. . . . . Something new

Tuesday 28 July 2015

.            Dal          matter paneer     panchmishali

When we came to Aberdeen together for the first time nearly three years ago, our flight from Gatwick had been considerably delayed which meant that we did not arrive in the city centre until after 11pm.

Desperate for something to eat, we tramped the length of Union Street to be told by restaurant after restaurant that they were closed or had passed last orders until we came to one called Bollywood Tandoori, a lovely tandoori restaurant.  Not only were they open but the meal was memorable, so good in fact that we were very keen to go back last night.

We got there, went downstairs into the dining room to find it nearly empty with only one table occupied.  We asked for a table to be told we could indeed have one but they could not serve wine or beer as their licence had ‘expired’.

Tough choice as we loved the food but did fancy a glass of wine with it so left.  We had however noticed a huge ‘Tandoori’ sign not far down the street so went there to find a new restaurant called ‘Cumin Tandoori’.  It looked very nice with a very modern décor and when we asked, yes it was indeed quite new, having opened about a year and a half ago.

Food was excellent, service solicitous, and prices reasonable so well worth a visit.  Particularly nice was the Panchmishali, a dish made with lamb, chicken, prawns, tomatoes and mushrooms (pretty sure ‘panch’ means 5)




Something old . . . .

Sunday 26 July 2015

La Lombarda Aberdeen

Yesterday we flew north to Aberdeen.  After an effortless flight from the new Heathrow Terminal 2 (which was surprisingly devoid of people for a Saturday afternoon in July), courtesy of Virgin Atlantic, we reached the city of my youth.

We had arranged to meet an old friend for dinner and he had proposed La Lombarda, a hostelry close to here we were staying.  Imagine our surprise when we sat down at our table to find we were in the oldest Italian restaurant in the UK and one of the 5 oldest restaurants in the UK.

Older is ‘Blackfriars’ in Newcastle, which was literally the refectory of a monastery, ‘Rules’ in Covent Garden, London, famous for its game, and Tibits, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe.

Started in 1922, La Lombarda is even older than Veeraswamy’s the oldest Indian restaurant in the UK (1926).  It has changed ownership and so is now no longer in the hands of the original family that started it, and has been refurbished a coupe of times, but is still a very pleasant place to eat.  Good food, staff friendly and helpful, and reasonably priced – what more could one want?

Viva La Lombarda!

. . . . . to Frozen Liabilities

Thursday 23 July 2015

If all you have in your freezer is half a loaf and the remainder of the sprouts from last Christmas then you probably don’t have to think too much about it.

But freezing leftovers and/or impulse ‘bargain’ buys can of course place great strain on the capacity of a freezer and that can entail considerable management.

Freezing food in plastic containers is optimal for organisation as, while the food inside freezes into the shape of the box, the box  itself does not change shape and it is easy to take out and replace.

But if, as I do, food is frozen in freezer bags then it is a whole different matter.  The food in the bag (say, stock – never throw bones/carcases away; always boil them down into stock and then freeze), prior to freezing in a packed freezer, can take the shape of the available space and often, once removed from that space can be the devil’s own job to get back in.  Remove a number of such items and it can be a veritable jigsaw puzzle getting them all back in, if it is at all possible.

It is easy to get to a point where a load of stuff has been removed to find one specific item lower down and it won’t go back in.

A full freezer requires management – rotation of items so that older items are consumed before new ones added.  It is also important not to forget the freezer – very tempting to nip to the shops to buy something for lunch but there may be something in the freezer that would do.

And that’s exactly what happened today – some roast chicken and chicken stock from the freezer with the addition of some fresh bacon bits, mushrooms, peppers and crème fraîche made a superb pie filling which was topped off with some ready-rolled puff pastry.

Absolutely lovely, . . . . . . . or should I say ‘cool’?

Frozen Assets

Tuesday 21 July 2015

I used to know someone who would, at every mealtime, dish up  identical, huge platefuls of food for everyone present, despite the fact that her children were 2 and 4.  These would look in horror at the gargantuan (by their standards) heap of food placed in front of them, pick around at it and then leave most of it. utterly daunted  by the task of trying to eat it.

When the table was cleared at the end of the meal, everything remaining, including the heaps of leftovers on the children’s plates as well as everything else left in the kitchen and not served up, would be thrown away – literally binned.  And often this was in vast quantities.

I used to ask her why she did not keep it for use on another occasion – most of the time there was the makings of another meal for the family, and she had both fridge and freezer.  Her reply was that she did not think it hygienic, and that she believed uneaten food should always be thrown away.

But in large measure this is precisely what modern cooling appliances are for.  In general terms, anything left over from any meal in my home is judiciously transferred to some kind of fridge/freezer-friendly container and preserved either for consumption later the same week (in the fridge) or at some indeterminate point in the future (in the freezer).

Putting left-overs in the freezer in single portion plastic bags is a great way of providing a nutritious meal for one when unable or unwilling to cook on any occasion.

My reason for writing about this is that I have just had for dinner some lovely chicken curry left-over and frozen 2-3 weeks ago.  It was excellent and had, if anything, improved with age.

Baked? I’ll ask ‘er

Sunday 19 July 2015
Banana Loaf
Banana Loaf

When ah were a lad, Sunday afternoon meant baking – not as folks do nowadays sitting out in the sun covered in oil, but cakes and cookies hot from the oven.

Now if you’re not much of a baker like me, I recommend a Banana Loaf.  If you ever wonder what to do with those over-ripe, blackening bananas you forgot to eat, this is for you – I’m told that over-ripe bananas for use in cake-making freeze magnificently so don’t have to be used immediately.

This is very simple and pretty well fail-safe.  The recipe came from a friend and worked first-time (for me); the raisins are my idea and I think they enhance the basic product.  I’ve also tried chocolate chips but was less happy with that result.

I’ve also tried it without the sugar (by accident it has to be said, if I’m honest!) and it was very nice – much more like a loaf than a cake (and none the worse for it) so the basic recipe is capable of considerable variation.

So next time you feel like baking but are not sure how to, get a couple of bananas and have a go.


And then later that day . . .

Friday 17 July 2015

. . . . . we went to The Rockfish.  Jury was out for a long time on it or The Start Bay Inn but in the end Rockfish won on mileage – i.e. we’d done enough driving for one day.  Both do magnificent fish and chips, the difference being in the style of the restaurant, and so either would have been welcome.

We had a couple of starters that we shared, salt & pepper prawns and calamari, and then the wonderful cod and chips.

RFPrawns       RFCalamari
Salt & pepper prawns                      Calamari

Cod and chips

All are served on crumpled paper on the plate – possibly saves on washing up.

Anyway, we loved it and it was a splendid way to wrap up our little break in Dartmouth.

We drove home on Thursday – pretty effortless run until we got to Lower Thames Street in London, when we were held up by roadworks which cost us nearly an hour.

Anyway, we’re home and normal service will be resumed ASAP (although what normal service is I’m not quite sure!)

Saving The Best till Last

Tuesday 14 July 2015

View from the allotment (click to enlarge)

Still in Dartmouth we decided to go for breakfast at Alf Resco’s, an outdoor (note the cunning play on words!) but covered café serving only breakfast and lunch (i.e. not dinner).

It was very busy but we got the last table.  We were told to peruse the menu then go to the counter to order, which sounded fair enough, but the young lady who was taking the orders was also dispensing drinks.  There were two in front of me: the first was ordering for 8 people, each of whom wanted something different to drink (i.e. 1 latte, 1 cappuccino, 1 banana milkshake, etc.)  so that took nearly 15 minutes to serve up, after which she took his food order – it seemed to me that it would have made more sense to order the food first so that the chef could crack on with it while she sorted out drinks.  The next person in front of me was ordering for 6 so again it took ages.

When I had been waiting for about 20 minutes, it did occur to me that I might leave the queue and we could then take our custom to another establishment where they knew how to look after their customers, but I decided to hang on.  My tea and coffee were quickly dispensed but when I ordered our breakfasts (and after I had paid!), the young lady told me the food might be some time as they were very busy.

Back at the table we waited and eventually a server came by calling out my name whereupon we were given toast, expecting our food to arrive imminently.  Having eaten most of the toast we suddenly realised we were in serious danger of running out before our breakfast arrived and how can one eat fried eggs without a bit of toast, and nothing on earth would persuade me to go back into the queue to order more.   The dichotomy was of course that by waiting, the last bits of toast would get cold, equally bad.

Anyway, like the cavalry in all good westerns, our breakfasts arrived in time to save the day ( but only just).  The food was good and pretty inexpensive so hard to complain but the whole experience could be so much better with a rather less chaotic efficient system for ordering.

Later we went to our friends’ allotment to relieve some of the plants of their harvest burden as our friends were away.  While picking raspberries I was stood on one of the broad steps in the allotment when the fascia board supporting the step gave way and I found myself standing on air, clutching at nothing in an attempt to stop myself falling over.  I overbalanced and found myself, as if in slow motion, toppling backwards to the ground.

My limited experience of previous topples (and not a tipple in sight!) told me that when  one reaches the ground there is a tendency for the fall to stop, but in this case because of the steepness of the terrain, I kept on tumbling over.  I succeeded in stopping myself on about the third step down and lay there momentarily doing a quick audit of the various bits of my body looking for pain, but incredibly, I couldn’t feel any.

Standing up proved challenging as I was lying on a slope, albeit a sloping step.  When eventually I did, I was muddied but not bloodied so considered myself very lucky with scarce an ache or a pain.

Some time later with a bit of time to kill, we stopped at a hostelry we’d passed a number of times to have a quick ‘coffee’.   The Turtley Corn Mill markets itself as ‘not a pub with a garden’ but a ‘pub IN a garden’ and so it is – beautiful gardens with a lovely pub (former corn mill) in the middle.

We asked about coffee . . . Yes . . . then tea . . . still Yes . . . . we asked about cakes. . . scones OK? so two teas and scones ordered.  When they arrived, each tea was in a little individual cafetière-style teapot.

But then, the scones arrived and we were dumb-struck – scones still hot from the oven with more raisins than I’ve ever seen grace any scone; a huge ramekin of jam and another with clotted cream, garnished with a couple of strawberries and a sprig of mint.

Any meal should be more than the sum of the components and this was – possibly (and one can never be totally sure about this) the best by far cream tea we’d ever eaten.  It was as close as one could get to perfection in a cream tea.

We told them; they seemed pleased to be told; we paid; we left totally fulfilled.

And then later that day . . . . . . . . . .  (to be continued)


Quantity has a Quality All its Own

Monday 13 July 2015

Today’s caption was said by Joseph Stalin during World War 2 when it was pointed out to him that the Germans made tanks that were of much higher quality than Russian ones but could not manufacture nearly as many).

I’m not sure how one gets from Russian tanks to Asian food but I just did!

Much as I enjoy cooking it and happy as I may be with the results, it’s always a pleasure to visit an Indian restaurant (actually we refer to them as Indian but they’re nearly all Bangladeshi serving Punjabi food) to see how the professionals do things.

Sometimes it wants to be a really good restaurant like the 29029 in Sandford (written about a couple of weeks ago), but sometimes what I want is quantity and I get a hankering to do a  buffet.

I’ve had this hankering for a couple of weeks now but last night I indulged it; the Spice Bazaar restaurant in Dartmouth does a wonderful buffet every Sunday evening – £11.95 for all you can eat.

Starters were some lovely Malabar chicken pieces and onion bhajis (not one of my favourites but more than compensated for by the chicken) served with a salad.

To follow were Kashmir chicken, garlic lamb, a fish curry (and exceptionally nice it was too), potatoes and chick peas (channa aloo), dal and pilao rice.  Freshly made naan breads were brought to the table separately.

What I like is the variety which is why when  I make Asian food, I usually make 6-8 (at least) dishes, which of course feeds us for he next week or so.  To order that many dishes in a normal restaurant would cost a fortune and so we get back to the buffet.

Only criticism might be the choice of vegetable dish – something more ‘vegetably’ would have suited us better but it was very good to eat, excellent value, served by very pleasant local staff (unusually NOT Asian), and fulfilled my longing (well, hankering – ‘longing’ maybe a bit strong) for lots of different dishes.

Highly recommended (as indeed I did to the couple gazing at the menu outside as we were leaving).


Up the Lazy River

Sunday 12 July 2015

(Click to enlarge)

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Kenneth Grahame was spot-on in Ratty’s words of wisdom to Mole in ‘The Wind in the Willows’.  The only way in which his words could be possibly improved on would be to add “followed by a decent lunch”.

Which is exactly what we did on Friday.  Thursday had seen us driving to Devon beyond Exeter then up the hilly lanes  which lead to Dartmouth at the mouth of the river Dart (oddly enough!) to spend a few days with some friends.

Which is how on Friday we came to board their little boat and make our way upriver to the delightful village of Dittisham (pronounced Ditsum).  We disembarked on the little jetty there and soon found ourselves in the wonderful Anchorstone Café, an eclectic assortment of sheds, lean-tos and a large marquee, which overlooks the river and Agatha Christie’s summer retreat Greenways, serving the most magnificent food and excellent wines (including the local, very good Sharpham variety).

I partook of their prawn cocktail which, unlike most sitting tidily in a bowl or glass, sprawls inelegantly all over a large dinner plate and somehow tastes the better for it; followed by their take on a moûles frites (mussels in cider with cream with some skinny chips in a tin mug on the side).

Suitably refreshed, we reboarded the little boat and wended our weary way back to Dartmouth, whence we had come.

There’s just something special about boats and lunch!

Just Desserts

Wednesday 8 July 2015


Although I am very partial to a bit of the sweet stuff, I don’t ‘do’ many desserts.  In fact the number of desserts I do make can be quite probably counted on the fingers of one hand.

One to which I am very partial is the Italian favourite Tiramisu with the stress on the last syllable (and which means in Italian literally ‘pick me’ (tirami) and ‘up’ (su), so ‘pick me up’ – possibly a reference to the quantity of strong coffee in it!)

I used to make a kind of ‘diet’ version of this transcribed from an old BBC Food Program recipe substituting Greek yogurt for much of the mascarpone, but I decided recently that I really ought to up the ante on my desserts.

The new recipe is much better (old one was OK but that is not good enough for a dessert) and also based on a BBC recipe but this time it is claimed as the ‘ultimate’ tiramisu – I don’t know about that but it is very good and moreover, much easier and quicker than my original ‘diet’ recipe, so it scores on all counts.

Another I like to make because it delivers huge bang for buck is Eton Mess.

Eton Mess

Traditionally, this is made with strawberries, but, while I have nothing against those, they’re just not one of my favourites.  Perhaps it’s my Scottish blood, but raspberries, on the other hand, are very much a firm favourite and I like to use those, although it can be made with any red fruit.

Dead easy, incredibly delicious and fun to make, serve and eat, Eton mess ticks all the boxes for a good dessert.