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Restaurant Review – The Seven Stars at Winsley

We had another fun-filled weekend, starting with Friday drinks at our local pub and a few bar snacks for dinner…those tall pork scratchings are to die for!

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It was our friend’s 30th birthday (the first of our group to reach the dirty 30…I still have a year to go!) so we gathered for a slice of the most delicious peanut butter cake, a trip into Bristol and dinner and drinks on The Grain Barge. This floating bar and restaurant is a bit of a hidden gem. We had great food but the constant swaying definitely makes you feel tipsier than you really are!

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Last week, Ian and I headed over to a nearby village, Winsley, for dinner at The Seven Stars. Despite it being a rather drizzly and grey Thursday night, we were lucky to get a table which is testament to how popular this place is, and for good reason too!

This place ticks all my boxes for a good village pub…beautiful building, good beer garden, a nice selection of local ales and all the food on the menu is both local and seasonal. (Sneaky fact for locals – I overheard a waiter saying they bought their steaks from the same supplier as Hudson’s Steakhouse in Bath but they are on the menu here for about half the price!)

For some reason, I was craving fish and we both ended up having fishy options for both our starters and main courses.

I began with the fish platter which was served on a trendy slate plate piled high with smoked mackerel pate, stuffed smoked salmon, crayfish, a huge king prawn, roasted red peppers and some homemade bread and butter. All elements were delicious and I could have eaten this again! The crayfish in a light marie-rose style sauce was divine and the pate was really good too.

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Ian opted for whitebait with a lemony tartare sauce and salad. I love this little fishies as they always remind me of our holidays in Spain where we would order a huge bowl of these sardinitas and eat them on the beachfront with a cold beer.

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For my main course, I had a grilled fillet of hake served on a pea, mint, lemon and parmesan risotto and some tempura calamari on top. The piece of fish was huge and perfectly cooked. I love risotto so this was the perfect combination for me – one of the best meals I’ve had for a little while.

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Ian ordered from the specials board and had halibut with asparagus, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. This was also really tasty and when they forgot the poached egg, they were great at rectifying this mistake quickly and without any fuss.

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Being very greedy, we decided to share a pudding platter for dessert and in retrospect it was a little rich following our previous two courses! Nevertheless, we had sticky toffee pudding, fruity pavlova, chocolate brownie, vanilla ice-cream and some fruit to enjoy. The brownie was delicious, topped with a Stracciatella cream and the toffee sauce with the pudding was moreish too.

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As well as the food being amazing, the service here was so welcoming and friendly that we had a really great evening. This place is just down the road from us so I can’t wait to head back although given the number of people waiting for a table, I would definitely book to avoid disappointment!

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Recipe – Creamy Prawn Pasta Bake

I’m up bright and early today (9am counts as early during the holidays!) as I’m off into Bath to get my hair cut and coloured. I won’t be repeating my flip-flop mistake again but I am going to risk going out without a coat…living on the edge!

Ian and I spent the last night planning our weekend – we are off to Oxford for two nights (a lovely Christmas present from his parents and Grandad!) and have been looking up good places to eat, have afternoon tea (me!) and pubs to visit (Ian!) – any other recommendations for places to visit are definitely welcome too.

Today’s recipe is something I made us for dinner last night – I had some prawns I wanted to use up but also bought this lovely miniature shell pasta (I think it was called Gnocci Sardi) which the box said was meant to go well with cheese-based sauces. I decided to combine the two and make a sort of mac and cheese type meal with prawns for sweetness and some spinach and cherry tomatoes for colour.

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Ingredients

50g of butter

50g of plain flour

500ml of milk

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

About 75g of strong cheddar, grated

Salt and pepper

320g of pasta (macaroni or shell pasta would work fine)

300g of fresh prawns (washed and peeled)

150g of fresh spinach

75g of Parmesan cheese

75g of cherry tomatoes, halved

How to make it

o   Begin by making your sauce. Melt the butter and add the flour, stirring to create a rouxprawn11

o   Next, add your milk gradually, whisking constantly, until you have a smooth sauceprawn12

o   Add the cheddar bit by bit then grate in the nutmeg and season well

o   Meanwhile, cook your pasta until it is al denteprawn7

o   Drain your pasta and put it back into the pan

o   Add a knob of butter, prawns, spinach, half of the Parmesan and about half of the cheese sauceprawn8

o   Mix together well and add the cherry tomatoes – the spinach should start to wilt and the prawns will begin to go pinkprawn10

o   Tip the pasta into your ovenproof dish and pour over the rest of the cheese sauce

o   Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and cook for about 20 minutes at 180°C, Gas Mark 4prawn1

o   I finished mine off under the grill to ensure I had a golden, crispy toppingprawn3

o   Serve immediately with a large glass of white wine!prawn4

This made enough for about 4 large portions or 6 smaller ones if you were going to serve it with a side salad. There was no way to make this look pretty and dainty – it is good honest comfort food and I have to say it was delicious!

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Restaurant Review – Tapas at Fat Fowl, Bradford on Avon

Seeing as we have so many lovely restaurants nearby to eat at, it is rare that Ian and I will dine at the same place more than once a month. However, after going for a delicious brunch at Fat Fowl in Bradford on Avon a few Sundays ago, we noticed a rather tasty looking tapas menu on offer and couldn’t wait to come back!

We went on a Thursday evening and although the restaurant wasn’t packed, there was a nice atmosphere. Knowing we were going down the Spanish route for dinner, I started with a glass of sangria and Ian had a local ale.

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As usual, our eyes were slightly bigger than our bellies and we ordered a bit too much but I can’t complain as it was all delicious!

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Our dishes came when they were ready so we could enjoy a long and leisurely meal by candlelight.

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My favourite tapas dishes were the king prawns in garlic oil (delicious with some crusty bread dipped in too!), a lovely Spanish tortilla and the rather amazing mixed fish platter.

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Having lived in Spain for a year (and spent a large part of that eating and drinking my way around various cities!), I think I have very high standards for tapas in the UK but I am pleased to report that Fat Fowl’s tapas weren’t half bad! I felt the meal was good value for money given the size of the portions and obvious freshness and quality of ingredients. My Dad is equally as fussy as me when it comes to Spanish restaurants but I would be happy to take him here next time my parents come to visit.

I feel really happy that Ian and I have found this little place just down the road from us and I’m looking forward to going back for more soon!

Restaurant Review – The Snooty Fox, Warminster

This Sunday, despite having a huge pile of marking to be getting on with, Ian and I decided to head out for lunch. I love discovering new towns and villages near where we live and we chose to have a wander through Warminster before stopping off somewhere for a bite to eat.

This is a town near where we live but unfortunately it was pretty dead last Sunday. There were lots of pretty cafes and antique shops though so it looks like it may have much more character through the week!

I had heard good things about The Snooty Fox pub but must admit to not being overwhelmed when we first drove up to it. However, once inside I could see that it was busy (always a good sign!) and we took a seat in the bar area.

The menu was pretty standard which I now realise does the food a complete disservice because we both loved it!

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We shared a couple of starters. Ian ordered the mixed fish platter which came loaded with smoked salmon, king prawns, smoked mackerel and the most wonderful crispy whitebait with lovely marie rose and aioli dipping sauces.

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I had some bread and olives served with rapeseed oil and balsamic vinegar and a homemade basil pesto for dipping and a nice variety of olives.

For our mains, Ian had a classic roast leg of lamb served with a herby bread sauce which was really tender.

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I opted for the fish of the day which was sole in a creamy yet delicate almond and leek sauce. I absolutely loved this dish. The fish was perfectly cooked, it came with amazing, crispy roast potatoes and the sauce was perfectly balanced.

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Our main courses came with cauliflower cheese and seasonal vegetables which were lovely and al dente.

We were pretty stuffed at this point but after a little rest, we found room to share a pudding! We ordered the chocolate brownie which was served warm with a raspberry and lemon coulis and honeycomb ice cream. I am very fussy about brownies but this was very good; nutty, gooey and rich.

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Overall, this was an unexpected delight. The food was very good and reasonably priced and a Sunday lunch without the washing up to do afterwards is always a treat!

Recipe – Prawn and Avocado Toasts

I have found the recent hot weather to be very helpful for my diet. Firstly, it is too hot to cook. Secondly, I don’t feel like eating huge meals at the moment. Thirdly, we are eating later and later so I am finding myself leaning towards much smaller portions…although my ice-cream intake has gone up significantly!

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These lovely little toasts are a great snack, lunch or light supper and the flavours work together perfectly!

For one person you will need:

Ingredients

1 crusty roll or bread, toasted

Half an avocado, mashed

1 tomato, chopped

Some fresh coriander, chopped

A pinch of chili flakes

Salt and pepper

6 -8 king prawns

Olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

A pinch of paprika

How to make it

  • For the prawns: heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the prawns until pink, add the garlic clove and cook until golden brown then finish with a pinch of paprika
  • For the avocado layer: make a rough guacamole by mixing together the avocado, tomato, coriander and chili. Mix well and season to taste
  • Toast the bread
  • Assemble your toasts by spreading the avocado mixture onto the toasted bread and top with the prawns…so simple yet delicious!prawn2

Sunny Salisbury

Apologies for the lack of blog activity over the past few days but we have had computer issues Chez Duffy-Lye. It seems that whilst it is a lot of fun taking pictures of my food, my home and whatnot my laptop wasn’t so keen on trying to store all of these pictures and promptly gave up working! It has been remedied and I have a new friend that I will now be using daily to avoid the same thing happening again:

It’s like in Sex and the City when Carrie’s laptop crashed and everyone was amazed that she didn’t “back-up”! Well, I was also that girl but not anymore!

And as Miss Bradshaw so wisely said…“After all, computers crash, people die, relationships fall apart. The best we can do is breathe and reboot.” Amen to that

With rumours that yesterday was going to be the hottest day of the year, we decided to head out for the day. Or rather Ian told me that morning as I woke up that he was taking me out for an ‘adventure’! We have a weird thing where we always like to ‘surprise’ the other person by taking them somewhere new and yesterday we visited Salisbury. Not strictly a new place (I treated Ian to a night here in a posh hotel for his birthday a few years ago…another ‘surprise’) but on such a gorgeous day, who’s complaining?!

We arrived around lunchtime, stomachs rumbling and rather than queue up with the long lines of tourists to get a seat in a restaurant for lunch we went for the classic Boots Meal Deal and headed to the Cathedral for an al fresco lunch in the sun.

Seeing as I am going to be a bridesmaid for one of my best friends in less than two weeks and the bridesmaid dress is still a little on the tight side (translation…I can only just get the zip done up!), I opted for this rather virtuous looking thai prawn salad which was actually rather good.

After catching some rays, we headed into the cathedral for a wander and stumbled upon the remarkable ‘Avenue of Champions’ art exhibition by Ben Dearnley; a set of sculptures of Olympic and Paralympic athletes focusing on their ‘power zones’…and no I don’t mean there!

Although we weren’t too highbrow and arty not to get a photo like this when the coast was clear:

 I’m not too sure where this exhibition will end up but I think the pieces will act as a timely reminder of the incredible games we have just hosted.

Knowing Ian, I knew a day out wouldn’t be complete without some sort of pub visit or beer-related activity and I was right! We found a Hall and Woodhouse pub, The New Inn, a few minutes from the cathedral so popped in for a Badger ale.

I’m really starting to love this small chain of pubs as they occupy the most gorgeous buildings which are full of character and usually a good amount of exposed brickwork and beams…my favourite. This one was no different and had a lovely little beer garden out the back so we could enjoy the sun with a few ales. Traditionally a bit of a bloke’s drink I am coming round to ales and I love a cold bottle of Golden Glory; a really light, peachy beer.

If you haven’t been, Salisbury is a lovely place for a weekend visit, combining gorgeous architecture, a bit of history, lovely shops and a good selection of restaurants.

June Favourites

I have to start today’s post by wishing my lovely Mum a very Happy Birthday!

I wanted to write more yesterday but after being stuck in a horrendous traffic jam on the M6 for several hours all I wanted to do was go to bed!

My family and I spent the weekend in the rather fabulous city of Liverpool at a family wedding.

It was a bit of a drive but we broke up the journey with three of my favourite things; coffee, sushi and Krispy Kreme doughnuts!

We arrived in Liverpool and were very impressed at the view from our hotel window

After a cup of tea, we set off to explore and soak up a bit of Scouse culcha…

I loved visiting the Piermaster’s House, which was a lovely little building alongside the Albert Docks recreating a wartime atmosphere  and allowing you to have a little peek at what it would have been like during the times of black outs and rationing.

We visited the new Liverpool One shopping centre where I could quite happily spend hours and lots of my hard earned money too!

That night, we got our glad rags on and headed out to celebrate my cousin’s recent nuptials and have a bit of a boogie.

I also picked up some ideas for my next craft/ decorating project…

OK, now we have had a little catch up here is my round up of the month of June:

Without a doubt, my highlight has to be the Euros and with them my Euro 2012 challenge. As a final round up, here is what I cooked for each of the 16 participating countries.

Denmark: Mandelsmørboller or Almond Butter Balls. These biscuits were a bit of a disaster because although they tasted really good they definitely did not resemble balls! I was worried this recipe mishap would turn out to be indicative of the whole challenge but luckily it was just a bit of a dodgy start!

France: I dusted off my Raclette for an evening of meats, vegetables and gooey melted cheese – such a great idea for a dinner party!

Croatia: Chicken Paprikash, a lovely warm and slightly spicy chicken dish

Germany: Apfelstrudel, a really simple dessert that rivals our apple crumble!

Greece: Feta Filo Pie, courtesy of my good friend Lucie and absolutely delicious warm or cold

Sweden: Meatballs to rival Ikea’s!

Ireland: Colcannon, a hearty side dish that makes a nice change from simple mashed potato

England: Eton Mess, one of my favourite summer puddings and the only thing that can comfort you after watching your country crash out of yet another competition on penalties!

Ukraine: Chicken Kiev, bursting full of garlic flavour and definitely one I will make again

Portugal: Custard Tarts, a bit fiddly but well worth the effort. This was also the first time I have made custard from scratch and you really can taste the difference.

Italy: Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, another quite time consuming dish but it tasted as good as it looks!

Russia: Mushroom Stroganoff, a really easy vegetarian dish that tasted great

Czech Republic: Bramboracky or Savoury Potato Pancakes, a lovely potato rosti recipe that goes with almost everything

Poland: Polish Cauliflower, probably the only dish I wouldn’t make again. It was pleasant enough but quite a strange combination of flavours and textures

The Netherlands: Dutch Butter Cake, my new favourite accompaniment for a cup of tea!

Spain: Gambas al Ajillo, or Garlic Prawns. I think I saved the best until last with this tapas dish and I have to say ‘¡Felicidades!’ to Spain on their win.

Apart from doing a lot of cooking, we also celebrated the Jubilee this month with a village party:

I made my first ever jelly, using the very British ingredient of Pimms:

The garden came alive with the most beautiful roses and poppies, as well as a raised bed full of crunchy, fresh salad leaves:

I had a week off work so ploughed on with redecorating our house:

I headed down to Dorset twice. Firstly to celebrate my friend Nat’s hen night:

And secondly with my lovely class for a day at the beach:

I also squeezed in a trip to Birmingham for some rather lovely cocktails:

And the Good Food Show at the NEC:

Finally, a quick jaunt to Oxford for some beer tasting

Looking back on it, June has been a very busy but fun month!

I love July – it is my birthday in a few weeks so the weather will hopefully have improved by then!

I have three more weeks of school left until I have to say goodbye to my first ever class, meet my new class and prepare to enjoy summer holidays…I just hope they feel as long and relaxing as they did when I was a child!