Posts Tagged ‘eat’

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I know this is probably an over-generalisation but in my travels in the USA (both in the past and more recently) I feel as if eateries in USA make a great deal of brunch as opposed to a normal breakfast – like a pumped-up breakfast; on steroids – You still get fresh OJ and a cup of coffee but you’ll also get fries with that!   Ask for plain toast and butter and some establishments would be offended that there was nothing in their extensive brunch menu that you wanted and they would struggle to provide this measly option for you as the toast would be considered a side to accompany your pancakes, Eggs Benedict or ommelette!

Some of the simpler breakfast options were a French patisserie and a cup of coffee to eat on the go, however, these occasions were few and far between.  Hence, on some days we were only able to have brunch and dinner as we were so full-up.

Eggs Benedict
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Eggs Benedict

One of my all-time favourite breakfast/brunch dishes is Eggs Benedict.  Poached eggs sitting on roast ham, resting snugly on English Muffins and covered with hollandaise sauce.  At least that’s the way they come in New York; which is magnificent.

On the West Coast, Eggs Benedict was an adulterated version of the classic and arrived on food platters to feed a family of four!  In LA, these were served with a side of oil drenched French fries and toast!

Hash House a Go Go; Las Vegas

Hash House a Go Go, advertises itself as “Twisted farm food” – saw its popularity rise after IMG_2355a Man V Food Challenge and is almost as much a tourist attraction as it is a 24hr cafe.  The menu choices and portion sizes are out of this world; if somewhat vulgar.  Drink combos such as their BLT Bloody Mary which arrives in a tall glass with a romaine lettuce leaf and a slice of bacon sticking out of the glass – I could do with one of those now – are just as obscene.

HHaGoGo’s extensive brunch menu of pancakes and waffles also has 4 different versions of Eggs Benedict.  I gave Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Hash House Benedict a go – the very same one that Adam Richman ploughed through on Man V Food.  I was amazed that the waitress could carry the huge platter in her hand with such ease and set it down delicately in front of me (let’s not forget she was carrying two dishes to the table at the time).

I remember holding my head in both hands and whispering, “Dear Lord, what have I done?!”

Picture a platter, filled with mashed potatoes topped with wilted spinach, slices of tomato, more bacon and a mountain of scrambled eggs; sitting proudly on this, a huge sage fried chicken breast escalope skewered in place with a rosemary spear, all smothered in a chipotle cream sauce.  Oh I forgot to mention the English Muffin that was in there somewhere as well…

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…as you’ve probably gathered, on 19th July; food won.

Seafoodseafood risotto OLIVES

The other ubiquitous West Coast food staple is seafood, more specifically prawn and lobster.  In Vegas, most restaurants have a plethora of lobster/prawn inspired dishes on their menu – you could devour a plate of prawns whilst playing on the slots if you wanted.

Of all the meals I had in Vegas, the stand out dish was at Bellagio’s Olives by celebrity chef Todd English.  A stunning seafood risotto that arrived loaded with clams, razor clams, shrimp, fish, crab and lobster set in a saffron broth.  Delicately divine.

Los Angeles

San Francisco

I’ve never experienced a winter so cold as a San Francisco summer!  – Mark Twain.IMG_2789 (Edited)

And on cold, misty days by the sea – a bowl of heart warming soup hits the spot.  I know
that clam chowder is a New England culinary creation but serve it in a hollowed out Boudin sourdough bread and you’ve got something that is totally San Francisco.  Even though the locals don’t eat this, tourists queue up at all of Fisherman Wharf’s seafood establishments for a taste of their chowder.  Boudin’s Bakery being one of the most popular.

Another delicacy is crab – Dungeness Crab – served whole either steamed or roasted in garlic butter or in crab cakes, or served with garlic noodles.  I enjoyed my snow crab legs thoroughly as they poked out of a mountain of shrimp and whitefish in Bubba Gump’s “Boat Trash”.

Cycling from Fisherman’s Wharf, through the Marina district, over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the village of Sausalito, you work up a pretty good appetite and the Seafood Peddler’s Daily Special of Clam chowder (in a bowl) and pound of lobster served with ‘slaw and corn on the cob was exactly what I needed.  Clearly not conducive to cycling back.

Therefore, a ferry trip back to Fisherman’s Wharf is essential to help the food settle as well as breathing in the sea air to open up your appetite for the next onslaught of sea-crustacean delights.

Please note that the photos above are only some of the food memories I’ve experienced throughout the past two weeks, more often than not, either excitement or greed, or a little of both would take over my usual self-control and I’d forget to take the photo before ploughing through the dish.

It has now been a week since I got back from my hols in Las Vegas, LA and San Francisco and even though I enjoyed every mouthful of food I am glad to return my belly (and gout!) to a proper food regime with enforced portion control.

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Whilst the refurbishment took place through the long drawn out winter months, the team at Little Bay made sure to keep tantalising people with morsels of information about their warming exotic food menu, enticing cocktails and ultra modern decor.  When they finally opened in April 2016 people were intrigued and couldn’t wait to sample Little Bay’s alluring Eastern delights as presented to us through social media.

“Cumin, cardamon and clove.”

I eventually made it down there one Thursday evening in mid-May and the place was buzzing: groups of friends, individuals, couples – of all ages.  I think we may have even been the second or even third sitting that evening!

“Comfortable decadence.”

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Dominating the centre of the restaurant is the heart of Little Bay – its circular bar.  The bar staff shimmering between the glinting glassware and beaten copper water jugs, mixing enticing cocktails.  Guests are encouraged to sit at the bar on plush stone coloured velvet bar stools studded with metal rings hanging off the backs whilst waiting for their tables to be set.  Masala Mules being everyone’s cocktail of choice.

The menu is varied but not extensive; 14 starters and 16 main dishes – a good balance of chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian options, as well as the ubiquitous rice dishes, naans and sides.

My menu choices were as follows:

Little Bay2Starter – Chicken 65 (Chilli Chicken)
Marinated pieces of chicken breast, stir fried and tossed in spring onions, chillies and coriander.  This was a very generous starter.  Succulent chicken pieces, fresh zingy ginger coming through the heat of the chillies.  Like popcorn chicken – but grown up; delicious.  With some rice or a naan this could have been a very decent lunch.  I would have liked to have been encouraged by the waiter to have perhaps ordered some raita to go with, not because it needed to be tempered but just as another texture/sensation on the tongue; hot chicken pieces, fridge cold raita.

Main – Keema MattarLittle Bay4
On the menu there is a “Little Bay recommends” next to this dish and I was not disappointed.  Spiced, minced lamb cooked in a tomato and spice infused sauce, freshened up with vibrant green peas. Rich and full of body, this dish was perfectly accompanied by a plain naan and steamed basmati rice.  Any other flavours would have conflicted with the musty-heavy scent of cumin, cardamom and clove.

We decided to forgo dessert as I didn’t really want chocolate cake, carrot cake or pecan pie after a delicious Indian meal.  What happened to the Indian desserts normally served in Indian restaurants?  Mango kulfi? Mango Lassi? Kheer (milky rice pudding)?

Gibraltar desperately needed a proper Indian Restaurant in the leisure areas.  Since Masai Grill, Viceroy and then Laziz shut down, we’ve had to succumb to the Indian takeaway.  Little Bay, which I can’t help but feel, should be called, The Bay Leaf, is a high end Indian Restaurant with high quality food.  A restaurant that wouldn’t be out of place next to London’s The Cinnamon Club or The Red Fort.  Its Directors have worked hard to create an image of comfortable decadence.   Their dynamic team of managers, exciting bar staff and committed waiters making the place buzz with youthful exuberance.

There is an Indian tapas menu which has many dishes from the a la carte menu so that guests may discover the menu, however, I would like to see more “Little Bay recommends” next to different dishes to encourage diners to choose something delicious but unfamiliar.  All tables should be offered a copper pot of poppadums and accompanying chutney whilst diners peruse the menu – we weren’t.

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Masala Mule

I, for one, can’t wait to return.  Promises of exotic spice and Eastern delights did not disappoint.  Next time though, I’d make sure it was in a large group so that I could try lots of different dishes!  And I’d make sure that I tried one of those Masala bad boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the past few days it has been impossible to go to sleep comfortably due to the searing heat and high temperatures. Sitting, sweltering in humid, airless evenings has been unbearable. The thought of having to turn an oven on and subsequently heat up the house is quite frankly the last thing I’d want to do.  Alas, even the ubiquitous summer staple; the BBQ, is making me want to jettison off to cooler parts. But one must eat and one must eat well.

So inspired by the shimmering evening heat and the colour of summer, I offer you a simple yet stunning 2 course supper that bring all the colours and smells of the souk to your doorstep: cinnamon and lemon chicken pilaf followed by a refreshing lemon syllabub.

IMG_3513Cinnamon and lemon chicken pilaf

Pilaf, from Persian origins, is basically a rice dish with any vegetables, meat or shellfish added. When cooking anything Middle-Eastern, I cannot avoid adding toasted nuts to the dish, nor do I want to, as this adds to the resiny earthiness of the dish as well as a touch of exoticism.  Feel free to add dry fruits or even rose petals as this can only enhance its intended decadence.

The beautiful aromas and earthy colours make everything golden; as if a Sultan were to be joining you for dinner.

1st: Marinade chicken pieces (I used breast but have used boneless thighs before) in Greek yogurt, the juice of a lemon and a teaspoon of cinnamon (or alternative aromatics e.g. cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, mixed spice) for one hour or longer.

2nd: Prepare your chicken stock (add a glug of rosewater) with saffron strands to relinquish their warm ochre dye.

3rd: After an hour, drain the excess marinade off the chicken pieces and fry in batches to colour them.  Once all the chicken is fried set aside and tend to the rice.

4th: I cook rice using the 2:1 method. 2 parts warm stock: 1 part basmati rice. Toss a couple of cardamon pods into the stock to release their spicy aromas as well as a good squeeze of lemon juice.

5th: In a dry pan, fry pistachios, flaked almonds and pine nuts until golden.

6th: Once the rice is cooked, mix everything together with freshly chopped parsley.  I usually do this in the large frying pan I used to fry the chicken in so that all the charred-black marinade bits around the pan make their way into the final dish.

Lemon syllabub

20130824-011437.jpgA Tudor creation, the syllabub is a cloud-light yet aromatic dessert that is more a visual delight than a full blown pudding.

Very easy to make (no cooking; merely pouring and whisking)

And can be made with several flavour combinations. Basically think of it as scented cream that occupies a notional territory between solid and liquid:

1st: Whisk a 254ml tub of cream with 4 tablespoons of icing sugar until it forms soft peaks.

2nd: Add a splosh (more if you want!) of limoncello liqueur and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Fold this in gently, try not to make the cream any thicker.

3rd: Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon curd and ripple this in with the handle of a spoon.

4th: In a dry pan, fry flaked almonds with icing sugar until golden.

5th: Serve in chilled glasses, sprinkled with the flaked almonds.  Provide biscotti or alternative biccies to scoop the cool cream into your mouth!

Not even, Sheharezade, would be able to pull Aladdin away from the table with this feast!

Enjoy.

When it comes to food, Gibraltar should be very proud of herself.  Not only do we have a celebratory food festival “Calentita” in June where we celebrate food from the different backgrounds that make up our unique heritage but now we can add Rock Chef to our food culture.

“Passion for food, fierce competition, a unique challenge, fun and a race against time: Just some of the ingredients for ROCK CHEF”

Is the Facebook information given about the competition.  The most important fact though is not included and that is that this is a competition for amateur cooks.  So after weaning out those that have had professional experience and then setting a level for the competition the GFSB picked 12 contestants to appear on the TV show produced by GibMedia.

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taken from the Facebook page “RockChef” GibMedia (c) 2013

Having then to complete several challenges such as working service at local restaurants, three contestants made it through to the semi-final.

Semi-Final

I was present at the Caleta Hotel for the semi-final and all I can say about the three courses without giving anything away is that we were treated to superior home cooking with one dish in particular delivering aspects of fine dining.  When you watch the dishes on TV you will see what I mean by this.  We then had to decide which course we thought was the best created dish based on creativity, technical ability, how it complimented the overall menu as well as flavour.

“superior home cooking”

The person with the least votes would be eliminated.  We were not informed of the outcome of this; even though we all had our suspicions based on the question and answer session that followed.

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The final was held at the Mons-Calpe Suite at the Cable Car Top Station.  May I just say that this venue was incredible.  We arrived around 7pm and the sun was still shining with the surroundings being lit up in gold.  The Mediterranean Sea to one side and the Atlantic Ocean to the other.  A truly magical venue for a finals dinner.

I was invited to attend by Gemma Arias, President of the GFSB, to whom I am eternally grateful.  My luck however, didn’t end there, as I was sat at the centre table surrounded by some of the contestants who had been knocked out in the previous rounds.

“sheer passion for food”

Their company was fantastic!  I marvelled at the anecdotes about the competition itself but ultimately it was their sheer passion for food that impressed me the most.  Listening to them tell the rest of us stories about their home cooking (suckling pig, dishes with height and architecture, chocolate fondants) had me salivating before the cameras started rolling!

2 Menus

So with two finalists cooking their winning 3 course meal for us, how were we going to award the title of Rock Chef?  On this occasion we were not responsible for picking a winner.  A famous celebrity chef was given that daunting task.  And no we were not going to eat 2 x 3 course meals either!  Out of the two menus, we were meant to pick which we wanted to try.  At our table we collaborated and thought we’d share all the courses to get the best impression of who we thought should win.

12 contestants, 3 semi-finalists, 2 finalists, 1 winner!

And the winner is….

So as not to give you any clues as to the finalists and dishes that were created I’ve not included food photos but will upload a photo gallery after the TV series has aired.

Think you’ve got what it takes?  

Why not compete next year for the title of Rock Chef!

The recent Horsemeat scandal has left farmers incensed as meat sales have plummeted, supermarkets have lost billions in profits and governments struggle in vain to draw a line under the scandal over horsemeat being sold as beef.

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So with consumers ditching beef for veggie ready meals it makes me question why people feel that creating vegetarian dishes can be difficult.  Wouldn’t it be just as easy to buy ingredients to create a vegetarian dish than buying a microwave pre-packed one?

By creating your own dish, you control the quantities, the amount of salt, volume… So why don’t some people cook their own vegetarian dishes?  Simple:

 Vegetarian = Boring!

If you try to convince a non-vegetarian that a meat free meal is delicious and exciting then you’ll just be faced with the deadpan certainty that they are awaiting the punchline in your joke.  Either that or they think you’re going to resurrect the vegetable stir-fry.  It is just a case of changing a mindset.  Question: how can culinary giants such as Italy and Spain create amazing vegetable dishes without the ridicule of their respective nations?  Answer: by never compromising on flavour.

The key to a great vegetable dish is to keep it simple.  Let the product speak for itself such as aubergines and honey; a simple Starter to any meal:

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Aubergine and honey

1st: Heat a griddle pan for approximately 8mins before you start cooking.

2nd: Slice the aubergine however you wish; I tend to favour cutting them in half along their length and then slicing into thin strips along the length of each half.

3rd: Pour olive oil into a dish and soak both sides of the aubergine slices in the oil.  Aubergines are like sponges and will soak up a lot of oil so try not to leave them dunked in the oil for too long.

4th: Griddle until scorch marked and softened from the griddle.

5th: Drizzle honey over just before serving.

Use ingredients to compliment your vegetable:

Mushrooms with garlic, chillies and butter IMG_23271

1st: Make the Garlic, Chillies and Parsley butter found on the recipes page.

2nd: Share between the mushrooms.

3rd: Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake at 180°C for 20mins.

Disclaimer:  The butter retains a lot of heat so take care when eating as you don’t want to end up with your palette blistered to shreds!

For the more adventurous cook why not try a Roast Vegetable Lasagne or an impressive melanzane alla parmigiana where instead of using lasagne sheets you use slices of aubergine with plenty of parmesan.  

Toptip: When roasting vegetables don’t add salt until the end otherwise they braise in their own cooking liquid.

Or if you want to impress:

Aubergine rolls filled with spinach, ricotta and pine nuts: 

aubergine rolls

Photo taken from bbcgoodfood.com

1st: Soften the aubergine slices by either griddling or cooking them in the oven.

2nd: Mix the wilted spinach leaves with the ricotta cheese and add a good shaving of parmesan.  Season to taste.

3rd: Either use tomato passata from a jar or create your own.

Start to assemble the dish:

4th: Place a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce into the bottom of the oven dish.

5th: Add a teaspoonful of the mixture to one end of the aubergine slice and roll it.  Repeat this for the remaining aubergine slices.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.  To make this a dinner party indulgence why not cover in bechamel sauce before sprinkling with parmesan cheese.

Most of these vegetable dishes make a great accompaniment to any meal.  For example both the mushrooms and the aubergine rolls can be a side dish to meat or chicken if you so wish.  But celebrating them as a main course with some crusty bread is just as rewarding.  Remember, there are plenty of health benefits from eating more vegetables, they are tasty and good on the budget.

Buy vegetables at the height of their season as this will mean you’ll get the best quality product at the best price.  Buy what you need as they have a limited longevity; buy small but buy often.

No, I am not a vegetarian, but I hope through this blog entry I may have given you some ideas as to how to take the jump and cook up simple meat-free dishes that you won’t find boring or predictable.

Give them a try!

“You got paid early in December ready for Christmas, so you are currently skint. Your New Year diet regime has now slipped and you are hoovering up food like there’s no tomorrow.” New Year’s resolutions start flying out the window and all those gym clothes you bought are a constant reminder of how little exercise you are actually doing! Using the following formula:

\frac{[W + D-d] T^Q}{M N_a}

where: Weather, debt, Time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low Motivational levels and the feeling of a Need to take action (D is undefined) scientists have predicted that the most depressing day of 2013 will be Monday 21st January .

So with five days to go until we apparently become depressed about life, the economy, the weather and complain about all and sundry – becoming a veritable Victor Meldrew – how prepared are you to face the year that is still at large?

Food Enhancement

There are many things that alter our moods that we have no control over but the one thing that we can rescue and take charge of is the food we eat. What you eat and when you eat has a big impact on how we feel.

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Choosing foods that have a lower glycemic index will help fill you up and sustain your energy levels for longer as they help your blood sugars stay stable. I have previously mentioned the health benefits of porridge in “Oat to a Good Start”. Other food items that have a low glycemic index are pulses and lentils.

“Lentils giving us a double whammy of health benefits and prosperity for the new year!”

Lentils are in the top six auspicious foods providing the consumer with luck and providence for the year ahead. In Italy it is customary to eat sausages and green lentils just after midnight as you see in the New Year. So with health and good fortune in mind I present you with my two favourite lentil dishes:

Pan Fried Salmon and Lentils:

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1st: Chop a medium onion and slowly fry in a saucepan.

2nd: Add your Puy Lentils and slick in the oily onion mixture.

3rd: Add 3 times the amount of water to lentils and add a stock cube. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 25mins.

4th: Once the lentils have cooked for approx 20mins, put the salmon fillet onto a very hot skillet. Cook on its presentation side for approx 5mins and then flip it onto its skin side for a further 4mins. If you are cooking any greens to go with make sure these are ready to go once the salmon is cooked.

5th: Plate up!

Not only are the lentils great here but the salmon high in Omega-3 and the asparagus rich in antioxidants and nutrients makes this a power-meal.

Lentils and Sausages:lentils6

1st: Prepare the lentils as in the recipe above.

2nd: Cook your sausages on a low heat for around 15mins turning throughout they cooking until the colour all around.

3rd: Once the sausages are ready remove them from the pan and add a splosh of red wine / port to deglaze the pan. Crush some garlic into this and stir. Scrape the sticky bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and reduce until the ‘red gravy’ is slightly thicker.

4th: Plate up! Pour the juices over the sausages and lentils. Sprinkle with some fresh parsely.

Lentils love pork – my Gran used to make lentils with chopped chorizo pork sausage and I normally pick a herby variety however, the ones in the photo above are a venison and merlot variety.

So with a plate of lentils on my lap to warm me this winter’s night I wish you health and happiness for the year to come. Don’t leave it to fate – break the Blue Monday curse.

Enjoy…

Before any of you ask, this was not a student creation from my University days gone by!

Kedgeree is at its most basic, a dish consisting of boiled rice, flaked fish, curry powder and hard boiled eggs.  It is thought to have originated from an Indian rice and bean/lentil dish called Khichri, and widely believed that the dish was introduced to the Uk by returning British soldiers who enjoyed it in India whilst serving there during the British Raj.

During Victorian times it was served as a breakfast dish, as part of the very fashionable colonial Anglo-Indian cuisine that was sweeping Victorian Britain.

It is one of many breakfast dishes that, in the days before refrigeration

“converted yesterday’s leftovers into warm, hearty and appealing breakfast dishes.”

Kedgeree can take on many guises; some people fry onions until crisp to scatter over top before serving, others add sultanas into the mix, some use a variety of fish (e.g. smoked haddock).  Celebrity chefs have turned the recipe from a simple putting together of ingredients into a much more decadent dish by using every ingredient in your spice rack or by using ingredients that you need to spend your lunch break searching for!

My advice: keep it simple

Kedgeree

1st: Boil eggs until they are hard boiled.  Set aside and allow to cool.

2nd: Place a salmon fillet per person into a saucepan.  Cover with water and add peppercorns, salt and bay leaves.  If you’re feeling adventurous add a few crushed cardamom pods.  Simmer gently for 10mins.  Allow to cool in the liquid.

3rd: Chop a medium sized onion and fry in some butter.

4th: Once the onion is soft, add a couple of teaspoons of curry powder to the saucepan and stir.

5th: Add the rice (I use basmati) and coat the grains with the buttery, curried onions.

6th: Use the poaching liquid and top up with any extra water to cook your rice using the 2:1 method.  For depth of flavour I always use a stock cube – if you leave this out check for seasoning later.

7th: Once everything is cooked* it is just a case of assembling the dish:

a) remove the skin off the salmon and flake into pieces (take care with any bones)

b) sprinkle with fresh parsely

c) mix everything with the back of 2 wooden spoons and serve

d) squeeze a lemon over the rice

e) peel the eggs and chop into quarters but serve these equally to avoid argument!

*I like mine to have peas, so once the rice is cooked and whilst assembling the dish, I add frozen peas to the saucepan to cook them quickly in the residual heat.

Even though its intention was to be a breakfast dish, and it is relatively simple to make, it is just not practical for me to want to cook this for breakfast – not even at the weekend!  But it does make for a great light supper or a fantastic weekend brunch; especially a late-Saturday-morning-hangover-looming-brunch!  However, let’s simplify this even more: dispense with stages 1 & 2, don’t bother with the hard boiled eggs and poached, flaked salmon and just open a can of tuna into the boiled, curried rice.