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Archive for May, 2012

Already being the proud owner of around 15 ‘curry’ cookbooks, including Reza Mahammad’s first book (Rice, Spice and All Things Nice), you might ask why I would have the need or be interested in yet another.

The answer is quite simply because this isn’t like the others. Reza has genuinely found an interesting and new angle; East meets West in Reza’s Indian Spice, challenging the palate and mind of a British audience hooked on well-known Indian (and British-style Indian) dishes.

Born in England, sent to boarding school in India to learn about his heritage, lived in France and well-travelled, Reza’s cooking influences are unmistakable.

He admits that he loves all kinds of foods from around the world but can’t live a day without spice. The result is (I hate to use the word since it often has negative connotations but it is the only way to describe it) fusion food. Thai, Persian, French, Italian, British dishes and cooking techniques are combined with a little Indian spice to enhance the finished dishes. It’s modern, vibrant and stylish.

Whilst a lot of different spices are used throughout the book and there is no spice glossary, the majority of the dishes use readily available spices and are easy to recreate. Others are more involved and best left for when you have some time to experiment or want to show off.

Each dish has a suggestion of what to serve with it, with a page reference so you can easily find it in the book, important I think when dealing with unfamiliar foods. Does it go with rice or bread? Do I need a salad or a vegetable side dish? Should I have a chutney with it? These are questions which are so often forgotten by professionals and about which many home cooks worry.

It was refreshing to see a variety of ideas for accompaniments; side dishes which are unusual, colourful and healthy. We particularly enjoyed the beansprout salad with chargrilled asparagus and coconut which we ate with the kachumber and spicy stuffed potatoes (a recipe from the ‘Slow burners’ section which took a while to prepare and a lot longer to cook in the oven than the recipe stated but which was most definitely worth the wait).

I was inspired by other ‘Perfect partners’ from the book as well as his western influences combined with eastern flavours to create a twist on the classic Sunday roast. I served my slow roast pork belly (which sat on a rack of onion, garlic, peppercorns and curry leaves to create a flavoursome and lightly spiced gravy) with Reza’s French beans with sesame seeds, gingered carrots with maple syrup and roast potatoes with chilli and chaat masala. If you thought it wasn’t possible for roast potatoes to be any better than they are already, I urge you to try Reza’s roast potatoes. They are incredible!

If you’re serious about cooking with spices, looking for recipes with a difference and photographs to drool over then let yourself be drawn into Reza’s exquisite and exotic world. I’m sure you’ll finish your meal smiling.

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The central pathI’ll get my excuses out of the way early. I’ve been meaning to go to The Ethicurean for quite some time but have never made it. Until today.

Bad excuse and reason to pull my finger out number one: It is situated around 10 miles from our house in Bristol and, not being cyclists, realistically it means driving out there, for which I’d have to be the designated driver. When there are so many good places to eat in and around town to which we can walk somewhere else has taken precedence when we’ve been choosing a restaurant.

Rubbish excuse and reason to just head on over there number two: The Ethicurean struck me as the kind of place you’d want to visit on a good day, not in the depths of winter. A bright, warm, sunny, spring day like today is an ideal day to go but having visited, I can imagine going back time and again, in all seasons. Yes, there are the gardens to wander round which is always going to be more pleasant when it’s dry but the café is set up to accommodate all weathers.

The Ethicurean was, until recently, one of Bristol’s best kept secrets. It’s a café (you could argue it’s a restaurant) within the grounds of a stunningly beautiful, organised and expansive walled garden and orchard. It’s that kitchen garden and orchard as well as local produce (foraged, shot, donated or ethically sourced) which inspires Chef Pennington and his team in their compact kitchen.

The lunch menu was relatively short (five or six choices for each course) but varied enough. Thought had clearly gone into what could be produced for such good value within the confines of their small premises and from the seasonal produce available. It wasn’t overly ambitious but neither was it uninteresting.

St. George Mushrooms w/ Jonogold Apple, Ribwort Plantain & MintThe produce was the true focus of each of the dishes, no more obvious than in my starter of St George mushrooms; a raw assembly of thin slices of mushroom, jonogold apple, mint and ribwort plantain. Everything tasted so fresh and was bursting with flavour.

Jed’s ham hock consommé was as equally fresh tasting and at the same time satisfying and soothing. Perfectly clear, slightly salty and intensely ‘hammy’, it contained decent chunks of ham hock, fresh wilted rainbow chard and a poached egg.

Roast Sirloin of BeefThe goat in my meatballs and Jed’s roast beef were incredibly flavoursome. It perhaps sounds like mumbo jumbo to some but I’m convinced that the flavour and texture of the meat we ate was the result of well-cared for, bred, slaughtered and butchered animals. These were animals which had had a good diet and a good (albeit short in the case of the goat) life and were so much more enjoyable as a result.

The vegetables from the garden tasted like vegetables should taste and, I’d like to say that these guys can make mashed potato. It was probably laced with pounds of butter but boy did it taste good!

Not having a sweet tooth, for me it was an obvious choice to end the meal; the cheese platter. A very generous portion of Old Demdike, Gorwydd Caerphilly, Keen’s Cheddar and Blue Vinny with a wonderful carrot pickle, onion marmalade and membrillo. Incidentally, if you’re not driving you might like to have a taster of their homemade membrillo vodka!Cheese Board

For Jed, however, it was a much more painful decision to make. Clearly the Ethicurean know how to make desserts and cakes. With the choice narrowed down to two, it took some recommendation from the waiter to arrive at a final decision of a bit of both! Their signature sticky toffee apple cake (people have threatened to kill them for the recipe) with rhubarb and elderflower cream was gone in minutes to a soundtrack of mmmms. I believe it was good!

Amazing ViewsThe place and staff are relaxed, they’re happy to talk to you about the gardens, the food and its provenance as well as make recommendations. You can even buy some of their produce (jams, apple juice, vegetables and plants) to take home with you.

The view from the dining room is impressive and on a day like today it’s the kind of place you just don’t want to leave.

No more excuses. No more holding back. When the mood takes me, I’ll be there in a flash!

Thank you to througheye for the photos.

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