Tag Archives: Food

Who feeds Bristol and what can we do about it?

Did you know that 10 in 35 Bristol wards don’t have a greengrocer? According to where you live in the city, this may or may not surprise you. I live in the city centre and while I hear of people selling fresh fruit and vegetables in the Bear Pit on Pero’s Bridge and on North Street, I can’t think of a single dedicated greengrocer near me. People in Brislington and Lockleaze have none while those in Westbury-on-Trym have four.

Nationally, 75% of food retail is controlled by four companies, collectively known as ‘the Big Four’ and in the city centre there is evidence that there is a higher concentration of supermarkets than in other parts of the country. The big consequence of this is that some people, usually in the poorer parts of the city, have little choice as to where to buy their food (see reports below).

Here are two reports which provide some more information about Bristol food and retail: Bristol Good Food Plan (2013) and Who Feeds Bristol? (2011)

The Bristol Good Food Plan was published by the Bristol Food Policy Council which was launched in March, 2011, at the Bristol Food Conference. It was based on a key recommendation from the Who Feeds Bristol report written by Joy Carey. Bristol is the first city in the UK to have a Food Policy Council.

We now also have a plan about what to do. Stay tuned.

 
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New Year’s menu

Sometimes, I wish that every meal I ate could be sourced from the deli / butcher / restaurant Source but alas it just isn’t meant to be. For special occasions, however, they are the most wonderful resource in Bristol. My household had Christmas dinner from there which we ordered in advance and I also went there for ingredients for my New Year’s dinner.

The main meal was steak and frites. Two aged Aberdeen Angus sirloin steaks were cooked simply on the frying pan after being left out to get to room temperature. They were covered in oil and salt first. That doesn’t require much of a recipe but it may need a little improvement so suggestions are welcome. Maybe I should have tenderized the beef slightly by bashing them with the frying pan first? I shall experiment.

The first dish I cooked was a lovely chorizo, chickpea and prawn stew. It was very nice and could turn out to be amazing with a bit more care and seasoning. I bought tiger prawns from Source that were so big I managed to cut myself three times on the shells as I peeled them. I undercooked the prawns, didn’t have sherry so I used Port and I forgot to add salt and pepper.

But next time the stew will be incredible.

For now, here’s the recipe.

INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp olive oil
4 fresh piquillo peppers, cored, deseeded and cut into 2cm squares
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
150g good-quality cooking chorizo sausage, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp sherry vinegar
3 tbsp dry sherry
600g drained cooked chickpeas (freshly cooked or tinned)
100ml chicken stock
70g baby spinach leaves, washed
20 good-quality raw tiger prawns, peeled, deveined and heads removed
Large handful of basil, leaves only, torn
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
METHOD

How to make tiger prawn, chorizo and chickpea stew
1. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large, wide pan and add the peppers, red onion and chorizo. Cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes again, then add the sherry and vinegar and reduce down.

2. Add the chickpeas, stir and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat.

3. In a separate pan, fry the tiger prawns in the remaining olive oil for about 30-45 seconds each side. Once cooked, add to the chickpea stew with the spinach. Let wilt slightly, then scatter over the basil, season and serve.

© Gordon Ramsay
http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/gordon-ramsay/tiger-prawn-chorizo-and-chickpea-stew-recipe

Nectarine & almond cupcakes with basil syrup

This post is about my very brief but tasty adventure pursuing a new recipe by Genevieve Taylor. I became determined to make the peach almond cake with lavender syrup as soon as I saw the recipe.

“I will make this recipe today,” I foolishly proclaimed in a tweet but then struggled to find lavender. Well, I didn’t struggle to find it, admittedly, there was some on the corner of Cumberland Rd but I felt too guilty cutting bits off of someone else’s plant.

I bought the ingredients straight away but I couldn’t really get going without the flowery one so I wondered whether to just skip the syrup.

After sleeping on it for a few days I ingeniously decided that since I had lots of basil growing around the flat (about six plants at last count) why not just use that? Brilliant!

I also had bought nectarines that day as I don’t actually like peaches which explains part of the name.

Oh and the cupcake rather than cake part? Well when it came time to pour the mixture into the already prepared cake tin, I couldn’t find it. The muffin / cupcake tin was right in front though as were the muffin little paper things so voila!

The recipe is available on Genevieve’s site and the cupcakes turned out delicious.

Heavenly cupcakes from La Dame Gateau

First there was a competition as part of a survey by Bristol Bites in which I won third prize which was a box of cupcakes. Thank you Emily!

The cupcakes were hand delivered by Erica of La Dame Gateau and the box was rather heavy.

The selection arrived with a menu and a warning from Erica that the Limoncello one contained alcohol. I made sure that this particular treat stayed for me as I adore the lemon flavoured liqueur.

The poor cupcakes were so large that they barely fit in their container. Chocolate and vanilla, sour cherry and almond, chocolate and orange cream, Limoncello, choca mocha, chocolate and caramel

I gave them some space to breathe and took the opportunity to have a closer look. The cupcakes still looked great.

I saved the Limoncello for later and started with the chocolate and vanilla cupcake.

I pronounced the decadently, top heavy cupcake as heavenly and decided to share the pleasure with friends. My housemate’s response to the sour cherry treat was ‘wow’ and Martin from Bristol Culture was amazed with his strawberry delight.

Thank you Erica and Emily for a wonderful start to the week and for a great suggestion for mother’s day. I will let my daughter know that I have the perfect gift all picked out so she needn’t worry.

http://www.ladamegateau.co.uk

Indian food banquet for charity, 5 March, Bristol

An authentic Indian banquet on Saturday, 5 March, will include 12 traditional Indian dishes, entertainment, a cheap bar and over 100 guests in what promises to be a fantastic evening. The social event will also be raising money for research into muscular dystrophy with tickets selling for £25 per head.

Kharum Arshad, and his team from the Bristol and Bath Fundraising Group, have organised the evening in order to raise funds for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at Oxford University.

Helping to raise funds for this “life-limiting condition” is a personal cause for Arshad  as his younger brother Auzair has the disease which “makes the simplest of tasks like eating and dressing impossible to carry out without care.”

This is a great chance to enjoy a fabulous meal and entertainment while giving something back in return. For more details, use the contact information below, or check out the group’s Facebook page.

There is a raffle for £2 per ticket, with prizes donated by a variety of local companies. Please leave a comment below if you would like to show your support by donating a raffle prize or get in touch with the team directly using the contact details below.

Saturday 5 March 2011, The Elmgrove Centre, Cotham.

Bar Opens at 7pm Seating at 7.30pm. Price per Ticket: £25

Tickets sold in advance. No tickets available on door.

Dress Code: Smart Dress (Indian Attire Optional)

For further information contact Khurm Arshad. Tel: 07920 746058, email: bristol@muscular-dystrophy.org

Thanks to Bristol Bites who recently mentioned this event.

Juniper, Food Review

Juniper seems like a lovely restaurant on Cotham Road South placed on the edge of Kingsdown and Cotham. The area has big houses, quiet roads and seem almost rural rather than suburban. I used to walk around there when I was a little more local and can see how the twilight and the electric lights all help to make the restaurant one further step along a very pleasant route.

The start of the evening is lovely and the restaurant has a very nice ambience as I walk in. There are five tables by the door and their location seems to make for a potentially breezy couple of hours so I take a seat somewhere in the corner. The lighting is low without making the place too dark and there is a genuine sense of intimacy without it feeling like someone’s boudoir.

My dining companion arrives and we are given menus with selections for three courses.

I choose the red mullet with a seafood combination comprised of crab, crayfish and smoked salmon for a starter. The main is pan roasted duck with cheesy potatoes and a selection of vegetables and the dessert is a pistachio crème brulee. Where available, I will always choose the crème brulee and my expectations are high.

The starter’s mix of seafood is delicious and provides a very fresh offering that is both savoury and sharp. The golden fried red mullet piece that sits on top of it may have been cooked well but is not very flavoursome. I look around for some salt until I catch myself and just try to enjoy it as best I can. It was underseasoned and disappointing.

The duck is very well cooked and is a nice sized portion. The vegetables are ominously full of brussels sprouts which while not really a problem for me, bring to mind a Christmas dinner rather than a special night out at an enchanting restaurant. The cheesy potato dish is not particularly appetizing and for a £17 main I am not particularly enthused. I have had amazing potatoes at Graze at very reasonable prices and I feel embarrassed for this place which can’t compete with a gastropub, although admittedly there are few restaurants that can at the moment.

I couldn’t imagine that they would go astray with my favourite part of the meal, the crème brulee, but again it was slightly disappointing. The sweet was served at room temperature and while the sugar on top was indeed caramelized the rest had a Mediterranean feel and a thick and granular texture, which left me uninspired. It just didn’t fit in with the rest of my dishes.

My friend’s dessert was added to the menu just that day and promised a bit more of a wow factor. It was a tasting platter of chocolate consisting of five items: a chocolate brownie, a white chocolate trifle, a cookies and cream white liqueur and some other type of cake. I’m not sure if it lived up to expectations but it looked ok rather than fantastic.

I may be a little harsh in my recollection of the dishes but let me point out the prices on the menu: £7 for a starter, £17 for a main and £7 for a dessert. If you were to add some wine to the £31-each selection then the cost for two would come to around £100 and that would be an extortionate amount to pay for what felt more like a roast dinner suitable for the weekend.

This place has all the characteristics that could have made it a special experience worth coming back for and instead it turned out to be quite humdrum and average. A shame.

Juniper, 21 Cotham Road South, Cotham, Bristol, BS6 5TZ, 0117 942 1744

Côte, Bristol – Review

The Bristol branch of the Cote Brasserie, which opened today in Clifton, takes up a fair amount space with four or five dining areas and it provides a comfortable setting. There are 19 restaurants in England and they all provide simple bistro cooking with a selection of classic French dishes such as moules frites and duck confit while also serving a rapid menu that includes steak frites and a lighter menu with options such as tuna Niçoise and risotto vert.

I visited today, with my friend Martin, for lunch and there was complimentary filtered water for the table and a few waiters were on hand for a prompt response to requests such as more water and plates for the bread and starter.

The menu suggests that the bread (£1.60) is a freshly baked sourdough served with butter although it seemed like a nice ciabatta.

To begin with, we shared a dish of moules marinières (£5.75), which was mussels cooked with white wine, garlic, shallots, parsley and fresh cream. It was a nice enough version which did not disappoint with its selection of delicate small mussels mixed in with paler and bigger ones.

We both ordered the steak frites (£9.95) for a main which is a thin tenderised piece of meat flavoured with pepper and a herb butter. The dish was well seasoned and the steak was tender without being soft. The frites were served in a small black cup-like tub within which they nestled against some grease proof paper. They were seasoned just right and were probably just as enjoyable as the steak. A side dish of French green beans was chosen as an accompaniment and they were a bright green colour and crisp.

There was no dessert this time although if I had made a choice it would have been either the crème caramel, which is the restaurant’s speciality, or the crème brulee. I may go back again soon just to try the dessert.

Côte won the Good Food Guide award for “Best Value Restaurant in the UK for 2009” and with 50% off until 27 January I would suggest that the value will be exceptional. You will need a voucher (found here) for the discount and do book first as the restaurant was quite busy with people taking advantage of this opening treat.

Côte, 27 The Mall, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4JF, 0117 970 6779 http://www.cote-restaurants.co.uk

The Elephant, Review

On St Nicholas St, the Elephant public house opened up at the beginning of June in the bright, white building that once was home to the Market Place. Ben Bartrip and his partner Sarah Eskins opened the bar after returning to England from Melbourne, Australia and they have refurbished the place so it sports a more natural look with the purple of the bar stripped back to the light wood underneath.

The music was easy listening pop and the Australian influence was subtly played out with a song by Icehouse which I hadn’t heard in years.

We were the first in the pub as we arrived for lunch on a Saturday at 12pm. We chose two courses each and a soft drink rather than any alcoholic beverages. No starters this time but the choice included two seafood selections that I may try next time: Steamed Cornish Mussels with Cider & Cream (£5.95) and Pan fried Chilli Prawns served with Aioli and Homemade Bread (£6.95).

For my main I chose the lamb rump served on a bed of sauteed potatoes with green beans, smoked bacon lardons & spinach with a roast onion puree (£12.95). The lamb, as requested, was cooked medium rare and came out quite tender. The bacon lardons helped the seasoning of the dish and the potatoes and green beans were beautifully done. The roast onion purée was interesting but probably redundant.

My eating companion had the African chicken curry with Basmati rice (£9.45) which looked and tasted like a proper curry and not a pub dish made with uncle Ben’s rice and an unidentifiable brown sauce. The rice was fluffy and the sauce, or massala, had distinct traces of oils and herbs and spices. I thought it was lovely, especially after being a little doubtful about ordering a curry in a pub, and he was impressed.

The sad news about dessert was that there were no creme brulees left after a party of 13 the previous night ordered the last of them. My second choice was the warm chocolate brownie with ice cream (£5.50). A nice effort with a rich chocolate flavour but dry and not exactly inspiring. My colleague Hannah had brought in some of her own brownie creations to work the previous week and they were the best I have tasted. Moist, delicious, just the right edge of sweetness with chunks of good quality chocolate throughout. As soon as she starts selling to the public I will let you know, for now it was a shame that the Elephant had to compete.

Graeme chose the cheese board with crackers although it could be served with homemade Breads as well (£8.95). The price seems a little pricey but the quantity was fitting.

The meal was tasty and the setting was comforting and pleasant while the service was quietly courteous. A couple came in and just ordered cappuccinos while someone else ordered a half pint of beer. The Elephant seems to provide variety and more than just your average public house. I would definitely go back for the food and the music.

The Elephant Public House, 20 St. Nicholas St, Bristol BS1 1UB, 0117 929 3561. http://www.theelephantbristol.co.uk/

Love Cooking Festival, Bristol

Whenever I brag and rave about Bristol, I tend to mention the festivals that are such a huge part of life here. Sometimes there’s one every weekend, I say and what I really mean is that they’re all the same, pick one and go to it and you’ll find the same stands, the same crafts, the same people wandering in and then leaving again. Some charge and some don’t and occasionally that seems to be the biggest difference.

With this thought in mind, there wasn’t much surprise when reading about the Love Cooking Festival although its location at Colston Hall was an interesting twist. However, who would want to go see people cooking on stage at around £20 a ticket? A visit seemed to be a good idea.

Richard Allen was the first chef I saw and she was announced on stage by Nigel Barden, the food and drink presenter for BBC London TV, Radio and Online.

Nigel did not just do the presenting and introductions but stayed on to help Rachel with the banter and consistency. She had been up since 2.30am to make her way to Bristol and my heart sank a little at the potential half-hearted performance. The show proceeded at a steady pace and Nigel filled in with chat for about half of it.

Rachel cooked a three course menu of Scallops with Brussel Sprouts, Bacon and Orange; Roast Duck Legs; Lentils with Red Wine and a Treacle Tart. Her commentary was consistent, her manner professional and by the end I thought I would try out the recipe. I couldn’t help but be distracted throughout the session, however, with crying babies, half empty rows of seats – it was held at 2pm – and general thoughts of ‘this would be just as good on TV’.

All the slight detachment disappeared when Ainsley came out to play. Ainsley Harriot was on between 4 and 5pm and he was magical. A well seasoned TV presenter who has hosted various TV shows and food specials and is probably best known to daytime viewers as the host of Ready, Steady, Cook for 20 seasons. His ease and charm with everyone in the room meant that Nigel’s role quickly became redundant as he sat back and also enjoyed the show.

Ainsley danced and cooked and sweated and told us all about his life. In the early 1990s he was part of the musical act Calypso Twins with schoolfriend Paul Boross and released a hit record in the early 1990s, “World Party”. We were treated to various renditions of calypso music throughout the show which accompanied his dishes. The chilli cornbread muffins were prepared as a side to Peppy’s Ackee And Salt Fish In De Pan which brought with it stories of his mum. The Chargrilled Jerk-Slashed Chicken brought up opportunities for banter with the audience and he even promised some food to a woman a few seats in front of me.

Ainsley stepped out into the crowd, joyfully hugged a woman celebrating her birthday, interviewed the catering college students from the City of Bristol College who helped out with the preparations, and brought to the stage an audience member tasked with tasting the wine and the food.

He put on a show and I would pay to see him again but I must confess it was Rachel’s duck dish for which I passed by a supermarket and bought the ingredients. The Love Cooking Festival in Bristol was a great example of how not all festivals are alike and there was not a Pieminister pie in sight.

Love Cooking Festival sessions: London, 2 November. Harrogate, 5 December. Tickets are still available.

Souk Kitchen, So Loud But Hard To Resist

From the outside, Souk Kitchen looks like one average sized room with a bright and colourful menu posted on the window. The bright pink, yellow and blue of the menu is not exactly what I expect from middle-eastern cuisine with its modern brightness. I also find it surprising that they do a breakfast menu but it’s 11.40am and it will have to do since the Tobacco Factory does not open until noon.

We are seated quickly at the last empty table and the service is friendly. The dark brown tables look similar to the ones at Flinty Red and the wooden white chairs are comfortable. The place itself though is so loud. We can barely hear ourselves across the table and have to repeat things and point to menu items. There are 10 tables in the restaurant and four of them are playing host to infants. There’s a very cute six-seven month old who finds it entertaining to practice her new noise-making skills. At the start of the meal this is lovely but by the end it has become mind-numbing.

Suki: tea of the month – Mango Tango £1.70

Weekend specials
Vegetable chorba soup, cauliflower puree, toasted almonds + bread £3.95
Souk Mezze + grilled flat bread £7.50
Chicken Shawarma wrap, hummus, red cabbage & fennel slaw £6.95

The food specials sounded delicious and colourful but I didn’t think there was much you could do with breakfast. I was wrong.

They had ‘the local’ for £6.25 which comprised Lincolnshire sausages, grilled back bacon, two free-range fried eggs, fresh grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, homemade bubble & squeak cake, toast with butter + jam or marmalade; eggs on toast with possible extras; basket of toast; basket of pastries; granola;and french toast with the possible toppings of – cinnamon +almond French toast, with seasonal fruit compote, crème fraîche and maple syrup £3.95, – Crispy bacon, grilled banana and maple syrup for £4.50.

I didn’t go with any of those and instead we both chose something that sounded more like a special, the Shakshouka, which for £4.95 was described as a typical Middle Eastern breakfast dish of poached eggs cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions + spices, served in the pan with homemade zatar flatbread (extra grilled merguez sausage £1.50 or feta 50p). I ordered mine with both sausage and feta while companion chose only the feta.

The dish was very tasty and the eggs were cooked (poached) well but with a yolk still runny while the whites were firm. There were peppers in the sauce which itself was well seasoned and fresh tasting. The feta cheese was very good, and I’ve tasted many varieties over the years. This was a salty and firm cheese that wasn’t too sour while the heat from the food helped it become even creamier. The sausages were firm and spicy and well suited to the dish.

The breads were also very good with a spicy rub as a topping and served warm in a basket.

I ordered a decaf Americano which I enjoyed and there was a special little touch of bringing heated up and frothed milk as an accompaniment (a shame I didn’t use it). My companion ordered a green tea which was served in an individual teapot so that it was freshly brewed from tea leaves rather than a tea bag.

If I was awarding marks then Souk Kitchen would easily get 5 / 5 or 10 / 10 for food. The service and atmosphere, however, were a whole other story. Admittedly there were only two people serving and while the guy seemed distantly friendly, the service from the woman was poor and sloppy. My coffee was sloshing away as it was placed down with the waitress barely breaking stride before she was off to the table behind us. I saw her smile only once when an older woman walked out after asking her a question and not waiting for a reply – it was more of a ‘why are people so strange’ expression that included a smile. It was the kind of service that didn’t expect a tip so I didn’t leave one.

The noisy children and the groups of people on tables made the place very loud and conversation for us was nearly impossible. I ended up writing in my notebook while he read a book he had with him.

The food may be too tempting though, enough to overcome the atmosphere. Some more dishes:

  • Chargrilled lambs liver, cabbage, walnut & barberry bulgar pilau, pomegranate & cinnamon molasses £10.50
  • pan fried salmon, zatar roast anya potatoes, roast red peppers, courgettes, harissa & mint £10.95
  • Greek yoghurt panna cotta, saffron poached fig £3.95

They sound quite hard to resist.

Souk Kitchen, 277 North Street, Southville, Bristol, BS3 1JP, 0117 966 6880