Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: Smashburger, Bath

It is an opinion universally acknowledged, that any South African or Englishman, in possession of a good appetite, must be in want of a burger!  With this in mind, and myself certainly not disagreeing with this sentiment, decided this weekend to try out the new burger joint in town, Smashburger, down in the bustling Southgate area of the city. It was my fella’s birthday this weekend (well actually, it’s on Tuesday, but even when you’re in your thirties you shouldn’t turn down a cheeky 4 day birthday celebration!), and burgers are his absolute favourite food, so thought this a perfect little treat.

Did a little research on the brand before I rocked up- Smashburger is a really huge worldwide brand (America, South America, Canada and the Middle East), but has recently ventured into the UK, with 5 places here now- Milton Keynes, Bath, Brighton, Newcastle and Glasgow soon. The menu is varied with a very nice selection of different options- beef burgers, chicken burgers (breast fillet or crispy), salads and two types of veggie burgers- Portobello mushroom and Butternut squash and chickpea. I must admit, I do really like the fact they have two options there for the vegetarians- with my parents being vegetarian (I would fully recommend the place to them too), something they find annoying is in a lot of places they only have one menu option available to them- so to have that option of choice is great. Im assuming the mushroom burgers are vegan too so knowing the growing trend for animal-free eating, it’s good to see the restaurant has it’s finger on the foodie trend pulse.
The Bath restaurant itself has a very open feel to it- and very American Diner-esque, with bright red stools and benches, and booths available for bigger parties. You grab your table and then you go to the counter to order your food (a la Nando’s) , and once ordered instead of table numbers they give you a buzzy electronic thing so that the servers know where you are seated. I noticed the person in front of me was ordering a takeaway burger and so that’s cool that this is an option (especially in the Southgate area where theres lots of outside seating/ outside areas to eat, so im sure many people in this lovely weather get a takeout here and then eat in on the lawn-y bits of the main square).

I decided to order the Local Smash Stilton Stack Beef burger (which comes with chutney, rocket, “haystack onions”, smoked bacon and blue cheese) with the Smash fries (fries with a rosemary and garlic coating), and my boyfriend ordered the Buffalo Blue Cheese Beef Burger (with hot bbq sauce, blue cheese, lettuce and tomato) with plain fries. For drinks  I ordered a “hand spun” strawberry milkshake, and Brendan got a stella. Upon recommendation from our server we also ordered the deep fried pickles on the side to share.
Price-wise, it was very reasonable- its roughly about £7 for a burger, £3 for a side of chips, and £3/£4 each for the drinks you order (with an unlimited soft drink option available which I could see was very popular with children). I would recommend, however, that you double up on your burger- if I have any criticism of the meal here it would be that we thought the beef patty wasn’t the hugest of things (although toppings/burger fillings were generous), but considering its only like £1.50/£2ish to double your burger, I would go for that next time I eat here.

Our drinks came to us almost immediately- Brendan’s beer being served with a chilled tankard (which is a nice touch- I always think when I go abroad and they always serve drinks in frosty glasses that this is something that ought to catch on here), and my milkshake……OH MY GOD THIS MILKSHAKE!!! Served in a huge glass with whipped cream, and then if this wasn’t enough they give you a silver shaker with the excess shake on the side for you to top up. With no sense of exaggeration this is by far the nicest milkshake I have ever had in my entire life. It’s made with haagen daaz ice cream (the quality and thickness of which I really feel I could taste), and it was just heaven in a glass. I think I put on about two pounds just looking at it.
The burgers were really delicious- brioche buns soft, and the beef patties well cooked and tasted very good quality (I noticed written on the walls that they inly use 100% British beef so that’s good). The blue cheese we had on both of our burgers tasted very premium- sharp, tangy, and well complimented the flavours of the other fillings. The “Haystack onions”, which were like very thin onion rings, were lovely, and the chutney was really interesting- im guessing it’s apple based, in fact it tastes a lot like the chutneys I make at home (which is a compliment, because my chutneys are awesome, haha!). Everything was perfectly seasoned, as were my chips- the rosemary garlic coating working very well here. These battered deep fried pickles we had as a side dish were a revelation! We joked with our server (who I think by the looks of it was the manager) that these will go down well when they open the Glasgow store! Very salty of course, in a good way, but if you are as obsessed with gherkins/pickles as much as I am, you must make sure you try there- very different!

Overall we had a fantastic lunch, the restaurant was clean and had a great atmosphere to it, the staff were friendly, and with all the little bits around the meal (fantastic drinks, delicious sides), as well as a cracking burger, we left very full and very happy. I think we will be back here for lunch at some point, or perhaps even for a cheeky takeaway. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recipe: Macaroni Leeks!



Hey everyone! Gosh a while since my last post ey? Well I really feel like getting back into my recipes again- my last two jobs were so busy/stressful  I didn't have time for anything! Now is the time for a normal cheffy job, and time to do my creative cheffing back home and on here! We may be into Spring now, but it's still pretty cold ey?? Still in comfort-food land, hence my entry into the Leek Grower's Association's Competition being a bit of a winter warmer! Macaroni cheese, made with softened sweet leeks, mature cheddar, plenty of Dijon mustard, and topped with tender baby leeks and grated parmesan. If you cant get baby leeks (via growing them yourselves or via the shop!) you can use smaller "grown-up leeks", just halve them lengthways keeping the root intact prior to blanching, and follow the same recipe guidelines. http://www.british-leeks.co.uk/competition.php  #lovemyleeks

Macaroni Leeks! (serves 3-4)

4-6 baby leeks (or 2-3 small leeks, halved)
300g macaroni
2 leeks, finely chopped

60g butter
3 level tbsp plain flour
500ml semi-skimmed milk
4 generous teaspoons Dijon mustard
140g grated mature cheddar
Salt and white pepper to taste
45g finely grated parmesan

1) Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Blanch the baby leeks/ leeks for 1 minute, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions (about 12 minutes). For 8 of those minutes, add the finely chopped leeks to the same pan to boil.
2) Drain the mac and leeks and set aside. In the same pan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, and gradually add the milk, making a classic white sauce. Add the mustard and cheddar, and cook for about 4/5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is thickened/ glossy.
3)Preheat oven to 200C. Mix in the macaroni/leeks into the cheese sauce and season to taste. Pour this into a baking dish, and arrange the blanched baby leeks nicely over the top. Sprinkle grated Parmesan evenly, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
4) Remove from the oven and serve! (Nice on its own of course, if feeding a big group also nice with peas/ green salad/ garlic baguette).

Friday, April 8, 2016

Recipe: Vita Coco Sticky Belly Pork, with Stir fried greens and Egg fried rice

Hi guys, it's been a while since i've posted, but let me tell you, i'm posting a heck of a recipe here! Now I admit to everyone, I am a coconut oil virgin! (highly reccomend not googling that!) The cool people at Vita Coco and Foodies100 sent me a jar of the stuff and WOW, I ruddy love it! I remember looking into the health benefits of coconut oils during my degree but didint realise how delicious it was! Works perfectly with any Chinese, Indian, Thai or Malaysian dishes. This recipe is an entry into the #Swearbyit challenge with Vita Coco. Find more great coconut oil recipes and tips on using coconut oil at www.swearbyit.com
Above is a picture of the finished dish, below what all the ingredients look like before:
 Here is a picture of the cooking process during stage 2/stage 3 (as you can see, this recipe requires a little bit of multi-tasking, but it's worth it and not tricky to prepare):
This is stage 3 of the cooking process, just before plating up:


Vita Coco Sticky Belly Pork, with Stir fried greens and Egg fried rice (serves 2)

Pork
20g coconut oil
390g belly pork slices, diced
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp freshly minced ginger
60g oyster sauce
60g black bean sauce
200ml lager (Chinese beers like tsing tsau work well)
100ml chicken stock

Greens
20g coconut oil
1 pak choy, sliced
1 courgette, sliced
2 celery sticks, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Rice
180g long grain rice (or 400g pre-cooked rice)
20g coconut oil
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1 large egg, whisked
1 tbsp soy sauce
Splash of water
Salt and pepper to taste


1)      Cook rice according to packet instructions, drain and set aside. Meanwhile, fry the pork belly in the coconut oil with salt and pepper for 10-15 minutes, until well browned. Add ginger, oyster sauce, black bean sauce, lager and chicken stock, and cook on a medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring often. 
2)      Meanwhile, in another pan, fry the pak choy, courgette, celery and garlic in the coconut oil for 10 minutes, stirring often.  
3)      Meanwhile, in a wok on a high heat, fry the spring onions in the coconut oil for 2 minutes. Add the beaten egg and fry for a couple more minutes, breaking it up, until the egg pieces are golden brown. Add the rice, soy sauce, splash of water, and fry everything up until everything is hot and well combined. Season to taste. 
4)      Serve the egg fried rice with the pork and stir fried greens. Lovely jubbly!  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Recipe: Cheese Fondue

Now this isn't just a recipe, this has now become a Booth family tradition! What tradition I hear you say? Well, every year, mum makes a big big cheese fondue, and we all watch the Eurovision song contest! Have introduced Brendan to this phenomenon- as a south african he had actually never heard of it, and so I've had to show him Eurovision and explain us Brits actually used to be good at it, Haha.  Fondues are great for parties, because it's a social meal where everyone dips bits and bobs in. You will need a proper fondue set for this- it cant be made with one of those little ones with candles.

Cheese Fondue (serves 4)

1 clove garlic
150ml white wine
1 tsp lemon juice
285g emmental, grated
285g gruyere, grated
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp kirsch
¼ tsp paprika
Bread and crudité vegetables to dip in.

1)      Rub the inside of the fondue pan with a halved clove of garlic. Light the fondue flame on low, and heat the wine and lemon juice for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to boil. Add the emmental and gruyere, and stir often until cheese has melted.
2)      Once the cheese mixture is melted and bubbling, mix the cornflour together with the kirsch and then mix into the cheese mix. Continue to cook the fondue for about another 5 minutes, or until a desired consistency is mixed.
3)      Test the fondue thickness with a chunk of bread- if it’s too thin, you can thicken it with more cornflour, or if it’s too thick you can thin it out with a bit of wine. Serve with bits and bobs to dip in!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Recipe: Chicken and Bacon Lasagne

I love a good lasagne- me and Brendan can polish off (and i'm not joking) KILOS of any sort of pasta bake between us. Really Man vs Food portions when it comes to us. I have been eating a little unhealthily lately, just pure laziness and working a lot i guess- literally the other day all i ate was 1/2 a side portion of fries, 1/2 a chicken breast and then two bowls of Bombay mix when i got home from work. Imagine if i'd had to assess that as a diet diary for uni, my god! So i wanted something hearty, but with veg and bit healthy too- so this fit the bill. A fresh, saucey, tomato-ey lasagna- little bit different. This only takes about 15 minutes to prep and 35 minutes to bake too, which is quicker than a normal lasagne.

Chicken and Bacon Lasagne (serves 3)

Meat sauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 tsp dried rosemary
150g smoked back bacon, diced
700g tinned chopped tomatoes
20g fresh basil, chopped (plus extra for garnish)
1 cooked chicken breast, diced
Salt, sugar and pepper to taste

Cheese sauce
50g wild garlic butter (or use 45g butter, 2 cloves minced garlic, and a large pinch fresh parsley)
40g plain flour
500ml semi skimmed milk
80g finely grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

250g fresh lasagne sheets
50g emmental, grated

1)      Preheat oven to 180C (fan oven). In a saucepan, fry the onion, rosemary and bacon in the olive oil for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the tinned tomatoes, basil, and cooked chicken, and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring often. Season to taste and set aside.
2)      In another saucepan, heat the butter until melted. Add the flour, cook for a couple of minutes, and gradually add the milk to make a smooth white sauce. Melt in the parmesan, wait until everything is nice and smooth and thickened, season to taste and set aside.
3)      Time to layer the lasagne! In a large baking dish, start with a third of the tomato sauce mix. Then add a third of the lasagne sheets, then a third of the white sauce. Repeat twice, making sure the last layer is the white sauce. Top with the grated emmental, and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
4)      Allow the lasagne to “rest” for about 5 minutes, and then serve, with salad on the side and some extra basil on top if desired. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Recipe: Wild Garlic Chicken Kievs, with Saucy Vegetables

I've never made chicken kievs from scratch before, this is the first attempt and they turned out pretty good! I think i need to be a bit braver in terms of stuffing as much butter into the pocket as I can, but other than that these turned out absolutely delicious. Couldn't believe I was "pane-ing" (french for bread-crumbing) at home on my day off- i have to pane stuff at work all the time (we make scotch eggs from scratch and they are a big seller) and it really annoys me, haha. I have used wild garlic butter (recipe on the blog), but if you have no wild garlic, just mix 60g butter with a clove minced garlic and a generous pinch chopped fresh parsley.

Wild Garlic Chicken Kievs, with saucy vegetables (serves 2)

Kievs
2 large chicken breasts (or 4 smaller ones)
60g wild garlic butter, (fridge temperature)
100g flour
3 eggs
160g dry breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

Vegetables
320g frozen mixed vegetables (I used a mix of green beans, peas, carrots and sweetcorn)
100g black olives, sliced
400g passata
100ml strong vegetable stock
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp mel’s spice blend (mix of ground toasted fennel seeds, caraway seeds and dried chilli)
Salt and pepper

1)      Preheat oven to 180C (fan oven). With a knife, making an incision at the thick part at the top of the chicken breast, make a large pocket in the middle of the chicken breast (taking care that you don’t cut through completely). Push the garlic butter generously into the chicken breasts.
2)      Lay the breasts on a plate and cover with flour (seasoned with salt and pepper). Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk and season. Pour the breadcrumbs onto another plate/ bowl and season. Coat the breasts in the flour, dip in the egg, and coat in the breadcrumbs. Coat them again in the egg and breadcrumbs (this in the cheffy world is called a “double pane”).
3)      Place kievs on a baking tray (lined with greaseproof paper) and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, put all the vegetable ingredients in a saucepan and cook on a medum heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4)      Remove the kievs from the oven, season the veg to taste, and serve!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Review: Hope and Anchor pub, Midford (near Bath)

Meal at the Hope and Anchor

I would like to start this review as I mean to go on, by stating that this place is bloody fantastic. Before reading the whole of the review, I can tell you straight away- AMAZING food, friendly service, with a lush atmosphere. This isn’t the first time I have been here, I have visited here many many times and it has always been perfection. The Hope and Anchor is a country pub situated in Midford, which is about a 10 minute drive from Bath, or an absolutely lovely 1 hour 15min (ish!) walk from Oldfield park, along a lovely walking/cycling route called the Two Tunnels. You can cycle here from Bristol or radstock along this path as well if you’re feeling like a bit of a workout before your meal!

Myself, my boyfriend, and my boyfriend’s parents had a lovely walk from our house in Oldfield park on Sunday to this place (picking wild garlic on the way!). We booked a few days ahead (crucial with this place- they are very popular on Sundays and for good reason!) for an indoor seat as we weren't sure how good the weather would be. We arrived at 1:30 and were seated very promptly (noticing it was incredibly busy!).
The menu is very large actually, which would normally make me a little suspicious in a gastro-pub- a lot of them have humungous menus and unfortunately what that means is that a lot of the dishes are created from pre-prepared, frozen items. However, everything here is made fresh, and good old proper country pub classics- fishcakes, pies, sausage and mash etc. On a Sunday theres lots and lots to choose from, the lunch menu, a dinner menu, specials, and of course a proper Sunday roast options (usually a couple of choices of meat- this Sunday it was roast beef or roast pork). I went for one of the specials menu for starter, which was chicken liver parfait with homemade chutney, toast and salad.

I will warn those of an average appetite that the starters here are HUGE! Almost main course sized! This suites me as many of you know I have a humongous appetite, but it’s a good point to note. My parfait was gorgeous, smooth and flavoursome, with a well-made mellow chutney. My boyfriend had the nachos with salsa/guacamole/sour cream/chillies, and I noticed they even make their own nachos here which is pretty cool! My dad in law had the whitebait which looked nice and crispy, and my mum in law had the deep fried camembert with red onion chutney and salad, which I’ve had before it’s lush. It’s available as a main course for vegetarians too- I should also note that this pub caters really well for vegetarians, which is laudable for a country pub, as often the attitude is “we’re in the countryside, we’re farmers and hunters, what the hell is a vegetarian???” or “oh I’ve heard about vegetarians- just offer them a ratatouille that’ll do” but this definitely isn’t their style.

For mains I had another dish on the specials menu, lamb shoulder with creamy mash and redcurrant gravy (with seasonal vegetables). The lamb was tender, on mounds of really smooth, correctly seasoned mash, and the veg (carrots, broccoli, fennel and red cabbage) was not overcooked. Very delicious, and there was a nice gap between starter and main (I’d like to say It is a pet peeve of mine when your starters leave the table and almost immediately your mains arrive- I hate this, I want time for the starters to “settle”, and time to socialise with friends and family! I know restaurants like to do it, as it’s all to do with profit and re-seating tables, but a meal isn’t about eating your grub and getting outta there now is it!). My father in law had the steak and ale pie, which he says was the best he had ever had (and he often orders this in restaurants), and my mother in law had pork with a paprika and blue cheese sauce and loved it. They did something special for my boyfriend which I thought was nice- now my fella LOVES his burgers. He has had the burger here before which he says is great and tried ordering it again, only to be told it had sold out- oh No! He didn’t fancy anything on the main or specials menu (don’t ask me why, he has quite…specific tastes I suppose), so he asked for something on the kid’s menu (scampi and chips!) to be made a main course for him, which they were more than happy to do for him. The scampi and chips looked homemade and lovely too.
Throughout all this the service was lovely. I was just drinking orange and lemonade, as I’ve been t total for a while, but my father in law had a couple of pints of Doombar (a fairly local ale) and my mother in law had a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc which she said went very well with the meal.

At this stage, I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely stuffed. Still, I had to look at the dessert menu, and just COULDN’T resist having the pecan tart with cream. OH MY GOD YUM!!! Homemade PERFECTLY cooked pastry (no soggy bottoms here!), sweet toffee like sauce with toasted pecans and fresh cream. I barely had any room for it but I managed it! As it was so busy, and because me and my fella are nosy chefs, we asked them how many people they had working in the kitchen. They said “usually three, but we are a man down today- we’re also a man down out the front too”. We were absolutely flabbergasted! I mean over the lunch period they must have been doing over 100 covers, at a minimum, probably over 150 over the whole time, doing everything homemade, with only two chefs in the kitchen and only three waitresses! Insane! We thought, bravo, we will definitely be giving them a good tip. When the bill arrived we were even more surprised- only £122!! And we’re talking 4 of us, having two alcoholic drinks each, and three of us having three courses. Such insanely good value for money this place (I think if this was a gastro pub in the middle of bath you’d be paying over £200), for just the most amazing food. We made sure we tipped well, asking them to make sure the chefs got a share (haha!) and left for a lazy walk home. I will finish this by saying customer service 10/10, food 10/10, value 10/10, atmosphere 10/10. If you are anywhere vaguely near this place, VISIT IT!!!