Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Aio, Sardinian restaurant, Bath

I’ve been waiting to go to this Sardinian restaurant for months, since Nick promised me he’d take me there sometime in the summer, so as a late anniversary treat Nick finally managed to book us a table and get us here! The atmosphere is lovely, it is a very small restaurant, about 40 seats, but that gives the place a nice cosy feel. The staff informed us of the specials on the board, and other specials that they hadn’t put up there yet (I like the sound of their specials, although they seemed far pricier than what was on the rest of the menu). What I liked on the drinks menu is how dishes from the main menu have been suggested with the wines, so you can pair up the dishes you are going to order depending on your wine choice. Since we already knew that we were going to share an antipasti platter and we were both going to be ordering pasta, we chose the house red option “Arpeggio Rosso” which had said complimented these dishes, which I would say was a pleasant enough wine.

For starter we had the Antipasto terra, which was a selection of cured ham, bologna, salami (or something similar?), mozzarella, little peaks of pecorino, olives, salad in a balsamic dressing and Sardinian flat bread on a wooden board. The wooden board actually is the same one we use for tapas at work- I can’t ruddy escape that place lol!! It also came with two kilner jars, one filled with marinated aubergines and the other marinated peppers. I think that the portion size was more than adequate, but I would have much preferred some nice hunks of rustic bread instead of the Sardinian flat bread they served it with- which was very nothingy and really thin, kind of like an Italian poppadum or something!! Overall perhaps I felt the whole selection was a little…salty perhaps. The pecorino, cured ham, and marinated vegetables were all very strong flavours, and I think perhaps they need to work on making the combination of ingredients work together a little better. However, I did enjoy the starter, as you could tell that all the separate elements were fresh and of good quality.

For the main course I had the “Malloreddus all Campidanese”, which on the menu was described as shell shaped pasta with Sardinian sausage, tomato and saffron. Nick had the “Culurgiones All Agnelo” which was pea and potato ravioli topped with a lamb ragu. When my dish arrived my first reaction was how very basically it had been presented. Not meant to be an insult, but it looked like any sort of pasta-in-a-tomato-sauce-like dish that any student could prepare and spoon into a bowl. But my first mouthful indicated to me that it was so much more than this. The flavours were so rich, intense, concentrated and delicious- that I completely forgot about the very “basic looking” plate of food in front of me. This is what rustic Italian food should stand for- nothing to do with looks, EVERYTHING to do with flavour! I really liked the texture and unique flavour of the Sardinian sausage as well- they had obviously been skinned and cooked into a sauce, similar to mince, but you could get hints of fennel/lemony flavoured meat in there which was very pleasant. I’ve got to admit, the saffron was completely lost in the dish, and I couldn’t taste any of it, but really saffron has no place in a dish with such strong flavours dominating it, and there was no need of this spice in my opinion. Nick’s ravioli was very nice as well- the filling could have done with a little more seasoning, but the ragu was rich and delicious and the ravioli had been made and cooked very well.

The staff were very attentive, and seemed very friendly to customers- the manager there seemed to be having nice conversations about Italian food and culture with various customers who had visited Sardinia and was interested in finding out more about it. Dessert I have got to admit though was terribly disappointing. We were told that the panacotta was sold out, which was a shame, so Nick suggested we order chocolate fondant, to share. I told Nick at the time that I wondered if they made their desserts fresh here, since I used to work in an Italian chain restaurant, and knew that we made none of the desserts fresh (except the panacotta ) and that a lot of Italian restaurants have the same supplier of desserts and therefore serve the same dishes, perhaps slightly differently described. Kinda like how you get the same desserts in Indian restaurants too- because they all have the same stockists and they don’t make them.

Well the fondant arrived, and I did the “fondant test” on it- putting your spoon into the middle of the fondant and spreading it out- to reveal what should be an oozing liquid centre. In this case- no dice, completely solid. There were also little line marks on the top of the fondant which would suggest to me that they had come from a foil packet of some sort. If as I suspect, it had come from a packet, they had also microwaved it for too long- the chocolate tasted bitter and overcooked. A disappointing end to the meal, but I didn’t leave there feeling completely cheated. The main courses were so delicious, and the atmosphere was so pleasant, that I would definitely return to this restaurant again. It is a mid-high priced restaurant so it would only be for a special occasion, but it’s a very nice and romantic place to eat I think. Service I would give 9/10, whilst for the food I would have to give a 7/10, mainly because of the issues with puddings. As far as I’m concerned, the place is a rustic, romantic, Italian restaurant, that incorporates fresh ingredients into delicious dishes.

PS: I forgot to mention, what I thought was a cool thing that the restaurant does on sundays that if you call in advance and book it, they can prepare you and your group of friends roast suckling pig, with rosemary potatoes and chargrilled vegetables- how rather scrummy sounding! I might try this out some day xx

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Recipe: Mediterranean Vegetable Baguette

Bit of an unusual sandwich but it was absolutely delicious, really quick to make, and really set me up for the night! You can use the roasted aubergine slices you get vac-packed in olive oil from the world bit of the supermarkets, or you can just roast slices of it yourself- thick slices, drizzled with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper, and chucked in the oven at 200C for about 10 minutes.

Mediterranean Vegetable Baguette (serves 1)

1 demi baguette (warm: optional)
4 thick slices roasted aubergine in olive oil (use deli, or roast your own)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed
½ green pepper, diced
4 chestnut mushrooms, quartered
20g Cantafrais
1 tsp sundried tomato paste
Salt and pepper

1. Fry the peppers, mushroom and garlic in olive oil, for 10 minutes. Mix together the cantrafrais and sundried tomato paste. Open up the baguette. Spread both sides with the sundried tomato cantafrais.
2. Arrange the slices of aubergine, and the hot fried mushrooms and peppers. Press together, slice and serve!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Competition: Red Tractor Assurance Recipe Competition

Hey guys, sorry I havent posted in a while, it's just i've got this mahoosive scary assignment that i've just only just manage to finish now (the day before the hand-in date) so i've had to really focuss on my Uni stuff recently. Anyway, so you might have remembered me mentioning this competition a little over a month ago, and, well, it's all over now and I got second place! My Cider and Mustard Chicken, made with Red Tractor Farm assured ingredients, won me a pretty Aga Cast Iron oven dish, and a red tractor branded apron and tote bag.
To be honest, I should have got 1st place, it's all down to the fact that these people can't run a competition properly (people could vote unlimited times, and I was winning for the full 5 weeks of the competition just from normal votes, then on the last night of the comp someone spam voted their entry in order to win), but hey ho, never mind- 2nd place is still pretty fab anyway! Thanks to any of you guys for voting for me xx

Monday, November 12, 2012

Recipe: Spiced Chilli Lemon Chicken with Potato Wedges

This is a nice relaxed saturday lunch i made for me and my boyfriend over the weekend- it was really using what we had in the fridge really, but i fancied something a little bit spicy, a little bit healthy, but filling- and this fitted the bill. The recipe is for two but it is very easily multiplied.

Spiced Chilli Lemon Chicken, with potato wedges (serves 2)

1 tsp Lazy red chillies in white wine vinegar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger paste
Juice of ½ a lemon
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
3 chicken breasts

4 medium sized maris piper potatoes, sliced into wedges
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary
Salt and pepper

1. Mix together the chillies, garam masala, paprika, garlic, ginger, lemon, sugar and oil. Add the chicken, coat it in the marinade, and then marinate for a minimum 30 minutes (maximum 24 hours).
2.Preheat the oven to 180C. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and boil the potato wedges for 6 minutes. Drain and add the parboiled potatoes into a roasting tray, with the olive oil, rosemary and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss to coat, and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bake the marinated chicken breasts (with the marinade) in the oven for 30 minutes. Once cooked remove chicken and potato wedges from the oven, and serve- with the remaining marinade poured over the chicken breasts, acting as a sauce.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Recipe: Gigantes bean and Vegetable Gratin

This is a gorgeaus dish that my boyfriend invented recently, that I thought was so nice i asked him for the recipe to put up on here. I was quite surprised really that Nick came up with this sort of dish, as normally if i ever cook him anything vegetarian he's moans "what no meat??". Fairly healthy as well I suppose. I love those jarred greek gigantes beans in tomato sauce that you get in delis/ the "world" section of supermarkets. The brand we used is called "Odysea Baked Gigantes Beans". About the chilli- last weekend we went to the food market that is held regularly in Green Park station in Bath, and we bought this yellow chilli from a small stall selling bits and bobs. We mainly bought it because the vendor said to Nick how horrifyingly spicy it was and of course Nick had to take up that challenge. If you cant find any yellow chillis about just put a whole red one in there instead.

Gigantes bean and vegetable gratin (serves 2)

355g Jar of baked giganti beans in tomato sauce and olive oil
1/3 of a large leek, sliced
1/4 red onion, diced
Clove garlic, crushed
1/4 yellow pepper, diced
1/2 a yellow chilli, diced finely
6 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp tomato chutney
2 ripe fresh tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp grated parmesan
15g grated cheddar
15g grated cheshire
2 tbsp breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Tip off oil from top of the jar of butterbeans jar into a saucepan (or just use a splash of olive oil). Fry onions, leeks, garlic and chilli, and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes. Mix in beans, chutney and chopped fresh tomatoes. Season to taste and transfer to baking dish and cover with the grated cheese and breadcrumbs.
3. Bake for 25 mins.Remove and serve!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Recipe: Spanish Tortellini

A rather student-y meal I suppose, but needs must as the devil drives, and at the moment the desire to eat tasty gourmet "chef-y" meals every night goes slightly against my university budget. Also where does the time go? with already 6 weeks into my second year of University I have so much work and reading to do, that I can't really spend hours preparing meals how I would like to. I do believe though that it entirely possible for someone on a low budget or someone that doesn't have too much time on their hands to produce delicious meals for themselves. This recipe uses one of my regular cheap staples: pre-made tortellini. I used sundried tomato and mozzarella tortellini from sainsburys this time, but most tortellini/ravioli flavours work in this dish. I used some of that Bath Pig Chorizo again as well- I know i'll be doing work experience with them in the Spring, but without bias I can honestly say it is the nicest cooking chorizo i've ever tasted. Great texture too.

Spanish Tortellini (serves 1)

150g any type shop bought tortellini/ ravioli
1 tbsp olive oil
50g raw chorizo, diced
1 garlic clove
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
Large handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated manchego or parmesan for garnish.

1. Cook the tortellini according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile, in another pan, fry the chorizo and garlic in the olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, parsley and smoked paprika and cook for a further 2 minutes.
2. Add the cooked tortellini to the chorizo and tomatoes. Stir well to combine all the ingredients, and serve with some grated manche