Smoking again

BBQ Box from Smoke Catering

On a recent visit to the Temple Quay market I decided after looking around to have the BBQ Box from Smoke Catering. I have really enjoyed food from them before.

They were there with their big smoker and their choice of Texan style smoked meats. Their huge smoker always impresses me filled with delicious food and the surrounding aroma and smoke.

On the menu was nine hour beef brisket with homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. You could have chosen the seven hour pulled pork in a brioche bun with a smoked pork and chilli sausage, or smoked Beef Rib. They also had the BBQ box which was advertised as containing the beef brisket, pulled pork, a smoked pork and chilli sausage, served with the homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans.

However by the time I got there, the pulled pork had sold out, so with the BBQ Box the pulled pork was replaced with the beef rib. Which to be honest I was pleased with, as I had enjoyed it last time.

Generally the more popular stalls will run out , so my usual advice with the Temple Quay markets is to get there early and usually before half past twelve, though I did get to the market at 12:30ish, Smoke Catering’s pulled pork brioche was obviously very popular that day.

I don’t generally understand why some stalls are more popular than others. The Thai stall had a immense queue crossing the entire market and then some. They always have big queues, which to be honest is why I’ve not tried them yet. There are also other stalls which have no queue at all, it’s not as though the food isn’t any good, from my experience when I’ve tried them they were delicious and tasty.

I was also doubly pleased with a bigger portion of meat than the last time I had the box from Smoke Catering. The beef brisket was melt in the mouth tender, enhanced with the crisp “burnt” edges. The rib was also beautifully tender and full of flavour. I did feel that I was really getting my money’s worth with this box. The sausage was meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower. I enjoyed the combination of the slaw, mash and beans. The mash was wonderfully smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The beans spicy and full of flavour and it was great to mix in with the mash. The homemade slaw was fresh and crunchy, maybe a little too sloppy, but minor point, in what was a tasty meal. Overall a delicious box of food.

Time for teriyaki lamb

I do enjoy my visits to Wagamama, though I haven’t been for a while. The Cribbs Causeway branch of Wagamama doesn’t have the most welcoming environment, it feels like it is perched on a Mezzanine and certainly doesn’t have that warm cosy feeling that a more traditional Wagamama has. Having said that the staff were welcoming and we had excellent service.

I went with the grilled teriyaki lamb with mushrooms, asparagus, kale and mangetout served on a bed of soba noodles in a pea, herb and wasabi dressing.

Time for teriyaki lamb

The teriyaki lamb was one of the specials and was one of the more expensive dishes on the menu. My food arrived last (and later than expected) compared to the rest of the table. The policy of Wagamama is that the food arrives when it is ready and not necessarily all together. I don’t see this as too much of a problem if this was a tapas or mezze, or even a oriental buffet. It feels slightly wrong though when you are a family eating out and the food you’ve ordered arrives at different times you’re not sure if you should wait (and your food goes cold) or start and sit around as you wait for others to finish!

Once my lamb had arrived it looked great, it tasted great too. The lamb was tender and quite spicy. I liked the noodles and the dressing. It was quite salty though.

Crispy Squid

Crispy Squid

The South Kitchen run a regular crispy squid stall, though the menu had the odd special dish, the usual offer is either salt and pepper crispy squid or sweet chilli crispy squid. Both dishes are served with pickled vegetables, new potatoes and chorizo.

Each serving is freshly cooked to order in front of you. The squid and the potatoes are taken and cooked in the deep fat fryer, before being tossed in the appropriate seasoning then dressed with the picked vegetables and garnished with sesame seeds.

The squid is tender, the batter is crisp with a real crunch. The potatoes add substance to the dish and the vegetables enhance it. Overall a great dish of food.

For me this is what street food is a really about. This is proper fresh food, it isn’t been hanging around under a hot plate, drying out! It’s not something that has been cooked in advance and then heated up in a microwave.

One “problem” with enjoying street food like this, is when you go to another eatery, which doesn’t cook the food this way, then you really don’t enjoy the experience.

Coping with self-catering in Calpe

Calpe beach and Peñón de Ifach

Having spent another wonderful week in sunny Calpe on the Costa Blanca I was reminded that last year I hadn’t blogged about the challenges I faced. This is one of the reasons I blog, it’s more for me than other people. I think part of the reason I didn’t blog, was at the time we saw this as a one off place to visit and we didn’t intend to return, as we were going to go somewhere new. Last year when I went to Calpe though I did manage to cook some tasty food in the apartment kitchen, due to some “missing” items, I found it challenging. This year I faced similar challenges, however even though I don’t expect to return to Calpe, I am going to note down the issues, as I am sure it will still be useful for visits to other destinations.

My previous experience of self-catering apartments was from the Greek Ionian islands and Cyprus. This was before children, so it was me and my other half. We rarely used the self-catering facilities for cooking, as we would eat out a bit, but it was useful to have a hob, a fridge and a few utensils and crockery. The “kitchen” in the apartments I experience were very minimal and not really sufficient for anything more than snacks and hot drinks. Also the local shopping environment wasn’t exactly great for self-catering, with very small supermarkets.

When we booked our Calpe holiday last year, due to dietary requirements (gluten free) we wanted to ensure we had not only a self-catering kitchen, but a decent enough kitchen for actual real cooking. The apartments at the Esmeralda Suites in Calpe from the brochure images (and Trip Adviser) actually looked okay and much better than what I was use to on previous self-catering holidays abroad.

Esmeralda Suites

This is a brochure image of the kitchen and no we did not get that rack of knives!

Esmeralda Suites Kitchen

So though I did cook and prepare a lot of meals in the kitchen there were some things I wish I had brought with me (and in some cases) weren’t possible to purchase locally.

The main challenge for me was kitchen knives. Now checking a few airline sites it is possible to carry kitchen knives in hold luggage (obviously not in carry on luggage in the cabin). There was a knife provided, but this was very blunt and the handle was cracked. In the end I had to go out to the local supermarket and purchase a replacement. I left the replacement for future guests. What I do wish I had was a proper bread knife. We did buy fresh bread, but it was challenging to cut, even with the new knife. If you like me enjoy fresh salads, having a decent kitchen knife to slice tomatoes or cucumber is essential.

There was a single chopping board, which meant continually washing it up as food was prepared. I have a fair few boards at home and on other (UK) holidays have often taken a chopping board with me.

The washing of the chopping board wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been a washing up bowl for the sink. Now I know this is a very British thing to do, but if you have a sink of washing up water, where do you put other liquids, such as when you drain pasta?

Talking of draining pasta, how do you do drain pasta or vegetables without a sieve or a colander? The kitchen came with a slotted spoon which I used instead.

Though we didn’t use any cans, without a can opener, it would have been a challenge. I was tempted to purchase some of the canned beans that you find in Spain, but they would have come home as there was no opener.

The other thing I found challenging was not having a pair of scissors, doing something as simple as opening a pack of pasta or coffee with just a blunt knife wasn’t fun!

One item that I usually have in the kitchen which was also missing was a pair of tongs, I did struggle now and then to move food from the pan to plates or to turn things in the oven.

The oven was also a challenge, as there was a drip tray and a rack, but no roasting or baking trays. I was resigned to “making” trays out of foil. I did find towards the end of the holiday disposable foil trays that would have been useful.

I did take some stuff with me such as non-stick foil, cling film, food bags, as well as some seasoning and other ingredients. These are available in Spain, but I didn’t want to spend money on things we had at home already.

So here is my list of things I would take with me if I ever return to Calpe.

Kitchen knife
Bread knife
Can opener
Sieve
Cafetière
Spare chopping board
Scissors
Tongs
Baking trays
Foil
Cling film
Food bags

What do you take on your self-catering holidays?

Time for breakfast

breakfast at The Walton

I occasionally have to stay away as part of my job, and I find it surprising that I have become something of a breakfast snob when it comes to hotel breakfasts. I know that it is nice to have someone else make you breakfast.

A recent breakfast experience at the Holiday Inn Express was very disappointing, with minimal choice, not much different a previous experience a few years back. However recently I was able to repeat the breakfast experience at The Walton Hotel in Nottingham. I first stayed at The Walton back in 2016.

The Walton Hotel in Nottingham

This is a unique hotel experience and nothing like the bland chains that I usually find myself in. The quirky decor and furniture makes fort a very different hotel experience.

The Walton Hotel in Nottingham

Last time the breakfast was very quirky in its presentation.

breakfast at The Walton

This time I was expecting something different, as I had noticed that the dinner menu was radically different to what I had seen on my last visit. Last time I had a really nice pork done three ways. Looking back through the blog I realised I hadn’t blogged about that dish or the breakfast.

Pork done three ways

That pork dish was very clever and delicious, but as you can see it had quite a quirky presentation. I think I remember seeing a similar sounding lamb dish back then, so was looking forward to having that this time on my return visit. However looking over the menu it was apparent that they had changed chef and were going for “safe” options such as steak and chips, steak and ale pie, fish and chips, etc…

The new menu didn’t inspire mess so was expecting a more “traditional” breakfast. However this time the breakfast was similar, it was served on a plate, though the beans were still in a miniature saucepan.

breakfast at The Walton

The mushroom was full of flavour and well cooked, not broiled for ages as you find at a breakfast buffet. Likewise as it was cooked to order the bacon was very tasty and not dried out, the eggs were also similarly freshly cooked and still had runny yolks. I liked the beef tomato that came with the breakfast. The sausage was meaty and tasty. The breakfast came with some nice toasted bloomer bread and a cafetière of freshly brewed coffee.

These were high quality ingredients and were cooked well and tasted delicious.