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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.

Restaurant Review – Chooks on the Hill

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, Ian and I headed down to Minehead for a few days by the sea with my family, and while we were there I was very excited to try this new restaurant.

Now it is hard to not be too biased with this review as my Dad (who is the best chef I know, and probably the reason I love food so much!) has just started working in the kitchen here, but I shall try…

Chooks is based in Marston Lodge Hotel on North Hill, and offers a truly authentic Malaysian menu, with other popular East Asian inspired dishes included, such as Thai curry.

We began by sharing a couple of starters; Chicken and ginger parcels, which were beautifully fragrant and complimented perfectly by the dipping sauce, and home-smoked spicy beef strips which were absolutely delicious with a real kick from the chilli.

For our mains we had:

Sweet and Sour Chicken – The chicken had a lovely crunch to it from the light batter it was cooked in and the sauce seemed to get the sweet/sour balance just right, rather than the usual sweet syrupy sauce you find at many Chinese restaurants.

Beef Rendang – I have been informed that this is an old family recipe of the head chef’s and it was really tasty with a good depth of flavours. The sauce was creamy yet spicy, and the beef feel apart in your mouth.

Thai Red Chicken Curry – There was a really generous amount of chicken breast in this fragrant curry, and all the key Thai flavours were there. The egg fried rice that was served with each dish was a perfect accompaniment too.

We didn’t really need another dish, but couldn’t resist the crunch of some triple-cooked chips which were as delicious as they look!

Unfortunately we didn’t have any room left for a pudding but I having helped my Dad bake the chocolate brownies that afternoon, I can confirm they looked lovely too!

Throughout the whole evening, the service was great and really attentive ensuring our glasses were always full and we were enjoying the food, which we all did. This is a new restaurant but with a really interesting and varied menu, and I am already looking forward to returning to try some more dishes! x