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Wednesday 30 October 2013

A Trip to Cyprus with Cyprus Kebab House

The other week Rich and I discovered a secret little gem of a restaurant and in some ways I am loathed to tell you anything about it because I want it to remain a secret to those in the know. However because I am not an unkind being I have selfishly decided to share my findings with you.  So Rich has been going through a bit of a Greek food phase and after a little searching we tracked down the Cyprus Kebab House at the bottom of St Michael's Hill.  A kebab house? I hear you cry, yes that's right, a kebab house, well kind of. As you walk through the door you are greeted by the standard kebab house set up, however at the end of the counter there are a set of velvet curtains and if you walk through those you find yourselves in a little cosy restaurant. 

It is pretty dark inside with lots of candles dotted about and a love letter to Cyprus in the paintings on the wall. It may look a little rough round the edges in terms of decor but I felt that it only added to the restaurant's allure and we both started to feel as if we were miles away from Bristol having a meal out whilst on holiday. 
Cyprus Kebab House Bristol
Greek wine
We decided to share two small starters of halloumi and hummus to begin with whilst opting for the classic kleftiko and the mixed kebab for our mains.  A lovely older couple run the restaurant and the service was friendly yet quiet, all in all really rather charmingly old school I liked it.  The starters didn't take too long to make an appearance and in tandem with a rather large basket of warm pitta breads. A tasty hummus and some perfectly grilled halloumi, not massive portions but enough to wet our appetite for the main courses.
Cyprus Kebab House Bristol
Cyprus Kebab House Bristol
Cyprus Kebab House Bristol
mixed kebab
Cyprus Kebab House Bristol
salad to share
As you can see from the photos the mains were gigantic. If you do not have a big appetite then there isn't much point in coming here my kleftiko was a whole juicy lamb shank which fell off the bone beautifully and was very well seasoned.  I gave it my best shot but even I had a potato and a bit of lamb left over by the end it was a monster of a main. Rich's mixed kebab was also glorious the home made spicy sausage and minced pork kebabs being the highlights but again he was beaten by his main.  All mains are around the £10 mark which I think is astounding value for money. Stupidly we decided to go for a pudding as well,  despite being stuffed we picked the baklava and a rum cake. The desserts were alright but nothing astounding so if you feel tempted but are too full you're not missing the best dessert on the planet.

The Cyprus Kebab House was a genuine delight it was such surprisingly good food that we can't wait to return, although it did take us two days to recover from all that food. There was only one other occupied table when we went on a Thursday evening but I have heard that the weekends get pretty busy. So now that I have shared that secret check it out, but try not to tell everyone all at once! 

Friday 25 October 2013

Weekend Curry at Jubo Raj

Guest blog post from curry fanatic Phil where he gives you the low down on our most recent curry evening.

Lovers of curry are spoiled for choice in the vicinity of Cotham Hill, Jubo Raj, Garam Massala and Indian Ocean are all vying for your custom. After some deliberation we opted for Jubo Raj, which on a Saturday evening was busy enough to suggest it was worth trying but not so busy as to have to wait for a table.

Jubo Raj is at the more traditional end of the curry house market. The interior is pleasant enough, although the light is rather blue, and you will find all of your usual favourites on the menu. We opted to start with poppadoms and dips. They arrived warm and fresh and dips were fairly standard, although the raita was somewhat lacking in mint. Onto the main courses, Nehari Lamb was the standout dish, a lightly spiced masalla curry laced with slithers of fresh ginger. The ginger made for an interesting alternative to chili in providing the heat for the dish,  it was a cooked to perfection whilst maintaining a warming kick but without overpowering the rest of the dish.
Jubo Raj Bristol

Elsewhere the Deshi Lamb was less of a hit, advertised as a medium curry "slow cooked in lentils, green chillies, fresh herbs, spices and topped with egg and tomato" it certainly sounded the part, but ultimately it was a little bland for this curry lover. The mixed grill was described as "meaty" by the recipient, the lack of said meat left on the plate at the end of the meal suggests that it hit the mark. 
Jubo Raj Bristol
nehari lamb
Jubo Raj Bristol
deshi lamb
Lastly we enjoyed some complimentary treats with the bill, a delightful chocolate orange affair which scored very highly on my post meal chocometer. Whilst Jubo Raj may not be the best Indian restaurant on Cotham Hill, it's certainly in the top three. 

Next blog will be focusing on our visit to the Cyprus Kebab House, prepare to be amazed.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Saturday Afternoon Tea at Cox & Baloney

Afternoon tea in Bristol has been steadily making a bit of a comeback, it has definitely gained in popularity with more venues offering the service. About two Saturdays ago it was gloriously sunny and actually pretty hot, I had a date with Jamie and Jane and we were off to try Cox & Baloney on Cheltenham road.  We arrived around 2.30 and it was really busy, we had stupidly not booked a table but luckily fate was smiling down on us that day and a table was just exiting.  First off the bat Cox & Baloney is right up my street decor wise full of kitsch nicknacks and a shop next door with vintage clothing and petticoats galore. 
Cox and Baloney
wonderful record player sideboard providing the music
We sat down at a little table with mismatched chairs and a lovely chintzy tablecloth and enjoyed our surroundings. The first thing I will say is that the theme running through our visit there was the service. Everything took for ever to happen, our order was placed, then checked, then rechecked and then it arrived slightly wrong, the staff were really sweet but it all seemed a bit disordered. As I said it was really busy so it could have been an off day, however I have heard reports after  mentioning this to friends that they have had similar experiences.
Cox and Baloney menu

The menu was full of tempting delights and I kicked myself for having scoffed a bucket load of macaron's earlier in the day, for wedding food testing purposes of course, so I really didn't fancy a cream tea. Luckily Cox & Baloney have a good dose of non cakey things to please those of a more savoury tooth. Jane and Jamie both picked Ethel's cream tea tower for two and I settled on one of Thelma's toasties the mature cheddar, slow roasted ham and local chutney plus a pot of Daisy's homebrew tea, a mix of Earl grey and English breakfast.

Cox and Baloney

Cox and Baloney
Cox and Baloney
Cox and Baloney

As you can see the presentation for the cream tea was beautiful and according to the girls tasted amazing. It did make me rather jealous that I had not ordered one but there was no way my low level of sugar tolerance could take any more sugar that day. However my toastie was rather delicious, the cheddar was nice and strong, the ham thick but the pièce de résistance was that local chutney, it was sublime, forget your Branston pickle this was the real deal. It was tangy, sweet and yet very moreish, yes I realise this is just a chutney but oh what a chutney! I would love to know where this came from so if anyone has any tip offs let me know. 

Cox and Baloney
So the verdict? Cox & Baloney is a paradise for kitsch lovers like me, their food certainly cuts the mustard they just need to work on the service. However if you have no time limits do spend a leisurely afternoon in their comfy armchairs it is a wonderful way to while away the upcoming Autumnal days with a hot cup of tea in a proper teacup and saucer. I am looking forward to returning to sample the full afternoon tea experience, I shall clear a whole afternoon to devote to it's greatness. To check out what Cox & Baloney have to offer visit their website.

Monday 14 October 2013

Marrow Pickle From Vale House Kitchen

It's cold it's getting darker of an evening, basically we're all considering hibernating about now.  The upsides are eating lots of comfort food.  One of my favourite things to do of a dark evening is open a bottle of red and consume multiple cheeses. My cheese nights are some what legendary to those of whom have sampled them, the last I think consisted of 10 different cheeses to sample from and all the nibbles that go with such a board of delights. Anyway one of the recipes I learned on my course at Vale House Kitchen was marrow pickle, now marrow is not really one of those vegetables that people get all excited about, or even seem to think about in passing, however this little recipe might change all that.

You will need (makes 1 jar - easily multiplied for stockpiling or presents)
1 inch round chunk of marrow
1 small chilli
1 tsp pickling spice
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup caster sugar

De-seed and cut of some of the tough marrow skin but leaving about a third then slice into 1 centimetre chunks, then salt the marrow and leave in a bowl for 10 minutes. Afterwards squeeze the marrow slightly to get rid of any excess water and leave it on a clean tea towel. Slice the chilli in to small rounds.  Meanwhile heat up a pan and pop in the sugar and cider vinegar, let that dissolve and then pop in all the spices and chilli, simmer until the liquid has reduced by a third.
Marrow Pickle recipe
pickling marrows
Continue to cook the marrow until tender but still crunchy, we popped a lid on top of the frying pan to help and once the liquid has thickened spoon into a sterilized jar, this should keep unopened for about 3 months. I ate most of mine the following evening with a mature cheddar cheese, it was so much better than I could have even dreamed, crunchy and with a little kick.
Marrow Pickle recipe
almost ready to be sealed
Marrow Pickle recipe
inside the pickle jar
So I urge you all to give marrow a chance, this recipe will change your mind and will really help with saving the pennies in the run up to December. Let me know how you get on with Tim's recipe and what you pair it with. I am going to give it another go in a week or so and try and convert more people to marrow. Next blog posts will be on afternoon tea at Cox and Baloney and a curry at the Jubo Raj.

Monday 7 October 2013

Seasonal Cooking at Vale House Kitchen

Last month Sarah, from Wuthering Bites, and I were invited by Vale House Kitchen to try out a cookery course at the newly opened cookery school. We chose the one day seasonal cooking course and waited somewhat impatiently for the day to arrive. Vale House Kitchen, a country skills style cookery school is situated in a beautiful country house in Timsbury a picturesque village just 8 miles outside of Bath, and for non drivers they offer a shuttle service from Villa Magdala in Bath, which is a nice touch. To find out more about their story there is a great video here on their site that tells you their whole story of doing up the house and what they hope people will come to the school for. Before I start telling you more about my day on the course here is a photo of me and one of the Vale House Kitchen residents.

We were a class of 4, the maximum for each course is around 8-10 so you don't feel like you are being left behind at any stage and can easily ask for help before anything burns. Our course leader for the day was Tim Maddams, who after working for the likes of Mark Hix and Marco Pierre White, settled down in Devon working at River Cottage as head chef of the Axminster canteen and regularly featuring in the River Cottage TV series. Tim also runs his own creative food company called Green Sauce which you can find more about on their website. Tim is a wonderful teacher, really relaxed and so the mood of the day was fun, chatty but we also made a lot of food. I already find cooking relaxing and therapeutic, inherited from my mum she is wonderfully calm and serene in the kitchen, so I knew I was going to enjoy the day. 
Vale House Kitchen
our kitchen for the day
Vale House Kitchen

We headed upstairs to the beautifully light kitchen, the kitchen of my dreams essentially. We were greeted with mugs of tea by owner Bod Griffiths and his wife Annie, lovely friendly people, and Tim had made some gluten free drop scones to go with jam left over from one of their jam making courses. The raspberry and vanilla jam was heaven I could have eaten the whole plate, but manners restrained me from scoffing the lot.
Vale House Kitchen
Our first order of the day was bread. Now I don't know about you but I rarely even muster the energy to think about making bread. Bristol has some wonderful bakeries and it does seem like a lot of hard work, rather embarrassingly after starting I realised it wasn't at all. Tim had decided our loaf would be a white one with some rye thrown in for good measure, rustic and country style, perfect with lots of butter. Sarah meanwhile had some of the Doves farm gluten free flour and Tim was giving his best advice for a gluten free loaf, as they can be rather tricky to master.

Vale House Kitchen
after a few hours proving ready to be baked
I was rather pleased when Tim revealed that we would be making the dessert and it would be creme Catalan, something I am rather fond of but have never made. We whisked up the egg yolk (thank you hens), Yeo Valley cream and sugar and as a bonus we lined our earthenware dish with some foraged boysenberries and prepped the pud for the oven.
Vale House Kitchen
Tim advising us on creme Catalan
Whilst waiting for our dough to rise our next order of the day was a slow cooked courgette sauce to go with some fresh pasta. We watched as Tim showed us how to make a basic pasta dough, and as it's difficult  to make in small quantities for one we took some of his dough to roll out and make into shapes. I definitely got mine thin enough but when it comes to folding anything, paper or pasta I am useless, I managed to make some shapes but certainly not as neatly as everyone else.
Vale House Kitchen
To go with our home made pasta we made a slow cooked courgette dish which was a complete revelation, I have already added this to my regular mid week rotation. Courgettes are disliked by a lot of people I know, unfairly I feel, but this actually will change people's minds about them. We cooked them slow for quite a while in plenty of olive oil with lots of garlic plus rosemary until they were almost completely broken down, the flavour coming up from the pan was heavenly to a hungry me so it was food torture waiting to put the dish together. Luckily after a grating of parmesan we were ready to eat our lunch, which was just as well as my stomach was making loud lamentations.
Vale House Kitchen
How it was supposed to turn out
Vale House Kitchen
my version, not too shabby really
This was so delicious the flavour was so perfect, I made it again the other night with some added bacon and Rich, who is normally a bit unsure of courgettes, went back for seconds. A simple dinner idea that doesn't cost the earth this was possibly my favourite dish on the course, although the creme Catalan gave it some stiff competition. Immediately after lunch we started on our spiced marrow pickle, something I'd never made before and was surprised how simple it was I will go over this in more detail in the next blog post, where I will share Tim's pickle recipe for you to try at home, perfect with mature cheddar.

Our final dishes were all centred around partridge cooked two ways. We removed the legs and with tomatoes, herbs and garlic cooked them slowly for about an hour. Whilst this was cooking we popped in our loaves after their final prove. For the second way of cooking partridge we removed the breasts and seasoned and pan fried them about 1-2 minutes each side. After all that cooking we were rewarded by being allowed to eat our efforts, Bod had been busy in the kitchen downstairs making roasted rosemary new potatoes and squash to go with our partridge.
Vale House Kitchen
Tim's partridge 
Vale House Kitchen
my offering
creme Catalan with berries
blow torched by my own fair hands
Vale House Kitchen
just desserts
The meal was excellent, if I do say so myself, yes my presentation is certainly a bit more rough and ready compared to Tim's but he is a professional.  Having never been on a cookery course before I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it, it only gave me the bug to want to do some more. Vale House Kitchen offers a relaxed approach which for me really puts you at ease and it does feel like a nice family affair plus you know exactly where your food has come from, we tested Bod and he knows it all, quite the expert you see.  Also you will see below that my bread turned out rather well.
Vale House Kitchen
hearty country loaf
So if you fancy treating your food mad loved one to a course, or just feel like honing your skills, Vale House Kitchen has a great number of courses to sample all you have to do is decide which one you want. Courses start at £135 but you make a lot in your day, I was told on the jam making course they went home with a stock cupboard full of jam. Definitely somewhere I am considering sending my mum as I think it's really her thing and she'd really enjoy making some things she wouldn't normally cook. If you want to find out more about Vale House Kitchen visit their website. Stay tuned, the next blog will share the marrow pickle recipe that would be perfect for late December (I am refusing to say the word til next month) gifts. To see what Sarah made of the course read her blog post on Wuthering Bites.  

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Anniversary Celebrations at Entelia

Looking for a little Greek food in Bristol? Following on from our delicious lunch at Yume, Rich had a surprise up his sleeve for the evening. He had booked a restaurant for our anniversary dinner and I would only find out what it was when we arrived there, I love surprises so it was a lovely thing to do. Turned out Entelia was the surprise restaurant, definitely somewhere I hadn't been before so I was immediately excited about sampling the menu. I had no preconceptions of Entelia which sometimes makes a visit to a restaurant more enjoyable.

Greek restaurants are not something that are in abundance and I have only ever been to one or two before in my life but each time the food has been really enjoyable and it makes me wonder why there aren't more about. We ordered a bottle of Greek red and pawed over the menu I couldn't quite decide whether to go for a large selection of meze to share or to do the traditional starter, main set up. In the end Rich and I decided to share a couple of meze; the selection of dips with pittas, feta meli and some halloumi, it is Rich's favourite.  For my main I had a hankering for lamb, subliminal messages from the Greek themed decor, no doubt, so I picked the Paidakia, 24 hour marinated grilled lamb chops with Greek salad and chips, although rice is also an option. Rich had the steak with the same accompaniments.

Entelia Bristol
halloumi and dips
Entelia Bristol
feta meli
Best taramasalata I've ever had, I generally find it overly fishy, and I do like fish, and synthetic tasting but this was subtle, creamy and delicious I would just happily snack on it with pitta and carrots all night. The feta meli was wonderful, crisp in all the right places and the feta wasn't too rich but very creamy which meant the honey complimented it beautifully. So far we were really impressed and the portions were generous so we were already half full by the time the waiter came to clear our meze. It is important to note at this point, before I forget, that the service through out our meal was really attentive but not intrusive, it was noted when our glasses needed topping up and checks were made during each course that the food was to our tastes. And so on to the mains, you certainly won't go hungry at Entelia as you will see below.
Entelia Bristol
sirloin steak

Entelia Bristol
24 marinated lamb
Both meat mains were well seasoned and well cooked, Rich's steak came rare just as he asked and was a tasty cut of meat. My lamb chops could have been a bit pinker for my liking but they tasted great and I have to say the amount of crunchy salad they provided on the side was refreshingly good. Entelia get top marks for cooking proper chips so they were crunchy yet fluffy and well salted. All in all great starters and mains plus the Greek wine was very drinkable, never had Greek wine before and was pleased by how smooth tasting it was.  Rich and I had just about enough room for a dessert to share, who can resist baklava? Certainly not us so we ordered some to share and sipped the last of our wine.
Entelia Bristol
baklava with cinnamon topped ice cream
A nice end to the meal, although I prefer little individual baklava this was delicious particularly with the cinnamon sprinkled ice cream. We left full of food and warmed by the parting shot of fruity liqueur that came with the bill. Entelia surprised me by how good the food was, Rich always has good taste but he did extra well this time. We will be returning, especially as we received a 10% off card for our next visit. To find out more about Entelia and their early evening deals check out their website.