Chicken Satay Skewer with a Spicy Cucumber Salad

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I’m a big fan of satay sauce, when done right it’s an absolute delight to eat, but I find that when eating it out in a restaurant or especially from a takeaway, the chances of getting a good one can be pretty hit and miss which is disappointing. When I cook it at home, my two default recipes I use are Nigellas (see below for the link) and one from Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute Meals book. Recently we bought a copy of Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey and so I wanted to try out his recipe for Balinese Peanut Sauce. The marinade below is my go to one for marinating chicken, especially for Thai and Malaysian dishes, the coconut milk keeps it lovely and tender, and I love the flavour that the lime leaves give to it. Sometimes I add some fresh ginger or galangal paste, or red chilli paste to the marinade too. The freshness of the cucumber salad keeps the whole dish really light, but you could of course vary what you put in the salad, or serve the dish with some rice if you’d prefer. The peanut sauce was very tasty, but next time I think I’d add even more chillis!!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken breast, 2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, all cut into chunks
  • 1 red pepper cut into rough pieces
  • 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf, shredded
  • half a cucumber
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • juice 1 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

For the peanut sauce I used the recipe from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey Book, but I have also used Nigella’s one which you can find on the internet here if you haven’t got Rick’s book.

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Method:

  1. Firstly, marinate the cucumber for the salad. Peel the cucumber and cut lengthways, then scoop out the seeds and cut into about 5mm thick slices.DSC_0001
  2. Cover with the caster sugar, rice wine vinegar and tsp of salt and leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile marinate and prepare the chicken, Cut the chicken into cubes and place in a bowl.
  4. Cover with the coconut milk, sweet soy (kecap manis), black pepper, kaffir lime leaf and garlic and leave for at least 10 minutes, but up to an hour or two if you have time.
  5. When marinated, thread the chicken on to skewers, alternating each piece with some red pepper.
  6. Cook the chicken under the grill, turning once or twice. They should take about 12-14 minutes to cook, but you made need to adjust depending on your oven or size of your chicken cubes.
  7. Prepare the rest of the salad ingredients -finely shredded red chilli,  chopped spring onions and place in a separate bowl along with the sesame oil and lime juice. Spoon in the cucumber that has been marinating, along with 1 tbsp of the marinating liquid and stir well.
  8. Serve along side a small dipping dish of your chosen satay sauce.

Happy eating :)

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Review: Purnells, Birmingham

To celebrate our 2nd Wedding Anniversary at the start of September, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a meal at one of our favourite places, Purnells. We’ve eaten here a few times now and have always come away feeling extraordinarily happy and satisfied. This occasion was probably the best yet. The restaurant manager Sonal is one of the best we’ve experienced and so thanks to him and his team, as well as the kitchen for making this anniversary truly one to remember.

The ‘Now’ tasting menu at Purnells is pretty long and I could wax lyrical about the intricacies of the courses for a long time, but in case of boring you all a little too much, I’ll settle for all the pictures and less words.

Some obligatory champagne to start (on this occasion this was a little surprise treat from Lee’s boss, thanks Will!)

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Lime Spiced Potatoes – tacos – duck egg mayonnaise. A top start – these were melt in your mouth and such delicate flavours against the rich mayo.

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Poached Egg Yolk – Leek Pureé – Alsace bacon – Brummie Cake. Not my favourite course – but the brummie cake was immense.

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A ‘4 in 1′ course of delicate veg; BBQ sweetcorn glazed with birch syrup, ‘Beef’ Tomato, Beetroot Lollipops & Carrots in Cumin and Passion Fruit. Sweetcorn, and the oxtail stuffed tomatoes the stand outs of these for me. Lovely presentation all round.

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Next a duo of shellfish dishes; First up a Cornish Crab Salad with brown bread – Crab Bisque – Sumac and then Roasted Scallop – Almond Satay – Ponzu. These were the prettiest and the the most outstanding dishes for me. I couldn’t get enough of the flavours of the almond satay and that ponzu dressing especially – it had that ‘special’ something.

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After this, something I couldn’t photograph – an ingenious take on a remoulade; salt baked celeriac cube, a little sphere that tasted entirely of mustard, and an apple and celery shot. Sounds odd, tastes of perfection. We were also then treated to a little extra course – I can’t remember entirely what it was but essentially there were little clouds of potato, with some purées and lots of shaved truffle – it was amazing!

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The fish course was Roast Turbot – Broad Bean – Yoghurt – Cumin – Quinoa. Flavour wise I don’t think this quite lived up to some of the others, it was a lot more subtle, although the textures of the cumin and quinoa were superb and the fish was perfect.

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Tail Fillet of Beef rolled in liquorice charcoal – peas – spicy tamarind jam was up next. I’m a huge fan of tamarind and this was another dish perfectly executed and bold but balanced flavours. The tamarind jam was superb. Glynn – please please can you bottle and sell this?!

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Next a crossover; Waffles – Fois Gras Butter-Crispy Chicken Skin – Maple syrup. Yes please. What a delicious little morsel.

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The first of 3 (yes 3!) puds was this Blackberry Crumble – toasted seeds. Amazingly light and the seed crumble was perfect.

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The Burnt English Custard Egg Surprise is famous from Glynns’ Great British Menu days with a few tweaks here and there- and is as good now as the other times we’ve had it.

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Last up (or so we thought) the ‘Mint Choccy Chip’, a theatrical masterpiece of Heston proportions with liquid nitrogen, dried mint and a warm chocolate, aerated chocolate and mint ice-cream extravaganza.

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Just when we thought it was all over, and were knocking back the last of the gift of some dessert wine from Sonal, yet another piece of art arrived at the table – more chocolate goodness, this time with cherry, that left us pretty much in a food coma.

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This meal certainly reminded us that Birmingham competes with best of the best in the Michelin and fine dining market, and Purnells is helping lead the way.

www.purnellsrestaurant.com

Disclosure: We paid in full for our meal. Purnells were nice enough to throw in a couple of extra bits and pieces because of our anniversary and the fact they’re really nice guys. All opinions are our own, as usual and as far as I am aware, they did not know I would be writing about the experience.

Moroccan Slow Cooked Lamb

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I’m loving experimenting with flavours at the moment as well as getting loads of use out of our slow cooker so a few weekends ago I shoved this shoulder of lamb in the slow cooker after a night of soaking up a Moroccan Style Rub and left it to do its business whilst I went over to Shropshire to visit a friend at her new house. 7 hours later I returned to a fabulous smell in the kitchen. The lamb was so tender and I felt these flavours worked really well. The nuts and seeds gave the otherwise boring bulgerwheat some crunch and the pomegranate has such a tangy fresh flavour that I’m loving at the moment. Cooling coriander yoghurt tempers down the spices just a little. A heartwarming and filling dish.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • small shoulder lamb
  • 2 tbsp Ras al Hanout Spice mix
  • 2 tbsp sumac
  • 1tsp cracked black pepper
  • Bulger Wheat  – enough for 2, prepared according to pack instructions
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
  • 1tbsp pistachios (shelled)
  • 1tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small pot greek yoghurt (we use Yeo Valley)
  • 1 handful corridor leaves, finely chopped

Method:

  • The night before you plan to eat combine the ras al hanout, sumac and pepper and rub into the lamb. Leave in the fridge overnight.DSC_0001
  • The next morning, about 8 hours before you intend to eat, put the lamb in the slow cooker along with about 100mls water and cook on low for 8 hours
  • Near the time that the lamb will finsih cooking prepare the bugler wheat. When cooked stir through the harissa paste,  the pomegranate seeds (reserve a few to garnish) nuts and a pinch of the chopped coriander and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • For the yoghurt simply combine the coriander with the yoghurt in a small bowl
  • Assemble by shredding the lamb on top of the bugler wheat and garnish with the yoghurt and a few more pomegranate seeds.

Happy eating :)

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Review: The Highfield, Edgbaston

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The High Field Is the latest Restaurant & Gastropub from Peach Pubs who run a successful group of gastropubs in Warwickshire, Oxfordsire and further south. Peach Pubs are pretty familiar to me, given that my other half used to do a lot of freelance work for them when he was a chef, that took him to most of their pubs over the 3 years and meant I visited and ate at a fair few too, so its lovely to see one open a bit nearer to us in Birmingham!

We headed over during their soft launch to see how this new opening stands up. First impressions were very very good – the decor is beautiful in my opinion, all set around a central square bar, with bar and restaurant seating all very luxurious with leather booths & pale grey wicker seating complete with faux fur throws which makes for the comfiest of chairs! There’s an open kitchen at the back and patio area out to the side which will be perfect for the Summer.

There was a nice choice of drinks and cocktails, with a big nod to the on-trend gin based drinks. My Bellini and then non alcoholic Apple Mojito were fab!

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The pub serve food throughout the day, with different menus for different times, so whatever you fancy you’re likely to find something to meet your craving. The evening menu had lots of pub favourites, and some more modern dishes and they are certainly following whats ‘hot’ in the food world, with dishes such as  the Superfood Salad, and Deli Boards. I’ve had one of these before in another Peach Pub and they are great for nibbling and sharing.

So, what did we have to eat? To start I had the Brixham Crab Cocktail, Guacamole and Crispy Tacos whilst Lee had the Iberico Serrano Ham, Fig & Goats Curd Salad with Truffle Honey. My crab was very tasty, and Lee loved the truffle honey on his dish.

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For mains Lee had the Maple Cured Gammon Rib Eye with Chips and Poached Egg. I understand that the Peach Chef that ‘created’ this dish originally won an award for it! The gammon was very yummy – an unusual cut, but cured very well. I had the Pan Fried Sea Bass, Bombay Potatoes, Indian Salad and Cucumber & Mint yoghurt. This was a stunner of a dish and I enjoyed every bit, although I craved a bit more yoghurt to make it perfect.

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Desserts wise we went for an Iced Hazelnut Parfait & Hot Valrhona Chocolate Sauce and a Warm Valrhona Chocolate Brownie & Jude’s Vanilla Ice Cream, both of which very decent desserts.

Another successful addition to the Peach Pub Family, and I feel they are going to do pretty damn well over in Edgbaston.

Seasoned Cookery School: The Best of British Meat Course

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Seasoned is a cookery school located in the grounds of the beautiful Catton Hall Estate in South Derbyshire. It’s only a stones throw from where we live, and although I’d heard of Seasoned before, I didn’t realise it was quite so close! The estate hosts a diverse range of events from horse trials to rock concerts and even their own game shoot in the Winter Months. Seasoned is situated in the Courtyard of the estate, and the purpose-built kitchens can accommodate up to 18 people, with a large adjoining dining/meeting room. As well as cookery courses, Seasoned host bespoke private parties and team building events. For more information on this and all their course have a look at their website

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Seasoned runs all manner of cookery and baking courses run by some fantastic chefs, including Tim Maddams, previously of River Cottage, Ex Masterchef contestants such as Jackie Kearney and Andrew Kojima and fresh from Great British Bake Off fame, the delights of Brendan Lynch, Ruth Clemens and Becca Lyne Pirkis.

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We were booked onto the Best of British Meat Course, and I was looking forward to getting to grips a bit more with cooking and preparing different cuts of meat. I took Lee along for the ride, although with him previously being a Chef himself he hardly needed any more tips, so I figured he could just show off his knife skills and show me up!

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The course ran from 10am – 4pm which included lunch (which you cook yourself) along with other bits to nibble on which have been created through various demonstrations throughout the day. Tea and Coffee is always available, as are the lovely team at Seasoned who also act as assistants (and do all the washing up!) So thanks to Katie, Beth and Lesley for all their handwork on the day too! Some of the work is on your own, some in pairs, and some time is spent watching demonstrations, so there is a good mix of things to do.

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Our ‘teacher’ for the day, was really fantastic. Knowledgable, skilled and probably most important of all, endlessly patient and willing to help and answers all our questions.

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Some of the things we did during the day was learning to debone chicken legs, and stuff & roll them to make a ballontine – which we stuffed with a chicken mousse. This was one of the things we had for lunch, along side perfectly cooked duck with Moroccan inspired Israeli Cous Cous.

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We also looked at ways of preparing and tying meat such as pork belly, and how to confit duck, as well as lesser known cuts of meat such as Ox cheeks, and the best ways to prepare and cook these, braising them and making into a pie, which we took home with us. The day ended with another feast of the confit duck with braised red cabbage and the Pork Belly with Crispy Crackling alongside a Q&A with Chef.

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The course was really enjoyable, and everyone on it from a young couple, to groups of friends, to the older generation all really seemed to have a great time. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others, and I am keen to get back there and try out something more out of my comfort zone like a Thai or Japanese Cooking Course.

You can also buy Seasoned Gift Vouchers, which would make brilliant Birthday or Christmas presents – something I’m going to bear in mind for the future!

Seasoned Cookery Courses

The Courtyard, Catton Hall, 
Walton upon Trent, 
South Derbyshire 
DE12 8LN

01283 810 275

https://www.seasonedcourses.com

Disclosure: We were invited to try out a course at Seasoned free of charge. All thoughts and opinions are our own, as always and it was not required that we write a positive review.

Review: Opus, Birmingham

 

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A few weeks ago my husband and I took my parents out for dinner at one of Birmingham’s nicest restaurants, Opus. It was a bit of a treat to say thanks to them for all of the things they have been doing for us in our house, bits and pieces of DIY and most recently painting all our skirting boards in preparation for our new carpet, so we wanted to take them somewhere they’d not been before.

Opus offers a great value market menu, offering a main for £10, 2 courses for £14 or 3 for £16, as well as the normal A La Carte Menu. When we went there was also a summer special of a a lb lobster and chips for just £17.50.

When then four of us dined, we had a mixture of all 3 of the above options, the flexibility is great. I was enjoying myself a bit too much and forgot my good blogger duties of photographing everything, but will include the things I did remember!

Starters wise saw Dad going for Seared Brixham scallops, slow cooked pork belly, apple and pommery mustard, Mum for the Leek and Smoked Haddock Fishcake, Poached Egg and Butter Sauce, while Lee had the Warm Goats Cheese Custard, caramelised shallot purée, pickled vegetables and sautéed beetroot, and finally, I went for the Lemon and Pepper Wild Gravadlax, Brixham Crab, Lobster and English Radish Salad & Sauce Vierge.

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For mains, both Dad and I ate the Lamb with Dauphinoise and Kale off the market menu, Mum went for the Lobster (and I got serious lobster envy – it was delicious!) while Lee had the Cornish Lamb, Pearl Barley, Celeriac & Summer Veg off the main menu. Our only comment about the food all night, was that the lamb was a little bit over, for how we like it, but it remained lovely and tender so not a big deal really.

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Dessert wise, Dad and Lee shared a cheese platter, Mum went for the Eton Mess Bomb, who they showcased at the COlmore Business district Festival last month and I had the Chocolate and Poached Pear Mousse with a caramel macaron, which is one of the nicest desserts I’ve had this year.

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We loved all the food throughout, much (v.good) wine was drunk, and I for one am hoping they keep running the summer lobster deal every year, as its a proper bargain!

http://www.opusrestaurant.co.uk

Disclosure: We paid in full for our meal and all opinions are honest and our own.

A new way of Vegetarian eating at Bistro 1847

I recently told you all about our first all vegetarian meal at Bistro 1847 in Birmingham. Well lucky for us we were invited back not long after to try out their new style of menu, moving from the traditional A La Carte to something a bit more modern and innovative.

The new menus a a compilation of grazing or sharing dishes, that come out from the kitchen whenever they are ready, a bit like tapas. Alternatively you can have their new tasting menu.

The sound of the dishes was fantastic, some different and exotic ingredients, with a big focus on wild foods and foraging. We decided to go for several of the small plates from the grazing menu (with the idea of trying as much as possible of course!)

I had one of their new mocktails from their drinks menu – I think it was called a Bramley Sour – and it was absolutely delicious. Lee went for a beer from their small but well thought out selection.

Here’s a run down of what we ate;

Tarragon polenta crisp, pickled wild mushroom, goats’ curd, baby aubergine, tahini & petals

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Peanut, caramelised parsnip, plantain fritter, chickweed, pickled shallot ring

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Crispy potato & Old Winchester dumpling, herbed sauce, toffee apple, mead, reduction, caramelised celery & foraged herbs

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Garden Pea Mousse, Black Sesame Crisps, Broad Bean, Yorkshire Fettle

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Spiced Laksa Sauce, Baby Heritage Potato, potato crackling, carrot seedlings, breakfast radish, aliums.

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Cream of Celeriac, Pearl Barley, Pickled Kohl Rabi, Bramley, Blue Cheese Beignet, Charred Onion

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I couldn’t get over how much I enjoyed the flavours of all the dishes. There were some fantastic elements such as the pickled kohl rabi, the laksa spiced potatoes, potato crackling & tarragon polenta, I could go on and on! The textures on each dish were so varied and balanced and they really showed off vegetarian ingredients to their absolute best.

Desserts were also very scrummy, although in my opinion not quite as good as the mains.

Peanut brittle, slow-roast pineapple, white chocolate crème fraiche

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‘Allotment Aero’

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The only tiny comment I have on the flip side, was that the dishes were all served on large full size plates, and as the dishes came out of the kitchen as they were ready (no issue with this), we did struggle at some points when there were 3 on the table at once, rushing to try and finish a plate so it could be cleared before the next one appeared. Smaller plates would make it a bit more manageable.

I’d thoroughly recommend Bistro 1847 to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, their ethos and execution are excellent.

http://bistro1847.com