RECIPE: Mexican street food salad with chilli garlic prawns


Who doesn't like a RIOT of colour on their plate? This salad, inspired by one on the menu at La Choza is uplifting, satisfying and healthy. Adding chilli garlic prawns gives it a little more substance for a complete meal but would also be good with shredded chilli marinated chicken too.

The only effort is shredding everything, not so much if you have a good food processor but I zip everything through my mandolin because I like a little danger in my life.



Mexican Street Food Salad with Chilli Garlic Prawns
Serves 2

Ingredients
Half a red cabbage, shredded finely
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin discs
100g radishes, sliced into thin discs
Half red onion, shredded finely
Large handful of coriander, roughly torn

Dressing
Olive oil
Juice from 1 lime
Green chilli, finely chopped
Sea salt

Chilli prawns
Olive oil
200g raw king prawns, defrosted if frozen
Clove of garlic, crushed
Red chilli, finely chopped
Sea Salt

To serve 
Optional - sliced ripe avocado and toasted tortillas

Method
Prepare all of the ingredients for the salad base using a mandolin, food processor or sharp knife and patience.

Heat the olive oil for the prawns in a large frying pan, add the chilli (to your heat preference) and garlic, fry for a few seconds then add the prawns. Fry for a few minutes, turning regularly until cooked through. Season.

Dress the salad with a good glug of olive oil, lime juice (you need a lot) and green chilli (to your heat preference). Season with salt if it needs it.

Arrange on a plate, top with the prawns with the avocado slices along with the toasted tortillas if using.

RECIPE: Risi E Bisi, a classic Venetian dish


We're slap bang in the middle of a fashion for ever increasingly complex food where everything needs to be processed and bothered with sodium alginate, maltodextrin or methyl cellulose powder to impress us. But I find myself craving simplicity more and more.

Admittedly there is something admirable about the skill and techniques used by leading chefs to dehydrate, sphere and transform everyday foods into something unrecognisable, but for me, the real talent of cooking comes from turning a handful of simple ingredients into something delicious. Mammas of Italy have been doing this for centuries, and cucina povera is something that Italy still celebrates. It's the ultimate respect of food, be it the humble tomato or a piece of guanciale.

Risi and Bisi isn't actually from my region (Abruzzo), but a dish from Venice. But nine times out of ten, if I'm home alone, I'll be cooking this for myself. Essentially it's the Italian equivalent of rice and peas, a little like risotto but far soupier.  As with all simple recipes, they are made better by great quality so the recipe lists some pointers to make it really special.

Either way, I'd generally rather have a plate of this than a dish of dehydrated mackerel cheeks with popcorn powder.

Serves 4

2tbs Olive oil
Small white onion, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, crushed
60g of pancetta, cut into small cubes (not too much of the fat)
400g peas, frozen is fine but freshly shelled is best when in season
200g of rice, vialone nano, aborio or carneroli
Few stalks of flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
1ltr chicken stock, best you can
Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until slightly transparent and without colour.
Add the pancetta and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the peas, garlic, rice and parsley and fry again for 1-2 minutes until well coated. 

Add the hot stock and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the rice is tender. If the rice absorbs too much of the stock just add a little more boiling water, you want to retain a slightly soupy consistency. 

Season to taste with salt and freshly grated Parmesan, which will give the dish a slight creaminess.

REVISIT and REVIEW: La Choza, Brighton (Hare and Hounds and main restaurant)



It's been so long since I visited La Choza, the people who brought the sort of Mexican food I actually want to eat to Brighton. Formally, the offering was absolutely terrible and you'd only go for a stodgy tex-mex stomach liner prior to your big night out.

But up rocked La Choza in all of its shocking pink glory and we loved it.  The food was fresher, the flavours vibrant and the environment was fun. Service was a bit hit and miss and quite slow though and the last few times I tried to fit in a visit during a work lunch, my food would turn up an indigestion inducing 10 minutes before I had to rush back to my desk.

So yes, its been a while but then this week has seen me visit twice, once at the original restaurant and my first trip to the Hare and Hounds site (don't mention it as the new Shoreditch, don't mention it as the new Shoreditch, don't...)



My standard order was always the burrito with 14-hour pulled pork and hot sauce. A feed and a half. But time to diversify, so I chose the soft corn taco’s with chicken and their homemade chorizo. This was a lighter, fresher choice and I was very pleased with it. There was plenty of crunch from the shredded radish and the chicken was juicy and packed with flavour. The house chorizo was crumbled and spiced beautifully, probably very different in texture to what most would expect from it. I'm also a total chilli head so appreciated all of the fresh slices over it as well as the crunchy side salad.



My friend had the awesome street food salad which is a citrus and heat heavy with plenty of crunch and interest. There are also some pretty good specials to look out for like mackerel, seabass, mutton, goat and even cactus.

We did make an almost embarrassing point of needing our order within the hour and food arrived with a good leisurely half hour to enjoy. The staff were particularly lovely that day actually, engaging and fun.

A few days later I popped over to the Hare and Hounds which houses the La Choza pop up kitchen. This time I went for their burrito bowl which was layered with refried beans, green rice, cheese and sour cream. I topped this with the slow cooked beef.



This time the food turned up almost alarmingly quickly. I think I managed to pay, take a photo of the sign and sat down as the first of the plates turned up. I was less enamoured with the burrito bowl here, just mainly for the fact that the cheese had been melted into a congealed, greasy single layer which acted as a lid to the rest of the ingredients underneath. I imagine Mr. Microwave was at play here. Shame as the rest was good. The meats seem to be what La Choza really pin down well, the beef had a lot of spice, not just from gratuitous heat, but with subtle undertones of mellow spice and herbs.

We also ordered a bowl of nachos which I imagine go down a treat with the drinkers in the pub at munchie o'clock.

I'm glad I remembered how much I like La Choza. Although I may stick to the original venue (but eating in pubs is not really my thing and hell, the restaurant looks like a joyous fluro pinata on overdrive - I love it), the food is sunny, uplifting and invigorating. I sure won't be leaving it so long until my next trip.

http://www.lachoza.co.uk/

Main Restaurant:
36 Gloucester Rd,
Brighton, BN1 4AQ

Hare and Hounds:
London Road

COMPETITION: Win a set of Tefal Ingenio Induction pans worth £250


As you may have seen, I've been putting these pans to the test over the last five months and boy, have they been tested. You can read my original review here and my updated review here. In a nutshell though, I'm a huge fan of them.

But there's nothing better than trying them out yourselves! Tefal have been super kind and offered a full 13-piece set of Ingenio Induction pans (that can be used on all types of hob) for me to giveaway.



To enter, simply follow the Rafflecopter instructions below. Good luck! (UK entries only.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PRODUCT REVIEW: Tefal Ingenio range (updated)



As promised, here is an update on how I'm getting on with my Tefal Ingenio pans. So, five months
later what do I think?

To be honest, I thought I would have taken my trusted stainless steel set out of storage but the only ones that have made their way back in the kitchen are are the small pans for heating my toddlers dinners or to cook small servings of pasta and rice and my gigantic pasta pot. ('Cause this mamma can't sleep at night unless I can cook for 40 people at the drop of a hat.)

Now, I use my pans heavily and need to be on the stove a good three times a day. The things I was most concerned about was the non-stick coating and any damage caused by the snap on handles.


As you can see, the non stick surface is still box-fresh silky smooth and to be honest out of all of my non-stick pans this is the best I have seen. Remember my age-old Tefal Wok? Still going strong and i imagine it's the same story for these pans.


The handle scratch is very minimal with only a tiny amount of the coating at the ridge rubbed off. The handles clip on very firmly (a good thing!) so it's surprising there isn't more of an issue. In fact, I only really use the handles for draining or tossing during frying.

Biggest surprise is that I've used them a lot in the oven in place of my trays, mainly because they are so much easier to clean. If I'm cooking meat, fish or potato wedges they will all go in the large frying pan. Also nothing sticks so no scraping or catching and things like the potatoes will crisp up even better as the coating will gently fry them a little if you have included fat.

I've found the heat distribution particularly excellent. These pans are a good weight but even the large frying pan, the outer edges heat and cook very well.

The only negative is that I'm still not a fan of the glass lids with rubber seals, but don't really use lids in cooking. (I think this is mainly an aesthetic issue for me though.)

My kitchen storage is so much neater - the removable handles are a dream and I think I've only got annoyed once or twice where I needed a handle on the pan asap and needed to hunt one down. Although the pans now fit in the dishwasher with no handles, they are so easy to clean that I rarely bother. Bye bye scrubbing.

They also sent me two new pieces to try; a pasta colander insert for the 20cm pan. This doesn't disrupt the neat storage, which is a big USP of the Ingenio range as it still sits neatly with the whole set. I really liked that they had thought about a good solution for the clip on handles which snap onto either the pan or the colander depending on if you are cooking or draining. It's great quality as expected and yeah, I've used it quite a bit actually.


The next item was a grill insert for either the 26cm or 28cm frying pan. As I'm using these pans so much in the oven the grill insert is also handy, especially if you are trying to be a bit healthier and drain off fats from meats. It's also good for roasting vegetables.


So all in all it's safe to say I've been converted to the coated pan and have been really, really pleased with them. If you are looking for a coated set of pans (that also have a storage and multi-tasking bonus), then I can't see how you could better these ones really in terms of quality.

I was sent the Tefal Ingenio pan set for review. Opinions, as always, are my own.

REVIEW: The Cow, Brighton


The Cow can be found in the heart of Seven Dials, where the very popular Tin Drum used to be.  I have been hearing some very good feedback about the food, including my boss about the Sunday roast and he is one hard man to please with dining!

The interior is large, pleasant and attracts quite a variety of diner. There is plenty of buggy space for parents and there were also a few workmen, single diners and workers on laptops in when I visited at lunchtime. I think they have tried to go for a rustic, eclectic look which at some points looks like the Wild West section at Disneyland - all cow print and Western fonts, but overall it just about works. Being owned by the local Indigo pub group, there is always that corporate brand touch that comes with chain ownership I suppose.

The menu is quite varied with bar snacks and cakes for the minor munchies plus small bites, sandwiches, burgers, sharing plates and a few mains.

The deals are also reasonable and the lunchtime 3 small plates for £10 seemed pretty good. Junior Foodie was with me and a variety of food is damage limitation on potential rejection of a single dish. (All parents of toddlers nodding right now.) I also ordered a plate of fish goujons which on reflection was a bit crazy as the three plates were a feast in themselves. There is a kid's menu available, but to be honest, these days my three year old is more at home sharing my food or with small plates off main menus.


My favourie dish was probably the lightly spiced cauliflower pakoras. There was plenty going on in there with fresh herbs and were well seasoned.


Calimari wern't too bad. The herb batter was good and carrot ribbon and rocket salad fresh and crunchy. I wouldn't expect the best quality calimari in a pub and this met my assumtions by being on the chewy side. Still, not the worst I've ever had and I've paid far more in the past in fish restaurants for a plate of essentlially tyre trimmings.

As the beef noodle salad went down so well, I didn't even have a chance to get a snap before kiddo had half devoured it. The little guy is a noodle monster. The Asian dressing on the rice noodles was fresh and vibrant with crunchy raw cabbage. The thin beef strips were very interesting, cooked to almost a beef jerky driness (I don't mean that to be a bad thing) and were very savoury and crunchy.


Sometimes fish gougons are just reformed, gloopy fish pulp but I was happy to find fat white fish strips that flaked beautifully, held together by the crisp batter. These were only about £5 or £6 so not bad at all.

The only niggle I had really was the generic pots of dip that seemed to accompany every dish which could have had a bit more thought put into.

But I was quite impressed with the food  I tried and will definitely return for more of the menu (although pretty difficult to order burgers with the excellent Coggings and Co next door). Don't go expecting fireworks or anything particularly inventive with the food, but as modern pub grub goes, the Cow does it very well.

The staff were also very accommodating to children with kids cutlery etc., I guess being in the popular family area of Seven Dials they must be used to little diners. As the space was so large, you also don't feel like you are in the way or disturbing other people too much, which makes for a more relaxing experience for parents.

This pub also champions craft beer with a choice of "craft on draught" and bottled beers from the UK, USA and further afield. I can imagine that The Cow feels very different come nighttime with a bustling atmosphere and I like places like this that nail that round the clock use from breakfast to boozing. Every neighbourhood should have one.

The Cow
95/97 Dyke Road, Brighton



For more buggy friendly cafes visit my guide:
http://www.thegraphicfoodie.co.uk/2014/04/gf-guides-buggy-friendly-cafes-in.html


REVIEW: Hungryhouse.co.uk and the UK's second best takeaway

So here I am on the third leg of my food home delivery service and it's a biggie. This time I'm trying out the UK's second best takeaway as voted by hungryhouse's customers from more than 10,000 restaurants. The vote is based on "their consistently positive customer ratings, their ability to deliver food to hungry customers without fail, and their high Food Hygiene Rating scores". All good news to me.

Being new to food delivery (um, I have a kitchen) I have been keen on sticking to restaurant grade food rather than the popular  pizza, kebab, burger and Anglo-Chinese/Indian food, as I think there is a real market for quality food to your home. But if the second best takeaway is in my hometown I have some sort of obligation to comment on it right? 


Let's start with the positives. Hungryhouse.co.uk is a lovely site to order food from. Well built, well designed, efficient and clear, it doesn't take you long to get your transaction through. Restaurant and cuisines are easily searched and menus well formatted. The order tally is easy to chop and change through and there are some good ideas for ordering based on other consumers.



Account set up, payment and notifications are all well thought about. So yes, hungryhouse is definitely up there with the better of the food delivery sites I've been using in my reviews. 



But to the food. SmoQue Grill has been getting some very good press following their award, which to be honest, surprised me for what looks like an ordinary burger takeaway joint. 

And what turned up were pretty ordinary burgers. I can't say i particularly enjoyed my meal. Maybe I've never had a home delivery of burgers and maybe they travel just as badly as pizza (which in my book should be eaten scorching from the oven, not out of a box). The burgers were lukewarm and the fries, onion rings and wedges soft, stodgy and droopy. Even the homemade coleslaw was criminally under seasoned. 

I went for a Southern Classic Burger which is their seasonal promotion burger. Firstly I really didn't like the soft, floury bun. It was lacking any flavour or texture. The handmade beef patty was fine but I've had richer and more succulent before. Not appealing was the thick slices of mushrooms, barely cooked and spongy, a stodgy onion ring and claggy cheese. It was all too much, and a very obscure combination. I had high hopes also for the SmoQue bacon, thinking of some lovely house smoked style but to me seemed very ordinary. 

Slightly better were the Smoque bacon cheese deluxe burgers. The glazed brioche bun far better and the flavour of the patty had a chance to come through even with "smoqued" streaky bacon, American cheese, melted Swiss cheese, coleslaw, tomatoes and lettuce.

Totally unremarkable really. I dread to think who came in at No. 10,000. Maybe I'm not the target market for beige food. You see scores of people on the telly on those fat programmes with their weekly intake of food laid out to shame them in a sad manilla rectangle. Maybe this is for them.

Personally I like my
food fresher, crisper, full of vibrant flavour and texture. I still like the idea of ordering food from your favourite restaurant and there are quite a few places in Brighton that do it so well. I'm not even against the occasional burger and satisfy my craving at Burger Brothers, MeatLiquor or Coggings and Co.

So yes, maybe SmoQue Grill were rated based on the practical side of the takeaway and tick the delivery speed, efficiency and Food Hygiene Rating score boxes (all important) but for me they missed the mark with the food (most important).