Friday, 29 July 2011

The Daffodil, Cheltenham

Our second eating out experience in Cheltenham was at The Daffodil. This had been the choice of my friend. And what a good choice it was too.

The restaurant is in an old cinema, with a lot of the features still in place. The entrance hall ha art deco type stained glass, and original cinema style doors, as well as stairs either side up to the bar in the circle.

The restaurant, in my opinion, feels very airy, but still with an intimate feel at the tables with the level of lighting and the table settings. The kitchen is open, and is the focal point of the room, and at either side are the curving staircases to the bar.

We ate from "The Dailies" section of the menu. Our friend had called ahead to check about gluten free options, and the waitress was very good and explained which dishes I could choose from. Being the "Dailies" the choice was limited, and out of the three options for each course, there was only one of each I could have. Luckily, the ones I would have chosen anyway.
Between the three of us we ate pretty much the whole of the menu: Pigeon breast with tarragon risotto, courgette and mint soup, Sea Bass with sauce vierge,  Pork with wilted greens, Salmon and courgette salad, rice pudding, parfait and chocolate pudding. The highlights of the meal were the courgette soup which was very fresh and flavoursome, the pigeon, which was a new taste for Tim  along with tarragon - his new favourite ingredient, and the rice pudding. (apologies for the photos, but low lighting and no flash makes for dull photos)

All round, the food was good, and there were some excellent flavours. I was a little disappointed with the fish, and we all thought the pork dish was the best main. We finished the evening in the upstairs bar for some rather unusual and exciting cocktails and coffee.
I would recommend The Daffodil. The setting is superb, as seems the full, varied and seasonal menu.
The "Dailies" do offer very good value, but perhaps we made bad choices.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Red Pepper, Cheltenham

A few weeks ago we took a trip down to Cheltenham to say goodbye to a friend who was moving to Australia. We travelled down mid week, and since we arrived in good time, our plan was to find lunch at one of the many eating places in the town.A little research before hand and we chose Red Pepper Bistro. The menu looked good and it was a reasonable price for lunch, given that we were eating out in the evening.

I ordered the chicken and bacon salad and Tim ordered the fish cake with a portion of skinny fries on the side.

The chicken and bacon salad was vast. I couldn't finish it. And I believe the fish cakes were superb. The skinny fries were excellent too. All in all a very good value, very tasty and very filling lunch. Red Pepper is certainly recommended.
The restaurant is set out downstairs with a range of formal tables as well as sofas etc, while above there is a deli counter selling a mix of delights including interesting vinegars and chutneys.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Canadian Dishes

Well we tried to celebrate Canada Day with some of our favourite foods from our trips over there. Some worked, some didn't quite match our hopes and some weren't even attempted!

We'd decided against the Beaver Tail thing. Perhaps another time. We did however make the crab and spinach dip, baked prawns, steak, caesar salad and Poutine.
The Crab dip was excellent, and the left overs were eaten as a spread on crackers the next day. The baked prawns were nice, but nothing like how I'd hoped. The steak was OK, the caesar salad good (bought dressing!), and the Poutine - well I think that was the success story of the evening.

Crab, Spinach and Cheese Dip (This recipe)

We followed the recipe(copied out below), but cut down the quantities by about 2 thirds, mainly because crab meat is expensive and the amount made would have been massive!  
1 lb.Crab Meat
1/2 lb. Parmesan cheese
1 lb. cream cheese
1 lb. sour cream
1/2 lb. Gouda cheese
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
1 tsp. Seafood Seasoning

Thaw spinach, drain well, chop into half-inch pieces and lightly saute to evaporate remaining liquid, set aside.
Place crab meat into a large bowl, handle gently, carefully examine for shell, set aside.
Place all cheeses, sour cream and spice (except for about 2 Tbsp. of Parmesan cheese) into saucepan.
Heat over medium until smooth; do not boil.
Fold spinach into hot cheese mixture.
Fold crab meat into mixture.
Remove from heat, place into lightly greased baking dish or bread boule.
Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese over top.

Bake in preheated 350F/180C oven for 10-15 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Baked Prawns

(I have since found a recipe claiming to be the recipe from The Keg Steakhouse. Not sure if it would have worked for us though, as apparently you need an escargot dish and different cheeses. Below is my attempt without following a recipe)
Place a handful of prawns in a shallow gratin dish and top with a mixture of grated cheese (we used gouda) and crushed garlic.
Bake until cheese is bubbling.

For those who don't know. Poutine is a dish of chips and cheese curds covered in a brown gravy-like savoury sauce. According to Wikipedia it originated in Quebec but can be found across Canada. We did find it in most places we ate (apart from the more specialist places e.g. Murphy's on the Water and The Keg)
It is rather calorific, and we did actually call it a heart attack on a plate once. Obviously, its not to be eaten every day. But Canada day is once a year!
After some research into poutine recipes and what the actual poutine essence is, we came up with something rather simple. I found a great deal of different options for the sauce, but the traditional sauce is a simple gravy. Obviously we had to make this from scratch as most pre-prepared gravy mixes, or takeaway versions will have wheat flour in. Looking at different option ideas, I added a chopped shallot for added savouriness.

1 shallot finely chopped
1/2 pint beef stock
ground black pepper

Gently fry the shallot until soft.
Pour in the beef stock and keep on a high heat.
Add plently of pepper and then salt to taste.
Thicken to the desired consistency (think not quite as gloopy as KFC "gravy")

We used chips from the local kebab shop as these bore the resemblance to those served at Maxwell's and follwing the advice of one website we used chopped mozerella instead of the proper ingredient of cheese curds.

To assemble, place the chips in a heat-proof dish. Sprinkle with the cheese and pout over the gravy. We put the dish in the oven for a small amount of time to ensure that the cheese was melted.
Our take on Poutine. Yum!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Kantipur Nepalese Restaurant, Stockport

I wonder how many of us can remember our first taste of curry?  Curry of any cuisine is so common place now that it is hard to imagine life without it or even a time when it wasn't the norm.  Well, the first time I had a curry I was aged about 11 (so 25 years ago) and the restaurant my parents took me to all that time ago was in Levenshulme, Manchester. 
At the time I understood it to be Indian cuisine but have since learned that it was Nepalese.  Perhaps I should have realised this at the time as my first ever curry was called Lamb Nepal!!  I can remember the dish as being a rich curry sauce that wasn't too sweet except for the half mango that it was cooked with it. - it was delicious and from then on I was hooked. 

The home of my first ever curry was Kantipur and it is the same restaurant that moved from Levenshulme to Stockport about 5 years ago.  When I visited Kantipur since the move, I recognised the hostess as the same waitress all those years ago in Levenshulme.  It turned out that they were one and the same and she now runs the business with her brother.  So now what you get is a very well established, family-run restaurant delivering a first class contemporary Nepalese cuisine to a new, eager audience just 5 miles away from where the business began.

On the A-board outside the front of the restaurant it states: "Nepalese and Indian Cuisine", maybe this is to appease the concerns of the more moderate customer that likes to stick with what is known and trusted.  Myself, I always like to order from the specials or chef's recommendations and not only judge a place on the quality of the food but also the originality and diversity in it's options.  I like to be taken on a culinary journey and experience new things. 

Kantipur certainly delivers on choice.  In fact the standard curry options that you would expect to see make up only a very small part of the menu.  The specials menu is extensive with interesting delicacies ranging from a dish called Khajana Chara which is chicken stuffed with cheese and spinach, to pepper-hot dry curries such as the Chara Bhuteko, which as well as a greater use of black pepper, the chef also uses ginger in a similar way to how I experienced it in Cambodia which is to use it almost as a vegetable.  This generous amount of ginger produces a wonderful heat the does not hurt but instead makes you salivate for more.

The vegetarian and seafood options are extensive also.  Often you find that seafood dishes only include prawns, here the Kantipur offer Nepalese dishes that feature cod, tiger prawns, calamari, sardines and cuttle fish.  In the vegetarian section the dishes do not just leave out the meat - they are a celebration of the ingredients themselves.

A visit to Kantipur was long overdue so last Sunday after we returned from a short camping trip and did not want to cook we thought it a perfect time to sample some more dishes and share it with you on the blog.

We decided not to have a starter (except for the customary poppadoms) in order to leave room for a main dish each with a side dish to share.  This way we could have a banquet style meal without over-eating.  We chose:

Makhan Fish (cooked in a special butter sauce, flavoured with fenugreek leaf)

Chicken Lalitpur (tender cubes of chicken deep fried.  Cooked with special Nepalese homemade lightly sweet and sour sauce, flavoured with spring onion and ginger).  This came with the option of green chilli, which we decided not to have on this occasion.

Bhanta (aubergines)

The Makhan Fish is a favourite from a previous visit and did not disappoint this time.  It was beautifully creamy but not too sweet.  The fish was perfectly cooked, tender but retained its consistency well in the dish.

The Lalitpur was a new choice for us but again it was great.  As the chicken was deep fried and cooked in sweet and sour sauce with ginger, it had more than a bit of an oriental taste to it - however the extensive use of onion gave the dish a shaslick style and taste too.  It felt like a fantastic bit of fusion cooking but perhaps it is actually very authentic Nepalese.   It is worth noting that the batter used was made with cornflour which meant it was gluten-free too.

We absolutely love Kantipur and would highly recommend a visit.  Be daring though and try something new and if you are vegetarian there are still lots of great dishes to choose from.  The service is warm and friendly and the prices are very competitive:
Our meal of 2 x Poppadoms and chutneys, 2 x main meals, 1 x side dish, 2 x pilau rice, 1 large wine and 2 soft drinks came to just £33 plus tip!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Canadian Food

Happy Canada Day!

No we've not cooked a lobster, nor have we eaten it for sometime, but this year we're planning on celebrating Canada Day from afar. In previous years we have made the trip over to Halifax in Nova Scotia to perform in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, which begins its run of shows on Canada Day.

We're going to attempt to make some of the type of food we enjoyed over there tonight and update with the successful attempts! Tonight's menu consists of Crab and Spinach dip, Baked Shrimps, (both inspired by The Keg), a little steak (inspired by Maxwell's Plum), Caesar Salad (The Keg and Cheers) and Poutine (practically everywhere). We may even attempt Beaver Tails, but using Gluten-Free flour, who knows if these will work. We might even feature a couple of recipes from the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo 30th Anniversary cookbook and other books we bought on our trips.

Meanwhile, just a few pictures of out time over in Halifax for the Tattoo....

In preparation for our Canadian feast we did make a rather yummy seafood chowder some time ago. It was full of flavour, but sadly missed out on the Nova Scotian delights of vast quantities of lobster and scallops. We used this recipe (copied out below) and used smoked salmon and pouting and a few cocktail prawns at the end.

For the vegetables
10 g butter
1 1/2 large Spanish onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 red, yellow or orange pepper, finely chopped
1 handfuls mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 large leek, sliced diagonally into 1cm thick slices
1 canned sweetcorn

For the chowder
1 tbsp oil
1 - 1.5 kg fish, cut into chunks
50 g butter
50 g flour
200 ml double cream
2-3 tbsp parsley, coarsely chopped
1-2 tbsp tarragon, coarsely chopped

1. To prepare the vegetables: heat the butter in a large pan and when hot add the onion, pepper, mushrooms, leek and the sweetcorn. Cook for about 10 minutes until just cooked. Set aside.

2. To make the chowder: heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and add the fish. Cook until the fish is just cooked. Strain off the juices from the pan and reserve.

3. Heat the butter and when melted stir in the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes until it becomes a paste.

4. Add the reserved fish juices, a cupful at a time, mixing well before adding the next cup and allow to heat to almost boiling.

5. Add milk and water until the mixture is fairly thin.

6. Gently stir in the cooked vegetables, followed by the fish. Stir gently, to avoid breaking up the fish and season with salt and pepper,

7. Add the double cream, parsley and tarragon and heat through but don't allow to boil. If the chowder is allowed to boil after the tarragon is added, it loses its delicate flavour.

8. Serve immediately and enjoy.