready Brek’ kid despite my mum’s best efforts; I stuck firmly with the Weetabix back then.
As I got older I found that porridge was sometimes good but mostly only with a heavy sprinkling of brown sugar and the creamy top of the milk.
And it was a staple on camping weekends with friends, helping stave off the damp and any budding hangover before nipping up a few hills in the Lake District. For the most part though porridge never entered my regular list of breakfasts.
Well eventually I realised that most people make porridge with milk (or part milk, part water) and if there is one thing I don’t like its the smell of warm milk. Cold milk great. Warm milk ugh. In fact anything with warm milk makes my stomach turn slightly (custard, hot chocolate). So doesn’t the creamy top of milk go warm when it hits the porridge? Maybe a little but it stays pretty cold and it doesn’t have that warm milk smell and the porridge itself must have been made with water – so no warm milk odour anywhere. Of course porridge made with water is a bit dull, its okay but its not going to become a favorite without something else added – the sugar, the cream, maybe raisins.
But somewhere deep down I knew I kind of liked porridge, the comforting texture, its warming qualities. So I thought I’d try again but without the milk. What to use instead. Milk substitutes have always seemed a slightly weird idea to me (well except for people who genuinely can’t have milk) but I happened to find something called ‘oat milk’. And here was the first step on the road to a renewed relationship with porridge. Oat milk can only taste of oats, it can’t smell like warm milk, it simply enhances the oatiness on the porridge.
Step two was the lazy persons find – porridge with the fruity bits already added. Just how hard can it be to add raisins, or sultanas, or dried blueberries when cooking up the porridge. It CAN’T be can it? No of course not but when venturing into something new sometimes things need to be a little bit easy or the challenge becomes too great. A small step is often the way to open up a whole new and exciting world. There in the cereal aisle was just what I needed – the small step – porridge oats with fruit already added.
So armed with the right ingredients (and with recent damp and/or cold weather that makes porridge seem like the right option) I have ventured in to a land of porridgey breakfasts. For me about 50g of porridge and 150ml of the oat milk works a treat, simmer for 5-6 minutes and eat – no cream or brown sugar needed. Tasty oaty porridge to start the day. I might even take up hill walking again!
I’ve been thinking about my favourite foods recently, listing, considering, adding, subtracting, juggling, testing…….although I’ve not quite got to my top 5 just yet I’m getting close.
But one thing that has just got to be on there is MUSHROOMS.
I love them in all their different guises. From elegant looking oysters to hearty portobellos and every stop in between, they are a (very) regular feature of my cooking. Stews, stir fries, omelette, risotto, pasta and fry ups.
But I’d stake a lot on the two best ways being:
1. Sauteed in butter and eaten on toast (rye or sourdough for preference)
2. The thing that makes a bacon sandwich truly great (oh joy)
And here are some big fat organic field mushrooms cut into generous sized chunks being sauteed in butter – wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
Yesterday I met up with a good friend for lunch and a catch up and we went to Vine on Gray’s Inn Road. We have been there plenty of times before but not recently as it has been shut for a while due to a change of ownership. Time to see what had changed we thought.
The menu has a greater emphasis on pasta and risotto dishes than previously, although there are still a good range of starters, mains and specials. I had the lasagne and my friend went for a risotto with courgette and gorgonzola. Service was speedy but when we arrived it was quite empty (it filled up pretty quickly though). The lasagne really hit the spot – good meat sauce, pasta not too heavy (though not as feather light as you can get it if you make it yourself), right amount of bechamel. In fact I was enjoying it so much that I have no idea whether the risotto dish was any good!
The waiter said that the new chef had previously worked for Carluccio’s so I guess that might explain the shift to pasta/risotto. Certainly the lasagne compares very favourably. And the Chianti was pretty good too
Sometimes you just NEED to have a burger in a bun for your supper. Well yesterday that was me.
A quick search in the freezer revealed some organic beef burgers that seemed to fit the bill – each quite small so it wouldn’t count as sheer greed but only mild gluttony to have two.
So out they came to be defrosted during the day and sit winking at me from the counter each time I passed. I thought carefully about what condiments and sides should accompany them to add to the experience. I spooled through ideas in my head remembering previous winning combinations and all the while the anticipation was building.
At last I settled on an ‘open burger’ – only 1 bun between two burgers so there would be no ‘lid’. Off I set to get some buns, choice was limited and I had to settle for wholemeal floured rolls (perhaps at this point I should have spotted that things might be about to go wrong but no I continued to think I was building the dream burger I craved).
Back home the burgers were cooked on very hot chargrill pan for about 5 minutes per side, each of the two sides of the bun was given a different treatment – one had mayo, one ketchup (find both of them at the Stokes brand of Essfoods) – and the side orders of saute portobello mushrooms and grilled baby plum tomatoes duly prepared. Then the whole things was rapidly assembled and whisked to the table to be greedily devoured.
But something had gone wrong – perhaps not very wrong – after all I still managed to eat everything but some how it just didn’t cut it. The bread was tasteless and dry, the burger tasteless and kind of watery – its texture was fine but there was just nothing to the whole thing – no zing, no nice beefy flavour, no soft but fresh tasting bread effect. To be fair the mayo and the ketchup and the sides were great but instead of supporting a strong main act they were left to hold up the whole show on their own!
So the problem – well I can only think that the burgers didn’t stand up to the freezing very well on this occasion. I’ve had the same burgers before both fresh and defrosted and they have been pretty good – not as good as if you made them yourself but there isn’t always time for that kind of thing. And as for the buns well maybe wholemeal just doesn’t work with burgers – I love wholemeal bread but it doesn’t seem to do it on the burger front.
Or just perhaps, the fact I had been dreaming of perfect burgers all day meant nothing would live up to the expectation!
Its been raining here all day so a comforting cup of coffee and a sneaky bit of chocolate has helped while away some of the time. Mind you everyday deserves a good cup of coffee and some nice chocolate.
Today’s pick on the coffee front was Union Hand Roasted Organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe which a medium body and fruity brew – a good any time of day coffee.
Chocolate wise it was one or two slices of Kshocolat Orange Slices (candied orange coated in dark chocolate) and with the fruitiness of the coffee this was a great pairing. They’re expensive but as an occasional treat they do the trick of lifting the spirits on a damp day.