Monday, 9 November 2009

Swapping!

Post is boring, noone writes letters anymore or sends stuff (well, noone I know anyway!) so all I ever seem to get is bills and bank statements. In an attempt to make my post more exciting, and also to encourage a bit more self-creativity, I signed up to swap-bot. I've just completed my first swap and am incredibly excited to see what I've been sent. I'm not sure whether my swap package was any good, but I was pleased with it at the end. The swap I joined was a scavenger hunt, so you had to find something to satisfy the following list;

~ Stars ~ Something Blue ~ Your favorite Animal ~ Something Sweet ~ Black & White ~ Something Useful ~ Surprise! (one item per list item -i.e, you couldn't something sweet that was also blue).

So... I made a few things and bought a few things and in my package was...



...a felt star that I made, possibly for use as a pin cushion or as a Christmas tree decoration.



...an original piece of Carrie artwork! (it's blue!)

...some monkey notepaper

...and a bonus monkey finger puppet (made by the wonderful Ian)

...some Cadbury's Dairy Milk


...a cross stitch penguin

...some fabric my swap partner uses to make hair accessories

...and a wind up butterfly that goes inside cards and flies out when you open them (that should be a surprise!).

I posted it all off to my partner today and am now looking for more swaps to sign up to. Hopefully I wont get so obsessed with swapping that I don't make any of the Christmas gift projects I have in mind!


Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Dog & Crook, Brambridge

Ian is soon to be 26 (very old indeed), so to celebrate, I took him, and my mum (she always tags along for the good food) to local pub & restaurant, The Dog & Crook. I've been here once before, a few years ago, when our graduate year group were still doing friday pub lunch trips. I remember the food being really good, but the speed not quite fast enough for a lunch time outing. As this was an evening meal, at the weekend, we figured that wouldn't be an issue.

We ordered four starters altogether, Ian opting for the pigeon breast, me for the scallops, Mum for the lambs kidneys and the crevettes for Ian and I to share. The scallops were served with crispy bacon on top of a pea puree. They were nice and big, perfectly cooked, and went well with the bacon and pea puree. The only disappointment was the olive oil drizzled around the pea puree, as this mixed with it and overpowered the flavour of the peas - 8/10. Ian's pigeon also came with bacon, and was tasty, but came on top of a dressed salad, which meant the dressing tainted the pigeon flavour a little - 8/10. Mum's kidneys came with bacon also, and toasted brioche, with the dressed salad on the side. Mum says it was nice, and I've told her to go find a thesaurus and say something other than nice - 9/10 (She did elaborate, apparently the brioche went well with the kidneys, and the madeira sauce was lovely too, and it was all nicely presented). The crevettes (jumbo prawns for those not in the know) were meaty and cooked well, and came with slices of brown bread and butter, Ian awards them 7/10 - I agree, mainly because I like my prawns (jumbo ones included) cold and these were served warm.

The service here was friendly, and attentive, and there was a decent gap between the courses, but not so long that we thought we'd been forgotten about. The setting was lovely, a good distance between other diners (although close enough that I could still ogle their food) and quiet enough to hear yourselves talking.

The mains we ordered were the oven roasted lamb with sweet potato and parsnip mash, and two helpings of the sirloin steak - Ian ordered the sweet chilli prawns with his We thought that the prawns would come on the side of the steak, kind of like a surf and turf, but in fact it was a prawn and chilli sauce to put on the steak. I got to try this, and wow, it worked sooo well with the steak. We were also impressed with the amount of prawns in the sauce, it was well worth the £2.50 extra - 9/10! My lamb was well cooked, and the accompanying mash was lovely and sweet and really complimented the lamb, 9/10. Mum's was the same as Ian's, minus the awesome sauce.

For dessert Ian ordered the belgian waffles, with forest fruit compote and sticky toffee ice cream. It was yummy!! Ian says the waffle and ice cream worked well together, but he wasn't so sure the ice cream went with the compote -8/10. Mum was quite full (she's only little) so she just had the sticky toffee ice cream, which was apparently better than the ice cream we had at the theatre, because it was less creamy (Mum's not big on dairy) - 8.5/10 (she's soo awkward!). For my dessert I chose the orange and lemon steamed sponge pudding, and it was moist, tasty and had a nice custard with it. The only failing on this was that it came with quite large bits of peel, and I'm not really a peely person - 8/10.

A very nice meal had by all, about £30 each (includes soft drinks). I'd very much recommend the sweet chilli prawns with the steak if you decide to visit. They also do a lot of seafood specials, and seemed to cater well for veggies.


Homemade Challenge

Welcome to my new blog, a place for me to keep my craft based musings and progress pictures. Last Christmas I thought about making all of my presents, but only managed 2 or 3 (all food based, see here). So this year I'm starting early. I've been researching for the last couple of months, and building up my stash. I didn't make many things in school so I'm really starting as a novice, but hopefully in a few years time I'll be making all the presents without even blinking. Stay tuned for progress on my Christmas gifts (some may be kept secret until nearer the time so that people who read the blog don't see their presents!).

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Chilworth Arms, Chilworth

During our two weeks of holiday, I didn't think we were going to hit a bad egg restaurant wise, but I'm sad to say it happened today. I wont go into the palaver of trying to find the restaurant because that was all my shoddy driving and navigation, and not the restaurants fault.

The first hint that it wasn't a good choice was when the waiter told us that we could have frites or potato of the day with our mains, and we asked what the potato of the day was. His reply of 'it changes everyday, sometimes it's new potatoes, other times mash' was not overly helpful and we decided to go for the safe option of the frites.

Actually, thinking about it, I lie when I say this was the first hint - the chairs were far too low for comfortable dining, and I had to go and steal a cushion from a different area of the restaurant to try and compensate for this. There was also little lighting, my mum had a spot light on her meal, but Ian and I ate in the dark.

For starters, I chose the scallops of the day, which were served with noodles, spinach and sweet chilli sauce. The sweet chilli went well with the scallops, and the noodles were well cooked - 8/10. Ian ordered the mackerel fillets, but when it came it was just fillet - Ian gives it a 7/10, as it wasn't really anything special. Mum had the chicken liver parfait which came with fig jam and toast. I tried this, it was quite tasty, and I do think the fig jam went well, although was possibly a bit too strong a flavour. Mum chose to eat the parfait without the jam and she scored it 9/10 - one point lost because the toast was only toasted on the one side, which meant it was quite cold, and she would have preferred it warm. The starters were probably the high point of the meal - from then on it went down hill.

They brought out our mains, without having cleared away the plates from the starters. The plates were quite large, but I still felt the need to point them out to the waitress bringing out our mains as she didn't seem to have noticed them, to which her response was 'well move them to the side.' This sort of service I find unacceptable, and her response was not particularly polite. The other problem with the mains coming before the starter dishes had been cleared was that we had had no opportunity to reorder drinks, so Ian managed to eat half of his main before they arrived (see Ceno's review for Ian's view on drinks with meals).

Ian and my mum ordered the spit loin of pork, which should have come with caramelised apples and cider sauce. The apples were not caramelised, Ian reckoned they were stewed, the pork had no visible signs of actually having been spit roasted (we did ask later how they cooked the pork but noone had the decency to come back and answer us). The sauce was nice, but the portion was quite small and it was generally disappointing - 5/10 - Ian's comment was that it wasn't tender enough and the outside was salted too much - Mum's comment was that she could have cooked just as good at home on her grill. The frites weren't frites, they were chunky chips - we like both, but hate it when what is delivered is not what is advertised. My main was the swordfish which came with a papaya, mango and spring onion salsa on top, and baby potatoes. The potatoes were very sesame tasting, something again that was unadvertised - I gave one to Ian to try and he said it was disgusting so I'm glad he didn't order them. The swordfish was nice and meaty, and the salsa worked well - 9/10.

During our mains, the lighting level was dropped further, making it virtually impossible to work out what you were eating - there's ambience, and there's eating in the dark - hopefully this restaurant will work out the difference soon.

We received the dessert menu, but noone told us about the special, which we'd seen on the list at the start but most of us had forgotten about. We ordered two chocolate brownies with chocolate ice cream, and one double chocolate marquis with whipped cream (apparently this is a rich mousse like dessert). We waited. And waited. The ice in my drink melted. The table next to us finished their starter and got half way through their mains. Ian attempted to attract a waiter. Eventually we managed to summon the waiter who had taken our dessert order, and I informed him that we were still waiting for the complimentary desserts to arrive, as the ones we were going to pay for had taken far too long to turn up. This seemed to fluster the waiter a little, but he went off and I assume spoke to the manager and returned to tell us that as we had been waiting for more than half an hour, our desserts would be free, and he'd get them to us shortly.

My dessert was not worth the wait. I detected no double chocolate as mentioned on the menu, only one chocolate, and the cream was barely whipped. It was also not really very mousse-like as I was told it would be, it was far denser - 5/10. The chocolate brownie was warm and quite gooey, but would have benefited from a vanilla ice cream as opposed to the chocolate one, 9/10.

When we were done with our desserts, they cleared the plates away and apologised again for the wait. They asked if we would like anything else, but at this point we decided it was best to call it a day and ask for the bill. The bill came, and was wrong - they'd charged us for 2 glasses of lemonade at £1.65 each, and 1 pint of lemonade at £2.10. Ian had actually had 2 pints of lemonade so we complained to the waiter. He told us that they put pints of lemonade through as two glasses, so we promptly pointed out the entry for a pint of lemonade on the bill, and he trotted off again to talk to the manager. The manager returned with a new bill, minus all lemonade charges, and we happily agreed to pay this. We left no tip.

I think this restaurant could improve it's chances of getting a tip from us in the future by doing the following things. Assigning a waiter/waitress to a table, instead of letting any waiter serve us - this would have hopefully meant someone would have been aware that our starter dishes weren't removed, and that we'd been waiting for dessert for quite some time. Improving the lighting conditions so that you can actually see what you are eating. Educating their staff on the 'potato of the day', 'pie of the day', 'soup of the day' etc so you didn't get stupid responses when asking what each were.

Friday, 28 August 2009

The Old Vine, Winchester

On Wednesday we ate at home, so it seems a little strange to review my own cooking (I'd give it 10/10) so I'll move onto our next meal out. The venue - The Old Vine in Winchester. It started out promising because when Ian phoned up to book, he was told that there was only one table left - rubbish restaurants don't tend to be fully booked, especially on week days.

After a fun journey through Winchester's crazy one way system, we made it to the restaurant, and on first looks it seemed more like a bar, but through a curtain, we found the restaurant area, and were shown to our reserved table. We'd looked at the sample menu online, and had already set our hearts on the scallops, but they weren't to be found on the menu placed before us. Instead we chose the crispy squid with sweet chilli sauce, the garlic chilli king prawns & goats cheese, aubergine & tomato on toast. Yes, three starters! Starters are clearly the best part of every meal, so we decided to have one each and share the third - and I was pleased we did.

The aubergine starter was really nice, although I think it would have benefited from a layer of onion chutney also - 8/10. Ian's starter, the crispy squid, really was crispy but also excellently cooked so that it wasn't at all rubbery, 9/10. The garlic & chilli prawns were meaty and had a great flavour, the only disappointment with the starters was that the bread that came with these didn't have any butter with it, but instead we dipped the bread in the chilli oil - 8/10, losing points for portion size and lack of butter.

For the main course we attempted to order two slow roasted lamb shoulders, but were informed there was only one available. I quickly picked the duck confit, and am sooo glad I did - when it arrived it was lovely and pink, and fell off the bone, and was juicy and succulent and amazing and the best thing in the world (can you tell I really liked it?). I could have eaten ten but Ian wouldn't let me order any more - 10/10. His lamb was tasty, served on a bed of sweet potato mash. Annoyingly the chef decided to garnish it with chives but they were all in a big clump so we could get them out. The sweet potato mash was nice, Ian wasn't keen on the green beans that accompanied it, he didn't seem to think they worked with the rest of the meal (and he also isn't keen on them in general!) - 8/10, mainly because the lamb was quite fatty.

For dessert we ordered the banoffee cheesecake and the summer fruit pudding with ice cream. I've never had summer fruit pudding, mainly because there is usually something more enticing on the menu, but the list of desserts weren't amazing here. I think the pudding would have been better if the filling wasn't all currants (blackcurrants, redcurrants), and was more berries, but it was quite a nice light end to the meal, 6/10. Ian's cheesecake looked nice, it came with some sliced banana on top, but the base was quite thick, 8/10.

The food here was good, despite the disappointing choices of desserts, and they had lots of wines on their specials board, so if that's what you value, I'd recommend this place to you. It was also in a nice location, just across from the cathedral, although you couldn't quite see this out of the window, but would be a good location for a post dinner stroll.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Ceno, Southampton

Tonight we decided to try a new restaurant from our long list of possible places. Ceno, in Portswood, won as it's not too far away and wasn't the same sort of food as the previous day (we wouldn't want to eat chinese twice in two days!). The restaurant doesn't have a car park, but there is plenty of street parking near by. There's a lot of outside eating space but it was a bit chilly so we decided to eat inside.

We browsed the menu, and there were a lot of nice choices on there but most had one small part that Ian wouldn't like (mainly onion). We settled on the shredded mongolian lamb salad for Ian, and scallops on curried lentils for me. My scallops were well cooked, and the curried lentils nice too, but I'm not sure they were a match made in heaven - the lentils really overpowered the delicate flavour of the scallops, and I decided to eat them separately - 8/10. Ian's salad was awesome, the flavours really worked together, the lamb was well cooked, and I wish I could have knocked him out and eaten it myself! Thankfully Ian doesn't like salad, so he just picked all the lamb out, so I got all the tasty other bits so was happy - 10/10!!.

For the main course, Ian chose the confit of duck, which was served with spicy potatoes, rocket and a mango salsa. I went for the rump of lamb, served with fondant potato, and veg. Ian's duck looked quite greasy but that is usually the case with confit of duck. It tasted good, but his potatoes were a bit too dry for our liking and didn't really seem to work. The mango salsa came with a lot of onion, which the mango had absorbed so Ian didn't eat that. One of Ian's complaints about the meal was the sneaky kitchen staff hiding some crazy cheap salad leaves under his rocket, 6/10. My lamb was very tasty, but again the potato was a bit dry. The veg was good, but the restaurant seems a bit over enthusiastic with the large sea salt flakes, and so was quite salty in places (I never add salt to my food so this isn't something I rate) - 7/10.

With our mains, we ordered two sides - one portion of chips, and one garlic ciabatta. These were great - the chips were much better than both of the potato options that came with our mains, and the ciabatta was really garlicky and yummy.

At this point I should explain about the service. Ian likes a drink with his food (whereas I tend to wait til after my food to drink). His lemonade ran out approximately two mouthfuls into his main. Everytime our waitress came by we attempted to get her attention, but she kept turning the wrong way and running off. She did not come back to our table to check everything was OK with our meals. She also spent a considerable amount of time at the bar, talking to her friend from the looks of it. It got to the point where I had to get up from my meal and go into the bar to ask for more drinks. Ian and I don't find this kind of service acceptable - which is why we gave a crappy tip (don't get me wrong, we're not saying we'd never go back, we always give somewhere a second chance, but I'm not going to tip you for good service if that's not what I got!).

For dessert we chose the chocolate brownie and the sticky toffee pudding. I can never resist a sticky toffee pudding, even though I generally don't have enough room. My pudding arrived, but it wasn't really pudding shaped, it was more a big square of toffee cake. I've had better, but it was quite nice, and the portion size was reasonable - 7/10. Ian's chocolate brownie was gooey in the middle, but lacked a nice crispy crust. There were also nuts in it, and that wasn't advertised on the menu, not usually a massive problem, but they were large chunks of walnut and they didn't really add to the brownie in the right way - 6/10.

We'd definitely give the restaurant another go, the meat was good, and the sides excellent but the menu doesn't seem very big so we'd maybe wait to see if it changes at all for a bit of variety.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Water Margin, North Baddesley

Ian and I have two weeks off work, and instead of going on holiday, we've decided to have two weeks of playing games, reading in the sunshine, and eating out. So, for our first meal out, we decided to go to the Harvester in Eastleigh. But reviewing a Harvester seems pointless, so I'm about to review the second place we visited, somewhere we go often because the food and service is great, but somewhere we've not gotten round to reviewing yet.

Water Margin is a small restaurant set between two peoples houses on a road in North Baddesley. It's clearly a family business, and it does well - possibly because it's so reasonably priced. They do a gourmet buffet Sunday - Thursday, £14.90 for all you can eat - but everything is cooked fresh to order. We also noticed they were doing a set lunch menu for £6 when we went today (Soup & Spring Roll + Main & Rice).

Every time we go, we always seem to order a large selection of the appetizers and they tailor the portion sizes to the size of your group (3 people, 3 spring rolls etc). We have the steamed dumplings (Ian doesn't like these because they are a little oniony but I love the flavour so I eat the extra one), sesame prawn toast (this is well topped with prawn), spring rolls (not my favourite but we usually get them for my mum), spare ribs (messy but yummy), crispy won tons, smoked chicken (this is amazing, a definite one to order) and this time we ordered some of the king prawns (again tasty, but not available if you have the reduced lunch buffet at £11.90). Ian always likes to order the soup (Crabmeat & sweetcorn) and I can usually be seen sneakily sticking my spoon in to steal some. I like the way chinese soups are thick, but not creamy - I'd love to be able to replicate this at home (I've never tried so it might be simple).

After the appetizers is the duck course, but they also do really good crispy mongolian lamb (those that know the song should be singing it right now!). So we have half duck and half lamb. The duck comes with the usual cucumber and spring onion with hoisin sauce, and the lamb comes with a sweet plum sauce, which works really well. If I'm honest, I could eat this course for the main as well, but not sure they'd let you.

There are a lot of mains to choose from, and we always hope to try something new if we have room. This time we had lemon chicken (the sauce is nice and lemony), sweet and sour pork, lamb szechuan style & duck with ginger and pineapple. I'm not big on ginger, but that was actually really good (although I couldn't eat too much of it). Other dishes we've tried before include crispy chilli beef (this is very crispy, and possibly my favourite), the squid (I'm still not sure about chinese cooked squid - always seems a bit rubbery to me), and some of the prawn dishes (not exactly sure which) - the prawns are always big and meaty.

Usually desserts in chinese restaurants aren't good, but the Water Margin do a wonderful pineapple ice cream that we can never seem to resist.

So to conclude, the food is great, the value is amazing, and the service friendly - highly recommended!!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Valentino's, Bournemouth

Yesterday, my mum and I went to Bournemouth for the Bournemouth Air Show. The beach was packed, and the show was excellent. Instead of opting for the fast food found all along the seafront, we decided to hold out til the end of the show, and wander back into the town in search of a nice restaurant. Many places seemed more like bars than restaurants, but we eventually stumbled on a little round italian restaurant with a terrace outside. We hovered by the door, only to be told by Joe, the proprietor, that he was fully booked. However, being an italian, he moved around some tables, and endeavoured not to turn anyone away.

Usually, before eating out, I tend to research a bit more, and see what other people have thought - but this was spur of the moment dining. The menu was a decent size, and offered mussels (my favourite if you've not already realised) so seemed perfect to me. I chose the mussels (obviously) followed by tagliatelle carbonara, while my mum went for garlic bread with mozzarella followed by the cannelloni.

The mussels were served in a basic tomato sauce, but as the all you really want is the flavour of the mussels, this is perfect. They were decent sized, hardly any shell breakage (which is irritating when you come to devour the sauce at the end), and very tasty - 9/10. The garlic bread with mozzarella was less crispy than in most places as it had more of a middle to it, which my mum said good (I only ate the crispy bits as I stole bites when she wasn't looking!). The cannelloni was well filled, and tasty, and remained hot for ages despite eating outside where it was slightly chilly. My carbonara came and it was a huge portion, and left me feeling very full but comforted - there's nothing like a big plate of pasta when you've been walking around all day - 8/10.

The food was reasonably priced - £30 for all that, plus 3 drinks (non-alc), but it was really the atmosphere that added to the charm of this restaurant and the friendly banter between Joe and some of the diners showed that it was clearly popular with the locals.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Further Cake Experiments

These days, following recipes seems to easy. So I try to mix it up a litte (if you pardon the pun!). I decided to make something for my friends housewarming, and I had some leftover blueberries, so considered making blueberry muffins. But, Ian decided he wanted lemon drizzle so I chucked the blueberries in with the cake mix so as not to waste them. It worked well, although I could mostly taste the lemon.



I also took my trusty banana loaf recipe and added strawberries. I wasn't sure how to add them - do I mash them like I do with the banana or do I add them whole? I had quite a lot of bananas and strawberries so I decided to do both. The one with whole chunks of strawberry was the one I preferred, mainly because the strawberry flavour was more intense in this one instead of an underlying strawberriness in the second one.



One thing I have discovered though.... fruit in cake rocks!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Blog Neglect - House Buying

So the blog has been pretty quiet of late, and the reason for this is that Ian & I bought our first house at the end of May, and have since been fighting with the millions of boxes of stuff we have. We counted over 100, and then we emptied some of these and refilled them, so we estimate we had about 130 boxes to pack and unpack.

House buying is extremely stressful, it involves lots of chasing of solicitors and things and it leaves a rather large hole in ones pocket! But, we now have a pretty large kitchen, and a dishwasher too, so baking should be easier from now on.

We haven't been completely cake free since April though - I have indeed used the new kitchen to make some baked goods but unfortunately neglected to take photos. Ian has been working late a lot, and as I'm his chauffeur, I've been leaving work at 3 and then returning to work at 8 with dinner and making up my hours. Now, getting home at 3 feels much better than 5, so I have been utilising early leaving days by making cake. The first cake I made was a Peach Melba tray bake, recipe here. I altered the recipe slightly as I'm not a fan of almonds, so substituted them for more flour. The cake turned out very moist in places where the fruit exploded, but this was not a bad thing. My team at work made short work of the cake, possibly because they are cake fiends, and also because it was hard to cut the cake into lots of small pieces as it just fell apart so I had to make each square quite large.

New Blog Feature

Where I work, the canteen has recently put up their prices by quite a ridiculous amount, and consequently lots of people are now bringing in packed lunch. If you eat lunch with people every day for a long time, eventually you run out of stories to tell. So instead of trying to think of new conversations (there are only so many times you can try to think of an animal starting with every letter of the alphabet), I have decided to analyse peoples lunches. I've been doing it for a while, but now other people are bringing in packed lunches who didn't before, some slightly weird lunches have been appearing.

So, the new blog feature is on the left hand side - there is room for the top ten weird lunches. So far there aren't many listed, but the way things are going, I imagine there'll be quite a competition for top spot.

For example, today PV produced from his lunch bag a large baguette, an entire boursin, a big wedge of tesco value stilton, a small number of spring onions, a third of a camembert - wrapped in A4 paper, some butter and a tub of raspberries. I'm all for making packed lunch, but I feel it should be somewhat more made than this! PV proceeded to chomp away at various bits of bread and cheese, interspersed with raspberries every now and then, probably just to annoy me as I believe in saving dessert until last. I think the spring onions were a bit too much for him, and we did all agree that perhaps pickled onions would be better next time. As a result, there was some left over, so we thought it was only right to play with the food in the way we were all told not to as children.



Monday, 6 April 2009

Crustless Quiche


Having never made quiche before, not even with a crust, I decided it was about time to give it a go. The reason I decided on a crustless one was to make it healthier, so there was less guilt when eating it. I chose to make this quiche one Monday evening, not because it seemed like a good time, but because Ian ate my lunch for the next day so it was either make the quiche or eat canteen food. I found a recipe on my weight loss site, www.weightlossresources.co.uk, and set to (I left out the onion and replaced the ham with bacon). I'd already invested in some foil quiche trays, so that I wouldn't have too much washing up to do, and if I turned out to be really bad at quiche making, I didn't have a useless dish cluttering up space in my cupboards. I fried off some bacon and then chopped it into small pieces, mixed up the remaining ingredients and then added it all to the dish. I think the quantity of mixture was too much for the quiche dish, and it was quite hard getting the dish into the oven without spilling it everywhere. I think next time I'll put the dish on the oven shelf first, and add the mixture straight into it so that it doesn't have to travel very far.

The quiche was to cook for 40minutes, so I checked on it after 30, and it had almost quadrupled in size. This worried me slightly, but then when I took it out of the oven, it deflated back down to just above the edge of the tray. The next morning, I cut it into portions, although it was quite hard to extract from the tray. I had the quiche cold with some salad and Ian had his piece warmed up in the microwave with some chips. I think it was better hot, but I was too lazy to walk back to the microwave, and with the cold salad it wasn't too bad.

So, the quiche was a success, mainly because Ian actually ate half of it, and he doesn't really like quiche!

ingredients
  • 375ml Milk, Semi Skimmed, Asda
  • 120g Cheese, Mature, Grated, Healthy Eating, Tesco
  • 70g Flour, Wholemeal, Self Raising, Allinson
  • 100g Onions, Chopped, Frozen, Sainsbury's
  • 114g Ham, Oven Baked, Dry Cure, Sliced, Asda
  • 4 Eggs/200g Eggs, Free Range, Medium, Co-Op

Method

1. Beat eggs, milk and pepper together.

2. In a separate bowl mix together cheese, onion, ham and flour.

3. Add egg and milk mixture to flour mixture, folding until well blended.

4. Pour into a lightly greased dish and bake in a 200ÂșC oven for 40 minutes or microwave on Medium for 12 minutes.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Zizzi's

This week it was my friends birthday, so we went over to Basingstoke to deliver her present and go out for a meal. The restaurant of choice was Zizzi's - a restaurant chain I've been to before but not this particular one.

I scanned the menu and found they did mussels as a starter so that was that choice sorted! I then took a look at the mains, and decided that I didn't like the look of any of the pizzas (I'm not a very big pizza fan). I've never had a risotto at a restaurant before, in fact, I've only ever had one risotto before which Ian's sister cooked. So I decided to give that a try - this particular one came with tiger prawns, calamari & salmon chunks.

The starters arrived - my mussels came without a bowl to put the shells in and with no finger bowl. This, in my opinion, is a major failure. The other problem with the mussels was that a lot of the shells were broken, which makes eating the sauce afterwards (which I have to point out was quite nice) a little risky as you're likely to swallow the shell. All of these things mean that some tasty mussels that would have received 7/10 actually got awarded 5/10. Another thing I should mention is that when I requested a finger bowl, the waitress brought me out a bowl of boiling water with lemons in, without pointing out to me that it was boiling - and when I put my fingers in and then went 'God that's bloody hot' she said she would return with some cold water - but never did!

Ian's starter was calamari - and this was nice, but the portion was exceedingly small. Because of this Ian is awarding it 3/10, and having seen the portion size - I have to agree! The other starter enjoyed by the group was something called 'Bruschetta al Pomodoro' - which my two friends were sharing. Now all four of us were expecting this to be hot - but it was literally just bread with some chopped tomatoes on top. I don't have scores from my friend but I'd have given it 5/10.

Next we come to the mains - my risotto was not good - the calamari was rubbery and the general rice flavour overpowered all the other flavours - I would have expected it to have been made with some sort of fish stock, but I couldn't taste any if it was - 6/10. Ian & the others all ordered their special 'rustica' pizzas - described as 'bigger, thinner & crispier'. Well, they were big, and thin, but I detected no crisp - in fact the piece of Ian's that I had was definitely soggy. The distribution of the tomato puree was a bit hit and miss, there was next to none in some places, and tonnes in others. Ian would have scored the pizza at 7/10, if it hadn't been for the fact that the restaurant was kind of a pizza restaurant! He expected much better and therefore gave it 5/10.

The best part of the meal (obviously apart from the company) was the Banana Con Cioccolata - Caramelised banana with toffee and chocolate sauce on a waffle served with ice cream. This was really good, the toffee sauce was very tastey - the dessert would have got a 8/10 if it hadn't been for the fact that this banana dessert only came with 4 small slices of banana - not even a whole banana! So, the marks had to be chopped to reflect this, giving it 6/10.

One other thing to note is that Ian ordered a 'lemonade' to drink, and in fact received a 'Sprite' which, as those of you who know Ian know, he quite likes, but he says it is wrong to serve someone a sprite when they have asked for a lemonade and I can't help but agree.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Mauritius Bar

Having not seen my friends from the library where I used to work for ages, I travelled up to Norbury to meet everyone for a meal. We'd chosen a little restaurant on London Road, as it was nearby to the library so people could go straight there from work.

The place was deserted when we arrived, it looked like just the family of the owners in there. Our table wasn't ready to we got ourselves a drink and waited for everyone else to arrive before moving over to our table. One of our group is actually from Mauritius so we were all looking forward to sharing in some of her national dishes.

Unfortunately, the food was abysmal! We are assured that it was not representative of Mauritian food at all so I'd definitely give their cuisine another go, but not at this restaurant. So... the food. I ordered the whitebait to start, as there were only about 5 starters, and that seemed the best and I must admit, it wasn't bad - in fact, most people seemed happy with their starters, apart from the hour wait for them!

The mains were less successful - there was again about an hour wait for most, others had to wait longer. I'd order the red snapper which came with creole sauce, and it wasn't a bad taste, but the fish had been crucified! Several members of the group were vegetarians (or fish-phobic) and the menu didn't seem to have very many options for this so we'd asked the waiter if there was anything else they could do. He came back with the following options; Mixed vegetables in black bean sauce, mixed veg with sweet and sour sauce, or mixed veg and potato curry. These dishes seemed to be just frozen mixed veg and a sauce out of a jar - really not worth the money (or time) we'd spent on them.

At the end of the meal, I think the waiter could tell we had not had a very good experience, and tried to soften the blow with several random liqueurs. They didn't smell to bad (although they did smell quite toxic) but as I was driving I refused the bribery. So to sum up, the company was amazing and it was lovely to see some old friends and meet a few new ones. But the food was good, both in terms of taste, and value for money, and value for time! 2/10!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Trip to Wimbledon Night 2

So.. after the party, Ian still needed feeding - I'd had quite a bit to eat at the party so just wanted something light. We took a look at the menu of the place we were staying (The Rose & Crown) and as there was mussels I sent Ian off to the bar to order me those, and something for himself. They were out of mussels :(

Back to the room we went to get some money, and then back out to the village in search of food. This time we stopped a lot closer to the hotel, a restaurant called Piccolino's. As we only wanted something light, I went for the pasta with clams (cos the mean lady on the table next to us had just eaten the last of the mussels). Ian went for the Marinated prawn, swordfish and scallop skewers with saffron rice and cherry tomato sauce, with a side of chips cos he wasn't sure if he'd like the saffron rice. Turns out he did, but the chips were some of the nicest chips I've ever tried so I helped him eat those too! The swordfish was very good - I really wish I'd ordered the swordfish steak as it's a really meaty fish with tonnes of flavour. Ian gave the skewers 7/10 as although they were nice, it got cold really quickly. My clams were good but I really wanted the mussels (or the swordfish having tasted Ian's) as they have more flavour, so 7/10.

So our trip to wimbledon was full of good food, even though it was an expensive weekend, it was just what we both needed after a hectic couple of weeks at work.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Trip to Wimbledon Night 1

Ian and I had to go to Wimbledon for the weekend for my aunts 60th birthday party, and while we were there we thought we'd sample some of the local cuisine. The first night we wandered down the High Street and came across a little restaurant called the Cote Bistro. It was nice and quiet, so Ian and I could enjoy some lovely conversation. The waitress bought us a bottle of complimentary mineral water which was a nice touch.

The starters arrived, I had ordered the mussels (what a surprise!) and Ian had ordered the calamari. The mussels were amazing, the portion wasn't huge, but the individual mussels were and that meant they were packed with flavour, 9/10. Ian's calamari was also really good, it was the right texture, it hadn't gone rubbery like it can do if overcooked, 8/10.

The mains were brought to the table not long after. Ian had ordered one of the specials, Roast Duck with cherries with potato gratin and watercress. I thought it an interesting combination, I knew Ian liked both duck and cherries, but I wasn't sure what he'd think of them together. They worked perfectly together, the sweetness of the cherries mixed with the flavour of the duck made you 'ooo' involuntarily, and this is why Ian gave it 10/10! He didn't eat the yummy potato gratin which I stole, but instead had chips, which were skinny and crispy and very nice. My main was a fillet steak, which was cooked medium rare. The steak was really good, although the outside of it was a bit peppery for my tastes, but was interesting to try, 8/10.

Now, having had two really good courses, we couldn't resist trying the dessert menu. Ian ordered the creme caramel - which was billed as the restaurants speciality, and we weren't disappointed. The caramel flavour was intense, and I contemplated ordering a second one for myself! Ian is giving it 7/10, as although it was a really amazing creme caramel, he says it was still only a creme caramel. I had a tarte tatin (apple tart) which was good but I kept losing the apple on the way to my mouth! 6/10.

So, a good evening was had by all, and we returned to the hotel with nice full bellies (although Ian did later polish off a whole bag of popcorn!).

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

My Favourite Day of the Year


PANCAKE DAY!!!! I love Shrove Tuesday, because although I know I can eat pancakes any day of the year, I don't, and then this day comes and I eat enough to last me the whole year! My problem got out of hand two years ago, when, egged on by lots of friends, I managed to eat about 15 pancakes (and then felt very sick). So these days I try to be a bit more reserved. However, I can't resist a little bit of competition, so out came the scoreboard again - I think you'll see I did pretty well!Every year, I always try to get a picture of the mandatory pancake tossing, but as my old camera used to take about 20 seconds before it took the picture, meaning that it was pretty much impossible to get the picture. This year I have a nice new camera, so her is the action shot we've all been waiting for.
Having written this post I now want more pancakes! Hurry up next year!!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Girlie Night Out

Now, usually we have girlie nights at someones house, and we all bring food to fit in with a theme. But, for a change we decided to go out for a meal. Galicia's in South Croydon was our restaurant of choice. I've been before but this time we decided to order from the tapas menu. There was discussion on how many dishes to order each because we weren't sure how big each portion was. We made the decision to go for three dishes each. About 15mins later our food began to arrive. 5mins after that, the extra table was brought over so we could fit all the food! So.. the moral is, if you go to Galicia's, two dishes each is enough!

The three dishes I ordered were, black pudding with cannellini beans and pork; mussels; and meatballs. The first dish I wasn't too impressed with - the black pudding wasn't as good as other black pudding that I've had, the beans were just beans, and the pork was mainly just fat, 5/10. The mussels were awesome, really good portion size, tasty sauce, and wonderfully cooked, 9/10. The meatballs were also really tasty, a good texture and there were 5 in a portion, 8/10.

Some of the other food I sampled - the whitebait, I ate most of this because the rest of the girlies turned their noses up at this (so you're probably wondering who ordered it - I made my sister!). This was good at first, but the portion was huge and I soon got bored, but I'll still give it 7/10. The patatas bravas was nicely spicy and the potatoes weren't too hard, which can sometimes be a problem, 7/10. The spanish omelette was average, 6/10. The peppers in olive oil weren't really my thing, 3/10, the pork wasn't nice - bit chewy and strange taste, 2/10. The aubergine dish that we ordered for the veggie was very nice, but I don't remember what is was called, it was kind of like a lasagne type dish but with aubergine instead of pasta, 7/10.

Now, I'm not really sure that's all the food but there was sooo much I'm having trouble remembering it all! Also, the sangria helped wash it all down very well!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Pub Lunch at the Forge

It had been a long time since we'd been to the Old Forge in Otterbourne, as the last time we went there was a caterpillar in my food, and the roasted veg looked very much like it had been boiled to death. But, that was over a year ago, so we decided it was time to give it another try.

It was a lunchtime outing, and we had to be back at work within the hour, so we only had one course. I ordered the Pork & Wild Boar Sausages. These came with no veg, just mash & gravy. I was also a bit concerned with the speed they came out so figure they were probably microwaved - which for the price I think is shoddy. 7/10

Ian ordered Pork fillet with black pudding & caramelised apple. The portion was tiny and the apple was unidentifiable. Apparently the pork had no flavour (I didn't get to try it because I noted how small it was and didn't want to deprive Ian!) and the accompanying veg was sat in water. 4/10

Friend K ordered Sticky honey & lemon chicken with chips. Her comments were 'the chips were good, right amount of crispness and saltiness. Portions bit small for the price. Sauce was more like a salad dressing, not as thick as you would expect for something advertised as 'Sticky' 7/10'

So... to be honest, it was a bonus there wasn't a caterpillar in my food, but I don't think we'll be going back.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Candy Floss!

For Christmas, Ian got a candy floss maker. We experimented with it earlier, but since then we have ordered candy floss colouring so that we can experience the candy floss properly. Here is a picture of the sugar after we added the colouring. Here's what the candy floss looked like. I must say, although the candy floss maker is not the most healthy addition to our household, it is probably the easiest gadget we have to clean and therefore I love it .Look out for the other colours - pink, green & yellow!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Birthday Dinner

Now, the purpose of this blog was to document my attempt at cooking - but as it's on the theme of food, I thought restaurant reviews would fit well too. So.. for my birthday we went to one of our favourites, Keats in Ampfield. It's an italian, and we took along 3 friends. So.. we've decided to score out of 10 for each course.

Friend H - Starter, Mozzarella Carozza 8/10; Main, Pollo Milanese 6/10 - comments, chicken was odd, and the pasta bland; Dessert, Black cherry cheesecake 8/10

Friend K - Starter, Garlic Bread 7/10 - comments, good but pretty average and a bit too "herby"; Main, Penne Pasticciate 8/10 - comments, tasty, good size portion, but basically a pasta bake; Dessert, Pavlova 9/10 - comments, docked one point for being expensive, but probably the best pavlova I've ever had.

Me - Starter, Mussels 8/10 - comments, I love mussels so I could have eaten about three portions!; Main, Chateaubriand 9/10 - comments, this is the best steak ever, it just melts in your mouth, and it comes with a decent portion of chips and veg; Dessert, Pavlova 8/10 - comments, I'm more of a fan of chewy meringues than powdery, but the taste was good.


Monday, 12 January 2009

Birthday baking



What I don't understand is that when you're growing up and you have a birthday, people bring you presents and bake you a cake. But when you get old and go to work, you have to bake lots of cakes and take them to work as a present for your colleagues. How is that fair?! Anyway, this year I turned 25 and spent the weekend before my birthday baking. I decided to make fairy cakes as they always go down well, and Ian wanted to make brownies, and I figured it was about time to try a new recipe. I found a recipe in a tiny little book that my mum had bought me - 'lemon crumble bars' - which looked good, and I figured it would make a change to the lemon drizzle that I'm always making. I followed the recipe exactly, and used a 9in square tin as it said, but the mixture hardly covered it. The bars tasted good, but I think next time I'll use a smaller tin to make the bars the right size and right ratio of crumble to lemon filling. Also, I'd probably make the filling a bit more lemony. I'd add the recipe but the book is sat on my desk at work, so will append it later.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Steak Night


Over Christmas my mum annoyingly let slip that she used to cook my dad a steak every week, and Ian complained that he hardly ever gets steak. So, I promised Ian steak night before we went back to work and had the new diet. Now, when I make steak, it's a special occasion, so I do a starter, main & dessert. For starters, I decided to do baked camembert with little toasts as that usually goes down well with Ian. I'd picked up a lower fat camembert from waitrose so I stuck that in the oven like I normally do, and then when I came to slice the top off, I was a bit surprised to see something that looked a bit like a sponge! It was very disturbing looking, and we thought maybe if we put it back into the oven for a while it might sort it out a little. However, after about 10 mins more in the oven, it still looked the same, so we decided to give it a try. It tasted just like camembert - but had the wrong texture. So... this blog entry is not really about steak at all (although the steak was fab) but more of a warning to others - do not try and bake low fat camembert - the result is just too wierd!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Freezer Cooking


Having now found the cable for my camera, I can get back to blogging. At the start of the month I decided to have a go at cooking for the freezer. As it was my first attempt, I only made one recipe, lasagne, but I managed to make 4 portions to store in the freezer for the nights when we couldn't be bothered to cook. It's quite nice to be able to come home and have a nice home made meal, but with no effort, and hardly any washing up. Next time I try it, I'm going to make more lasagne, cottage pie, maybe a curry and some cookies.