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Tuesday 29 January 2013

Cocktail Classes at The Colour Inn

A mini post about cocktail making classes, definitely something different to consider when thinking about evenings out.

Just before Christmas our friend Abi had booked 4 of us in for cocktail making classes at The Colour Inn in a veiled attempt to get us learning as we drink. For £25 we had a glass of fizz and learned how to make 3 cocktails which I thought was a bit of a steal for 2 hours of entertainment. We arrived just after 7 and parked ourselves on the bar stools greeted by a glass of prosecco. Jason the bar manager was fun and informative throughout and we relaxed into the evening rather too easily. We were first taught out to make a classic Champagne cocktail, a French 75 made with gin, lemon, sugars and topped with fizz. A cocktail created at the New York Bar in Paris in 1915, totally refreshing and delicious, definitely something I will be trying again. 

The Colour Inn Bristol
Just some of the many cocktails we drank and made
The next cocktail on the list was a Cosmopolitan, almost synonymous in many women's mind's with Sex and the City, my personal TV bête noire, but it's definitely not a cocktail that should be overlooked as it's actually pretty complex in flavour. We were shown how to get an intense orange flavour by lighting the orange oil from the peel as you squeeze it. This forms a mist of burnt orange oil over the surface of the cocktail and really makes it something special, you can also get a similar flavour by twisting the peel but it's not as intense. Much fun was had trying not to set our hands on fire.

Cocktails in Bristol
Rich lighting orange oil over his Cosmo
Our final cocktail, by request, was a Pink Squirrel. I had had one of these at the 80s night the Colour Inn put on a number of month's back. A cocktail invented in the 60s and is definitely kitsch but less well known than other kitsch cocktails like the Pina Colada. This cocktail is fairly sweet but tastes just like cake and is therefore delicious. We have already replicated this at home so here is the recipe for you.

Pink Squirrel:
25ml Chambord
25ml Creme de Cacao
50ml Cream
Ice for shaking

Measure out all the liquids into your cocktail shaker, add ice to the top. Shake for about 30 seconds and then use the strainer on the lid to pour into a Martini glass. 
The Colour Inn Bristol
Pink Squirrel
So if you are looking for something different to do in a small group, check out what cocktail making packages the Colour Inn has to offer it definitely has enthused us to dust off our cocktail shakers and experiment a little bit more with our drinks at home. To see what cocktail classroom packages The Colour Inn has to offer, visit their website.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Paul Cooks: Pappardelle with Venison Ragu

Hopefully we have here what will be a semi regular guest contributor, Paul. He works with me and with being half Italian and all is known to be quite the chef and massive foodie. Often we see his photos on Facebook of the meals he's prepared and the effort he's made it far out surpasses what I have made on a  standard Monday night. Last night was no exception, up pops a photo of his meal, he'd only gone and made pappardelle with venison ragu. So after drooling at the screen for a few minutes I managed to cajole him into writing up the recipe, so without further ado, here's Paul.

It’s cold outside, the snow underfoot has bypassed its metamorphosis into slush by freezing steadfastly into life threatening black ice thus making the trip back home, be it by foot or by wheeled vehicle, all the more treacherous. In addition to that, it’s dark and those winter blues are proving hard to shift. It’s fair to say that everyone in the UK has experienced this over the last couple of days and if you’re like me, the only way to appease such an annoyance is to concoct a dish so comforting that it feels like being hugged by a million duvets. Well, at least that’s how I felt after preparing, cooking and enthusiastically devouring this sumptuous dish. Fancy giving it a go? Here’s how I made mine:
Pappardelle with venison ragu
Pappardelle with Venison Ragu
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2 to 3 hours
Serves 4

400 grams of diced venison
150 grams of minced pork
3 anchovy fillets in olive oil
1 large onion - diced
3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
1 stick of celery – chopped into half inch discs
5 chestnut mushrooms – quartered
1/2 a carrot – chopped into half inch discs then halved
1 red pepper – chopped into half inch slithers
1 green chilli – finely chopped
6 pitted green olives (optional) – chopped in half
1 tblsp of tomato puree
400g of chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp of tomato passata
Half a bottle of good red wine
250ml of beef stock
2 tblsp of olive oil
1 tsp of Balsamic vinegar
3 sprigs of Thyme
2 sprigs of Rosemary
1 star of Star Anise
350 grams of egg Pappardelle

Start off by checking the venison for any bits of sinew and remove them with a sharp knife as these bits of sinew will prevent the meat from dissolving into the sauce during cooking. Season the meat well with salt and pepper then lightly dust with flour. Heat a large cast iron casserole dish on the hob at a medium heat then add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the anchovy fillets and stir them into the oil until they have dissolved. Add the venison chunks and sear them on all sides then remove and place in a separate bowl.

Add the minced pork to the casserole dish and leave to fry until brown. Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables. Once the pork mince is browned and starting to crisp up, scoop it out of the casserole dish and put it in the same bowl as the venison and leave the casserole dish on the hob with the remaining oil on the hob but reduce the heat to low/medium.

Add the diced onion, celery and peppers first and gently fry for 5 minutes, then add the carrots, mushrooms and chilli and give the whole ‘soffritto’(this is the word for the vegetable base of a sauce) a good stir. Once the vegetables have softened and started to brown at the edges, add the chopped garlic and fry for no more than one minute, careful not to burn it. Add the tomato puree and stir it into the vegetables to give them a good coating. Fry for another 5 minutes so that the puree is cooked through then add the venison and minced pork and stir well into the mix.

Add the beef stock, stir and bring it to a simmer before adding the chopped tomatoes and stir in well and bring it to a simmer. Add the wine, thyme and rosemary sprigs and stir in well. Finally, grind some black pepper into the mix, give it a quick stir then cover the casserole dish with the lid and allow to simmer for approximately 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes and giving a good stir to the sauce.

After 2 hours, remove the lid from the casserole and if there are any chunks of venison which haven’t yet dissolved into the sauce, gently press them against the side of the casserole and stir. Add the passata, balsamic vinegar and chopped olives(if you like them – some people don’t), stir and reduce the heat to a low setting then leave the dish to very gently simmer for about half an hour.

In the meantime, boil a large tall sided pan of water and once it reaches boiling point, add a handful of salt.
Add the pappardelle and cook for 7 minutes or however long the packet says is needed. I usually take off one minute from their suggested time to ensure the pasta is ‘al dente’ but this is entirely up to you. While the pasta is cooking, add the star anise to the casserole dish and stir it in but be careful not to ‘lose’ it in the sauce, as it will present you or your guests with a very hard thing to bite through once dinner is served. Remember to scoop it out and discard before serving, along with the stems of the thyme and rosemary sprigs.

Once the pasta is cooked to taste, drain well and then place it back in the tall sided pan. Pour in the sauce and stir well so that the pappardelle have a good coating of the sauce. Season to taste then serve with grated parmesan on top if required.


A few things worth mentioning about making this sauce is that the longer you leave it, the better it will taste. It can even be left on the hob at a very low heat overnight to ensure the flavours meld together more and that the meat truly dissolves into the sauce. It’s also very important to taste the sauce at regular intervals to check if there’s enough seasoning, herbs, chilli, salt etc..

Also, the inclusion of anchovies may alarm some people but rest assured, the purpose is not to add a taste of fish to the sauce but rather to give the oil used to fry the venison, then the pork and then the vegetables a meaty saltiness that only anchovies can give. Best of all, this dish is perfect leftover food and will probably taste much better as your lunch at work than it did as dinner the night before.
Pappardelle with venison ragu
My sample of  the dish thank's to Paul
Thanks Paul, I can vouch for that, I was fortunate enough to be given a sample for my lunch today. It was heaven on a plate. Here's to the next instalment.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Best of the Wurst: Berlin Bites

 Our 4 night trip to Berlin with friends was a wonderful and special one, although probably not great for our livers. Berlin is a very interesting city, for me it did feel like stepping back into a time warp, the prices were about 10-20 years behind us and some of the areas resisting gentrification would not look out of place in 1980s Britain in my opinion. 
Berlin Cathedral and Tv Tower at Alexanderplatz
It is an extremely charming city and we all fell completely in love with one bar in particular. Van Gogh's by the Friedrichstrasse S-bahn stop was in all ways, absolutely perfect. A classic cocktail bar, wall covered with reprints by the artist, piano lodged in the corner and a good sized cocktail menu but also some nice beers for the traditionalists. We also enjoyed Meisterschueler bar (where we got engaged) where we went on New Years Eve it had a great selection of cocktails and a beautiful view of the river Spree and all the fireworks that went on.
Van Gogh Bar Berlin
Chilling in Van Gogh bar
During this trip and the many weeks leading up to it had led to one word being mentioned more than any other and that was wurst. Puns like "it was my wurst decision" and "it was the best of times it was the wurst  of times" populated our pub trips pre Berlin and haunted my waking moments whilst in Berlin, thanks mainly to Rich and Bud. But wurst is absolutely everywhere, currywurst stands populate every street corner, and if that's not enough every 4th shop was also providing access to Berlin's favourite on-the-go food. Having said that the quality and taste of these sausages was amazing, they know their wurst and they do it superbly so we did eat rather a lot of them. 
Berlin Krakauer
Krakauer (wurst with paprika and chilli)
Standard Bockwurst
Berlin Currywurst
Inebriated currywurst complete with freshly made mayo
Berlin Currywurst
Currywurst from Berliner Republik Bar
Currywurst, invented in 1949 in Berlin, is something we had not tried before and the sauce is so simple (or so it seems from watching the stalls make it up) but really delicious. Curry powder infused ketchup, paprika a touch of mustard and more curry powder, sounds like something a student could have knocked up but it totally works. These were a welcome late night snack on New Years Eve after hours of cocktails, a proposal and so many fireworks it felt a bit like a war zone every time you ventured outside.

I imagine being a vegetarian in Germany must be tricky because meat is everywhere, but a friend of ours who had also visited Berlin (and was a veggie) said she mostly survived on the many Vietnamese street noodle vendors that populate the central districts. The meat quality in Berlin, and I imagine the rest of Germany, we found to be superb none more so than when we went for a lunch steak for Bud's birthday at one of the Blockhouse restaurants. From first glance it seemed sort of like the Angus Steak Houses you get all over London, but I couldn't have been more wrong. This was a different league. 
Bud's Birthday T-bone
my perfectly cooked rib eye
Exceedingly good steaks, perfectly cooked and well flavoured. Each steak meal comes with a salad, a jacket potato topped with sour cream and chives and a piece of garlic bread. It was easily in my top five steaks I've ever had, I doubt you would get this level of quality in a chain steak restaurant in the UK. So if you find yourself in Germany Blockhouse has 32 restaurants scattered around the place, fancy a steak definitely give this a try. 

Whilst we were over in Berlin we also took in two sushi restaurants. Goko on New Year's Eve and Ha-An on Bud's birthday evening. Both differed wildly in quality and price. Goko was definitely on the pricey side with it's actual sushi. A very traditional sushi restaurant specialising in sashimi. The sashimi sets were priced fairly high the most expensive being 20€ for 9 slices, so most of us ordered a salmon or chicken don and some side dishes to share. Goko did not impress me, the sashimi that Rich and I had was a bit mushy and at 40€ per person in total it was not cheap. 
Goko's Teriyaki Salmon Don
Luckily two days later we stumbled upon a gem of a Vietnamese/Japanese joint restaurant called Ha-An in the Prenzlauer Berg district which was truly delicious. Definitely recommended if you go to that area and the food is very reasonably priced and the service friendly. Rich and I shared a 2 person sushi set for 25€ which came with a bowl of miso soup, and optional tea, if you don't fancy the tea they will happily swap it for a bit more sushi at no extra cost, which we accepted. The sushi was some of the best I've ever had. The classics were done well but they also through their own version of Bristol restaurant Obento's famous dynamite roll but rolled in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) rather than fried in tempura.
sushi set at Ha-An
We also ate lunch at a restaurant in the Sony Centre which doesn't worth mentioning as it was very poor indeed and expensive so avoid Corroborree we went there in desperation and regretted it afterwards, the food was awful and the service was surly. Our last German morsel was stopping for a bite of apple cake whilst waiting to get the train to the airport. It was rather delicious even if it turned out to be a cake/pie hybrid.
So all in all a great foodie trip, although very meat based, plus I came back with a ring on my finger, which is always nice. I also returned with an addiction to Berliner Weisse, especially in green, a wheat beer with flavoured syrups the green one is made from Woodruff and is extremely lurid in colour. I am looking forward to returning to Berlin and exploring more of Prenzlauer Berg where all of the quirky bars seem to be if you have any recommendations for our next visit please send them to us.
Berliner Weisse Raspberry

Friday 11 January 2013

Quick Lunch at Roosters Piri Piri

A second piri piri venue on Park Street. Roosters is a smaller chain of about 25 restaurants, the Bristol one opened up about 6 months ago. Brave is the restaurant that dares to take on the ever popular large Nandos chain especially on the same street. Rich and I decided to check out Roosters which is just a few doors down from what many consider to be chicken mecca. I was full of cold and feeling rather sorry for myself so I had decided to up the heat on my piri piri once I ordered it.

Roosters sticks to a minimalist look of white and green and actually I was surprised to see a number of booths in which to eat your meal should you not want to do takeaway. I had assumed it was more takeaway than restaurant, but it seems to have hovered between the two. The menu covers all chicken bases, with burgers, pittas, satay sticks, wings and chicken quarters. I went for a 1/4 chicken with medium sauce with a side of wings to share, dowsed in hot piri piri glaze. Rich picked a large hot piri piri chicken pitta both coming with fries.
Roosters Piri Piri Bristol
Hot Piri Piri Wings
Roosters Piri Piri Bristol
1/4 medium chicken and fries
Served on faux slate boards all I can say is Nandos had better watch their backs. The fries are fries as  you would normally expect but the chicken was superb. The glaze tastes fresh and really home made like a proper piri piri marinade. I am glad I didn't order a hot in my main meal as the wings were very spicy indeed. The marinade seemed to be a mix of chilli, lime and possibly yoghurt, whatever it was it was delicious, juicy and totally blew me away, and that wasn't just because of the insane heat coming from the hot wings. 
Roosters Piri Piri Bristol
Rich's chicken in pitta
The pitta was filled generously with large strips of spicy chicken breast and salad, the only downside was the pitta fell apart almost immediately, it would be good if they found a solution to this as it makes for extremely messy eating. My lips were still tingling as we walked up the rest of Park Street, it had certainly helped my cold. I wasn't expecting much from Roosters if I am honest but I am happy to report that I completely underestimated the high quality and flavour that they delivered with their chicken, it blows Nandos out of the water. 

Our meal for two including drinks came to about £15 which is a total bargain, you can get even better deals depending how hungry you are. So if you are heading up to Nandos on Park Street stop a moment and give Roosters a try instead, the flavour is just so much better and you will get a better deal. Check out the menu and options on their website.

Monday 7 January 2013

New Year, New Soup: Patatas Bravas

Happy New Year to you all! Hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Years Eve? Rich and I went to Berlin, and got engaged so that was very exciting and unexpected we are very happy and look forward to sharing the celebrations with friends, there will be a food travel blog post on Berlin at some point this month, so am looking forward to sharing that with you. This month is always notoriously frugal so once we returned from Germany I went to Reg the Veg in Clifton village and bought up a stack of soup making vegetables. I had two soups in mind for this week, spicy squash, red pepper and coconut and last night's soup of patatas bravas.

A favourite on the tapas scene I was keen to try and recreate the taste of this dish in a soup, inspired by one of mum's gifts to Rich, some gorgeous Pimentón de la Vera as part of a Christmas present, I was determined it's first use would be a tasty one. Plus the packaging is right up my street and very kitsch but the wonderful smoky sweet smell that rises from the open tin is heavenly. 
Reg the Veg Bristol
Some of Reg the Veg's wares
I used the following ingredients:
1 small onion
1 crushed clove of garlic
2 large potatoes chopped into cubes
1 pepper chopped into pieces
Half a ring of chorizo chopped into bits
2-3 chargrilled peppers from a jar chopped finely
2-3 beef tomatoes chopped small
A good squeeze of tomato puree
2-3 teaspoons of pimenton
1 and a half pints of chicken stock
A good helping of chilli flakes, a pinch of cumin plus healthy shakes of salt and pepper

So I chopped a small onion, and two inches of the chorizo ring and let that sizzle away with the chilli flakes, I then added all the vegetables, puree, spices and then the stock. I let this cook happily away with the lid on for about an hour and then let it cool whilst I went to pilates class. When I returned I used my hand blender to blitz the soup into a puree then I added some more chopped chorizo whilst I heated it up to serve with some crusty bread. It was very easy indeed and I was glad that it tasted just like patatas bravas, it fed me for  lunch today and will tomorrow as well. 

Patatas Bravas Soup Recipe
Today's lunch
Patatas Bravas Soup Recipe
Close up, with crackers topped with brie and caramelised onion chutney
Next blog posts will include our review of lunch from peri peri chicken place Roosters on Park Street and meat filled German meals. But in the mean time enjoy this recipe and thanks for all the congratulations we've received on Twitter so far.