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Restaurant Review – The Crown at Bathford

To celebrate the end of my school’s SATs exams, I insisted on going out! Having heard very good things about The Crown at Bathford, which is about a five minute drive from us, we popped down for supper and a few beers.

Upon entering the bar, we were warmly greeted and nabbed a seat next to the fire whilst we perused the menu. This place has a French chef and the menu has a lovely balance of French bistro dishes alongside traditional pub classics.

We both took advantage of their meal deal, offering two courses for the reasonable sum of £12, or three courses for £15 if you can manages it!

I started with deep-fried breaded mushrooms, which were served with a well-dressed salad and a lovely homemade garlic mayonnaise. The mushrooms were lovely and crispy in light breadcrumbs.

Ian opted for the bruschetta which came topped with homemade pesto and Mediterranean vegetables. Again, the flavours were perfectly balanced and both starters were very tasty.

For our mains we had a bit of a wait as Ian’s pie was made to order…but it was well worth it!

I had a salmon omelette, which was filled with beautiful herby pieces of fish, and served with lots of crispy fries.

Ian’s pie was filled with beef and a sauce made from Bath Gem ale (which we were also drinking!) and served with mashed potato and a rich gravy. The meat was really tender and knowing that it was made to order only a few moments earlier really added to the enjoyment.

Having seen other diners ordering some delicious looking puddings, I wanted to try one but I was too stuffed so had to pass on them until another day…definitely not like me!

Overall, this pub offered a cosy, warm and welcoming atmosphere with amazing food. I would pop in here for drinks or dinner, and am looking forward to making the most of their beer garden over the summer too…highly recommended!

Cracking Crackling

Welcome to the first official day of Spring! There is now no excuse not to have your home filled with daffodils and tulips, and to have a good clear out and spring clean ready for the new season.

It was still a bit chilly this weekend so we indulged in some good old fashioned comfort food on Saturday night; Pieminister Pies! These were delivered to Ian’s offices (with two handy cans of beer to enjoy alongside them) and, due to some sort of loyalty deal with O2, were absolutely free which made them taste even better!

We enjoyed ‘The Hope and Glory’ pie, which was a classic beef, bacon and ale pie, and ‘The St. George’, which was a vegetarian pie including beans, mushrooms and smoked cheese.

Now, I love Pieminister pies; they are always stuffed full of delicious, quality ingredients, and the pastry is always perfectly crisp, and these two did not disappoint either.

My hearty food theme continued on Sunday too. It was a bit of an overcast day, but we pulled on our wellies and enjoyed a good country walk…with a quick pit-stop in the local pub!

I bought a decent sized piece of pork leg and decided to keep it simple this week; just a well-cooked piece of meat with some tasty veggies.

There is nothing like the crunch of good crackling to offset a piece of juicy roast pork, and here are my tips for perfect crackling every time…

  • Make sure your piece of meat, and especially the fat, is really dry. A few hours uncovered in the fridge will help and then a final wipe with some kitchen roll
  • Score the fat, making sure not to pierce through to the skin (you can often ask your butcher to do this for you)
  • Rub in a good amount of sea salt, making sure to get into all the slits
  • Put the meat into a very hot oven (as hot as you can get it) for about 20 minutes to start the crackling off well
  • Reduce the heat and cook until the meat from the pork runs dry
  • You can always give the crackling a quick blast under the grill before serving to crisp it up even more

Now this isn’t the only way to get good crackling – my Dad swears by the boiling water method, and I have read about using vinegar as a rub too.  I have always found the above method works for me but I’m open to any extra tips if you have them!

I’ve got my Dad staying with us for the next few days, DIY-ing by day and cooking a selection of delicious meals for us by night! Tonight, ribs are on the menu so I am salivating while their smell fills the kitchen…

Restaurant Review – Fox and Hounds, Farleigh Wick

My parents visited us yesterday, and although they always come bearing gifts of food, we felt like eating out last night so we headed to the Fox and Hounds pub, just down the road from us in Farleigh Wick.

Since we moved, Ian and I have spotted a number of lovely looking local pubs we wanted to try out and this one didn’t disappoint. It is very nearby, and definitely walkable, which will be lovely in the lighter evenings. It also has a gorgeous beer garden out the back and I can imagine that being a treat during summer months.

Walking in, the pub is cosy and comforting, with lots of exposed beams and an open fire roaring in the corner, which was perfect on this chilly evening.

The menu managed to combine pub classics with some more modern dishes, and there were several specials available, all jotted down on blackboards around the bar.

I chose a simple but hearty beef and mushroom pie, which was served with lashings of deep, rich gravy. The steak in the pie was cooked perfectly and very tender. My only niggle was that there weren’t many mushrooms to be found inside but that may just be me being greedy!

My Mum opted for a pub classic of Wiltshire ham, egg and chips, and in my opinion you can’t really go wrong with this dish!

My Dad ordered the T-Bone steak, which was served with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes and cooked perfectly.

However, Ian won the prize for the best order…

Simply described as ‘Hog Roast’ on the menu, we were all slightly taken aback by the huge joint of meat that appeared, which I think it would probably feed a small family! The pork was covered in wonderfully crunchy crackling (which Ian was very generous with), and the meat itself was lovely and juicy. Given the task in hand, I think he did pretty well…

The only other thing I feel I must mention were the AMAZING chips we were served. Fluffy on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside, these alone are worth a visit.

We couldn’t manage puddings, so we relaxed for a bit longer in front of the fire before heading home.

The Fox and Hounds pub is in between Bath and Bradford On Avon and I have heard they do a wonderful Sunday roast, which may merit another visit! It is a popular pit stop for walkers, and I can see how lovely it would be to spend a day walking in the beautiful surrounding countryside, before popping in for a filling meal to recharge the batteries.

I am very glad we discovered this gem, and look forward to getting to know it a bit better!

Happy Chinese New Year!

To welcome in the Year of the Dragon I thought I would post my favourite Chinese-inspired recipe – a lovely fragrant beef stew. This recipe will make enough for 6-8 people so is lovely when catering for a crowd.

It is slow cooked in the oven meaning you can spend the afternoon getting on with things and after a few hours you will have a delicious, melt-in-the-mouth beef dish, which is perfect served with rice, noodles or vegetables.

Ingredients

A good glug of vegetable oil

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

A heaped teaspoon of Lazy Ginger

A bunch of spring onions, chopped

A good pinch of dried chillies

1.5kg of stewing beef (shin of beef or ox cheek will both work perfectly in this recipe)

3 tablespoons of plain flour, well-seasoned

2 star anises

1 heaped teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice

2 teaspoons of sugar

A good glug (about 3 tablespoons) of dry sherry or Chinese cooking wine

3 tablespoons of soy sauce

500ml of good quality beef stock

2 bok choi, lightly steamed

A tray of mushrooms, roughly chopped

How to make it

  • Preheat the oven to 130°C, Gas Mark 2
  • Heat a good glug of oil in a large ovenproof dish and lightly fry the garlic, ginger, onions and chillies for 3 minutes and then remove from the pan
  • Toss the beef in the seasoned flour and then brown off the meat in batches, placing to one side when done
  • In the pan, which should start to take on a lovely brown base from all the meat and spices, lightly fry the Chinese five spice and star anise, and add the garlic mix back into the pan (these will smell delicious when cooking!)
  • Add the sugar and then put the beef back in the pan, stirring well until the meat is covered in all the lovely spices
  • Add the sherry and use this to deglaze the pan slightly, scraping up any meaty bits from the bottom of the dish
  • Pour in the soy sauce and beef stock, put a lid on the dish and then oven back for 2-2.5 hours. I stirred the meat after each hour
  • Take the dish out of the oven and put on a low heat on the hob
  • Add the mushrooms and bok choi and cook for a few minutes
  • Serve with egg fried rice, noodles or stir fried vegetables

I served my stew with some rotis which were bought from an Asian supermarket and they are fabulous to have to hand! Simply take them out of the freezer, and fry for a few minutes on each side on a high heat (no oil needed). They will brown and start to puff up slightly when they are done.

Restaurant Review – Ronnie’s of Thornbury

I had been looking forward to today’s lunch date all week. Not only did it involve a long overdue catch up with my good friend Cat, but we also enjoyed some delicious food at this award winning restaurant.

Ronnie’s is in the lovely village of Thornbury, close to Cribbs Causeway, and it is well worth the trip. The restaurant itself has a relaxed atmosphere and the exposed brick and beams in the dining room were right up my street!

We began our lunch with starters of pigeon and confit of duck.

My pigeon breasts were served rare (how they should be!) with gorgeous accompaniments of puy lentils, creamed cauliflower, steamed broccoli, a rasher of streaky bacon and a game flavoured crisp. The combination of textures and flavours worked perfectly and I could have eaten this again for my main!

My friend had three beautiful crispy balls of duck confit, served with greens and a swipe of beetroot. I am assured this tasted as good as it looked.

For my main, I opted for two slices of perfectly cooked lamb (rare again) with a carrot puree, some more game crisps and Cat had roast beef with a huge Yorkshire pudding.

We shared a bowl of crispy roast potatoes and a selection of seasonal vegetables, which added to a great roast dinner!

I don’t usually order roast dinners in restaurants, as they never live up to how good they taste at home, and don’t seem to have as much care taken over them, but Ronnie’s is far from the usual carvery offerings. The food here was cooked really well and each meat came with different side dishes.

There was a good selection of puddings on offer but we were both a bit too full so just opted for coffees to finish. However, we couldn’t resist the lovely petits fours brought to us; miniature chocolate brownies, crumbly butter shortbread and fragrant Turkish delight squares.

It is no wonder Ronnie’s has won several accolades over the past few years and it was one of the nicest meals I have had recently. With a menu that changes with the seasons, I think it a place that is worth going back to to experience their latest offerings.

Incidentally, this is my 100th post so sending out a virtual high five! When I wrote my first post back in May of this year, I had no idea I would enjoy writing this blog as much as I have.

It has made me look for inspiration in everyday things, attempt new recipes and take more photos, all of which I have relished. Looking back on the site is like finding an old diary and it is fabulous to relive holidays, days out, tasty meals and other adventures…I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have loved writing it! xxx

Restaurant Review – The Raven, Bath

As the seasons change, so does the things I look for in a restaurant. In the summer, I like to sit outside, either in a beer garden or on the street to watch the world go by. Now, as the nights get darker and colder, cosiness is at the top of my list.

The Raven pub in Bath is a perfect choice in the winter months. We headed there last week for dinner to enjoy their speciality…pie!

This is pretty much the only thing served here, and they buy the delicious and locally made Pieminister pies which offer a great variety of fillings. I admire a pub or restaurant that is brave enough to only serve one type of food but do that particular food very well, and at The Raven they keep things simple; pie with a choice of chips or mash and a selection of gravies.

Being a CAMRA recommended pub, there is a good choice of ales here, and also several tasty ciders and perries.

I opted for the Thai Chook Pie, which is basically a thai green curry with chicken and sweet potato in a pie. I was a bit dubious as this doesn’t sound like it should work but it was absolutely delicious! I didn’t bother having a gravy with it, yet inside the pastry casing was enough fragrant sauce to dip my chips into.

Ian had the Steak and Raven Ale  Pie which had lovely big chunks of beef in a sauce made from the house ale. This was very flavoursome and hearty and complemented well by the Guinness gravy.

Our friends both had the very sweetly named Mr Porky Pie which was a lovely mix of West Country pork, bacon, apples, leeks and Somerset cider. Due to being a regular visitor to this pub, I have tried this pie too and all the ingredients in here are very complementary and taste like a proper pie should.

I always enjoy dinner here, and this visit was no exception. If you want a traditional pub atmosphere with good hearty food then The Raven will not disappoint. I am hoping the next time we visit they will have their lovely festive ales on tap too!

Recipe – A Good Bolognese Sauce

This is one of the most adaptable recipes, as once you have the basic sauce made there are a multitude of things to do with it from the traditional ‘Spag Bol’ to a lasagne filling to an Italian-style cottage pie.

This is another recipe that changes depending on what fresh vegetables I have, and what condiments are in my cupboard. In the past I have added celery, peppers, mushrooms, courgettes, bacon lardons and even a squeeze of HP Fruity for a bit of extra flavour!

I have purposely not specified the amounts needed so you can increase as needed.

Basic Ingredients

A good glug of olive oil

Onions, chopped

Minced beef

Carrots, peeled and chopped

Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

Salt and pepper

Mixed herbs

Tinned tomatoes

Red wine

How to make it

  • Heat the olive oil in a large dish and add the onions, cooking until translucent
  • Add the beef mince and cook on a medium to high heat, breaking up the meat until all of it is coloured. Drain off any excess fat
  • Add the carrots, garlic, seasoning, and herbs. At this stage you can add any extra vegetables you want and I usually have a look through my condiments and add a few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce and a squeeze of ketchup
  • Stir in the tomatoes and wine and simmer on a medium to low heat until thickened and the vegetables are soft – 30 to 40 minutes is usually enough
  • One Italian recipe recommends adding a small cup of milk towards the end of cooking to give it a creamier aspect

I served my sauce with pasta one night and topped it with some hard goats cheese (bought at the Organic Food Festival) rather than the usual Parmesan, which is a tip I picked up when I dined at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s canteen in Bath and adds an extra sharpness to the dish.

 

I used the rest of it to make a lasagne, but you could also freeze the sauce and use it at a later date.