Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Turkey Curry

This year we hosted Christmas and we purchased a 6-8 person bronze Marks and Spencer Turkey. However, between the five of us we ate less than half on Christmas Day! I hate waste and really did not want to throw away so much meat but equally after Boxing Day could not face anymore roast dinner leftovers. I had seen some cooking programmes about making a Turkey curry and they all seemed a little complicated due to the need for boiling the bones etc, however, my kind father taught me another way to create a tasty dish!

  • butter
  • 2 x onion
  • 2 x crushed garlic clove
  • red chilli's
  • button mushrooms
  • leftover Turkey meat
  • medium curry powder
  • coconut milk
  • red pepper
  • coriander
  • mango chutney
  • basmati rice
This dish will serve 2 - 4 people depending on how hungry you are and how many leftovers you throw in. Fry off the onion, crushed garlic and a couple of chopped up chilli's (minus the seeds if you don't like the heat) in a little butter. Next add a generous scoop of mango chutney and a tin of coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Add a packet of chopped up button mushrooms, two to three heaped spoonful's of medium curry powder and the red pepper. You can also add any other chopped leftover veg you fancy. Also add torn strips of Turkey meat. Allow everything to simmer for ten minutes on a low heat whilst the rice cooks.

At this stage taste and add more curry powder / mango chutney if necessary as well as seasoning. Lay a heaped portion of curry over your rice and sprinkle chopped coriander and more red chilli on top.

This curry was delicious and made a great change from all of the traditional Christmas food we had been eating. It was fragrant and tasty without being heavy and was made mainly from leftovers / staple cupboard items. If you have any leftover Turkey I would thoroughly recommend whipping up a curry. It was so quick and easy and the hubby was very impressed, which is always a good sign!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas @ Rocket

This year my work Christmas meal was at Rocket on Bishopsgate. There is a large bar area for pre-dinner Prosecco and then both upstairs and downstairs dining. We had half of the downstairs roped off with a curtain to make it a little more private. The smoking area outside is heated!

The Christmas meal here was really good. There are different prices depending on the day of the week and the drinks packages chosen. As we chose a Friday the meal was £35.50 per head. We also ordered bottles of wine separately as opposed to a drinks package but these ranged from £10 - 23 per person depending on volume and quality of wine chosen.

For my starter I chose the chicken liver parfait with apple and saffron chutney, rocket and toasted brioche. I also tried the white crab, grapefruit and chilli rillette with spring onion, mango ribbon, avocado salsa and pane carasau. Both were delicious! Other options included an artichoke and potato soup or twice baked blue cheese soufflé.

As the meal was close to Christmas I opted for the marinated soy and ginger salmon fillet with honey and vegetable jus as my main course. There was a turkey option stuffed with chorizo and dates as well as a nut roast. The majority of people opted for the red wine braised daube of beef, which did look delicious.

Finally I finished with a very large serving of warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, however, the brownie had gone hard so wasn't gooey and chewy, which was disappointing. Others had Limoncello panna cotta, vanilla pod and manuka honey cheesecake or a classic cheese board.

The dishes were generous in terms of portion size and all nicely presented. The food was also piping hot, which isn't always the case for large group meals. The area we had was quite private and split into tables of ten - twelve. Food had to be pre ordered but the system for delivery was great and everyone got what they had chosen. I would say that for a large group Christmas meal Rocket was brilliant and far superior to other set Christmas dinners I have experienced in London. I would definitely recommend this to anyone needing to book a 2016 work meal!

Christmas @ Bill's Cafe

I absolutely love Bill's and have visited many of their locations! My favourite is Covent Garden as it's in such a convenient location, has pretty reasonable prices for the area and always has a great bustling atmosphere. My favourite dish is the halloumi and hummus! A sesame seed bun with grilled halloumi, hummus, baby gem, roasted peppers, sweet chilli sauce and yoghurt served with skin on fries for £9.50! I then always add some guacamole for an extra £1.20. So, when the hubby needed a work Christmas dinner plan I naturally suggested the Christmas menu at Bill's.

The six of us first met at Brasserie Blanc in Covent Garden. The restaurant was heaving with Christmas parties but after grabbing a drink at the bar we stepped outside onto the vast terrace overlooking the main square. The terrace has huge patio heaters to keep you warm even in winter and massive umbrellas to snuggle under even in the rain! It's romantically lit and means it can be enjoyed in all weathers and it's always good to have a couple of hours of fresh air after being stuck in the office all day.

After a few beverages we wandered over to Bill's. We had a snug little table in the corner, which was quite private. They offer two menu's with varying food options at £24.95 or £29.95 per head. We opted for the more expensive option as it included a glass of hedgerow fizz (flavoured Prosecco), bread and olives. The fizz was nice but I think plain old Prosecco may have been better. The bread and olives were a good touch.

Between the six of us we tried all three starters. The chicken liver parfait with Bill's orange marmalade and champagne bread, the roast pumpkin, red lentil and coconut soup with toasted champagne bread and the crispy lemon squid with garlic and lemon mayo. All of the dishes were generous portions and really well presented, however, I feel as though they were lacking slightly in taste.

For main course we tried the roast turkey stuffed with apricot and sage, Brussels spouts with pancetta and chestnuts as well as the braised feather blade of beef with creamed parsnips and parsnip crisps. These were served with vegetables and roast potatoes to share. Again the portions were large and looked delicious on the plate. However, again, something was lacking in flavour.

For dessert we tried the sticky toffee pudding with malted banana ice cream. This could have massively been improved with vanilla instead. Others tried the cheese plate, which looked really good and the traditional Christmas pudding with brandy ice cream.

All in all we had a lovely evening, however, for £29.95 plus wine and service charge I feel as though we could have had a better meal or could have saved money eating from the more tasty and cheaper a la carte menu. I will still enjoy meals at Bill's but for Christmas 2016 I think we will take the team Christmas dinner elsewhere!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Eating out in Cape Town

There are hundreds of incredible restaurants to try in Cape Town but I thought I would write a little blog about my top three!

First up is NV-80, which is located in a shopping mall! However, do not let this put you off. This dark, moody restaurant serves fantastic food at even better prices. To start I chose the miso salmon, Asian style with a citrus dressing and the hubby tucked into sautéed prawns with garlic, chilli, caper berry and chenin blanc. These dishes were insanely delicious.

For our main meal I opted for queen prawns (king were unavailable on the day) grilled with lemon, garlic, chilli and parsley and served with chips. The hubby sunk his teeth into a sirloin on the bone with fries and creamed spinach. The steak was incredible. It was huge, it was top quality and it melted in your mouth. It was also cooked to medium rare perfection. The prawns were fresh and delicious too. The best part about NV-80 was not only the food and the lovely service but it was about a three minute taxi from our hotel 52 De Wet.

NV-80 is a casual affair. They have inside and outside dining too. The menu is grill based and extensive enough to accommodate most people's requirements. Our total bill including water, service charge and three glasses of wine was £41.83. You cannot really argue with that for the volume and quality of food we consumed.

Our second favourite spot was Harbour House at the V&A where we stopped for lunch after a trip to Robben Island. I had a large plate of prawn and yellow tail sushi whilst the hubby opted for Mozambique style tiger prawns pan fried in garlic, piri piri, lemon and bay leaves served with chips and a tomato & red onion salad. We washed everything down with a glass of sauvignon blanc each and a large bottle of water. Including service charge our total bill for a relaxing meal on the open air terrace was £28.40.

Another little Cape Town gem is the super trendy Kloof Street House. They have indoor and outdoor dining with awesome décor. The staff here are really young and really polite and helpful. The cocktail menu is amazing and I can thoroughly recommend the Madagascar Martini, which is vanilla vodka, crushed ginger and pineapple. We jumped straight into the main courses here. I opted for the special, which was a salmon dish served with lentils and spicy cauliflower. The hubby chose the ostrich fillet with celeriac puree, onion & gorgonzola frittata and a waldorf salad. Both dishes were delicious but I especially enjoyed trying ostrich for the first time. It was really lean, tender and melt in your mouth.

Our total bill including one cocktail, two double gin and tonics, a large bottle of water, service charge and a main course each was £28.52.

If you find yourself in Camps Bay definitely try Cafe Caprice where for around £5-7 each you can have a burger and incredibly thick milkshakes in an open air restaurant looking over the beach. I can recommend both the American burger and rump prego. If you find yourself partying on Long Street and you need something to soak up the alcohol I can recommend Sgt Pepper. Try and go early to grab a table on the terrace looking over Long Street. They have great burgers and pizzas! For a burger, a pizza, two glasses of white wine, four beers and service charge we spent £16.69! I can recommend the Molly Mushroom with mushrooms, artichokes, caramelised onions and cherry tomatoes!

Finally, if at the V&A give the steak house Belthazar a go. We started with a drink at the long bar inside whilst waiting for our table. The restaurant is super busy so either make a reservation or go early! We were then seated outside under heaters but on a chilly evening take a cardigan as well. I started with a large portion of calamari whilst the hubby had the avocado Ritz, which was shrimps, avocado and tomato drizzled with marie rose sauce.

For our main course I had the grilled Kingklip with sweet potato fries and mac & cheese. The hubby had a 550g fillet steak with French fries and creamed spinach as well as Béarnaise sauce. As you can imagine we were absolutely stuffed by the end of our delicious meal. With a glass of white, two glasses of red, a bottle of water and service charge our total bill was £52.40.

There are so many places to try in Cape Town and all have excellent quality ingredients at reasonable prices. The service was also impeccable everywhere we went. I don't think you can go too wrong in this city so when you visit make sure you eat everything! Good luck!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Wine Tasting in Stellenbosch!

For our final day in South Africa we decided to go wine tasting. We booked a group tour through the company Tsiba Tsiba purely due to their high TripAdvisor rating. We chose a full day wine tour at a cost of 700 ZAR per person including pick up from a Stellenbosch hotel. However, when the tour guide arrived we had a luxury car as we were the only ones on the trip! Private tours begin at 2,750 ZAR for three people so that was a little bargain for us!

We were asked where we had been and mentioned Delaire Graff and Clos Malverne so decided to avoid these and visit four other wineries instead. I also mentioned we had yet to head to Stellenbosch town centre so we had a little drive through with a history lesson before being given 45 minutes to wander around, which was great. Then we headed to our first winery of the day Beyerskloof. Here we concentrated on the pinotage grape as it's the only grape unique to this area. As a result we tried five red wines before selecting a bottle to bring home. However, as I love white wine a couple were slipped in for me to sample. All of the wineries will wrap the bottles securely in bubble wrap if you want to pop them in your suitcase.

The next stop on our adventure was Simonsig. We started with a glass of their sparkling wine before trying six different wines. As I love white and the hubby is into red we actually chose to sample a completely different selection from one another. Water and toilets are available at every winery too. The staff are excellent and pour generous tastings, all of which are included in the price of the tour but if you were to complete this independently they cost around 30-50p per tasting. At Simonsig we managed to purchase a carrier for 200 ZAR that held six bottles. This was by far the cheapest we saw throughout the day. The carrier is incredibly secure and can be checked in on the flight thus preventing your suitcase from becoming overweight with bottles that may smash into one another.

Our third winery of the day was Delheim. This is where we also chose to stop for lunch and opted to have our wine tasting with our food. We were sat in the sunshine on a terrace overlooking the vineyards and here we used our tasting sheet to select six wines each to try over our meal. We had a reservation as we took a tour but ensure you book a table for lunch if you decide to visit the wineries independently.

As we were flying home that evening we decided to go all out at lunch time! For starter I chose the Eisbein spring roll with creamy apple puree, sauerkraut and pork jus for 45 ZAR whilst the hubby tucked into the fish cake with coriander and ginger, lemon mayonnaise, homemade sweet chilli and cucumber salad for 50 ZAR.

For our main course I opted for the Cape Malay free range chicken curry with a roti, basmati rice, sambal, chutney & roasted coconut and yoghurt & cucumber for 125 ZAR. The hubby went for the lamb shank, roasted garlic mashed potato, red cabbage, spinach and rainbow carrots at a total of 185 ZAR. The food here was genuinely delicious and as we paired the wine tasting with our meal we had no drinks bill! The total meal including two bottles of still water and service charge came to £23.69. You cannot really beat that price for two courses each in such a beautiful setting.

Suitably full from lunch and a little tipsy from the wine tastings we headed off to our final vineyard. This farm was the oldest on our tour and dated back to 1685. All of the wines at Muratie had a story and I absolutely loved hearing the history of each one. Again we opted to try different wines to one another and were helped by a really lovely young guy learning the ropes of the industry.

All in all this was an amazing tour. We saw a huge area of wine country and tried upwards of twenty wines. You are quite free to choose the wineries and the wines tasted at each one. Bottles range from £3 up to around £30 for the wines we tasted. In total we purchased four reds, one sparkling, one white and a dessert wine as well as two bottles of olive oil. We checked the six bottles in with our carrier and stored the olive oil and final bottle in our suitcase. All of them made it safely back to the UK!

I would thoroughly recommend taking a tour. Not only will the guide bring the area to life and tailor your trip to suit your tastes, they will also answer all of your questions or point you in the right direction. We were thoroughly looked after for our day. Splashing out on a private tour I think is worth the extra money as it was great to receive such personal attention. Finally doing a tour prevents the need to hire a taxi for the day, which is probably not dissimilar in price or having a designated driver who cannot immerse themselves in the fun.

Clos Malverne, Stellenbosch

To break up a glorious day of sunbathing we decided to have lunch at Clos Malverne. The car park and restaurant were packed when we arrived so if this is something you fancy ensure you book ahead. We requested a table on the terrace, which we were given. The terrace had four tables with a cover but uninterrupted views of the surroundings.

After being seated at our wonderful table we were presented with sparkling wine from the vineyard to sip whilst browsing the menu. The restaurant offers an a la carte menu as well as a summer ice cream and wine pairing, which must be requested in advance. However, we chose the food and wine pairing option priced at 348 ZAR per person.

To start with I had the Thai style mussels served with pickled ginger, dried chili micro herbs and freshly baked bread. This was paired with the Clos Malverne Sauvignon Blanc. The hubby opted for the salmon and prawn, which was a salmon mousse terrine and prawns marinated with lime, chili, coriander and ginger and was paired with the same white wine. Both dishes were exquisite in taste and presentation.

For our second course we both opted for the chili and honey sticky pork belly. This was served with mustard and sesame red cabbage coleslaw with a seven spice jus and a carrot puree. The dish was paired with the Clos Malverne Cab / Shiraz. Both the food and the wine were delicious and complemented each other perfectly.

For our third course I chose the grilled fillet steak for an extra 28 ZAR. This was crusted in dried forest mushrooms with crispy bacon, fondant potato, mixed mushroom, wilted spinach, truffle and a bone marrow jus. It was served with Clos Malverne Auret. This was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten, it absolutely melted in your mouth and the flavours were incredible. The hubby chose the grilled Springbok loin again for an extra 28 ZAR. His dish was served with red onion marmalade, red wine jus, roasted beetroot, wilted spinach, a feta and thyme potato croquette and crispy onions. His dish was complemented by the Clos Malverne Pinotage reserve.

For our fourth and final course I chose the Pineapple and coconut, which was a Pineapple fridge cheesecake with coconut meringue and pistachio brittle washed down with Clos Malverne Honey Dew dessert wine. The hubby opted for the strawberry delight with balsamic marinated strawberries, vanilla pod panna cotta, dried strawberries and black pepper short bread, again accompanied by the same dessert wine.

The food and wine pairing menu had plenty of options available for each course so there will definitely be something for everyone to enjoy. The service was with a smile, the views were fantastic and the food was delicious, well presented and involved an interesting combination of flavours. The wines were all superb and could be purchased from the vineyard to take home at incredibly reasonable prices. Clos Malverne is only open for lunch but if you want to break up a lazy day or need to recharge from wine tasting then I would recommend a long, leisurely lunch here. You will feel full, tipsy and very satisfied!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Delaire Graff, Stellenbosch

Whilst in Stellenbosch we decided to have dinner at the Delaire Graff Estate. The taxi was 400 ZAR return from our hotel WedgeView Country House & Spa and took around twenty minutes in each direction. The estate is absolutely stunning so ensure you arrive an hour or so before dinner to have a wander and admire the view with a pre-dinner drink on the huge and luxurious terrace.

The estate has two restaurants and we chose the Delaire Graff restaurant. They also have lodges and a spa. Make sure you reserve as the dining room was completely full for our visit. The room is cool with incredibly private and large tables. There are huge floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vineyards.

After making our dinner choices we were presented with two different types of butter and a dip for the bread selection. This was followed by a generous portion and delicious amuse bouche.

For starter I chose the shitake consommé, which was beef fillet carpaccio, duxelle dumpling and king oyster mushroom for 125 ZAR. The hubby went for the braised beef cheek with yellow beetroot puree, mango gel, spiced baby carrots and cashews. This was also 125 ZAR. As you can see both dishes were wonderfully presented.

The palette cleanser was a frozen lime concoction with a passion fruit jelly, which did the job perfectly.

For the main course I chose the pan seared line fish, which was Kingklip. This was served with squid with prawn and sweet corn stuffing, fennel, pappardelle pasta, smoked olive and veloute. The dish was priced at 245 ZAR. The hubby chose the Karoo Springbok at 250 ZAR. This was served with roast cauliflower, celeriac puree, hazelnuts, prune and brandy jus. For our side dishes we went for roast sweet potato and chive crème fraiche and the green beans with garlic and chive butter.

After two courses and several glasses of wine each we were too full for a dessert. However, the restaurant presented us with a personally signed card for our first wedding Anniversary and a box of petit fours to take home and eat at our leisure. This was an incredible touch and one I have never experienced anywhere else in the world.

Dining at Delaire Graff is one of the most romantic experiences I have ever had. The estate is simply stunning, the views will blow your mind, the wine is delicious and incredibly reasonable and the food is divine. The staff are friendly, courteous and non intrusive. Enjoying a glass of bubbles on the terrace of Delaire Graff is an experience I will never forget. You cannot put a price on this evening, it was that special to us, however, for £72.02 exactly I think I can safely say it was very reasonable. We had two courses each, an amuse bouche, palate cleanser, petit fours, two large bottles of still water, two glasses of French champagne and four glasses of estate wine plus service charge. Take a loved one to impress them, you cannot go wrong and you will not regret it.