Saturday, 29 January 2011

Florio's Pizzeria, Malton, North Yorkshire

Over Christmas on a visit to North Yorkshire we had an evening out with a friend to meet her new partner and reason for a forthcoming move to Australia.

We decided to go to perhaps the most popular restaurant in town, Florio's, after a couple of drinks at Suddaby's.

Whenever visiting Malton, I try to get to Florio's. The restaurant is always busy, full of couples, families, and parties. During a night there you are pretty much guaranteed to here the background music change to "Happy Birthday" and the whole restaurant joining in the singing, while a large desert of some nature complete with sparklers is carried across to the party table. My first visit there in fact was for a friend's birthday, and that was rather more years ago than I would like to mention as I'm sure it was for a 10th birthday party, or similar.

The menu has a large choice of pasta, pizza and meat and fish dishes as well as a generous selection of specials displayed on boards. Before my gluten/wheat free time I adored their baked pasta dish of Penne Alla Sbirraglia, only one time straying to try their lobster ravioli. And in fact this baked pasta was almost ordered by my friend. The staff in the restaurant are/speak Italian, and the kitchen is open, allowing you to see the fact that the pizzas are handmade, as the chefs toss the dough with flare! The food here seems to be consistently good, generous in size, and all made from scratch - making it far easier to cope when people like me come along asking for no gluten/wheat.

I ordered the mussels in a cream sauce from the specials board for a starter while the rest of the table shared a Rustica bread. This was a large pizzas-sized garlic bread with a tomato and herb sauce and anchovies and capers. If you weren't to know, you may order a garlic bread for one as a starter, but clearly, this would work for three! I had told the waitress about gluten/wheat free, and she instantly understood, saying that no bechamel would be added to anything I ordered and that most choices (outside of the pizza and pasta, obviously) would be fine for me.

The mussels were lovely. Very large and juicy, and the sauce beautiful. I did actually want to drink it from the bowl. The Rustica bread went down well too, delivering the right amount of saltiness to satisfy the cravings.

My main - to carry on the salty theme was Pork Puttanesca. Two generous pork steaks covered in a tomato sauce with capers and olives. This came served with rosemary and garlic potatoes and I chose the option of a side salad. The meal was very nice but there was no way I could finish it.

Tim ordered his normal for Italian restaurants of spicy meatballs. I think that is a rule. When meatballs in a spicy sauce are on the menu in whatever format, they have to be ordered.

We decided against desert as we simply had no more room, but the range on offer always includes fresh fruit and Italian ice cream as well as other specials. The bill came to around £30 per couple including a bottle of wine (our first bottle had been paid for by a friend who didn't eat with us).

Florio's is definitely recommended, and I'm sure we'll continue to visit every time we're in Malton. Just make sure you're very hungry before you go!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Leftovers - Chorizo Pasta Bake

Chorizo Pasta Bake

In continuation of our post about frugality (still don't know if that is actually a word), here is a concoction we made one night last week with just what we had left over in the fridge. By some strange fate it seemed that all the bits and bobs we had were exactly the right amount for what we wanted to do. This dish was great as we didn't spend anything on ingredients, and it fed us both for two nights. Bargain!
We made a pasta bake which isn't unusual when scrimping around for left over bits and bobs as I suppose there are limitless possibilities for what to put in them. 

This is what we used: (the amounts are very approximate)

100g Chorizo (diced)
Handful of Frozen Peas
1 Onion (chopped)
Half a Corgette (diced)
Half a tub of Passata
A glug of Double Cream
Gluten-free Pasta (enough to cover a lasagne dish)
2 Spring Onions (chopped)
Grated Mozzarella and Chedder mix
Olive Oil
Dried Oregano
Dried Basil
A little water
Salt and pepper

What to do:

Fry the onion for 5 minutes to soften.  Then add the chrorizo and fry for a further 5 minutes until the oil is released .  Add the courgette and fry until soft.  Season with salt and pepper and add the dried herbs.  Then pour in the passata and cream and bring to a simmer.

In a lasagne dish, cover the bottom with dried pasta and add the sauce and frozen peas.  Mix well and add a little water as necessary to just cover the pasta.  Sprinkle the cheese and spring onion over the sauce to make the topping.

Cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Mixed Tapas

January is generally a month of frugality (is that a word?), both money-wise and food-wise. I'm not going to say diet, as we never diet, but occasionally we take stock of what we're eating.
This post is not really about sensible eating, more like watching what we spend.

One of our favourite restaurants is The Orange Tree Tapas and Grill, and we have come to love several dishes on the menu. Since we are trying to watch what we spend at the moment (home improvements and credit card bills pressing) I decided to try and re-create some of our favourite tapas dishes rather than going out.

The dishes I tried were the Chicken in Paprika and Cream and the Beef in Peppercorn sauce from the restaurant. I also did a dish based on their Chicken with Mushrooms in Cream but with the addition of some cured ham. And also a dish of chorizo and prawns in a tomato and garlic sauce which I had seen some time ago on Market Kitchen.
The paprika cream sauce was simple to make, just a couple of lightly fried shallots with the chicken, then a splash of white wine and then the cream. And then enough paprkia to get the right flavour.
The mushroom sauce was similar, but I slowly cooked a couple of sliced mushrooms with the shallots. I wanted the flavour of the mushrooms throughout the sauce which seemed to work well. In both cases the chicken was finely sliced so it cooked quickly.

The chorizo and prawn dish was very simple, and the most tasty of the lot. I cooked two finely sliced cloves of garlic very gently in quite a bit of olive oil, so that the garlic softened but didn't brown and the oil was infused with the garlic flavour. I then added chucks of chorizo to the pan so that the lovely oils would mix together. Then came a good helping of passata and then the cooked king prawns just to warm through.

The dish I really wanted to get close to what we eat at The Orange Tree was the Beef in Peppercorn sauce. The sauce at the restaurant is lovely and rich, with a dark colour and is almost chocolately in flavour and texture. I've been searching for a recipe for something similar for a while now and came across a discussion on the BBC food messageboard about how to acheive this chocolatey-ness in peppercorn sauces. Several people thought it was to do with the use of brandy or madeira to de-glaze the pan, and the length of time cooking. One contributor posted a link to this recipe as a recommended version of steak in peppercorn sauce which could lead to the chocolately texture and flavour. So it was on this that I based my attempt to re-create our favourite dish.

Here is my adapted recipe:

1 steak (sirloin or rump, or any quick frying steak) cut into strips
1 shallot, finely chopped
a splash of brandy
crushed black peppercorns
double cream
beef stock

1. First fry the shallot gently in a little olive oil (or butter).
2. Cover the steak strips in loads of crushed black peper then add to the pan and cook very quickly.
3. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
4. De-glaze with a splash of brandy making sure all the bits left from the meat are scraped up. Heating so the brandy reduces. I didn't heat it til it ignites as the original recipe suggests, as I am a wuss!
5. Add about 50ml of beef stock to the pan, and enough cream to give the consistency you want and heat through.
6. Return the meat to the pan, stir through and then serve.

Sorry that the amounts are vague, but I generally cook by eye and taste, if anyone would like more precise measurements, please let me know, as I will be trying this again!

This dish didn't turn out chocolatey, but was very tasty. I think next time I will cook down the sauce longer to reduce it, intensify the flavours and to darken the colour. I also think I added too much pepper to make it comparable to the sauce we have had at the restaurant. It was more like a standard peppercorn sauce that you have with steak rather than something that bit more special. Does anyone have any idea if cooking the sauce for longer will work?

Morale of the story: maybe it is best to eat your favourite foods at the place where they became your favourite! We will return to the Orange Tree, but maybe not this month!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Mozaic Cafe and Delicatessen, Ashton-u-Lyne

Last week we received an email inviting us to try a new Moroccan and Lebanese cafe in Ashton. This was new to us. We've not really eaten or cooked Moroccan food, don't even know what Lebanese food is,  generally we don't eat in cafes, or even eat in Ashton! But since receiving a tagine for Christmas the whole Moroccan thing is something we were keen to try. Plus this was our first invitation to review - long may they continue! So yesterday we took a trip into Ashton to try all these new things

The Mozaic Cafe and Delicatessen is in the centre of Ashton, within the pedestrianised area and close to the shops. As you walk in the first thing you see is the deli counter, full of exciting and unusual salads, and also a selection of various meats. A menu is displayed behind the counter showing what seemed to be the range of take away options.

Deli counter with the chef
We decided to eat in. There were 6 tables set up towards the back of the cafe, but the most noticeable thing was that the kitchen was completely open, not even any sort of counter between the customers and where the food is prepared. Clearly they have nothing to hide! We were seated at a table and immediately offered a hot or cold drink. Just by our table was a shelf with all sorts of Moroccan cooking books and travel books to look at, as well as different size tagines for sale. There were no menus on the tables, but a chalk board on the wall detailing the delights on offer. As we were considering what to have the lady at the next table offered some advice. She told us that the meat meze main course was lovely as she was tucking into a serving of houmous and flatbread.
We decided on a mini meze to start and then something a bit more adventurous for main. I explained that I couldn't eat things like bread and couscous. The waiter immediately understood asking us if everything needed to be gluten free. Top marks.

Mini Meze
The mini meze starter was amazing. The array of salads available (even without the couscous options) was impressive. Among our favourites were the homemade houmous, both green bean salads and the beetroot salad. This came with a portion of flatbread and homemade tzatziki to drizzle over everything if we liked. Everything on the plate tasted fresh and different. The vegetables were crisp and the dressing refreshing. All this for £3.50! Bargain.

I'd chosen the Lemon and Chilli Chicken for a main, and Tim the Spicy Lamb. These came with a small side salad, a choice of rice and a drizzle of that tzatziki. I chose the Saffron Rice and Tim sampled all 3 options which included plain, saffron and brown rice. The brown rice contained cashew nut and vermicelli which was an interesting combination.

Lemon Chilli Chicken with Saffron Rice
The Chicken was superb. The chicken seemed as though it was slow cooked and shredded. Very tender and moist, and tasting real, as opposed to the fake sponginess of prepacked and overly processed cheap chicken. The sauce was very tasty, not too much chilli, but enough to warm your mouth, with a bit of subtle tang from the lemon.
Spicy Lamb and Three rices
The Spicy Lamb dish was tasty, and not too spicy, with the familiar delicious flavours that often accompany lamb. The waiter had given us a small amount of homemade harissa as an accompaniment to this dish if we wanted more fire. The harissa complemented the dish well and was more flavoursome than other harrisa pastes previously tried.

The bill came to around £15, which we thought was excellent value: 1 starter, 2 main courses, and 2 hot drinks. We were stuffed!
We even bought the favourite green bean salads and some houmous to take away for lunch the next day.

Lunch the next day!
During our time at Mozaic we saw plenty of customers come and go, from regular lady with the recommendations, to office workers taking out mixed salads and wraps to the older gentleman (who was speaking French with the chef) who may have been Moroccan himself.
We don't know if the food was typical of Morocco or Lebanon as we have no frame of reference, but we have no reason to doubt the authenticity of what was on offer.

Mozaic is in our opinion a lovely little cafe, a real gem in a busy part of town.  The eating area is small and cosy which just adds to it's charms with staff who are very attentive and knowledgeable.  Another particularly pleasing aspect to the place is it's diverse range of customers which shows how well the cafe is serving the local community.
We would fully recommend paying a visit, whether you have the time to eat in, or just to grab a lemon chilli chicken wrap on the go, or even to sample the recommended mixed meat meze. I know we'll be back to try that!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Sweet Potato with Chilli and Thyme

I have decided to throw in a couple of ideas every now and again that don't really amount to a recipe but it just might inspire you in some small way.  Here is a nice idea of what to do with sweet potato.  There really is a never ending list of dishes this could accompany, however on this occasion we had it with Caramel Chicken as seen here.

Sweet Potato with Chilli and Thyme
When I say we had it with the Caramel Chicken, that is not strictly true.  The reason why the photo is of one lonely potato is because on the 1st attempt the potatoes were a bit tough so I returned them to the oven and had as a snack a little later!!  With that in mind, if you wish to have everything ready at the same time (which isn't a bad idea when preparing a meal) then I would bake the potato for about an hour and a half wrapped in foil or slightly less if not :
Sweet Potato
Big knob of butter at room temperature
A couple of chillis finely chopped
One crushed garlic clove
A few sprigs of thyme finely chopped

All you need to do is mix the ingredients with the butter and spread over the potatoes when cooked.  Serve with whatever dish you fancy.  It was delicious!