Madame Gourmand
30. 03. 2015

Love Food Hate Waste aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste and help us take action. It shows that by doing some easy practical everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which will ultimately benefit our purses and the environment too. Discover more at lovefoodhatewaste.com

Meal Planning

Plan meals in advance. This takes a little extra time up front, but not having to think of meals in the supermarket and then getting home and finding out you have bought loads but nothing that could be turned into a meal makes it all worthwhile. Check out our handy meal planner  http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/two-week-menu to get you started.

Storage

Most of us think we know how to store food but this is often based on habit and not on what’s best for our food. Most foods can be frozen for another time, and you can always freeze right up to the use-by date (when you need it just defrost overnight in the fridge and use within 24 hours). Ensure your vegetables are at their best for longer by keeping them in the fridge (except potatoes and onions); most veg will stay fresher for longer stored in the fridge in the pack or bag they came in. http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/storage-0

Know your dates

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the use-by dates in your fridge too. Use up foods with the shortest dates first, and when shopping check to see if fresh foods can be frozen in case you don’t get round to eating them over the week. Confusion over date labels is common – only 36% of us correctly understand the term ‘Use By’ and by getting dates in a muddle, we can easily end up throwing away food that is perfectly edible or eating food that is potentially unsafe. Best before dates are just for quality, so you can eat these foods after this date, they just may no longer be at their best. Use by dates are for safety so you can eat right up to the date or freeze for another time but don’t eat past it. Ignore display until and sell-by dates – these are just for the shops and can be safely ignored. Why not print off our easy date label infographic as a reminder? http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/date-labels-infographic

Portion sizes

It’s easy to cook too much pasta and rice, but Love Food Hate Waste can help with a clever portion calculator which takes away the guess work on quantities when you’re cooking for family and friends.And everyday kitchen equipment can help prepare perfect portions:
An average size mug is great for measuring uncooked rice. One adult portion is about a quarter of a mug.
A tablespoon is great for measuring portions of beans, lentils and dried fruit.
Weighing scales help with measuring everyday portions.

leftovers.

Get creative! If you’re struggling for inspiration when it comes to dinner, why not get creative? Leftover sauces, herbs and spices often combine to make a tasty meal or accompaniment! Making use of what you already have will save you time and money too! Here are some ideas to get you Lots of foods are wasted in relatively small amounts but together they have a big impact, financially and environmentally!
 Love Food Hate Waste aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste and help us take action. It shows that by doing some easy practical everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which will ultimately benefit our purses and the environment too.


In the UK we throw away 4.2 million tonnes of good food every year. The average family could save up to £700 per year by throwing away less food. 


 I managed to get 4 meals out of 1 set of ingredients by using leftovers, if you’re interested in the recipes of the food featured in my video you can find the recipes below.  The premise of the meal was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Roast Beef Dinner (Serves 4)

2 kg beef brisket

2 tsp English mustard

1 bunch rosemary

1 kg potatoes

500 g carrots

1/2 head of broccoli

1 swede

Preheat the oven to 170ºC  Season the brisket well with salt and pepper Spread one side of the meat with the mustard and strip over most of the rosemary leaves. Cover the pan with foil and cook for around 4-6 hours.

Peel the potatoes, and boil in a large pan of water until cooked, mash and leave to cool. Peel and chop the carrots and swede and cook until soft, mash and leave to cool.

When the brisket is ready transfer to a chopping board and cover. Reheat the potatos and carrot mash and put the broccoli on to cook until tender.  Plate the food up and save the leftovers for tomorrow.

 

Bubble and Squeak with Poached Eggs (Serves 2)

1 Onion

Leftover vegetables

2 eggs

Slice the onion and fry in a pan for 2-3 minutes.  Put your eggs in a pan to poach.  Add the vegetables to the pan with the onion and turn up the heat, brown on both sides.

 

Rendag Curry (Serves 3 for main and 2 for lunch using the leftovers)

1 onion chopped

1 tbsp  fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

1 lemongrass stalk,

1 tsp turmeric

2 red chillies

1 cinnamon stick

6 cardamom pods

700g leftover beef

4 kaffir lime leaves

zest and juice of a lime

400ml coconut milk

1 tbsp of tamarind paste

50g desiccated coconut flakes

30g bunch of coriander

Start by making the rendang paste by putting the onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, coriander stalks, turmeric and chillies into a food processor. Blend to form a smooth purée.

Heat a pan and add the oil. Fry the paste over a high heat until the paste turns darker and is aromatic.

Add the cardamom pods (crush the cardamom pods gently with the back of a spoon before frying) and the cinnamon stick broken in half and cook for another minute then add the leftover meat.

Pour over the coconut milk and tamarind purée and bring to a gentle simmer, add the kaffir lime leaves and zest and lime juice and reduce to a simmer.

Cook until the sauce really reduced and rich, toast the coconut flakes in a dry pan and when toasted pound in a pestle and mortar. When the curry is ready stir into the mixture and sprinkle with coriander.

*Disclaimer. I was sent vouchers to prepare a meal and leftovers.

 

 


 

 




25. 03. 2015

Jyoti is an Indian ‘pure vegetarian restaurant and sweet centre’ and offers a massive choice of 15 starters and 72 main courses as well as a sizeable list of rice accompaniments and sundries.  We’re not actually vegetarians but we do enjoy vegetarian and vegan meals and try to eat at least two meat free meals a week.  After reading some reviews on the internet we decided that we needed to pay this place a visit to see what all the fuss was about, after a busy day morning shopping at the bullring we made our way to Hall Green.

Situated at 1045 Stratford Road Hall Green Birmingham there is ample free parking outside.

Mogo Chips

Mr Gourmand started his meal with Mogo Chips (£2.95) which are deep fried cassava chips with tamarind sauce.  I’d seen Cassava in Asian food stores but didn’t realise how it could be cooked so have always been intrigued to try it and I’m so glad I did as it is rather delicious.  Cassava is a great alternative to the humble potato although it is a bit sweeter and does have a distinctive taste.  We all enjoyed these chips and the slightly sour dipping sauce really complemented them.

Onion Bhajiya

I ordered the Onion Bhajiya (£1.95) to share with Mini Gourmand which consisted of 2 deep-fried balls of onion in spiced gram flour served with salad and chutney sauce.  These were like nothing we had ever tried before, not at all greasy and extremely light in texture.  The spice was on the hotter side of the spectrum so Mini Gourmand was a little put off but myself and Mr Gourmand devoured them.

Tarka Daal

Mini Gourmand ordered the Tarka Daal (£5.75) which was a lentil curry which she had served with plain boiled rice (£1.95)  I imagine everyone has their own interpretation of this dish, I make it myself which was adapted from a recipe I saw in the Guardian, I consider Tarka Dahl to be a comfort food however I think my own recipe has tainted Mini Gourmands palate and she didn’t really enjoy this dish which she found a bit lacking and too tomato flavoured.

Vegetable Biryani vegi2

I ordered the Vegetable Biryani (£5.95) which was a mixed vegetable curry served with fried rice.  I love Biryani, it has featured in many posts on this blog and because of my love of the dish I couldn’t resist ordering when I saw it on the menu.  When the dish landed on the table I was a little disappointed, the rice looked like frozen rice with veg and the curry didn’t look that different to the Tarka Daal that Mini Gourmand had ordered.  I know that looks can be deceiving so I ploughed in with an open mind.

The dish was bland and lacked flavour, the rice was as I suspected a bit of rice with some frozen veg thrown in and it left me incredibly unhappy.

vegi1

Mr Gourmand ordered the Paneer Bhurji (£5.95) which was Indian cheese cooked with onions, garlic, ginger, cashew nuts and tomato, this was served with a chapatti.  Like the other two main courses this dish was lacking, it had good heat but the flavour just wasn’t there and to be completely honest the dish tasted incredibly similar to the other two.

We were very disappointed with our first visit to Jyoti, I had read some amazing reviews about the place prior to our visit granted the majority of them were from 2010/2011 and we all know how quickly a place can change but I hadn’t expected it to be quite as bad.  All of the food was lacking flavour in one way or another, we have eaten a lot of vegetarian meals in other restaurants and the taste, seasoning and quality was on a different scale.  I would like to say that the sweets I purchased to take home from Jyoti were incredible and couldn’t be faulted, maybe the same amount of effort should be put into the savoury food.

Have you visited Jyoti?  How did you find it?

08. 03. 2015

It’s a long time since I last signed up to a food subscription box, I started out loving them but after a few months the products I was receiving just didn’t seem to excite me anymore, I thought I’d do a web search to see if any new subscription boxes had started up and that’s when I came across flavourly.com.

For £20 a month you will receive a box containing handpicked products from independent suppliers based only in the UK.

flavourly box

Your flavourly account will tell you when your next box is due to be posted so you can look out for it, it’s too large to fit through a letterbox so if you don’t have anywhere safe for it to be left you may find you need to pick it up from a sorting office.

flavourly meet the makers

Each box comes with a little booklet which explains how the service works and best of all give information about each of the makers featured in the box.  I purposely didn’t read this until I had opened my box to keep the contents a surprise.

flavourly packer

My flavourly box was handpacked by Arden, the meet the makers booklet tells me that Arden is the “Flavour Keeper” or warehouse Manager, I have no idea if the packers change from box to box as this was my first one.  I can only assume that hand packing the boxes ensures that no mistakes are made and that each box is as perfect as it can be.

Flavourly contents Feb 2015

I received everything pictured above in my box, some things were full sized items and others were samples, the product value of my box came to around £18.21 which isn’t too bad considering I got to try things I probably wouldn’t have purchased myself, I have noticed that quite a few of the items are quite difficult to buy as a consumer like the Darling Corn which I could only find in bulk.

Soffles Pitta Chips

I was really excited about trying the Soffles Pitta chips as I’m a huge fan of savoury snacks and pitta bread so this sounded like a match made for me, the chips contain nothing artificial and no preservatives.  I wasn’t too fussed on the flavour as I found the rosemary quite overpowering but I do like the sound of some of the other offerings like spring onion and parmesan and chilli and garlic.

Urban Fruit Mango

 

Baby Gourmand was quick to grab the packet of Urban Fruit in Mango which I was happy for him to munch on as it contains to sugar or preservatives.  I’ve only been able to find this in large bags which is a shame as the smaller bags would be perfect for taking out with us as a snack.

Lizi's Granola

 

Mr Gourmand had the packet of Lizi’s Granola in Treacle and Pecan for his breakfast, he is a huge fan of granola and thinks of himself as a bit of an expert so when this got the thumbs up from him I knew it must be good.  I love the fact you just needed to add water to the pouch and you were ready to eat on the go – genius idea.

Fairfields farm crisps

The Sweet potato with chilli & lime crisps were probably my second favourite items from the box, I loved the flavour, crunch and amount of crisps in the bag.  I actually ate these in the kitchen so I wouldn’t have to share them, that’s how delicious they are!  I have the farmhouse cheese & chive and the sour cream & onion on my list to try next.

Saison

I haven’t had the chance to try the Saison seasoning blend but I know it will be incredibly useful, I’m a big fan of flavourful seasonings and I think this will make a delicious rub for steak or fish.

Willie's Cacao

 

 

 

I’ve been a fan of Willie’s Cacao products for a number of years now and have tried many of the flavours but this was my first time tasting the Indonesian Gold. Willie is the only small cacao grower and producer in the UK and I find his story fascinating.  I found the chocolate to be incredibly fruity tasting and I savoured each bite (I still have a square stashed in the cupboard for the next time I need a chocolate boost).

Kents Kitchen

Kents Kitchen is a brand I was unfamiliar with prior to receiving this box, they take the stress out of cooking a complicated meal.  I love Thai food but don’t cook it as often as I would like due to the fact that the ingredient list required is usually quite large and can be expensive if the ingredients are not in season.  This kit contains everything I need to make a Thai Red curry apart from a couple of components, I’m going to use this next week and will let you know what I think of it in due course.

Supernature Oil

I was really excited to see Supernature oil featured in my box, I’ve been a fan of the brand for a while now and already own the original and chilli infused oil so to receive the basil oil made me incredibly happy as I really do love the taste of basil and have already been drizzling this on pasta and potatoes.

Rani's Mixture

Rani’s Mixture is my favourite item out of the whole box, the snack is handcooked and is probably one of the best snack mixes I have ever tasted.  The snack mix is incredibly Moorish and I found that once I had started eating it I couldn’t stop sticking my hand back in the packet, this was again something I was not prepared to share under any circumstances.

Umami

Umami is one of the five basic tastes, a savoury taste, I’m excited to try this but I do have to admit that I’m not sure what to expect from it.  Apparently one squeeze is enough to make non-cooks good, good cooks great and great cooks extraordinary.

Bekaert Biscuit Butter

Bekaert biscuit butter tastes a little bit like peanut butter crossed with caramalised cinnamon, it’s definitely a love it or hate it flavour and is incredibly indulgent.  I personally loved the biscuit but found the spread a little sickly so gave it to Mr Gourmand to finish.

Darling Corn

Darling Spuds roasted sea salt corn is a very unique snack, I’m really not sure if I liked it or not and I can’t explain why.  I love corn and I love popcorn but I found that this snack left a dry taste in my mouth, almost like I’d eaten something that was burnt.

Berry mix

 

I’m not sure if this berry mixture was an extra or not as I couldn’t find anything about it in my makers leaflet.  Grandma Gourmand grabbed this out of the box and enjoyed it on her cereal and found it delicious, she kept the rest to snack on while on the train back to Newcastle.

Overall I am incredibly impressed with flavourly and I can’t wait until my next box arrives.

If you’re interested in signing up for a flavourly box with £5 off you can sign up here

26. 02. 2015

Panache Balti in Warwick is hands down our favourite local Indian restaurant, it’s delicious. Fact.  We have visited several times and it’s our chosen restaurant of choice for a takeway (like last Friday night).

We have wised up a bit when it comes to dining out at an Indian restaurant, in the past we would sit and munch our way through several poppadoms followed by starters, mains and sides and always wondered why we could only eat a forkful of our main dish before admitting defeat.  Now we may have 2 poppadoms skip the starters and sides and go straight on to the main course.

The restaurant is situated about 5 minutes walk from Warwick Castle so would be a perfect place to visit if you have popped to Warwick for the weekend.  I love the décor inside, one wall features a huge drawing of the castle and I could just spend ages looking at it.

I’m not sure what it is that keeps us going back time after time, obviously the food is delicious but Panache seem to just take it to another level in terms of flavour.

 

Panache_indian

 

Panache is a small restaurant and we have been only ever visited before 7pm so have never had to wait for a table, I’d imagine that it gets very busy on an evening so  booking is probably recommended. There is a great variety of dishes and a few things I’ve never seen on a menu before like Mini Gourmand’s favourite dish of Paradise Chicken (£8.50) which is basically chicken tikka pieces cooked in a rich sweet creamy sauce flavoured with mango puree, dry mint, bay leaf, almond, coconut powder & mint sauce, if you like korma or chicken tikka masala then you will love this.

Panache_Rice

I’m a bit of a creature of habit when it comes to Panache as I always go for the mixed Biryani (£10.75), my answer when questioned about this is always “Why wouldn’t you?”  If it’s not broken don’t fix it.  It’s a simple dish consisting of chicken, lamb, prawns, king prawns, mushrooms & pan fried omelette and depending on the chef you sometimes get pieces of pineapple.  It’s far to big a portion for one person so we usually share it or take a container of food home.

Panache_Byriani

panache_naan

We usually alternate between a Peshwari Naan or Keema Naan (£2.50) depending if Mini Gourmand is with us or not, Baby Gourmand is partial to either.  The Naan bread is always hot, filled throughout and huge!

panache

Mr Gourmand is quite partial to a lot of heat from his curry and can quite often be found ordering a Naga curry (£8.95) which is cooked with aromatic flavoured spicy hot ghost naga from Bangladesh.  I do have to admit that although it’s spicy it really is always delicious, it seems to have different levels of both flavour and heat which I’ve not found in a curry before.

Don’t get me wrong I do love some of the other Indian restaurants Warwickshire has to offer but Panache is just a little bit special to me.  You can find Panache Balti on Just Eat for takeaway food or the restaurant is at 5 Saint Johns, Warwick CV34 4NE

17. 02. 2015

Last week I purchased our first Gousto box, it’s not something I would usually use as I like to visit my local butcher on a weekly basis and I grow my own veg but I was interested to see what this box was about and I knew that if I was intrigued by it that some of my readers would probably have been too.  It’s always a bit of a risk signing up to a subscription service so I thought I’d give you a completely honest and Impartial review of the service.

Signing up to the service couldn’t be easier, you visit the Gousto website, choose 3 recipes, select how many people you will need portions for 2 or for 4 people, Enter your post code, choose your delivery day and click “Continue”.

If you have a discount coupon, you can apply it to your first delivery in the next step, before you click “Proceed to Checkout”. Complete the checkout process by entering your delivery and billing information. You will get a welcome email when you’ve successfully subscribed.

There are 4 types of weekly boxes available at the moment:

You can pause or cancel anytime. There’s no club fee and no annual fee, you only pay for the food you get delivered. Whenever you’re on holiday, simply skip those weeks using the calendar function in your account.

When pausing or cancelling deliveries, be sure to do so before the cut-off time of the delivery, which is always at noon on Sunday before the delivery.

I have to admit when it came to selecting my choices there were only two dishes that I really liked the look of, it was hard trying to select the third dish and I took a bit of a risk as I wasn’t completely convinced I had made the right choice.  I loved the look of the Chicken Cashew stir fry and the Kedgeree and my third choice was a Beet burger.

gousto box

My delivery was scheduled for Wednesday and arrived via courier, as I knew it was coming I made sure to stay in all day but it’s not something you need to worry about as you can leave delivery instructions when you order.

The box was well insulated and the ice packs inside were still frozen which I was impressed with, the box can be recycled and I was impressed that brown paper bags were used instead of plastic.

gousto box inside

The box contained everything I needed to make three meals for two people except for oil, salt and pepper.  I was impressed at how well everything was packaged, everything looked fresh and nothing was spoiled or broken

gousto notice

I popped the ingredient list on the fridge so I knew exactly what was needed for each dish and when it needed to be used by.  I found this list incredibly helpful and it’s something I might start doing with my weekly meal planning to ensure I have everything I need for each meal.

cashew chicken

 

The first dish I cooked was Chicken Cashew stir fry, I dislike following recipes so this was a challenge in itself!  I found the recipe incredibly straightforward although I did raise my voice a couple of times when I realised how many dishes and pans I ended up using to prepare/cook the meal.  I was initially sceptical that we would be full after looking at the portion of rice and chicken as I would usually use twice as much.

chicken cashew stir fry

The end result was extremely satisfying and I was surprised at how much food I had made after my initial worry that we were going to be starving after we had finished our meal, if any thing I was really really full up.  My only criticism if you want to call it that was that the dish was very salty, I hadn’t added any salt to the meal as I don’t usually use it so I think the salty taste must have come from  the stock cube.  Both myself and Mr Gourmand thought that this tasted as good if not better than some Chinese takeaway meals we have had so I will definitely be cooking this recipe again.

kedgeree

The second dish was one of our family favourites, Kedgeree.  I was really looking forward to cooking this as some of the ingredients and the method was completely different to the one I use.  I’ve never added roasted tomato to kedgeree, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever used tomato in this dish at all. I was worried that using the whole pack of parsley might have been too much, I would usually use a sprinkle of coriander.

kedgereedish

I personally thought this was fantastic, I loved the addition of roasted tomato which added a delicious rich flavour, the chunky fish was great and it wasn’t overpowered by parsley like I had initially anticipated.  Mr Gourmand practically inhaled his which I think speaks for itself.

beetroot

The final dish was the one I was a little worried about, if I’m honest I wasn’t looking forward to cooking or eating this one.  Both myself and Mr Gourmand love beetroot but we couldn’t visualise how this Beetroot Burger was going to taste at all.

beetroot burgers

It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by it’s cover, we were both pleasantly surprised by this dish. I cooked my chips in the actifry as I find it doesn’t take as much oil but that’s the only time I swayed from the instructions.  The tarragon mayo was absolutely delicious, I could have eaten a bowl full, the caramelised onions were to die for and the burgers were just delicious.  Who would have thought beetroot and tarragon would have gone so well together, it was like a marriage in my mouth.

 

Overall we were really impressed with Gousto, apart from the saltiness of the first dish we found that the portion sizes were perfect, the ingredients were just the right amount kind of like when you get a can of gin and tonic, it’s just the perfect amount but when you fiddle with a bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic you can never get the measurements right.

Would I use it every week? No I wouldn’t because it doesn’t suit our family needs at all, for a family of 4 one of which is a toddler the cost of the box just isn’t affordable for us however as a treat now and again for myself and Mr Gourmand I would definitely purchase a box.

We were discussing the box and when it would fit into our lives and we decided that if we knew in advance that we would be having friends over for a few days it would be more cost effective to order a Gousto box than to go out for a meal, or if were had just moved into a new property and didn’t want to go out and purchase lots of bottles and jars that we would only need a teaspoon out of then Gousto would be great.

gousto box discount

Gousto box is a fantastic idea, there is no doubt about that, if you would like to give it a try please feel free to use the money off code that was on my box, you could save yourself £20!

13. 02. 2015

Biryani

Chicken Biryani is a family favourite in the Gourmand household, I find it’s a great way to use up rice and any leftover vegetables that you have in the fridge, I designed this recipe while going through a stage of making one pot meals however if you don’t happen to have any leftover rice you will need two pots.  As I’ve said before with my actifry dishes, timings do vary and you should trust your own instincts when it comes to your actifry.

To make this you will need:

1 Tablespoon of Oil

1 onion diced

2 Cloves garlic, crushed

1 Tsp Ginger grated

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp ground Cumin

1 Tsp ground Coriander

1/2 Tsp Chili powder

2 plum Tomatoes chopped finely

1 Small pot of Plain Yogurt

4 Mushrooms chopped

8 Green beans cut into 3

2 Chicken breasts chopped

Coriander to serve

Leftover rice

Method:

Put the oil and chicken into the Actifry and cook until lightly browned 8-10 minutes.

Add the vegetables and spices and cook for 2-3 minutes

Add the yoghurt and cook for 8-10 minutes until everything is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.

Add the rice and cook until the  rice has started to soak up the sauce 8-10 minutes.

Sprinkle with coriander and enjoy.

This is a lot wetter than a traditional Biryani but it is incredibly delicious and very satisfying.  Do let me know if you make this in your actifry.

 

11. 02. 2015

Chilli (1)

When you think of Chilli, cooking it an actifry is probably not the first method of cooking that would come to mind, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out if I’m completely honest but it was delicious and actually tasted a little bit nicer than my usual stove top chilli.  I would assume that my version could be made in any sort of hot air fryer, you just have to be careful of timings, I gave my recipe to two friends to test because they both have an actifry, one friend found that hers took longer to cook and the other said she had to do her onions twice because they had burnt so use your own judgement ass you know your own machine better than I do.

To make this you will need:

500g minced beef
1 onion chopped
2  garlic cloves crushed
2 chilli peppers
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin mixed beans
1 tbsp of tomato puree
1 tsp Cumin & cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika & Chilli powder

Method:

Brown the onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon oil or some frylight and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Add the mince and cook for  a further 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, puree, chilli and spices and cook for 3-4 minutes

Add the mixed beans and season.

Add 400ml water and cook for 20-30min until nice and thick.

Serve with rice and chopped coriander for taste.

 

It’s as simple as that!  If you decide to make Chilli in your actifry please let me know how you get on.

 

 

Chilli_Rice

09. 02. 2015

The very first time I visited a branch of Zizzi was around 2008/9 when I was working as a mystery diner, I had been assigned the branch in Newcastle upon Tyne and it was such a bad experience that I never ventured back until 2011 when I was invited out for a friends 22nd Birthday, I remember the food was good, the service was on point considering we had a table of 15 and the overall experience was a very good one.

We decided that instead of going for Sunday Lunch yesterday that we would pay a visit to Zizzi as the menu looked good and as we have seen children in there before that it must be fairly family friendly so I booked a table online for 12:30pm.

We arrived at the restaurant at 12:25 and although I’d already booked, they didn’t have an up to date booking list at the front desk which was fine as they were quite quiet although I wouldn’t have been very pleased if it had been busy and I hadn’t been able to get a table, you have to plan outings like this with military precision when you have a toddler you see.

There were already a couple of tables on the left hand side with prams and pushchairs so we selected a spot on the far right so we be out of the way should it get busier.  Our drinks order was taken by a very polite server  and we perused the menu.

Baby Gourmand_Zizzi

 

Baby Gourmand started with Carrot sticks, Cucumber and Bread sticks which was part of the £6.75 Bambini kids menu, this was the perfect starter to keep him entertained until his main meal arrived.

bread_Zizzi

Mr Gourmand and I decided to skip a starter as we have been to similar chains in the past and the food is usually very filling so we opted for the Italian bread bucket which contained Freshly baked focaccia bread & dough sticks with olive oil & rosemary.  The bread bucket came with a bottle of balsamic vinegar and we made use of the olive oil that was on the table already, we both found this delicious and were quite excited to receive our mains especially if the taste and quality of some simple bread was so good.

That’s when things went downhill.

pizza_Zizzi

Mr Gourmand had ordered the Classic Pepperoni Campagna topped with Pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, mozzarella & thyme but as he’s a big bloke he went for the larger Rustica base for an extra £1.50.  The pizza may have been larger on the board but it was so thin that the edges had burnt, Mr Gourmand wasn’t a fan of this style of base at all, he found the combination of cheese and topping wasn’t quite right, there was big chunks of topping in parts and very little at other sections.  He found the pizza lacking in flavour and was rather disappointed with his choice.

risotto_Zizzi

I had thought about getting a pizza and at the last minute changed my mind in favour of the Risotto Pesce which contained King prawns, mussels & squid rings in a tomato, chilli & white wine risotto.  I very rarely eat risotto unless I make it myself I was quite excited to try this.  I had my first mouthful and found I couldn’t taste anything but butter, I quickly gave Mr Gourmand a forkful to make sure my taste buds hadn’t died but I was right the dish didn’t have any real flavour just a very buttery taste.  I then made the biggest mistake I’ve ever made when eating an Italian dish, I picked up what I thought was a piece of red pepper only it turned out to be a chilli and not a nice chilli a really really hot chilli.  I’m a fan of spice, chilli and heat in my food, I love making curry and use chilli in stir fry, bread and a whole host of other dishes but never have I eaten something that packs so much heat, my mouth was on fire and between that, the lack of flavour and the buttery taste I was finished after 4 mouthfuls, I passed my plate over to Mr Gourmand who was so hungry he would have eaten anything!

pasta_Zizzi

Poor Baby Gourmand suffered the most with his dish pictured above.  This was not minestrone soup but actually pasta Bolognese like I have never seen it before, it was so watery I had to decant the slippery pieces of Penne into a spare bowl.  The least said about the taste of this the better, I think the picture speaks for itself.

I shared Arthur’s picture on instagram and was asked why I didn’t send it back? The restaurant had filled up (more about this later) and there only seemed to be two or three members of staff  serving staff who were rushed off their feet add into this a hungry toddler who would have screamed the place down if his food had been removed it  was best to just let him eat it.

When our server came to take the plates she asked if everything had been ok? I told her that it hadn’t actually been great, none of us had enjoyed our food and I told her I thought Baby Gourmands dish was diabolical, I’ve never actually seen Bolognese like it in my life!  I then told her I wasn’t sure how I was going to vacate the resteraunt, you see while we had been sitting the place had filled up and we had been boxed in to a corner with our pushchair.  It would have been hard enough for a person to squeeze out never mind a child in a pushchair, the server replied that we would have to fly with a laugh.  Our server did offer to have a word with her supervisor but to be honest the restaurant was so busy and we had just had enough at this point that we declined as we just wanted to pay and leave.

We paid our bill, £41 which really wasn’t worth it at all and tried to work out how on earth we were going to get out, not one member of staff came over to help us and we were pretty much struggling.  There was no way that we were ever going to get out so I decided that the best course of action would be to fold down the pushchair and lift it over the 3 tables that were in our way.  The other diners helped us to get out and we made it to the door and still not one member of staff came to ask if we were ok.

One thing I would just like to point out is that it wasn’t just us who seemed to be having a bit of a bad time, a table to the side of us were not happy to have their main course delivered a couple of minutes after their starter and the table behind had sent their food back once and we could hear them after new dishes were brought out complaining about the quality of the food, they looked to have ordered Bolognese, I hope they didn’t have the same sauce as Baby Gourmand!

I don’t imagine we will ever be returning to this chain and I’m actually annoyed with myself that I wasted £41 on food and service that was substandard.

**Update** Zizzi have been in touch via email with the following reply

“It certainly doesn’t sound like our usual high standards of service were achieved and it was disappointing to hear about the quality of the food you and your guests ordered. All customer feedback I receive is logged and collated, I’ve also asked the Operations Manager to share your comments with the team to ensure we’re offering a friendly and efficient service at all times. At Zizzi we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional service and fantastic d ishes but it does seem we have let you down on this occasion.

I can assure you this has been dealt with at restaurant level and has been circulated around Head Office through a Weekly C omplaints Report to ensure everyone stays updated with what’s going on in all our Zizzis. This h elps us improve our service in the future.

I really appreciate you taking the time to let us know about this and by way of apology for your visit, I’d like to send you a £20 Zizzi gift card that you can use at any Zizzi, at any time within the next 18 months.”

I have accepted their offer and will in fact visit again to see if any improvements have been made.

Have you visited Zizzi before? Did you have a good experience?

08. 02. 2015

Zou Bisou is a lovely little place on Regent Court, Leamington Spa.  Its sits happily alongside some big chains like Nandos, Yo Sushi, and Turtle Bay, but is so relaxed and welcoming, it has a feel about it that you only get with an independent place.  The interior is nice, big chairs, little chairs, quirky, funky, but doesn’t try too hard.  It just feels happy.  Does that make sense??  Anyway, myself and Mr Gourmand decided to pop in for a light breakfast on Sunday morning and I thought I would share the experience.

zou bisou scrambled egg

I wasn’t really hungry so decided to order scrambled eggs on toast, a fairly safe bet, and it really hit the spot, in fact, probably a slightly larger portion that I was expecting so I had to leave some, which I hate doing!! Baby Gourmand tucked in and helped me out whihc was nice, as he usually doesn’t like scrambled eggs – a break through!!  I had wished I hadn’t bothered ordering him his own side of toast as he really didn’t need it with my mammoth breakfast to help me with.  The scrambled eggs were creamy and cooked to perfection and the toast was hot, what more could you want?

zou bisou full english

Mr Gourmand didn’t hesitate to order the full english; a guy sitting not far away had one, and as the waiter took his order book out Mr Gourmand’s greedy eyes followed his sausages from plate to mouth!  Just like my scrambled eggs, Mr Gourmand described the breakfast as exactly what he wanted. Quality ingredients, nicely cooked, and a good amount.  What more can you ask for!

Interesting that Mr Gourmand recently walked past Zou Bisou late at night and they are open until 10, and offer 2-1 coffees, defintley a nice place for a late night drink if you don’t fancy going to the pub.  Zou Bisou has also started offering Sunday lunches, lets see if we can sneak one of them in, in the not too distant future!

06. 02. 2015

Some people might say that a hotpot with crisp potatoes on top is actually called a Lancashire hotpot but rather than get into a debate about names and what a true Lancashire hotpot should consist of I’ve decided to play it safe and call this adaptation a plain old Lamb Hotpot.  There isn’t actually anything ‘plain’ about this hotpot, it’s warming, delicious and one of those dishes that you have to have just one more spoonful of.  The quantities should serve 4 but in my house you are lucky if there is a mouthful left over from two people eating it.  I teamed this particular hotpot with a seeded loaf.

seed_bread

To make this seeded loaf you will need:

500g mixed grain flour (I like the Wessex Mill flour)

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1 sachet fast-action yeast

1 tsp salt

300ml hand-hot water

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp runny honey

Heat oven to 180C

Put the flour, seeds, yeast and salt into a large bowl. Mix the water, oil and honey together  in a jug, then pour into the flour mix stirring all the time to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough no longer feels sticky, sprinkling with a little more flour as you need it.

flour a loaf tin and put the dough in the tin, pressing it in evenly. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hr, until it springs back when you press it with your finger.

Bake for 30-35 mins until the loaf is risen and brown. Pop it onto a cooling rack and leave to cool before smothering with butter.

 

lamb_hotpot

To make the Lamb Hotpot you will need:

100g butter

900g lamb, cut into large chunks

2 medium onions, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

handful of frozen peas

25g plain flour

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

500ml lamb stock

2 bay leaves

900g potatoes, peeled and sliced

Heat oven to 160C

Heat some butter in a large shallow casserole dish, brown the lamb in batches.  In the same pan fry the onions and carrots until golden.

Sprinkle over the flour and allow to cook for a couple of mins, shake over the Worcestershire sauce and pour in the stock, then bring to the boil.

Turn off the heat and add the meat and bay leaves to the pan. Arrange the sliced potatoes on top of the meat, then dot with a little more butter. Cover with a tight fitting lid, then place in the oven for about 1½ hrs until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove the lid for the last 20 mins to brown the potatoes.