Sometimes we're invited to review products or places and you'll find these sponsored blog posts here. We don't take bribes, unless it's Veuve Clicquot, and if we don't like what we sample then we don't write about it ... so please, no more instant noodles through the letter box. Check out what else and where else we've been eating (for the past 10 years) on Our Blog.
Wagamama is making 2021 the year of positive change pledging that 50% of the menu will be meat free by the end of the year. Quite a challenge given the crippling COVID restrictions and constant closures of the past year. Plans for the current lockdown are to keep as many of its branches open as possible for takeaways, including the Bury St Edmunds branch. So whilst many of us have been correctly focussing on supporting the independent restaurants, we mustn't forget the role that the bigger chains play within the UK economy. As employers across a range of varied roles, the UK restaurant sector remains one of the UK's most diverse and creative industries in which the chains play a significant part. When Wagamama opened in 1992 it was revolutionary, bringing Asian food to consumers in an approachable way. Hopefully in 2021 it will be revolutionary in tackling the hard issues of sustainability.
I was invited by the GM in Bury St Edmunds to try some of the new and existing menu, including some vegan options. Of course, because of lockdown it had to be a takeaway, but that proved to be a good opportunity to see how the click and collect system worked and if the food would be as good as when served in the restaurant. At the moment I have my 14 month old grandson living with me and the million dollar question was - will the baby like the food? So last Thursday I set off to Bury to collect a family takeaway, selected for us by the staff. What a treat to not have to cook and greedily we managed to devour the sides of edamame beans with chilli garlic salt, wok fried greens, duck gyoza, ebi katsu and tama chilli squid while we unpacked the main course dishes. Abbie (in the picture above with the other friendly and upbeat staff) wanted us to try the fresh squeezed juices and included both the 'positive' (pineapple, lime, spinach, cucumber and apple) and 'power' (spinach, apple, fresh ginger) which I'd drive back to Bury for right now. These were really invigorating drinks, especially the power juice with a good hit of ginger. The takeaway packaging for the food is robust, so robust I thought why such an expense on containers, but I get it, already the take-out bowls, although recyclable have been put to use in the freezer and been kept to re-use again and again. Main courses included a portion of the Wagamama vegan 'ribs' which were sticky, smoky, sweet and spicy but softer in texture than pork or beef. For the ever growing number of consumers who are turning to veganism for ethical reasons and look for fake meat products these ribs might be the answer, but for me, because I'm a fresh vegetable lover, far more enjoyable was the delicious vegan Teppanyaki -yaki soba yasai ( thin noodles, sizzling from the grill with stir fried mushrooms, peppers, beansprouts, onions and flavoured with ginger and sesame). We also tried a hearty donburri with teriyaki beef brisket which came with kimchee. Curry was also on the menu; a mild and citrusy chicken raisukaree which was well balanced and fragrant with chilli, fresh lime and fresh coriander. And the baby? Well Emilio was served a mini chicken katsu and a mini yaki soba, which we tasted too. He loved both and what a treat to see an interesting kids menu full of colourful, fresh and exciting flavours.
- edamame beans which we ate dipped into chilli-garlic salt
- donburi - teriyaki beef brisket - sticky white rice topped with teriyaki beef brisket with shredded carrots and seasonal greens
- kids mini chicken katsu
- power juice - delicious spinach, apple and fresh ginger
- happy Emilio who loved mini chicken katsu
- wok-fried greens were perfectly cooked with some crunch
- kids yaki soba - what child doesn't like noodles?
- ebi katsu - prawns in crispy panko breadcrumbs, fresh chilli, coriander and a squeeze of lime with garlic dipping sauce on the side
- raisukaree chicken curry - mild and citrussy with coconut, red peppers, spring onion and fresh coriander
- vegan ribs certainly looked the part and were sticky, smoky and spicy
- teppanyaki - yasai yaki soba - mushroom, noodles, peppers,beanshoots with delicious fried shallots
What's that I hear you say? The Amelie Flam-kuche flatpack is a new on-line, delicious, UK delivery ready meal, from father and son team Regis and Alex Crepy at Amelie Restaurant in Cambridge. Flammekeuche is a traditional Alsace dish, so think France meets Germany. It could be described as a skinny pizza, but it's rather more like an unleavened pastry or flatbread. Thin with crispy edges as it comes out of the oven and the perfect snack at any time of the day. You can choose the toppings when ordering your flatpack (which contains 4 bases and will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge) then it's a quick assembly job; which is also fun and easy for children to do, cook for six minutes in a very hot oven. Et Voila!
- sour cream is traditionally used on a flammekueche base, here with Amelie signature creme fraiche
- Toppings are freshly prepared. Piquant, sliced onions, mushrooms and mozzarella with the pesto adding colour and punch
- Preheat the oven to 230 C and it takes just six minutes to cook
- Voila! We chose the mushroom and mozzarella flatpack
In 1977 I went to work as a nanny for an Iranian family living in Oxford. I arrived on a Sunday evening ready to start work on the Monday. It was a cold November night and I was welcomed with the most delicious Ghormeh Sabzi served with Persian steamed rice. I discovered on this first night that rice would endlessly be cooked and turned out of the pan to great ceremony,with both the children’s mother and their granny competitively trying to achieve the perfect and fluffiest finish. The Persian steamed rice was always fragrant with saffron and glistening with butter. A raw egg, presented in an egg cup alongside a side dish of somagh were often placed on the table, ready for us to add to our own serving of rice. I hated that raw egg, but eventually became quite adept at quickly mixing it into the hot, steaming rice so that it scrambled slightly, losing its raw snottiness. My favourite rice was always the one served with a thick, golden crunchy crust of TahDig, (bottom of the pot) which formed when slowly steaming the rice over a layer of butter, or sometimes yoghurt and saffron. I was taught to make this and eagerly watched whenever it was made to make sure I had the best chance of perfecting it myself.
Recently I was sent a pot of Sandlings Saffron to sample which is grown in Suffolk and when I opened the envelope containing the tin capsule the aroma hit me, instantly reminding me of those days working as a nanny. Persian rice therefore was my go-to recipe to test the pungency, colour and strength of this locally Orford grown saffron. Quantities were not important when I was taught to cook the rice, just the technique, which if followed should work for any amount that you decide to cook. It has for me over the years. The best rice to use is a bog-standard long grain Basmati rice. Usually the cheapest bag in the supermarket that’s not ‘easy cook’ or if you check the cooking time on the packet is not a 10/15 minute quick cook rice. Generally any ethnic supermarket will have a good unadulterated Basmati.
- Soak the rice in cold water overnight or for at least a few hours if overnight is not practical.
- Take a couple of pinches of saffron threads and pummel in a pestle and mortar, then steep in about half an egg cupful of boiling water until needed.
- Rinse the soaked rice under cold running water until the water runs clear.
- Heat a large pan of boiling, unsalted water and stir in the rinsed rice. Stir only once or twice to stop the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. Allow the rice to reach a rolling boil (and you might notice some grains and foam starting to float to the top) and cook it for 5 minutes. The grains should be softening on the outside but hard in the middle.
- Drain and rinse the rice again under cold running water.
- Take a deep, heavy based pan, non-stick if you want to ensure the TahDig comes away in one piece. (It must be clean so don’t be tempted to use the pan that you’ve blanched the rice in unless it’s had a good wash.)
- Melt a couple of large knobs of butter in the bottom of the pan, enough that once melted it covers the bottom of the pan and is about 5mm deep. Add a splash of oil to the butter to prevent it from burning too quickly.
- Once the butter is sizzling take the blanched, drained but still wet rice and carefully spoon it over the butter layer. Sprinkle with a little salt.
- Make about four holes with the handle of a wooden spoon and divide the soaked saffron between the holes, cover up with a little loose rice, hiding the saffron and forming a small mound with the rice in the saucepan.
- Wrap the lid of the pan in a clean tea towel and place the pan over a very low heat for an hour. The heat must be no more than the equivalent of a slow trembling simmer. Do not remove the lid or peep at the rice during this time.
- After an hour turn off the heat and the rice is ready to serve.
- Turn out onto a large serving dish, admiring the crust (TahDig) that’s formed on the bottom and which was always the prized part of the rice. You may need to encourage the TahDig to come away from the bottom of the pan, but hopefully it should come away in one piece.
The Sandlings Saffron was excellent and robust enough to flavour the rice and provide the pungency required to provide that saffron waft when turning out the rice. I’ve always been lucky enough to be sent Iranian saffron which I think is the best, but Suffolk’s doing very well indeed and I’d have this one in my store cupboard any day.
- soak the rice overnight or for as long as possible
- bring to the boil in a large pan of water (5 mins only)
- melt butter and a splash of oil in a clean pan
- add the blanched and drained rice burying the steeped saffron and liquid
- steam for 1 hr using a cloth to cover the saucepan lid
- turn out onto a plate and if you are lucky the tahdig will be in one piece
- fluff up the remaining rice and add more butter if desired
Forager's Kitchen at Blackthorpe Barn, Rougham are launching their new Discovery Box very soon. I was asked to test drive the home delivery service in August and it was like no other that I have tried before. The box of foodie goodies was delivered to my door and invited me to Explore, Discover and Enjoy. It was a real treat and included a range of artisan products, information about the producers (not all from Suffolk, so some unfamiliar, which I enjoyed) and introduced some new flavours, cooking methods & skills. Instructions and superb ingredients were included for me to create my own restaurant quality meal at home. A high quality printed magazine featured augmented reality videos giving instant and easy access to every element of the box. Quite a Discovery indeed!
All was revealed last week when I was invited to a 'Secret Garden' barbecue at Bildeston Crown and discovered the beautiful walled garden, tucked away at the back of the inn. You can book it exclusively for yourself and up to sixteen people for an al fresco meal. It has access through a gate from the car park or via the new very cosy lounge and Champagne bar (more about that another time). It's cook your own on the inset grills which run down the centre of the table, allowing you to barbecue delicious meats and vegetables yourself without having to move. Chef and owner Chris Lee is on hand to make sure no one goes hungry or burns anything they shouldn't. Ice buckets fill the gaps where there's no grill ensuring that the wine is as perfectly chilled as the guests. With delightful service from Hayley and the young, professional team at Bildeston Crown we enjoyed glasses of refreshing chilled rose and were delivered superb side salads, hot side dishes, dips and sauces to accompany the Red Poll steaks, homemade beef burgers, chicken kebabs and marinated pork. We cooked our meat on the grills, slowly grazing away well into the afternoon. If you fancy your own al fresco feast speak to Chris or Hayley who will tailor a menu for you. Prices start at £30 a head and I'll put my money on the cute little courtyard working well in the winter months too. Braziers, patio heaters, hot grills, vin chaud, raclette, Pierre-chaude and fondue ...just an idea.
- the inset grills, fired up and ready
- it was easy to reach the grills from our comfy chairs
- we cooked our own beef burgers
- just some of the hot side dishes
- drum roll .. as the food starts to arrive ... what will we be cooking?
- delicious side dishes kept on coming, including the Bildeston classic lobster Caesar salad
- thick cut Red Poll steaks were beautifully tender
- vegetable kebabs were delicious too
- chilled rose wine, ready and waiting
It was so tempting to have a lick of the plate and the juices left in the bottom of the bowl, once I had polished off the Isle of Wight tomato salad at The Northgate last week. The delicious hibiscus and sherry vinaigrette dressed tomatoes, topped with light, whipped cobnut cream and nasturtium pesto reminded me of a Spanish Gazpacho. And sitting outside on the lavender edged terrace, on what must be Bury's only central, outdoor, dining space added to the relaxed and laid back dining experience at this striking Victorian townhouse. I was invited to try the new menu and to tour the newly refurbed restaurant, cocktail bar and lounge ... all are quite stunning. There's a private dining room seating 14 (complete with giant framed cockatoos looking on). A brilliant and boldly decorated cocktail bar and a Chef's table where you can dine and watch the brigade at work. Head Chef Greig Young uses the best produce he can find, with the Taste of East Anglia menu (£45 a head) offering a selection of seasonal small plates, inspired by the local area and it's producers. And no I didn't only eat a salad, I ate bread made with Pakenham Mill flour, then a crisp and light Norfolk Dapple gougere, next came hand cut beef tartare with pickled mustard, broad beans and red endive, followed by a spiced East Anglian bhaji using local potatoes, and the finale of the savoury plates; fillet of plaice in a seaweed crust with a crisp lobster 'scampi' on a light hollandaise, lifted by slices of pickled cucumber. Greig chose to serve a whipped dark Tosier chocolate, creme de cacao ice cream on a saucy kombucha, caramel espresso as a pre-dessert and then for the main dessert - like I really needed two, roast white chocolate with hibiscus (think Caramac, but better) with roasted red fruit, raspberries and milk ice cream. As well as the superb food at The Northgate staff are also delightful, providing a professional, discreet yet friendly service under the expert guidance of Manager Michael Box.
- the homemade bread
- Norfolk Dapple gougeres
- Isle of Wight tomatoes, juicy with the hibiscus vinaigrette and you'd never believe that with the cobnut cream this is a vegan dish
- Hand cut beef tartare, pickled mustard, broad beans
- Bhajis made with local spud, crips and moreish, vegan too
- A huge lobster 'scampi' aloft the plaice fillet with pickled cucumber hollandaise
- Whipped Tosier chocolate with the slightly sour Kombucha espresso caramel and creme de cacao ice cream
- Caramac! Big shards on milk ice cream and roasted red fruits
- Affordable and interesting lunch menu, perfect for al fresco dining
- The cocktails are excellent too
- Smile! Head Chef Greig Young and Manager Michael Box
Three delicious ewe's milk cheeses arrived in the post last week, sent to me by Slate Cheese and Provisions. I've been asked to choose my favourite of the three and it's been a hard task. What I received was the April Cheese Club selection, celebrating the arrival of spring and containing the season's most special sheep cheeses, along with a box of Millers's Harvest artisan crackers. First up was Norfolk White Lady, a full fat Brie style cheese made by Jane Murray at Willow Farm Dairy in Deopham, Norfolk, and one of our own very good East Anglian cheeses. It is a soft, mould ripened cheese, with a delicate flavour. I left the cheese at room temperature for 6 hrs to allow it to ooze a little, which it did, although it was not as soft as I would have liked. It was very good with the yeasty three seed crackers and a little chestnut honey that I had in my cupboard at home. Next to try was the Pecorini Sardo, it was a treat to see this Sardinian cheese and although the tasting notes suggested it as a perfect cooking cheese in place of Parmesan, no way was I going to cook with it, but instead shaved it over a rocket and toasted hazelnut salad, where its almost sweet yet salty and piquant flavours really packed a punch. Finally the Cheese of the month for April, a Pave Cobble, made in Somerset by White Lake Cheese at Bagborough Farm, Somerset. A pyramid shaped cheese with a silky, sweet and creamy paste that has a salty citrus tang. The ash coating creating a wrinkled rind. I left this one in my cool pantry for 24 hrs until it started to ooze perfectly under the skin and it was just divine, definitely my Supreme Champion. Who says the French have the best cheeses? If you fancy joining the Cheese Club, you might like to know that boxes are delivered on the first Thursday of the month, either monthly or a bi-monthly delivery. Join in April 2019 and you will automatically get sent your first box free.
- beautiful packed and branded cheese parcel arrives
- tasting notes are included
- Pecorino Sardo Maturo shaved into a rocket and toasted hazelnut salad
- Norfolk White Lady
- Pave Cobble
It's a Sutton Hoo chicken, the slow grown one. They're big, or hooge as we say here in Suffolk and my challenge was to see how many meals I could get from one bird.
- first to portion up the chicken, the heart and liver kept for canapes. Neck and bone tips for gravy
- garlic butter sauteed heart and liver on toast served as canapes
- the crown stuffed with lemon wedges, rosemary and garlic
- roasted and served with a white wine gravy made with the deglazed juices from the pan, with the roasted garlic, lemon and rosemary added back in
- leftover breast meat in a delicious Club sandwich
- legs and wings served southern fried (see recipe book)
- stock made with the carcass
- finale of a chorizo and chicken risotto using the stock and with the last nuggets of cooked chicken from the carcass
Yes, I know, I ate three courses at The Unruly Pig pre-launch brunch last week and my daughter did too. But where else can you order Oysters Rockefeller followed by an Omelette Arnold Bennett and then a finale plate of waffles with maple syrup and bacon. The new brunch menu is available from this Saturday 6th April. You must try it!
- great drinks menu with a huge choice of teas too
- cocktails for breakfast ... hic!
- what a fabulous menu with interesting choices
- a brilliant vegetarian menu
- passion fruit spritz
- blackberry, plum and yoghurt smoothie .. the fruity
- oysters rockefeller
- omelette arnold bennett
- wild mushroom rarebit
- desserts included the waffles with different toppings and a pain perdu with pump street chocolate, glazed banana and pecans
Wild and Game's pheasant, pork and caramelised onion pie scooped a gold medal at the the 2019 British Pie Awards. They've sent me one to try for my lunch today and very delicious it was too. Available via mail order should you fancy one.
Without a doubt the service was a highlight at our #Veganuary outing to the Cosy Club in Ipswich on Thursday night. What a delight Roxana was. Romanian and hard working in the UK for the last three years, I hope we don't lose little gems like this to Brexit. We weren't really sure what to expect, arriving at an eerily deserted Ipswich town centre and heading for the soulless Buttermaket shopping centre. But it's a bit of a surprise when you get inside. A slightly quirky mix of Colonial Gentlemans Club crossed with US laid back speakeasy, if that's possible. Invited to sample the vegan menu which I was delighted to do, Mr SFoodie not so keen, but since converted to the idea that a meal of only plants is actually very good. We shared a Mediterranean Plate of hummus, carrot tapenade, pickled red cabbage and heirloom tomatoes and also Garlic Mushrooms on Sourdough, both very good although varying in size given that they are both £4.95 Tapas dishes. The hummus was nicely coarse which I like and the carrot tapenade well flavoured and seasoned with a hint of cumin. Thai Green Vegetable Curry was excellent declared Mr SF and kept him quiet while I ate my Thai Burger, made of quinoa and served with a fat slice of roasted red pepper in the sourdough bun and layered with vibrant green edamame and pak choi. Crispy fries and a nice chunky house slaw were on the side. I confess to ordering vegan bacon purely out of interest but think I can live without that again. There's wine suitable for vegans, I drank an Argentinian Malbec called Benjamin (fresh and fruity) and one dessert of Chocolate and Orange Torte served with a refreshing and light raspberry sauce. You know what, with this current trend of veganism any fast casual dining restaurant not having a suitable menu is way out of touch. The Cosy Club is well worth a visit.
- Cosy Club Ipswich
- Meditteranean Plate
- Garlic Mushrooms on Sourdough
- Thai Green Vegetable Curry
- Thai Burger
- Don't you love this shield?
- Chocolate and Orange Torte for pudding
Love it or hate it the chances are a Christmas Pudding will be making an appearance on your festive table. I was intrigued to try a Bunty's Christmas pudding created to win over the haters amongst you. The hand-made Waveney Valley pudding arrived so beautifully presented it was a shame to cut off the ribbons and bows from the muslin wrapped Mason Cash bowl. Steamed for one and half hours according to the instructions, the waft of fruit and spice was noticable when I cut the string and removed the paper to turn it out.The texture was quite different from any pudding I've tried before; soft and light without the whole fruits and crumbly texture of a traditional pud but a rich and dark colour, yet not stodgy. The balance of fruit and alcohol is excellent, with more than a hint of prune and raisins enhanced with Pedro Ximenez sherry. In fact this is a pudding where you might possibly manage seconds. Check out Bunty's website to find your local stockist.
There's something about the low sun and the cooler days that tempts me to get out the last of my 2017 green tomato chutney to dollop on a generous portion of game pate and crisp, warm buttered toast. I tried Wild and Game Grouse Brandy and Herb Pate and also their very nice Pheasant, Pistachio and Port Pate. A rather lovely late lunch. Pheasant season starts soon. Whoop!