Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2015

Illy Coffee

So what food, drink and coffee blog posts were people reading this year? Interestingly none about coffee?

At number ten is an article entitled, Alba Ristorante Part Two. Back in 2008 when attending Handheld Learning, one evening we went to a local Italian next to the Barbican in London. I do remember the meal, it was delicious. This was a really nice upmarket Italian restaurant but with quite reasonable prices, especially for London.

The ninth most popular post was a Classic Heineken Advert from 1976.

Classic Heineken Advert from 1976

The eighth post was about cooking Chorizo, Cooking Chorizo. as was the seventh post Chorizo Frito al Vino.

The post at number six was about Basil & pine nut marguerite and a simple pasta recipe was at number five, Pasta in Tomato Sauce.

The fourth most popoular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions.

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the third most read post on the blog.

The second most popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, this one was about the Chilli Squid from Wagamama.

The most popular post this year was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

Well here’s raising a cup of coffee and wishing you all the best for 2016.


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.

Chicken Kebabs

I quite like kebabs, but I still have not perfected a technique that ensures that all the food on the kebab is evenly cooked and ensuring that the meat is “actually” cooked.

I recently made these chicken and chorizo kebabs and though the veg and chorizo was cooked, the chicken was still a little underdone.

I had done them under the grill, usually I would “roast” them at the top of a hot oven in order to cook them evenly, but then you don’t get that crispness on the edges. I am guessing that the ideal solution is to grill the vegetables separately to the chicken.

Quick’ish Paella

DinnerMade a quick paella the other day. I took a large frying pan and added a splash of olive oil. To this I added some diced onions and cooked them until soft. I then added the paella rice and it always makes sense to use paella rice, and never any other kind of rice. I ensured that the rice was well coated in the oil and onions before adding some chicken stock and saffron. Always got to use saffron.

Simmer for twenty minutes adding more stock if required.

While this was cooking I grilled some cod and prawns that I served on top of the paella rice.

I didn’t have any “proper” chorizo so I cooked some sliced chorizo which I placed on the finished dish with the cooked prawns and cod.

Though delicious and all eaten up, I was slightly disappointed with the paella rice I had used, which was from Sainsbury’s. My normal paella rice is the one from Tesco, so I think next time I will buy that instead.

Books on Paella and Spanish Cooking.

Conference Dining

I don’t go to as many conferences as people often think, but I do probably photograph my food at most of them…

Recently I was attending a review meeting at Aston University and we had dinner the night before at the Aston Business School. Unlike a lot of conference dinners we had a choice, which is always nice. Also not only a choice, but we could choose on the night. Normally choice is either completely limited to a single choice, or if there is a choice you have to make that choice weeks in advance. I’m not a fan of that as often what tickles my fancy weeks ago, is not what I want to eat on the night! So having the choice on the evening I am eating is a real treat.

For my starter I went with the warm tartlet of chorizo, mushrooms and roasted shallots.

In other words a quiche! It was quite tasty and very nice. It was well presented too.

For the main dish, I went with the slow cooked blade of beef with a bourguignon sauce, served with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans.

The beef was very tender and was full of flavour. I would have liked more sauce, as in places the beef was a little dry. The potatoes were great and the beans were beans.

I was tempted by the other dishes on the menu, the slow braised shoulder of Moroccan lamb with North African cous cous when it arrived on the table looked really nice.

The cassoulet of beans with Gorgonzola polenta and roasted aubergine also looked great.

What was nice was that there were two vegetarian options, most times you have the single choice of a mushroom risotto.

So what about to finish with, well I am a sucker for cheese and biscuits and went with that.

Very nice, even with the large amount of celery, which I never eat. I did feel that if you provide four biscuits it would be nice to have at least four pieces of cheese. I felt short-changed with the cheese, it needed more cheese, or more different cheeses.

Must mention the excellent service, any place which has a table of twenty as we did and know who ordered what is a real bonus. The food came out and was served to the correct people. So much nicer than someone holding out a dish and calling out “who ordered the fish?”

Overall it was a really nice meal, nice to have a choice, cooked well, great service and nice surroundings.