Going back to itsu

I haven’t been to itsu for a while now, since I stopped working in Oxford, I made quite a few visits there for sushi and pots of noodles. I haven’t been to the branch in London (too many other choices) however in December a new branch opened in Bristol.

As on my previous visit, there was a lot of choice and within the different types of food on offer lots of variation. I found it difficult to decide on what to have.

There is a big choice of salad and sushi in the fridges and then there are the hot options, pots of soup, rice, noodles or dumplings.

In the end I went with the Vietnam beef salad. This was roasted beef, hard boiled egg, spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning.

Vietnam beef (roasted), hard boiled egg (free range), spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning

It looked really nice and was well presented. I found the beef tender and actually quite tasty. The salad and rice was also really nice. The overall combination was delicious and I really enjoyed the salad.

Spicy!

If you live in Bristol you’ve probably heard of Chilli Daddy and you may have even eaten there. They have relatively recently taken on a stall in the St Nicholas Market and as that is a regular haunt of mine for lunch, I have been thinking about eating there for a while. When they first arrived in St Nicks I did find the menu somewhat confusing, since then they have appeared to simplify it.

winter1_1_orig

winter2_1_orig

winter3_orig

On my most recent visit to St Nick’s the staff from Chilli Daddy were offering free samples of fried spicy chicken, pepper chicken and mini spring rolls. All very nice and tasty. Though what I didn’t see was where they were on the menu!

Looking over the menu, I decided that noodles would be a messy affair so went with a rice dish, the Paojiao Chicken Rice Box.

So the dish didn’t look like the picture, well it was a square box.

Paojiao Chicken Rice Box.

The dish was mainly rice with ground chicken with some vegetables and some peanuts. The pajiao was Sichuan pickled chili pepper. This was a very interesting dish and I did find it both tasty and spicy. Even though I went for the level 2 spiciness it was still quite a hot spicy dish, I don’t really want to imagine how hot a level 5 dish would be.

Time for a new pan

paella

I do quite like cooking paella, and though I’ve not talked about it for a while on the blog, it has made regular appearances on the dining table. One thing I have been thinking about for a while was buying a paella pan to cook it in. I have been using a regular frying pan, but the idea behind using a special paella pan, was to ensure a more authentic dish. This would be achieved by having a broader pan, the resulting paella would be shallower than using the regular frying pan. It would also ensure that I didn’t need to stir the paella, which I have been told now is something you don’t do with paella. So when I was out shopping in Bristol recently I treated myself to a new 40cm paella pan.

For my most recent paella and using the new pan for the first time, I took some diced onion, pepper, mushrooms and courgette. In addition I also threw in some diced chorizo to the pan. After heating a splash of olive oil in the pan, I fried the vegetables and chorizo until they were soft.

I use a variety of methods when adding flavour, from making my own seasoning mix using saffron and paprika, to using shop bought seasoning mixes or pastes. For this paella I used the Marks & Spencer’s paella paste, this contains saffron, but also gives the paella a rich fruity flavour. The paste was added to the pan and mixed with the cooked vegetables.

I then added the paella rice. It makes sense to use the right kind of rice when cooking paella, to ensure you get the right texture. This was coated with the rest of the ingredients and then I added some white wine, before adding the stock to cover all the ingredients.

This was then left to cook over a simmering heat for 30-40 minutes, and I didn’t stir. Though after 25 minutes I did add a little more stock to the pan.

In separate pans I cooked the chorizo and the squid. The chorizo I used was the cooking chorizo, sliced into 4-5mm slices. This was cooked off in a medium pan with a little olive oil. They certainly sweat oil out and this combined with the paprika can stain, so be careful. For this paella I used regular squid, this was scored with a sharp knife before been cooked just before serving in a hot frying pan.

The dish was then constructed, the cooked squid and chorizo was placed on top with chunks of lemon, then served.

Delicious, and went down well.

Eat beautiful?

itsu Oxford

I hadn’t heard or seen an itsu restaurant or shop before, but I was out in Oxford and found their branch on Cornmarket Street. They have been in London for a while, since 1999 according to the website.

The blurb says

The early pioneers of Pret are the creative force behind itsu.

Years of listening and reacting to customers encouraged us to build a new type of food place dedicated to skinny but delicious food; sixty two dishes- light, green and good for you.

Apparently the secret to Pink Floyd’s breathtaking music is as much about what they left out as what they put in; a bit like itsu, less fat, more bounce.

There was a lot of choice and within the different types of food on offer lots of variation. It was quite difficult to decide on what to choose.

The salads looked great, well presented, as did the sushi. The food looked fresh and inviting. The shelves were well stocked and there was a lot of choice.

itsu salad boxes in Oxford

I was tempted by a box of sushi, but as the weather outside was cold and wet, I went with the chicken and rice “potsu”. It is described as chargrilled chicken, ithai sauce, kombu relish, brown + wild rice & seven veg.

itsu Chargrilled Chicken Potsu

It was rather nice, filling and tasty. The chargrilled chicken was full of flavour, and the vegetables were fresh and had a nice crunch. The sauce was very spicy and in some ways I could see how some people might find it overpowering, but I did like it. It was nice to eat something very different for lunch, something that wasn’t a sandwich or the ubiquitous panini.

It was an interesting environment in which to eat, there were raised communal tables with high stools. It certainly is a good place to go if you are in a group, and I am sure in a place like Oxford with lots of students they are trying to attract that market. The decor and colours are best described as bright and colourful, very different from the dark and wood you find in coffee shops.

I enjoyed the food, quite liked the environment and was inspired by the menu. I will certainly go again.

Don’t you dare stir…

Well I have been well and truly told by lots of people never to stir my paella again.

Claire is currently living in Spain.

Fernando is a Lecturer in Spanish at the Open University.


So that means I am very clear now, I don’t stir the paella.